Aziza & Sadie Dream Camp 2017
I first discovered Aziza when searching the Internet as a baby dancer, trying to learn anything and everything about this dance I had fallen passionately in love with. I knew from the way she moved and her stage presence, that seemed to transcend video, that she was special. Just a short time later, I traveled to the mainland with some fellow students and my teacher to attend the annual MEDA Bazaar and perform in the Twilight at the Oasis show. That was 2005. To this day I still use drills in my personal practice and while teaching that I learned in those workshops and I finish every single class I teach, the exact same way she ended hers (of course everything gets credited). My first face-to-face interaction with Aziza was in the elevator at the hotel the night before the event started. She guessed we were “belly dancers” and we were thrilled that not only had she come to our neck of the woods to teach and perform but that we had made contact with the star of the weekend. I learned a lot about Aziza that weekend: she had a boyfriend named Eric that she was clearly head over heels for (and who is now her husband, videographer, photographer and manager), she sparkled with a sense of humor, she looks you in the eye when she speaks to you, she liked my pointy toe boots, she is small and delicate, a shorty like me, much shorter than the projected presence she has on stage and video, she doesn't mess around in class but she makes everything fun, fun, fun! I also learned that she is good at acknowledging people: she dubbed one of her drill patterns the “Maki Move” after Maki Natori did a slight variation that she liked and incorporated, she quietly complimented Michelle Etienne on her drum solo performance at the show, she watched the other performers rather than remain in her dressing room, she remembered names.
Since that time I have traveled to attend another three workshop weekends and one Aziza/Issam Dream Tour. I own her instructional and performance DVDs. She is a dancer I refer back to, and will study with every chance I get.
When Aziza first announced her plans to have a “dream” camp I knew I wanted to attend but time, finances and circumstances prevented my participation. However, I was finally able to make this bucket list item come true this July, helped by scholarships from both MEDA and OPA. To make things even sweeter, Aziza had invited another of my very favourite dancers and teachers, Sadie Marquardt, to be a guest instructor!
Dream Camp is literally a dance dream camp. A luxury camp, because the building and surroundings are beautiful! The rooms are small but comfortable and cozy, the food is vegetarian and delicious, the schedule is organized so that there are rest times and other non-dance activities between workshops and/or workouts. Even so, we were physically active for approximately seven hours a day over five days. The week commenced with arrival day, a tour, and a welcome meeting in which Aziza set the tone by making a game of giving everyone a “sign” to go along with their name. She repeated this game several times that first night and by the next morning we knew everyone else's names.
In the first workshop we were assigned a number and that became our “working” group for the entire week. We rotated lines in those groups, took turns executing choreography sections in those groups and we created and performed an acapella zill combination in those groups.
Over the course of the camp we learned a vintage-style choreography from Aziza with a veil beginning, and a complicated, fast drum solo by Sadie that incorporated floor work. Both teachers focused on posture and presence along with technique and blocking. However, I truly felt that even though we were learning choreography, both teachers were more focused on helping us develop presence and our own unique stage personality. Of course honing technique is vitally important but a lot of us fall short and feel disappointed in playback of our performances because we neglect “prissy precision” and “being present” when we are performing. I can still hear Aziza yelling things like “shoulders down” and “show your jugular” like a drill sergeant! Sadie drills fast and tight, without expending excess energy so that the end result is flawless technique that looks effortless. It's the attention to these subtle details and allowing yourself to feel and show the music through your whole body that set the cream of the crop apart from the rest of us. And I think that is what both instructors sincerely want to help us achieve.
Twenty strangers came together for the twenty-second Dream Camp in Montreal. We finished as a bonded group. I appreciated that this was achieved naturally without having to do any activities that try to force intimacy or make us “gaze at our navels to find ourselves.” None of the concepts covered were anything new to me but my desire to try to put them into practice in deeper, more integrated ways than I am currently achieving right now was consistently reinforced during that week. It was an absolute pleasure to be so immersed in dance with two dancers I respect and admire so much as performers, as teachers and businesswomen. And I want to send kudos to the people who make up their respective crews: husbands, children and other dancers who help them do what they do.
I've already started saving for another Dream Camp. You should too. You won't regret it.
August 9th, 2017