Monday, September 6, 2010

"Going Back to the Golden Age" with Tamalyn Dallal

The 2010 Miami Belly Dance Convention has come to an end and piggy-backing off of my previous blog, I had to decide what workshops and shows were feasible for me to attend. I limited myself to the Saturday night gala and one workshop. Regrettably, duty called and I was unable to attend the show, which was also streamed live for viewers who wanted to enjoy the performances from the comfort of their homes, however, I decided to take Tamalyn Dallal's "Going Back to the Golden Age" workshop this morning.

When one thinks of Middle Eastern dance in Miami, Tamalyn's name will surface. For those who do not know of Tamalyn Dallal, she is an internationally-acclaimed teacher, performer, author, producer and public speaker. She is the founder of the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange, which she directed for 16 years. Thousands of dancers have studied under Tamalyn. She is highly spoken of, well-respected, and after meeting her today, I'll add in generous, humble and incredibly inspiring.

I chose this workshop because I adore the classic music from the times of Samia Gamal, Nagwa Fouad, Tahiya Karioca and other influential dancers of that era, and wanted to soak in the movement. I also selected this workshop because I did not have the opportunity to study with Tamalyn Dallal. During the time that she directed the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange I had no idea what belly dance was!! Little did I know that I'd receive so much more.

The workshop began with a warm-up followed by a history lesson. I'm a geek so I loved every second of the discussion. There is such intricate history behind the dance that I'm simply fascinated by. Attendees were briefed on influential singers and dancers of the Golden Age [1930s - 1970s]. As we sat, Tamalyn invited us to close our eyes and listen to the sounds of the Oud and Kanun - to visualize movement. Once we were up on our feet, we were challenged to release ourselves; we were instructed not to dance from the mind but rather from the heart. We were not to hit every tick or every tock like so many of us try to do. My old choreographies were so full of dance - I never took a moment to stop and let the audience just look at me and wonder what I'd do next... or feel what I was feeling. At the workshop, we were simply in the moment, going whichever way our bodies decided - not our minds. It's no easy task! When trying to reach my weekly quota of YouTube stalks - I watch dancers who emote even with their toes and I always aspire to emotionally connect with music in that way. I feel that my connection with music, or lack thereof, has been one of my challenges.

We danced to the most beautiful piece of music that took me on a journey. I literally felt like I was there.... I felt like I was in Afrita Hanem dancing for Farid El Atrache instead of Samia Gamal. After dancing with us a few times, Tamalyn watched us interpret her choreography. I was floored when, after we performed the piece as a group, she asked me my name and commented on how she liked my expression. "I'm sorry, what?" (That's what I said in my head.) At first I was confused because I didn't realize that I had hit the "on" button. My facial muscles hadn't felt pulled in any direction so I wasn't certain that she was talking about me. It turned out that she was and at that moment, my spirits were lifted. From that point on, all inhibitions were out the window and I emoted like my life depended on it. As the saying goes, I danced like no one was watching.

Towards the end of the workshop, we freestyled, which is always a liberating experience. There is no right or wrong move with freestyle. It's one's own interpretation and it was great watching a dancer feel something a little different from the previous one.

At the end of the workshop, I spoke with Tamalyn and she gave me one of the greatest compliments ever! It was already a humbling experience for me to be noticed during class but then to receive amazing feedback afterwards from someone who is a belly dance POWERHOUSE was...inspiring, to say the least. Just as in our day-to-day lives, sometimes we don't feel as though what we are doing is good enough or up to a certain standard. We might feel nervous or like we aren't up to par. Positive reinforcement is always such a wonderful tool to let someone know, "Hey, you're doing OK!"

I'll admit that following our post-workshop talk [after I did some shopping, of course], I left the building, sat in my car, smiled and then cried [I'm such a geek, ha!]. The entire morning that I spent within the walls of that room with Tamalyn and the other dancers was so memorable and so emotional [to me]; it left me... happy. I can't find a better word so a simple "happy" will suffice.

I am so humbled to have had the opportunity to learn from Tamalyn Dallal, even if only for a few short hours. Regrettably, she no longer resides in South Florida but I look forward to her next workshop this January. I am eternally grateful to Tamalyn for not only providing me a history lesson, beautiful movement and music but also for breaking my emotional silence. A big "thank you" is also in order to Nathalie for hosting such a fabulous event. I'm already looking forward to MBC 2011.

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