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Category: Fun and More Fun!
January 13, 2015
Would you like to get Fast, Safe, and Effective Relief from Lower Back Pain?
If you think that this is a commercial for a Pain Medication or Muscle Relaxants, I have a surprise for you. This is waaay more FUN, it’s FREE and has absolutely No Nasty Side Effects to worry about! If you guessed that I am going to recommend an Oriental belly dance movement solution, Bravo! You are absolutely right.
If you are a professional dancer or teacher or just a super enthusiastic student and you dance daily, it is unlikely that you will suffer from back pain. But, if, in spite of your many hours of dance per week you still find that you have nagging lower back pain, my first recommendation is to check in and see if you are one of the many who contract your abdominal muscles to flatten out the natural curve of your lower back. Surprise! This actually creates rather than protects you from lower back pain.
Anatomy 101 time. The key concept here is that the natural forward curve of our lower back actually keeps our back healthy and happy by balancing the weight of our torso and upper body evenly between the main body of the vertebrae (see photo) and the two sliding joints at the back of the vertebrae. This avoids compression of the discs that are designed to cushion our movement between the vertebrae. If we flatten out the natural curve, this shifts all the upper body weight forward and compresses the dics, which can lead to nerve irritation, sciatica, bulging and eventually herniated discs. Believe me, you do NOT want this – OUCH!
If you already do suffer from any of the above, I highly recommend that you avoid sitting whenever possible, as this position automatically flattens out the natural Lumbar (lower back) curve and increases pressure on the discs. If you are not familiar with my technique, then my #1 easy and quick solution is to do a virtually effortless, gentle pelvic rotation (sometimes called an “Omi”) by shifting one hip to the side, a very gentle pelvic tuck front by contracting both gluts, a shift to the other side and a relaxation into the neutral position that restores your natural lumbar curve. You can actually find this movement defined in the dictionary on my website, and you can have free access to a video demonstrating the movement simply by singing up with your name and email address. If you are familiar with my technique, i.e. my Body Logic for Bellydance – soon to be renamed SavvyBodyBellydance – then I also recommend my full torso open and close undulation movements, beginning with diagonal and eventually trying the front to back version. This is actually the best, simplest and completely free self-massage EVER!!
If you have a day job which requires lengthy periods of sitting then it is important to try to take regular quick breaks and do a front to back undulation while seated in your chair. This is tricky unless you seek to touch your elbows together in front of your chest (allowing a gentle slump and rocking back onto your tail bone) then opening the elbows and chest while rocking onto the front of your sit bone (belly button forward) and repeat several time with as little effort as possible.
If you have to commute to and from work with other passengers, you can do this in your car seat when it’s not your turn to drive. If you do the driving, be sure to put a cushion or rolled up towel behind your lower back when seated to maintain your natural arch.
I hope that you found these little tricks and clarifications helpful in your dance and work day. You are also very welcome to share this info with your other dance friends.
Thanks again for your time, and feel free to comment or ask questions on Facebook and I will do my best to reply and clarify.
Until the next one… May you dancing keep you healthy, happy and young!!
January 4, 2015
>If you are like most people, it is highly likely that at least one of these common goals will be on the list:
- Get Healthier and more Active
- Have More Fun
- Tone up Your Body
- Lose Weight
- Start a new Hobby or Learn Something New
- Make and Take more Time for You
This is why joining the gym or a new exercises class are two of the top New Year’s Resolutions for so many of us. However, what most people don’t realize is that the most current research has shown that dance offers a multitude of extremely powerful benefits for our body, mind and soul! Here are the first two on the list:
1. Increased Energy
Can’t seem to find your get-up-and-go? Taking a dance class might help. Research published in The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition found that a weekly dance program could improve physical performance and increase energy levels among adults.
2. Improves Co-ordination, Posture and Balance
If you are nervous about falling as you get older, some dance lessons might help ease your worries, according to a study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity that showed dancing can improve balance in aging adults. Dancing requires a lot of fast movement and good posture, so frequent dancing will help you stabilize and gain better control of your body.
