SAKTI IN SANTA FE
by Siri Howard, Santa Fe, NMWhat a lucky person I am to be
living in the beautiful high desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico, while also
having a large community of quality Middle Eastern performers and
teachers in my area from which to learn. One of New Mexico’s belly dance
treasurers is Sakti of Taos (and Egypt) who recently gave a 3
hour workshop on Sunday, February 9, at Movement Arts Studio.
I was psyched to take Sakti’s Drum Solo Workshop, having seen her
perform it this past October during the show on a kibbutz, where she,
along with instructor Elena Lantini from New York, was one of the
instructors at Israel’s first Middle Eastern dance camp workshop. Sakti
taught us a cane dance choreography which she also performed in the show
at the camp, and closed with a knockout shamadan dance, which
really brought the house down What a treat to see her sweet face again,
and have a chance to study the gorgeous isolations and glamorous
Egyptian styling for which Sakti is so well known.
Sakti attracted 30 students at short notice from as far north as
Colorado and as far South as Albuquerque, and also Hanali from Finland,
who was here in Santa Fe visiting and studying with Joan Kafri.
Sakti set the Middle Eastern mood in the dance studio with her ever
present and affordable costumes and other Egyptian belly dance
treasures. She also provided choreography notes and music tapes
featuring Horacio Cifuenies’ “Reda’s Flower,” which she honors with her
version to his drum solo music.
Sakti has been teaching, performing and studying Middle Eastern dance
for around 20 years, so for a two-year baby belly dancer it is nice to
have the opportunity for a little dance osmosis to perhaps occur. Half
of the students in Sakti s workshop were professional performers and
teachers themselves, so to see them sweating and asking movement
questions made me not feel like the dance dork I sometimes am. Sakti has
studied with some great dancers, and in this drum solo she honors their
movements with her hybrid of crisp and distinctive isolations. Jamila
Salimpour, Nadia Hamdi, Raqia Hassan and Mahmoud Reda are just a few of
the many who have inspired her. The hagalla shimmy is eye
catching and moves into the next combination with all the flirting and
firmness needed by Mae West while dancing in front of a humid Egyptian
crowd. Though some combinations obviously take a while to master
glamorously, like her creation of pelvic thrust with hands on head
(holding up her cascading hair), elbows side to side and then a shoulder
shimmy; Sakti looked like a blonde Rita Hayworth dancing on the
Mediterranean, I looked like I had a bad case of heat rash under my arms
and my hair didn’t want to cascade. Oh well, I guess that one will take
more than a little practice and a curling iron for me to master. Her
chest pops and body waves took me until 2 weeks ago to get, but well
worth the practice.
I also enjoyed Sakti’s “choo choo” and “ummey” moves. Choo choos are
shuffling on the balls of your feet, a nice way to get a shimmy on a
higher level while traveling. The “ummeys” are small and fast hip
circles, and wht ii Sakti describes how to do this move, you understand
how to make something simple a little more delicious.
Sakti is also an admirer of Elena Lentinis dance, and does a sweet and
clean Sakti version of Elena’s box step move forward with four direction
hip pops. She broke it down beautifully so we all could get that little
I find hand movements so personal and revealing of a good dancer and
Sakti has her own way of doing hands that truly makes a difference when
executed along with her steps. Her hands are relaxed yet posed and at
times tell you “no-no or “yes-yes, you’re hot!”
Sakti’s choreography had eye-catching isolations that are anticipated in
Egyptian cabaret style, but are also a consideration for the variety and
distinction of movement that is so vital when trying to keep the
attention of a crowd who may be eating and conversing as you are
dancing. Sakti has danced it all, from ski lodge, to blues bar, from
restaurants and hotels in Japan, to stages in Egypt. The inspiration one
gets from studying with experienced dancers such as Sakti is good food
for one’s inner belly dancer.
(Habibi: Vol. 16, No. 2, p. 58)
Ghawazee Folkdance in the SouthwestThe existence
of Ghawazee dance and culture may be fragile, but in Santa Fe, New
Mexico, Sakti is doing her part to preserve them. She held a three-hour
workshop on ghawazee dance on January 18, 1998 where she taught the
steps and style of the folkdance as well as demonstrated the costume
traditions and how they have evolved over the years. Twenty-two dancers,
including troupe Farfesha, whose style often emulates the ghawazee
dancers, traveled from across the region to attend. Sakti provided
written handouts about the dance and the costuming. The intensive hip
work so important to this style of dance provided an exhausting work
out. Sakti spent a good deal of time on the use of the cane in ghawazee
dancing. One traditional move in particular served as an icebreaker ~is
well: pairing up, the dancers placed one cane end to end between their
stomachs. One dancer began a stomach roll which the other dancer would
follow, all the while keeping the cane rolling between them. Sakti also
included zil work to accompany the ghawazee moves.
