by Siri Howard, Santa Fe, NM
What 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 gem.

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 Southwest
The 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 Dance
by Sarah Nanno, Fort Collins, Colorado
What 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


SAKTI RINEK, World-Famous Bellydancer