Winter Warm Up 2010 with Aida Nour

Published in the MEDANZ newsletter, August 2010

Just back from the 15th Winter Warm Up in Brisbane with guest teacher Aida Nour of Egypt. This was the second short, ie four day, format intensive. Last year we had both Mohamed Kazafy and Lubna Emam but this year was a welcome return to the single tutor format.

What is the Brisbane Winter Warm Up?

Aida Nour.
Aida Nour

For those of you who have never been, the idea is that you slot into the mind set and style of a single tutor for several days. The day starts with lectures and hands on with physios who have worked with belly dancers over many years. Next the warm up - usually by taken by AMED's Yasmini. Then the real work begins with a master teacher from Egypt. We have 4.5 -5 hours contact time with the teacher then the evening activities. There is always the bazaar and a concert but there are also dinners and sometimes lectures and/or videos.

So what has pulled me back for 14 years? (I missed the first one). Mainly this is a chance to learn from the source of the dance unmediated by western bias. All the Winter Warm Up teachers (apart from Bobby Farrah) have been Egyptian born with a long history in professional belly dance. They can dance Orientale. They also know Egyptian folk styles - the movement vocabulary, the music and the costuming.

But also the format means you get a chance at depth you can never get with one or two short workshops. Over four (or even better eight) days you can begin to see patterns in the way a dancer works. Something you couldn't get on day one, snaps into focus on the third day, for example.

There is also the sense of community. Once a year you get to met in person with those who share a passion for Egyptian belly dance. A rare breed. It's great to be surrounded by people who can discuss the evolution of Egyptian dance or who understand that milaya lef was created by Mahmoud Reda and can compare different interpretations.

This Year's Workshops

Siwa costume.
Aida's Siwa costume

This year we covered four styles with Aida. We looked at two Reda style tableaux. First a Siwa Bedouin piece that has probably not been taught outside of Egypt since Mahmoud Reda created it in the 1960s. The second was a fellahi village scene with two groups of duelling girls. In both cases the technique was not difficult ("flat feet - you are not ballet girls!") and the choreography consisted of only five or six sequences. What made it work was how the groups interacted; changing positions, crossing lines and using cascade sequences.

More complex was the Moushah - often called "Andalusian". This style comes from the style of poetry of ancient Andalusia rather than having any actual connection with the dance of the area. This was a theatre piece with dramatic costumes addressing issues of life and death with almost constant direction changes. I failed the challenge to learn in under five hours but a few did master it. Thank goodness the official video is now available.

We also learnt three Orientale pieces. With one, Aida specifically directed us to take her structure and improvise our own variations around the music. This is a task I am currently working on - while trying to retain Aida's style.

The Sunday Night Concert

In addition to the workshops, there was also a concert on Sunday night. This year I decided to just relax in the audience and it was well worth missing a few minutes in the spotlight. What a truly great show. For a start most of it was belly dance - which has not been the case in the last three "belly dance" shows I have attended. The excuse often given for adding jazz, fusion and burlseque is that the audience would be bored with a show of straight belly dance - but this proved otherwise. There were a couple of fusion numbers - but even they contained strong belly dance elements.

Seventeen acts - all but two were solos - and not two even slightly similar. From the comedy of Cleofatra to the elegance of Elenie, from Shaheena's Turkish Rom to Michelle's bead popping drum solo, from Nandah's beautiful Golden Age reconstruction to Virginia's crafted Modern Egyptian - every act was a gem. And the jewel in the crown was Aida Nour who danced for us. At least one woman behind me (not a belly dancer) was moved to tears by her deceptively simple performance.

Next Year's Intensive

Next year Dr Mo Geddawi is returning. For the first four days (9-12 July) there will be the normal workshops. From the Wednesday to Sunday (13-17 July) Dr Mo will presenting his teacher training from 9am to 9pm. As well as teaching methodology I believe there will be classes on how to transcribe choreography, cultural awareness, instrumentation, marketing and lots more. There will be a certificate. At this stage it is unclear whether this will be assessed or if you get it for completing the five days.

As details become available they will be posted on www.winterwarmup.com.au

I have already booked my accommodation. Maybe I'll see you there.

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