Zahra Zuhair Workshop Weekend
Hosted by Ammara Dance Company
(April 25-27, 2014)
I loved every minute of the Zahr Zuhair weekend!
Not having much knowledge of Zahra other than knowing she has many years of experience and an excellent reputation as a performer and instructor, I set about learning as much as I could by watching her videos, checking out her web site and paying attention to what others had to say about her on various social media sites before I signed up for the weekend package.
“Golden Era Styling, Choreography & Technique”
I absolutely LOVED this workshop. It was so much fun going over the deceptively simple, very feminine technique before learning a short choreography capturing the elements we'd just learned and practiced. I also loved the version of Layla that Zahra used. The live recording reminded me of the things that Ranya Renee had taught about “old school” Egyptian style and how dancing to live music called for a smaller “palette” of movements that would evolve as the performance progressed.
Another of my very favourites! Zahra reinforced much of what I've already learned about taqsim baladi while still giving me a couple of new bits of technique to play with.
Having choreographed a short Muwashahat in the fall of 2013, I had already done some research about this musical style. However, I was excited to have a class that gave some combination ideas for the 10/8 rhythm, Samai Thaqil, (only one of many rhythms used for Muwashahat but one which most belly dancers are familiar with) and a choreography to a version of THE most well-known Muwashahat in the Western belly dance world – Lamma Bada Yatathana. The most surprising thing I learned was the type of midriff-covering, harem pants, pillbox hat costuming to wear since I have always seen dancers perform Lamma Bada in bedlah!
“Shimmies, Kicks & Turns”
This was a class of technique and combinations. I love learning new technique and new combinations. It gives me lots of inspiration and ideas providing I take plenty of notes. However, sometimes (if you are like me), without a choreography to anchor the combinations to, my notes can seem like gobbledygook later no matter how precise I think I've been re directions, which foot to start on, etc. Thankfully, the travelling patterns across the stage still make sense when I look at my shorthand.
"Egyptian Sha'abi: Old & New"
Like Muwashahat, sha'abi is style of music rather than a style of dance. Originating from beledi, it is the music of the “working class” and it's so much fun to dance to providing you pay attention to what the lyrics are saying. I wish we'd had enough time to learn the entire choreography that Zahra taught.
Did I mention that I loved the entire workshop weekend? Because Zahra is not one of the current “hot” names on the teaching circuit I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. Zahra Zuhair is a small, gentle person with a quiet voice that was calming. She worked us hard in order to cover the material she wanted to share but in a way that didn't feel frenzied or forced. I enjoyed her extremely feminine style and I immediately felt that she embodies the Egyptian concept of “da'ala” which is translated as “soft sexiness” or “soft femininity.” There was a languid flow to her style that allowed me to savour and complete each movement in her combinations and choreographies. Often in a workshop setting where I am learning a new choreography my focus is on mastering the technique and blocking. It's at home, practicing and reviewing where I being to feel like I'm dancing. In Zahar's workshops that process was already in motion before the classes were over.
Many thanks to Lisa Jordan and Ammara Dance Company for providing the opportunity to study with another quality instructor/performer.
July 21st, 2014