I Love virtually all forms of dance and have spent the past 43 years of my life studying, dancing and teaching jazz, contemporary, ballet, oriental belly dance and folklore, flamenco, Polynesian, African, Afro-Brazilian, Samba, Latin, Argentine Tango, Indian, Turkish Roman and Tap.
I have also spent the past 22 years practicing, teaching and developing Massage, Manual and Movement Therapy. This enabled me to discover the absolutely amazing secrets of our bodies and how they work, which made me realize that the Art of Oriental Belly Dance is the safest and most gentle form of dance. It is actually physically therapeutic and specifically beneficial for a woman’s body, which is not at all surprising, since it was created by and for women!!!
This has inspired me to write a new, ongoing series of articles about the multiple benefits of Oriental Belly Dance for a woman’s body. I am sure that if you are already belly dancing (like an Egyptian), having fun and loving it, wouldn’t you be doubly excited to discover that due to the gentle, unusual and multidirectional undulating movements that we do with our torsos, we can get and keep our entire spine supple, mobile and healthy. In fact our dance is the single the most effective way to prevent and avoid the #1 most common physical complaint in today’s world – nagging lower back pain!ear by Celebrating the Multitude of Wonderful Physical, Psychological, Social and Spiritual our Benefits of our Beautiful Art Form!!
September 9, 2013
The Sahara, Mountains, Mesas, Beaches, Verdant Valleys, Oases, Magic, Music, and the most incredible living Folklore, Tribal Berber Life and French Elegance, Sumptuous Cuisine, Hamams, Africa ….
As I was writing Chapter Eight of my memoirs, which begins in Spain and continues into Morocco, every memory, sound, sight, feeling, smell, and touch was as clear as though I was right back there in Marrakech; exploring the Medina and Djema al Fna; soaking up the magnificent Marrakech Folk Festival under the stars; driving through the ever-changing, mystical country. So, I thought that I would share a little glimpse of this amazing place with you right here and now and the exciting news that I am setting up our very first Tour to Morocco this coming summer. Make sure that you mark your calendars right now for the end of July!! I will continue to give you details of this amazing tour that we are planning along with a short introduction to a different selection of Moroccan Folklore with each new article. Today I am going to introduce you to one of my favourite and perhaps the best know of all Moroccan Folklore – the Guedra.
The Guedra is actually a large earthenware cooking pot, which is transformed into the primary percussion instrument for this intriguing dance of the same name. It is a ritual dance practiced by of a faction of the Tuareg People (also known as the Blue people from the indigo dye that stains their skin a blue colour). Although the Tuareg are largely nomadic people who traverse the sands of the Sahara, some have chosen to settle in areas like Goulimine and Tan Tan. They are a matriarchal society, where women enjoy a great deal of freedom and independence. In fact, the women do not wear a face veil (like many of the traditional Berber tribes in Morocco). This is an honour reserved for the men, once they reach puberty. Now this version definitely gets my vote!!
Unlike the Moroccan ‘Hadra’ or the Egyptian Zar, which are ‘exoricsim’ or trance dances, the Guedra Dance is an ancient ritual of healing and blessing. The ritual begins with the Guedra Drum played at a slow tempo that resembles the heartbeat.
Click the “play” button to hear Guedra
This is accompanied by hand clapping. and singing in the traditional African ‘call and answer’ fashion. The dancer wears a kaftan or ‘jalaba’ covered by a very long length of fabric called a ‘haik,’ which is wrapped around the kaftan, pinned at the mid collarbone with fibulae (old roman safety pins), a complex headdress of cowrie shells and beads, with tightly braided hair incorporated into the headdress. A blue or black veil covers her head and face and a large “magic” necklace is placed over this veil, around the neck.
Often the dancer will begin moving hypnotically from a standing position, which is called the T’bal, while the hands follow the rhythm with small staccato movements, sometimes flicking the fingers in particular directions. Once she moves to a kneeling position this is referred to as the Guedra. As the tempo increases, so do the hand and arm movements which address the four directions: North, South, East and West; the four elements: Fire (the sun) , Earth, Wind and Watesun, the sand, the past the future, the liver, the soul, and all present who receive the blessings of the dancer.