Submitted by M.K. Myers, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Habibi, Vol. 17, No. 1
The Emerald Night: A Journey Along the Nile in Music and
by Sarah Nanno, Fort Collins, ColoradoWhat interests me
most in watching dance is the essence of the expressive statement made
by the performer, which emerges from form, choreographed or improvised.
Often, traditional dance forms depend on the individual dancer’s
interpretation for the rich variety needed tn interest an audience. This
is true of classical ballet as well as foll&popular styles. As a
professional modern dancer, I view my sister art of belly dancing from
that perspective. I say sister with awareness that a frequent rift
between fine and folk art begets superior attitudes and treatment of
folk and popular forms as a lower level of art. How wrongl (Has
aristocratic ballet forgotten that its steps are of peasant origin?)
Belly dancing is close to its roots, and this attracts me strongly, so I
prefer its more down to earth name, which bears no disrespect.
“The Emerald Night,’ at the Maria Benitez Cabaret of Santa Fe’s Radisson
Hotel on November 6, 1999, brought five area dancers together with the
Boulder, Colorado band, Sherefé. Live m’usic adds immensely to any dance
experience, and is all too rare these days. At this performance, Sherefe
musicians lames Hoskins, Jesse Manno, Cameron Powers, Meg York and
Zaharah were joined by Santa Fe’s Paul Brown to provide Middle-Eastern
music to inspire the dancers and transcend the ordinary.
Next, dancer Ann Hitchcock with singer Powers, brought the pace down for
a contemplative segment which seemed to bear both pleasure and pain.
When Zahara’s crisp darabukka (dombek) entered, Ann’s
smile radiated through her entire body as she matched the new beat.
Dramatically, she paused and played with the rhythms, and showed a clear
flamenco presence in her long arms, smoothly blended with
Egyptian style. Instead of setting small movement phrases end to end,
she strung them all together with a flowing thread. When she finally
added her zills, she seemed to be dancing not to the music but in it.
Diane Eger interacted with Powers compelling oud and a whispering
flute played by Manno. Her modem Egyptian style, newly hued with Golden
Age influence, incorporated varied use of space. The choreography was
asymmetrical, avoiding predictably repeated patterns in twos and fours,
She made large presentational arm gestures, which contrasted pleasingly
with the small size of whole body vibrations. At one point these seemed
to take over her torso with a life of their own. Her Lace seemed a
playground for telegraphing expressions to the audience, ranging from
coy, to sassy, to triumphant. I liked how a sense of self.irony spiced
up the familiar repertoire of expressive looks.
The lingering image of Deborah Newberg’s dance was of shimmering
shimmies and ultra high perching on her toes.
After two songs, Turkish and Greek, Sakti began the dancing. She
appeared as guest artist with the other dancers who make up the Al La
Nar Dance Company. Her offering was a tasty blend of
Egyptian/gypsy/Flamenco styles. Several years’ experience performing in
Cairo nightclubs and other such venues seemed evident in her
well-seasoned presentation. She appeared always conscious of her
audience and consistently used her moves to entice it.
In stark contrast, Sally Elgin took the stage for her Turkish style
dance. Free flowing hips and arms emerged from an upper torso bearing of
gentle dignity. Her primary focus was internal with eyes downcast as she
responded to the sultry sounds of Manno’s saz and vocals, and York’s
clarinet. When they launched into a faster tempo and she added zills,
the joy of her experience was broadcast across her face. This was the
kind of dancing that draws me into its inner world. So did the playing
of a .syrros in an instrumental interlude featuring James Hoskins on
cello. Though this instrument is not traditional in Greek ensembles, he
tapped deeply into the soul of the tradition. Gradually his tempos built
from languishing to raging, so fast I could barely dance it with my
mind’s feet. The cello mesmerized with its rich bending of tones.
In the last section, her shimmies became so repetitive that they
bordered on minimalism as they were often accompanied by repeated arm
gestures. Though her semi-improvised Egyptian style, she offered a sweet
and sometimes teasing presence. She interacted extensively with the
musicians and, as with the other Al La Nar dancers, allowed the music to
lift her to expressive heights. The company’s comfort with improvisation
seemed to hold a key to this process.
Sakti returned in form-fitting scarlet to perform a calculated
seduction, in Egyptian style, to Powers’ oud and vocal. She
strutted through her undulations with regular precision, Including
gestures and come hither looks, unambiguously designed to conquer. Her
attention; constantly flowing out to the audience, provided an
interesting contrast to the other performers. They alternated from focus
on the audience to turning it sometimes inward, or on the musicians,
Contrast of all kinds is what I find exciting in performance.
For a grand finale, the other dancers, in Gawazee costumes, joined Sakti
for a cane dance. Each had her solo moment, which was fascinating for
recapping the varied individual expression. The musicians of Sherefe
joined together, too. After a great variety of ensemble and solo work on
multiple instruments, they added two zurnas for the closing and,
finally, invited the eager audience on stage to dance. The evening was
clearly a great treat for the Santa Fe crowd who appreciated this fine
blend of live music and dance.
Habibi, Vol. 18, No. 1, Page 66
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