||[Jan. 27th, 2008|03:52 pm]
Just back from the Barnsley Arabic Dance Association annual workshop and AGM. This year Vashti came to teach us about Khaleegi Dance.
Khaleegi (or Khaleeji, or Khaliji) means 'of the gulf', so naturally, Khaleegi dance is a dance that originates in the Persian gulf. The dance involves a particular costume which is a long kaftan style dress with a heavily embroidered front panel. The dress is used as a prop for the dance as you display the beautiful emboidery.
Most of the moves in this dance are very small and subtle. You make tiny shuffling steps (the dance was originally performed on a sandy floor, large and dramatic steps are difficult to manage in a long dress on sand!) Hip movements are small and understated, the shoulder shimmy is used, but the elbows stay close to the body and the movement is small and controlled.
At first I thought this would be quite a low energy workshop with such tiny steps, but after an hour of pretty much constantly making these tiny shuffling movements we were all starting to feel a bit of a burn in the muscles of our legs, and the room suddenly felt very warm!
Another thing that this dance is known for is the head and hair movements. This is where those of us who are old-school head-bangers had a bit of an advantage! The head is tilted forward and turned from side to side in order to flick the hair and display your gorgeous long locks to the audience. Sometimes the head is bent forward and moved in a figure-eight motion, again, to display beautiful hair.
There are also quite a few hand-gestures, and most of them have a meaning, such as holding your right hand up and gently shimmying your hand means "I hold my sword to glint in the sunlight and I come in peace".
After we'd learned the basic movements, Vashti played some popular khaleegi music and we spent a good long while dancing along just getting used to putting all of the moves together and how they fitted with the music. A few times she put the music on and let us all try out the moves on our own so that we could have a go at fitting the moves to the music ourselves. This is important, as we're hoping to begin work on a Khaleegi dance for the group to perform in the summer.
After a little more than 2 hours of dancing we were all quite tired, but everyone seemed to have really enjoyed themselves. I know I did, and I'm very glad that I have a Khaleegi workshop booked for JoY in April!
When the workshop was over and we'd all cooled down, we had a break for lunch during which Vashti performed for us. She really does transform when she dances and she was wonderful to watch. When I say transform, I mean that quite literally too! Even for a small performance to a bunch of tired dancers at a workshop Vashti still changed into a shiny shocking pink galabeya with a customised hip-scarf, put on make-up and jewelery and an amazing wig! She normally has quite short hair, so it made an incredible difference to see her with long, full hair! She started her dance with a veil, and discarded it after about 30 seconds in the traditional Cairo fashion, then she played finger-cymbals all the way through her dance too. Her style is very traditional Cairo dancer, which is fantastic to see because sadly this type of dancer is rapidly disappearing as public opinion in Egypt becomes more and more conservative and dancers are looked down upon. The dance is largely carried by the American dancers now, and their style is very different, much more removed from the roots of the dance.
Following this there was the BADA AGM, which was a sad moment as it was voted to fold the group in it's current form. This is because Jean, the lady who has been running the group for the last 10 years has decided to step down and simply enjoy her dancing now. Unfortunately due to work and other committments, none of the rest of the group feel that they have the time to properly devote to running this sort of thing. The classes will continue, and BADA will still exist as a performance group, but the committee will be disolved.