As the tempo and dance crescendo, she will also incorporate swaying and tossing of the head from side to side and chest lifts and drops and eventually removes the veil from her face and head. But a video is worth a thousand words so enjoy…
I will be back soon with another featured dance of Morocco and more details about our fabulous Moroccan Magical Mystery Tour!!
Also don’t forget to join the incomparable Master of Egyptian Folklore and Lead Dancer of the National Egyptian Folkloric Company and myself for a Fabulous Four day weekend of wonderful workshops featuring authentic and traditional dances of Egypt, oriental dance and (perhaps) a chance to try out the Guedra!!? Winnipeg, November 8-11, 2013. For all info and registrations just click on this link http://www.nicola-bellydance.com/?p=2241
And don’t forget to get your deposit in before the September 30 deadline and make sure that Denise and I don’t forget to come and teach you a tons of wonderful information and fill you with inspiration!!
December 7, 2012
“Do you want to learn another dance or do you want to learn HOW to dance?”
Music can and does exist without dance, but dance cannot exist without music. If you want to learn HOW to DANCE to Arabic Oriental music instead of being a prisoner of combinations, the best place to start is to learn about the music. The best way to start to understand the enchanted world of oriental music is to learn the rhythms.
The principal percussion instrument is called a tabla aka darabuka or derbeke. This hand drum has 2 primary sounds; a deep resonating sound known as “doum” which is made by hitting the centre of the drum, and a sharper, lighter sound called “tak” made by striking the edge of the drum. The various combinations of these two sounds create what we call the rhythms.
The sound that dancers hear most easily is the doum. And the rhythm that most dancers learn first is called Baladi aka Masmoudi Saghir (small masmoudi). Please note that some people use this term to describe the 8 count rhythm with the accents on the first 2 counts. The heavy base of these main beats and the particular order of where they are found, have a very magical effect on virtually all dancers and natives of the Middle East – We have no choice but to get up and dance, while a huge smile appears on our faces and arms move through the air above our heads. This very special rhythm is indeed the Heartbeat of Belly Dance.
Although Middle Eastern rhythms are very different in structure from Western rhythms, most of our principal dancing rhythms are in 4/4 time, which makes them easier to understand. The most commonly found 4/4 rhythm, which is considered the metronome (keeper of the time) for the majority of popular songs, is the maqsum or maksoum rhythm. However, because this rhythm is ruled by the tak, instead of the doum, it is one of the most challenging rhythms for dancers to hear and to recognize in the music. Other common rhythms are in 2/4 time, such as “Malfouf” aka “Lef” and Ayoub, or 8/4 time, such as Masmoudi Kebir or Chiftitelli, while some less common rhythms are in 6/8, or tricky, uneven counts such as 9/8, 10/8 or 12/8. For more detailed information on each of the rhythms click on the highlighted name. You can also hear what these rhythms sound like by clicking on the mp3 button after each name.
Other percussion instruments which are played together with tabla are the riq, daf, dahola, the large tabl baladi and zagat or zills. Click on the names to see what they look like.
Here are some of my favourite rhythm CDs that will help you to become familiar with and practice dancing to the most rhythms:
- Sayed Balaha “Oriental Grooves Vol 1″ and “Oriental Grooves Vol 2”
- Hossam Ramzy’s “Rhythms of the Nile”
- Samasem’s “Drum Rhythms for Oriental Dance” featuring Mohammed ‘Bibo’ Gaber
To learn more about the interconnections between rhythms, instruments and much more, I also highly recommend Dr. George Sawa’s booklet/CD combination, “EGYPTIAN MUSIC APPRECIATION”, which has 2 CDs with 65 tracks of instruction: 21 rhythms, finger cymbal patterns, drum solos; 8 “maqams” or Arabic scales; photographs, description and sound of 32 instruments; 6 musical forms.
