Monday, November 25, 2013

A Year of Workshops at Dragonfly Bellydance

I had first heard about the Dragonfly Bellydance studio when I saw their student troupe performance last year, at the Winter College Bellydance Party at York University, as organized by the lovely Iana Komarnytska. I had the wonderful opportunity of attending six of their workshops this year. I love that they offer workshops focusing on props, which forms the core of most of the workshops I've taken at this studio (although they also organize workshops focusing on choreography, techniques, and different dance vocabularies). I now have a binder full of the notes taken at these workshops as well as the some of the handouts that they give out. These responses reflect my own personal experiences of these beautiful learning opportunities:

            The first workshop I attended was Turkish Roma by Iana Komarnytska in February 2013.  This workshop focused on stylizations. I actually found this approach very helpful- it generated a deeper understanding of the movement dynamic of Turkish Romani dancing. Iana is an insightful teacher with an accessible teaching style, and also provided delightful observations of how the dance relates to the lifestyle. I deeply appreciate the fact that Iana brought it back to its social roots- at the end of the workshop, we all gathered around in a circle and improvised, each one going up at a time to the centre of the circle. I've been interested in Turkish Romani dancing for a number of years, and my previous introductions to this have been through Dalia Carella's dvds and online lessons, primarily oriented towards her signature Dunyavi dance style which draws upon a number of concepts/motifs of Turkish Romani dancing. Iana's workshop greatly helped me gather a deeper understanding of some of the movements characteristic to this style of dance.

            The Dragonfly Studio has a lovely boutique, and I often find myself looking through hipscarves, props and costumes on sale there after the workshops. It was after Iana's workshop that I purchased my first ever set of fanveils- a red-black combination. Ofcourse, I found out soon after that there was a fan-veils workshop being offered, so I registered for that right away!

            The second workshop was Sword Dance, taught by Zahira. She is incredible not only in her skill but also in managing to pack so much invaluable knowledge into a 2-hour workshop. This workshop I had the pleasure of attending along with my dance sisters from Ekakshara Dance Creations. Like Iana, Zahira provided a historical exposition of sword dancing from the Middle East. Having been a History major during my undergrad at Queen's, I greatly enjoyed that! Her handout was also extremely informative about the tropes, popular perceptions, myths and facts about bellydancing with the sword, in addition to having tips and tricks to dancing with the sword. I found her to be an extremely generous teacher, and the second half of the workshop was spent in learning one of her beautifully crafted choreographies. We were all in awe of Zahira's strength and the seemingly effortless grace with which she masters her movements with the sword. Another aspect I greatly enjoyed- Zahira had swords from her personal collection available as loaners for the participants. Through this, we got to see a variety of different sword types available- and also to feel their weight, balance, and look.  

            The third was the much-awaited fan veils workshop with Anuka. I had been playing around with my new red-black fan veils set for a few  weeks before the workshop, and also had been watching youtube extensively to see different dancers use them, as well as techniques and choreographic possibilities. However, it wasn't until Anuka's workshop that I felt like I truly understood the dynamics behind the fan veil, and the use of air. Anuka's emphasis on particularity and precision were probably the best induction I could have for the use of this beautiful prop. I also found refreshing that she used a more traditional song for a fan veils choreography. Her handout also provided brilliant phrase-by-phrase notes of the choreography she taught us. 

            Over the summer, I missed a few workshops- I missed Zahira's Baker's Dozen, and her second sword workshop, mostly because I was busy with my own solo production at the Toronto Fringe Festival, after which I took a few weeks off to go to the States to visit my family. The summer was also an incredibly busy time for Ekakshara, and so it was difficult to keep up with workshops.

            I returned to Toronto in mid-August, in time for a production-style private event performance by Ekakshara Dance Creations. Dragonfly had a delicious-sounding Props Intensive, focusing on five props, on the afternoon of the day before the performance! We weren't sure if these would coincide with the rehearsal times towards the Ekakshara event, but ultimately, I did end up registering, along with Amber from Ekakshara. I think we were the last two participants to register for the intensive! We registered for the Cane, Zills and Fan Veils sections of the intensive. What can I say? It was an exciting afternoon. Zahira's cane workshop, with its emphasis on different movements, combinations and the background of cane dancing, was awesome! I love combinations, and find that they're often the birthplace of choreography inspirations. Cane intensive was followed by the zills workshop, which I had been eagerly looking forward to, after attending private lessons on zills and ghawazee dancing by Chelydra in Virginia, US. While Zahira taught the sword workshop, Amber and I took the opportunity to quickly grab lunch at the shawarma restaurant right next to the studio, while excitedly jotting down notes from the previous two workshops (I love taking notes!).

            We returned in time for the last workshop which we had registered for- Ruyah's fan veils intensive. This I found actually helped build on the foundation which Anuka's workshop had provided me. The material, in terms of new movements, was different from Anuka's earlier workshop, and at the end of it, I felt armed with a great set of new movements with fan veils. She also provided a detailed and lovely handout featuring the names of different movement options with the fan veils. This led me to sign up for the next workshop at Dragonfly, Ruyah's Magical Fan Veils workshop in early November. Once again, greatly inspiring. What I find distinctive to Ruyah's approach in the workshops is her emphasis on drilling movements- and this I truly appreciate. She taught a beautiful choreography in the second half of the workshop.

            My final workshop at Dragonfly this year has been Roula Said's Umm Kathoum choreography based on the song "Daret al-Ayaam." This workshop was offered on two different dates, due to its huge popularity and the first one having sold out. I attended the second one; November 23rd. I was delighted to be able to register for the second one- I may have been the last registrant, as right after I registered, the sign on the Dragonfly website said "Sold Out"! Roula's translations proved to be hugely helpful towards my understanding of her choreographic interpretation of this piece, and to truly appreciate her approach towards movement as an extension of the metaphor of the song. I also enjoyed her openness to individuality and different interpretations of her choreography.

            Yes, it has been a good year of workshops! I've attended more workshops outside of the realm of bellydance, but since most of my bellydance ones were those offered by Dragonfly, I thought I would put my reflections down in the blog. I think the workshops offer  an interesting insight into a teacher's pedagogy and I truly respect and have cherished the experience of attending these abovementioned workshops. I look forward to more such delightful offerings by Dragonfly in the future! 

1 comment:

  1. I would also like to attend more myself! Thanks for these reviews :)