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Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

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It is said that when we dance to Baladi (the Blues of Egyptian music) we dance the archetypes of women’s experience.  However what does this really mean? It is a subject which continues to fascinate me, and is an exploration I will be returning to again and again in workshops throughout 2018. 

In traditional Egyptian dance these archetypes roughly speaking are understood as

1)The Young Woman or girl, perhaps unmarried or without the responsibilities of married life. 

2)The Mature Self Possessed Woman, often the boss of an undertaking in Egyptian society.

3)The Wise Woman who has suffered yet survived the travails of life and learned from them.

As dancers we must be careful not to dance these archetypes just as an idea (See ** below).  The beauty of Baladi music is that it is nuanced and in order for us to express it we have to respond ‘in the moment’ as that music evokes our changing motions.  Much as a poet uses her skill in the art of poetry so the dancer uses the language of her dance form to instinctively express joy, sadness, strength, playfulness and other feelings in all their shades and depths.

Dance 23 Oct15 14

Despite this the core of Baladi is its essential simplicity and stability, and is therefore ideal for the less experienced. These characteristics of simplicity and stability give an earthiness and grace and ‘hold’ us as dancers, and we return to them constantly.

For the more experienced, stability and simplicity give a self confidence and foundation.  Once they are established we can explore with freedom and curiosity the many rich layers to be found in this very Egyptian urban art.

**  I am writing here more about improvised rather than choreographed Baladi. However even when dancing a choreography we need to feel the feelings that arise with the music authentically and not put the emphasis too much on perfecting choreography and technique. 

 

Baladi is a wonderfully rich form of music and traditional Egyptian dance which evolved in the 50s and 60s and earlier.  Then as today country people left their villages to find work in the jostling teeming streets of Egypt’s cities. For respite and to further business opportunities they spent time in crowded smokey cafes.  Travellers too and musicians from other parts of both the Middle East and from much further beyond would gather to be entertained and to make music, often with a dancer.  For music and dancers in cross-cultural exchange this was a platform to experiment and find new freedoms of expression. Whereas much village music and its instruments had remained unchanged over the centuries now non traditional instruments were introduced and integrated into an evolving music often of emotional complexity.  It requires of the dancer to reflect that.

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LW dances Baladi

The Inner Dance of Raqs Sharqi – A Fresh Look at Baladi

This year many of the courses and workshops in Gloucestershire UK, Germany and Italy will focus on having a fresh and in depth look at Baladi.  

We need poise, ease and clarity of technique in order to facilitate the full emotional spectrum which characterises Baladi, that dance which flourished in the small, crowded, smokey cafes of the Egyptian conurbations during the first half of the twentieth century.

We will explore this beautiful dance from an ‘Inner’ perspective. The movements of Raqs Sharqi, to have that quality of ease, need to come from our inner physical core, our inner middle upper spine, and not merely from arms, hips and shoulders. More importantly, I call it ‘Inner’ because instead of overemphasising  technique (which leaves the audience distanced and vaguely unsatisfied) we dance the wholeness of who we are. We offer our authentic sensuality, in the real meaning of the word.  This means to be present in the feeling of the movements and not just to do them.

If we as dancers do the movements we show our expertise.  If however, in a very simple way, we  stay with the physical feeling of those movements, we access a well of empty, peaceful, happiness.  This is the source of creativity, and combined with our love of its music, it is this creativity that improvisational Baladi asks of us.  It is a surprise, an adventure, –  suitable for all dancers whatever their experience!

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