Aziza & Issam Dream Tour 2013
Hosted by dhavir productions
July vacation this year was supposed to be about hubby and me getting away for a mini-road trip all on our own. However, knowing that Aziza & Issam were going to be in Portland, OR - just a quick jaunt from our travel route - hubby encouraged me to sign up for the full weekend of workshops and audition for the show. I was thrilled to be able to study with Aziza again just a few short months after attending her workshops hosted by Sacred Centre Dance Company here in Victoria, BC. The addition of a Master Percussionist like Issam Houshan made the experience that much better.
“Rhythm ID & Combos,” “Dancing with a Live Drummer” & “Drum Solo Master Choreo”
Aziza & Issam taught three workshops together. Beginning with identifying rhythms, Issam introduced them, wrote them on a chart and played them for us. Similar to Dr. George Sawa, Aziza created physical actions to coincide with the doums, teks & kas in the rhythm patterns, but in her signature, playfully, humorous way that had everyone laughing as Issam kept increasing the speed. I knew most of this material but I did learn about one new rhythm that I was not familiar with - nawari. The class on dancing with a live drummer covered dos and don'ts, tidbits, anecdotal stories from both Issam and Aziza and then the meat of the class included us being split into groups to dance for each other as Issam played various drum solos. Though none of us had to dance solo, it's always very intimidating to be put on the spot to improvise in front of a room full of other dancers. However, none of us seemed too worried about “getting it right” but rather focused on the opportunity to develop the skills of listening to the drummer, the patterns and cues, relaxing and just following the flow of the rhythms and not feeling pressured to hit every accent. To be honest, this was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. Anytime I let go, follow the music and trust the technique I have developed I feel truly joyful. Being able to interact with the musician while dancing is icing on the cake!
“Fluidity,” “Big Fancy Choreography” & “Veil Technique”
Throughout Aziza's workshops there were several continuing themes (carried over and expanded from previous workshops I've attended):
1.“Prissy Precision” – working on correct technique so that it becomes so ingrained in your muscle memory you don't have to think about it when dancing.
2.“Deliberate Practice” - if you really want to improve you have to practice the things that are difficult and make you uncomfortable NOT the things that already feel good.
3.“Every Moment Matters” – even the simplest movements and actions when imbued with intention can add to the overall quality of your performance.
Aziza Returns with Issam Houshan! Show
I was disappointed that dhavir productions wasn't accepting auditions for their show but when I saw that there would be a live band for the entire show and that most of the dancers had ties to Aziza I understood why. It is always nice to attend a show as an audience member so after a night and day of workshops (and with one more day to go) I relaxed and enjoyed watching others share their joy. I have to say it was absolutely wonderful to watch an entire show with live music played by skilled musicians. Ritim Egzotik, members of House of Tarab from Seattle, WA and Issam delivered in spades and it was so nice to see several workshop participants shine on stage! My husband, who is NOT obsessively passionate about Middle Eastern dance enjoyed the show immensely and recognized pieces that he's heard me playing over the years. He said it was one of the best shows that he's attended since I started all this belly dance madness. Issam's very obvious love of what he does is infectious and, of course, despite being tired after so many hours of instructions, Aziza was the consummate professional – elegant, gracious, funny and full of energy. Just beautiful!
To date I have attended two workshops with Issam and five workshops with Aziza. Every single time I have come away with reinforcement of concepts that have helped me grow into the dancer and teacher I am today, new combinations to play with, choreographies that challenge my creativity, my way of approaching the music and evolving technique as well as a renewed enthusiasm for Middle Eastern dance.
Here's to more Aziza workshops (possibly including a Dream Camp next year?) in my future!
Aziza & Issam Dream Tour
David Reihs Ireesl & dhavir productions
August 12th, 2013