Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writers on Dance: Lytton Strachey on General Gordon

General Gordon's Last Stand from Wikipedia
I'm taking a class on Biography as Genre right now at the Grad Center and came across a belly dance scene in Lytton Strachey's beautifully written Eminent Victorians.  The last section, "The End of General Gordon," dissects the career of  Charles George Gordon whose military career ended in southern Egypt.  In this short scene, Strachey mocks the self-righteous morality of the Victorian era (calling him a "Christian hero") and the cold eye cast by this lonely, fame-driven, "eminently unromantic" colonialist who hated more than anything "the flesh."   This scene takes place in 1874 when Gordon returns to the Sudan:

"On his way up the Nile, he was received in state at Khartoum by the Egyptian Governor-General of the Sudan, his immediate official superior.  The function ended in a prolonged banquet, followed by a mixed ballet of soldiers and completely naked young women, who danced in a circle, beat time with their feet, and accompanied their gestures with a curious sound of clucking.  At last the Austrian Consul, overcome by the exhilaration of the scene, flung himself in a frenzy among the dancers; the Governor General, shouting with delight, seemed about to follow suit, when Gordon abruptly left the room, and the party broke up in confusion."

Gordon, unable to see beyond the lens of his own judgments, ends up miscalculating both the forces against him and his own mortality.  He died in a standoff in the Sudan (romanticized in the painting above, the cover of "Emminent Victorians").

Happy Spring Break: Classes Resume April 5

Spring Break!  We had our makeup session for the snow storm on March 15.  D Quarter classes resume Friday, April 5 and run through May 4.  Because our last class focused on Shimmies, I'm attaching a video of Randa Kamal who is known for her amazing shimmies.  If you Google "Randa Kamal" and shimmy, you will have no problem finding more information on her shimmies and even a Randa Kamal  shimmy discussion at the belly dance social website  This website, along with, are good resources to be aware of you are interested in furthering your dance on your own!

Two (Free!) Orientalish-Related Events at NYU

Photo: Khcheich by Bassem Fayed
from the NYU AbuDhabi event site.  
Information: click here
Two (free!) events happening this week at NYU Abu Dhabi for those interested in Middle Eastern music and literature.  First, this Friday at 8 p.m., a classical music concert "Music of Lebanon and Rahbani Brothers" with Lebanese vocalist Rima Khcheich.  In class throughout the years at NYU, I've used Fairouz's music and the Rahbani Brothers.  Come here this beautiful repertoire live with Khcheich and the Al-Bustan takht ensemble.
March 22: 8 p.m.
NYU Kimmel Center
Eisner and Lubin Auditorium

Second, on Monday, March 25, a talk with Egyptian writer, director, and performance artist Dalia Basiouny.  According to the press release, Basiouny's “Solitaire”: ". . . documents, dramatically and visually, some of the experiences of Arab Americans post 9/11, and the impact of these events on the Arab World. It also records the early phase of January 25th Revolution in Tahrir Square through the eyes of an Egyptian woman who changes and creates change in her journey to shape her identity and find peace." Basiouny will speak with playwright Catherine Filloux at this free event curated by Tisch School of the Arts.
March 25, 6-7:30 p.m.
NYU Abu Dhabi
19 Washington Square, 
New York, NY

Both events are free, but registration is recommended at the NYU Abu Dhabi website.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Regenerative Body Architecture" with Maureen Fleming

Maureen Fleming
I am doing a three-week training with Maureen Fleming again!  I've studied with Maureen for many years now. Because her work and form is so internally driven--reaching and drawing form the inner body and the inner muscles and working from between and below the muscles, I always go to a new place.

In yoga or any movement form, there is always the experience of finding a holding pattern in the body, feeling a surge of freedom and expansion for an hour, a day, on a good riff, a week.  But then, invariably our new opening leads us to the next closing, or more positively, the next inner chamber waiting to be released.

Maureen's work includes a series of expansion exercises with elastics on the hands and feet.  Dancers use their own body for resistance, the body opens itself, part of the intimacy of her work, in my experience.  In addition to the elastics, we dance through images associated with an area of the body and then, at the end, move the body with dynamic symbols for movement, pressing what ever part of the body touches the black marley floor into the ground as our limbs spiral into highways or contract and expand and compress mercury from the perineum through the spine and to the finger tips.

After doing a three hour session at her East Village loft, I leave feeling lighter on the inside as I stand on the subway platform.  Sounds seem louder as if I've quieted something internally that is too often chattering.   When I went to yoga afterward, I lifted into poses by reaching from that deeper center.

I'm so glad there are two weeks left (18 hours!).....

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The "Fifi Abdo" Hip Circle

In class last week I referred (again!) to the "Fifi Abdo" hip circle.  This is my label, but Fifi Abdo, a top dancer in Egypt starting in the 70s, does it very well and very often in videos I've seen of her dancing.  On this site, I have a page with information for new dancers.  One of the videos is the one I'm reposting here.  She's wearing a classic white robe and dancing with live musicians and finger cymbals.  This one of my favorite videos of her dancing. The hip circle is at 1:17 minutes.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.  I never tire of watching this clip!

NYU Choreography: "Talakik: Looking for Excuses"

We just started a new choreography at NYU to Hakim's pop classic: "Talakik."  Here is a link to the song on ITunes.  Additionally, Shira's great website, has one version of translated lyrics to the song:  "Talakik: Looking for Excuses."  It's about love, of course, and longing, and the girl who might get away.  Finally, I came across a video on Youtube of the fabulous Amar Gamal dancing to the song.  Amar is an excellent dancer who used to live in NYC before she became one of the Bellydance Superstars.  She also co-founded Bellyqueen with local belly dance favorite Kaeshi Chai (go to Je'Bon on Wednesdays if you haven't already).

Enjoy!  We'll go farther in our routine on Friday!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Winter Storm Make Up Date: March 15

We're thawing out now, but our makeup date for the class cancelled at Coles Gym during the snow storm is Friday, March 15, 3: 30 p.m.
Stay warm. Dance!