Garrab Nar El Ghera
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
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.
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