My dear friend, Dr. Sawa, has agreed to offer us a very special Christmas Discount price of $50.00 (plus shipping) and he will include, as a gift ,“The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun, vols. 1 and 2. These CDs are historical recordings on period instruments whose aim is to bring to life the sound of the dances of Badia Masabni, Tahiya Carioca and Samia Gamal. They also contain spiritual dances from Egypt and the 17th-century Ottoman court. All in all this deal will give you 4 CDs, a 32-page book and two CDs liner notes. For yourself of as A GREAT XMAS PRESENT!
In the USA and Canada $55.00 (includes shipping); all other areas $60 (includes shipping). Payment through paypal to email@example.com or a cheque or money order to George Sawa, 22 Fermanagh Ave., Toronto ON, M6R 1M2 Canada
Now all of this is very helpful information but let’s get back to your second question:
WHERE CAN I LEARN TO DANCE TO THE MUSIC?
I admit that I am biased on this point, but I highly recommend that you study my Volume 3 DVD in my Raks Sharki Series. Raks Sharki Vol. 3 Rhythms – The Heartbeat of Belly Dance. Together with my wonderful, percussionist, Pierre Khoury, I present the rhythms and dance movements one by one and step by step. Pierre begins each rhythm with what I refer to as the ‘skeleton’, or essential beats, so that you can hear and see the sounds being made. He gradually fills in the secondary beats, one piece at a time, until he is playing the complete embellished version. I join in the fun by playing finger cymbals, so that we can give you a sense of how the drum and the cymbals work together in harmony to make the rhythm even richer. Then, I demonstrate a series of very typical movements and steps and even some variations of those steps that would fit well with that particular rhythm. We work together through each of the major rhythms (and even throw in some tricky ones), in the same way so that you can practice, practice and practice my suggestions and perhaps start to explore some of your own movements to Pierre’s skillful drumming. Finally, we put everything together for a grand finale with an improvised performance; Pierre on drum and myself in full costume, dancing to a typical progression of these rhythms in the order that they might be found in an oriental belly dance composition. To make things crystal clear for you, we present only the drum and the dance so that you can clearly hear each rhythm and each rhythmical change and see the dance movements as they follow these rhythms.
Check out the video below for a quick peek at our rhythms:
If you don’t already own this DVD, now is a great time to add it to your collection by taking advantage of our “Christmas Cane” special discounted price. Click on this link to get it now. Thanks so much for joining us here and reading through this post. If you found it helpful and enjoyed reading it, please send your comments and questions and feel free to share it with your friends by clicking the ‘share’ and ‘like’ buttons as well as the social media icons below.
November 29, 2012
First Question: Where can I find a good source of authentic information about Cane Dance aka Raqs Assaya; Raqs Asaya
- Research and watch Egyptians (and their devoted students) who perform Raqs Assaya or Tahtiyb
- Read articles about the history of these dance forms, the people of the Said and the Ghawazee
- Watch performances of these dances by folkloric companies and the dancers of the golden era and the 80’s from old movies, videos and YouTube such as Fifi Abdo, Mona al Said and Lucy.
The use of the cane or stick can be seen in dances from many eastern countries, the country that is best known for its cane dance is Egypt. So, Egypt would be the most obvious and likely place to begin your search and because this is a traditional folkdance, the Egyptians best suited to guide you would be their professional folkloric dancers. The cane dance or Raqs Assaya had its origins in the man’s martial art/dance form called Tahtiyb, from the Said region (Upper Egypt). This was a skill enhancing training for combat using the Nabout or stick, which evolved into a stylized and elegant form of dance performed by Saidi men. This was eventually adopted and adapted by the female Ghawazee performers who had been banned to the Said region in the 19th century. These professional performers used a smaller and thinner stick, imitated some of the men’s movements, but also added skillful tricks and incorporated shimmies, and other feminine hip movements.
