Garrab Nar El Ghera
by Thea

Sakti Rinek’s “Egyptian Funk” workshop held on August 6 was perhaps the most informative I have attended in recent years. For me, it was the first workshop designated as Modern Egyptian. I was primarily interested in getting a taste of what defines this style rather than to master any choreography that would emerge from the workshop. I did not expect to be able to memorize and dance it back “as given” at the end of the three-how period. Several years ago, I witnessed two dancers at a Jajouka seminar accomplish exactly that. I was somewhat relieved to learn later that they each had a Master’s degree in dance choreography. Given the absence of a formal, universally recognized dance vocabulary and the way many of us were introduced to belly dance as an improvisational art, capturing choreography quickly may be more difficult for bully dancers than for other types of dancers.

Removing any self-imposed pressure made the workshop that much more enjoyable, and thankfully, Sakti put no pressure on individual dancers to “perform.” Instead, she seemed genuinely interested in sharing her lively choreography in the fine allotted. Her presentation and expression were delightful; she dedicated more than 50 percent of the time to introducing the separate movements out of their musical and choreographical context which: found helpful. I regret that insufficient time remained for us to be audience while Sakti performed to Garrab Nar El Ghera. I did emerge with an enhanced understanding of the Egyptian style:

1. The language factor—An obvious but easily overlooked difference with the Egyptian style is that the Egyptian dancers are dancing “in their own language.” Thus, their understanding of the lyrics can serve to potently enhance the expressive accuracy of their performance. I have sometimes worried at Arabic nightclubs, when, late in the evening, musicians lapse into improvised lyrics. The dancer continues to smile beguilingly at the audience, but I wonder if the musicians’ message and the dancers’ expression could be alarmingly out of synch. While short of learning Arabic, we cannot control such situations, When performing to prerecorded music, attention to titles and to available lyric translations will give us that much more material to use for our creations. Sakti demonstrated this marvelously well. (I noticed that the first translation of Garrab Nar El Ghera was in German and was also more elaborate than its English counterpart. I wondered whether this reflected a European curiosity about foreign language which is not nearly as manifest in the United States.)

2. Choreographic threads—The Modem Egyptian style employs some clearly-defined “transitional moves,” usually undulations with stylized arm movements on the fourth measure of a four-measure phrase. Likewise, measured turns were used both as transition and punctuation. Knowing this can serve as a self-choreographing device when challenged with performing Egyptian style.

3. Arm stylization—The use of arms to punctuate and frame movements and to establish direction was more exact and authoritative than in the improvised style. This empowered the choreography.

4. Musical awareness—The style of choreography is anything but lazy. While the initial moves as presented were not mysterious to our repertoire, the challenge arose in their combinations and presentation. Repetitions were synchronous with musical parts, and the result tilt fast-paced and always interesting. I am curious to know if Sakti choreographs all her Egyptian shows this way.

I was pleased that Sakti made choreography sheets available. Some evening I will study them and attempt not to reconstruct the entire choreography, but to recreate small segments and combinations. I may eventually adopt some of these segments and combinations. They may or may not be the way Sakti intended, but that is the beauty of our dance. We work with movements that we remember as most interesting or appealing—until to us they become pleasing. Then we may use them in or dance, and our dance has become just a little more expressive. This reward was well worth the $35 workshop fee.

Sameda Newsletter, September 1995 Pages 10-11.


SAKTI RINEK, World-Famous Bellydancer