DaVid of Scandinavia suggested his book to me on Bhuz, when I wanted to come up with a means of cateogrizin my own moves. I like DaVid’s dancing, and he knows a lot of stuff. Besides, an ebook is only $15. Not too pricey. I did consider buying the print version, but at $40+shipping, I decided that the ebook was a better deal for me.

I started out with what’s called the EDA Handbook For Middle Eastern Dance. The EDA is the Ethnic Dance Academy, also known as DaVid’s dance school in San Diego. The book is full of goodies. It takes you through many aspects of Egyptian oriental, discussing history, technique, performance stuff (improv, how to choreograph), and professional career (teaching and/or dancing). It’s breadth is the best aspect of this book. It takes you through everything. Obviously, in 90some pages, the book isn’t an in-depth look at Egyptian Oriental, but the taste it gives is helpful. For newer dancers, I can see this book helping them understand what all is involved. The dance isn’t simply about wearing a costume and looking cute. I love how DaVid goes over the fact it’s important to practice, even the basics.

For dancers who are more well-seasoned, this book goes over nuances that can take you to the proverbial next level. DaVid writes very frankly about what it means to be a professional dancer and instructor. If you lack guidance in these areas, I’m sure the book would be helpful to read. Unless you spend a lot of time on message boards, I’m not sure where you would get this information, besides trial and error.

The only aspects of the book I would say were lacking are the technique explanations and this chart in the back. The technique explanations I found a little confusing. Perhaps it’s because I’m not familiar with DaVid’s teaching or that I don’t learn movement merely through reading. DaVid does provide some diagrams of the moves, but I’m not sure if I’d know what he was talking about if I didn’t know the move to begin with. I wouldn’t use this book to learn technique. I doubt DaVid intends for this book to be a means of learning technique.

The chart in the back was a very smart idea; it shows how everyone is interconnected. However, I found that confusing to read.

Despite those two issues, the wealth of information I got out of this book was worth it. I’m sure a print copy would be nice, but I’m squeezing pennies right now. David writes in an easy-going style. I hope he pens more books. I definitely recommend checking this one out to get an overall view of being a Middle Eastern dancer.

There is no review today, since I’ve been working heavily on my big list of dance moves that I know list. If you were wondering why I’m creating this list, it is supposed to be helpful with improv and choreography. I figure I’m a visual learner, so perhaps seeing a list of moves that I know will help. For choreography, since some of it is sitting down to record what you’re doing, I figured I should have something to reference. I’m also, at the end of the day, someone who worked a lot in library/archival work and academics, so this approach is what I’m most comfortable with.

The project is a little more overwhelming than I initially thought. I finally have my categorization down pat (going with a list of “simple move” then moving onto “complex moves” that entail harder combos or layering, done by body part). Then I realized I should probably create a list of veil moves, then stick/saidi moves, etc.

Or maybe I should not, and just rely on my workshop handouts and things I already created. What do you think?

I decided, after having a lesson on connecting with music and working with that a little, that I need to restructure what I want to get out of my private lessons. I’ve identified things I’d to work on, different things I hadn’t thought about before or maybe did but thought I should tackle other things. My private lessons have been very beneficial, despite me identifying new challenges. They have given me a lot to think about, practice, and fully digest. I want to have time to fully get it before revisiting those topics with a teacher, if that makes sense. I don’t think I’ve gotten everything out of them yet, and there’s no point in re-evaluating myself at something when I haven’t fully explored it.

I think I want to get schooled in rhythms. In Middle Eastern dance, there are some rhythms that frequently show up. If you’re improvving, finding the rhythm can give a starting point to the dancer. Even if I weren’t improvving, I imagine that it would be helpful for choreography.

I also want to learn how to fuse dance things together (moves, moods, music, etc.) and look good when doing that. One of the chief complaints about fusion is that it looks sloppy and/or the dancer needed to pull some tricks to look interesting. I want to be able to do fusion that looks cohesive and beautiful.

I’d like to think of some other topics to visit over the course of spring and summer. What would you like to improve on? What do you think is vital for any dancer to work on?

Last week I went to a workshop about improvisation dance. My first dalliance with improv was in NZ, when we had 5 minutes of “play time”, where the teacher would put on music for the last 5 minutes of class to let us jam. It was so difficult. My mind would freeze, and I would default to doing almost nothing. However, despite how terrifying this is, improv is so important. You can forget choreography, the song you want to play doesn’t play, or if you’re dancing to live music, anything can happen.

The improv workshop that Sonya ran at Arabesque helped make things better. I still obviously have work to do with improv to get my game up, but it’s was quite helpful. Firstly, I must say I love these workshops, because they’re intimate groups of about 10-15 people. Sonya has us introduce ourselves and tell the group why we’re interested in the workshop. Since I see some of these people weekly, it’s nice to know their names.

After learning about our hopes with the workshops and other issues with improv, Sonya went over a lot of information. She created workshops for us to fill out in our spare time. They were about writing down moves we know, favorite moves, building combos, etc. Very useful stuff so that you’re not creating a dance out of nothing. This weekend or over the holiday, I plan on working on this. I think it’s going to help me remember and feel like I know something. For me, the hardest things about dance are remembering I know moves and combos; I usually default to a down figure eight or maya or make pretty shapes with my arms.

Sonya also went over popular rhythms in Middle Eastern music and explained how important it is to count or know the “1” in rhythms, so you know where you are in the music. Understanding and knowing the rhythms is important, because you know what it’s going to sound like. She also discussed moves that she liked to do with different instruments that are found in Middle Eastern music.

She ended the workshop with having us play with different music she selected and then discuss the issues that we found when we tried improv. That was surprisingly hard but got progressively easier. The key seemed to be some kind of familiarity. That little bit of practice helped get my mind working on improv and wanting to do it more.

I think this workshop was a great tool to help me grow as an improv dancer. Although I walked out of there having learned something, I still need to practice. One of the greatest points Sonya drives home is the idea of practice. I know I tend to see people and think they’re just born with some special talent and don’t practice. It seems like everyone believes strongly that the only way to truly develop yourself is through practice. I definitely will start including improv as part of my practice from now on.