Following the golden era of Raqs Sharqi that began in the 1950’s, the great star Nagwaa Fouad began to present traditional folkloric dance as part of her nightclub performances, sometimes bringing musicians and villagers to Cairo to perform in her extravagant shows. The next generations of dancers chose to perform the baladi style and folk dances themselves. This led to the ‘orientalization’ of this charming and delightful dance, balancing the playful, stronger movements of tahtyb and cane with the more fluid and feminine movements of sharqi. For more background info I invite you to read my article, Cane Dance: Raks Asaya. I also recommend that you search for articles on the Guilded Serpent www.gildedserpent.com as some very knowledgeable writers submit to this site.
As a Canadian dancer who began my career back in the early 70’s (before there were such things as dance oriented tours, festivals or even dance classes in Egypt) I was very fortunate to find two professional Egyptian folkloric dancers from the National Egyptian Folkloric Company “Firqat Kowmeiyah” living in Canada; Denise Enan and Lala Hakim. I studied with both of these wonderful artists and teachers, in Ottawa and Montreal respectively. I continued to study with Denise, who had been the lead dancer for the company for many years before moving to Canada and who was an amazing wealth of knowledge, generosity of spirit and natural charm. Although I love all of the dances and music of Egypt, Saidi and Cane are definitely my favourites. Denise Enan is my favourite and most trusted teacher of folklore and cane dance, while her husband Ahmed Enan is a master artist and choreographer of Tahtyib.
Second Question: Where can I learn Cane Dance aka Raqs Assaya?
- Take classes and workshops with the “experts” i.e. Masters of Egyptian folklore and the students of these masters.
- Explore and study Saidi music, its rhythms and instruments
- Study DVDs and online classes by both the masters and their students.
Thanks to Denise’s status as a principal dancer of the National Kowmeiyah Company, when I traveled to Egypt to absorb and learn as much as possible, I was able to meet and attend rehearsals of the company and see their performances in the famous Balloon Theatre. I was even able to receive occasional coaching from some of the dancers. I would also go out night after night to the huge selection of major hotels and night clubs to drink in the magnificent music of the orchestras, study the dancers, including their folkloric and Saidi segments which often included Raqs Assaya and Tahtyb. OH those were the sweet days!!
After Cairo, I traveled south to the town of Luxor in the Said and home of the Banat Mazin Ghawazee. I spent many days dancing with the sisters in their home and gradually absorbing their unique movements and style. I could kick myself for refusing to trade my American belly dance coin belt for one of their traditional beaded skirts!!! They had never seen a coin belt before and I had never seen a ghawazee skirt, but apparently we both preferred the belt. These sessions often turned into events with their musician cousins, the extended family of the famous singer Metkal Kanawi. This extended family are part the Saidi “gypsies” who have maintained their timeless tradition of music, song, dance and entertainment through the eons!! Few things can pull at my hearts strings like the strings of the rough and raw rababa, joined by the etheric strains of the ancient nai (flute). There might also be earsplitting and piercing mizamar (which only die hard dancers and fans adore)or the mellower buzzing mijwiz, all accompanied by the tabla, riq and zaghat of the Mazin sisters. Once this raw, lively and edgy music gets into your veins it is in there forever with its power to transport you right back to the timeless, place, people and energy of Luxor – EVERYTIME!!
Throughout my career, I have been so lucky to be to these special places, to experience and learn first hand from so many incredible people like Denise and other Egyptian dancers who are also undisputed masters of the cane including Ibrahim Farrah and Mohamed Shelaby.
I hope that I have inspired you and given you a couple of ideas of what and who to seek out and where to seek them out. It is worth every effort. I would also like to share a bit of what I have learned about this delightful dance right now, in my Volume 2 Raks Sharki Series, which includes how to hold and twirl the cane, some wonderful steps and techniques and finishing with a really fun and lively complete choreography to a song called Ayeela Tayeeha buy the incomparable singer, Ahmad Adawiya. You can also take advantage of our Christmas Cane Promo Price from now until January 15th by clicking on the Tell Me More link right here.
Thank you for you time and interest and if you like what you have just read and/or my article link, please feel free to share it with your friends on Facebook and click the “like” button like and Facebook buttons below. I would also love to hear your comments and any other information that you would like to share with my other friends and readers.