Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thoughts on Zeybek, Bar, Kolbastı, and Hora

This month, the video class discussed Turkey’s Zeybek, Bar, Kolbastı, and Hora dances.

The Zeybek dance comes from the Aegean region and western Turkey. It is named after the Zeybeks, village military, who in the early twentieth-century defended Turkey against Greece. There are many versions of the Zeybek dance. We watched several male solos in which the costumes ranged from a plain white shirt, pants, and shoes to the elaborate traditional costume. The steps were strong and stately and the arms were often held overhead on a wide diagonal. The men also demonstrated strength by balancing on one leg as the other moved up and down and by performing slow descents to the floor.

In the group staged version, men and women performed the same movements with the same qualities. One of the main differences was that the men frequently elongated their arms up while the women held theirs bent, with hand upwards, in front of their torsos.

In the Devlet Halk Dansları (The Turkish State Folk Dance Ensemble) Zeybek, the man performed a stately solo on a proscenium stage in front of a large orchestra. His costume was very intricate and beautiful. The female dancer was also in a beautiful traditional costume. Her moves were soft and flowing. Interestingly, her hands were often closed in a “snap” position. The two dancers took turns performing solos with short choreographic phrases in between which demonstrated the difference between the male and female versions of the dance form.

There are numerous types of Bar dances in Eastern Turkey. The videos we watched were mainly from the city of Erzincan. The all male performers (there are female bar dances as well) were dressed in black shoes, black pants, black vests, white long sleeve shirts, and reddish type cummerbunds. The participants frequently started close together: holding hands and shoulder to shoulder. Then as the dance progressed, they spread further away from each other. Often the leader and end dancer held a white handkerchief. In the video that showed a non-staged version, older men dancing outside in everyday clothing, repeated their movement phrases. The leader was much more improvisational and energetic than those in the staged versions.

We also watched the Hançer Bar, a knife dance performed by two men who hold a knife in each hand. The staged versions started off with two men (a leader and follower) circling around the stage. They displayed their knives by holding them in a V shape upwards or circling them over their heads. The men then came to center stage. Each one displayed his agility with the knives by moving close to the face of the other dancer. The second time the two came back to center stage, their steps consisted of bigger jumps. They then ended facing the audience, moving the knives on either side of their lifted leg. The non-staged version we watched was much more playful between the participants in the ways they displayed their knives and strutted around the floor. However, each still took a turn to demonstrate his knife skills as the other danced in place.

The Lezginka is a Caucasian dance. The staged version we watch showed a dance company of five young men wearing dark jeans and white t-shirts. Their performance consisted of mainly solo demonstrations interspersed with short phrases of group chorography. Their moves were faced paced. Frequently their arms, bent at the elbow, alternated up and down in front of their bodies and accompanied by complex footwork that often landed on the heels. They added to the high energy of the dance by performing leaps and turns.

The duet, a non-staged dance, was performed by a man and woman outside. The woman gracefully traveled in a large circle around the man and controlled the dance space. She primarily performed a cross over step sideways with her arms up overhead doing soft and flowing undulations. She also did several turns, bringing her arms down to shoulder level and bending her wrists. The man’s moves were reminiscent of the ones seen earlier, except he did not have the leaps and turns. In addition, the man had much more variations in his arm patterns. For the most part the man and woman kept their distance from each other except for the few times when he “escorted” her by extending an arm behind her.

The Kolbastı dance comes from Trabzon, a city on the Black Sea. Recently, it has become popular with youths outside of Trabzon. The videos show the dance performed in non-staged settings, often a party or outside. Generally, two men danced at a time with a light hearted and fun revelry. The dancers bent over at a slight angle at the waist with their arms straight out behind and above shoulder level. Fast hops with feet and legs going out in different directions, gave the lower body a rubbery quality.

The Hora dance is predominantly from the Balkan region but can be found in numerous areas, including Turkey’s North West. In Turkey, it is generally performed to 9/8 rhythms. The versions we saw were all by large staged folk dance companies. They performed a suite of dances in which men and women would present their own dances and at times share the stage. The focus of the dances was on the creation and establishment of floor patterns and geometric designs while dancers performed intricate step sequences in unison.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thoughts on Kılıç Kalkan, Kaşık Oyunları, and Karşılama

This month our video class watched examples of Kılıç Kalkan, Kaşık Oyunları, and Karşılama. The Kılıç Kalkan is a Sword and Shield Dance from Bursa. According to Cefkin, it is a controversial dance in Turkey because it represents the Ottoman’s conquest of their first capital city. In its early development, the Republic of Turkey banned many symbols that were associated with the former Ottoman court, including the Fez, the Hajab, and the Mevlevi order. Although some are still banned, others like the Mevlevi order have been officially reinstated. Although the Kılıç Kalkan was not banned, it is a site that continues to negotiate between participants celebrating the past regime and the State which seeks to dissociate Turkey from the Ottoman Empire. In the video excerpts, the all male groups performed high leaps and skips, made rhythmic sounds by hitting and sliding swords against the shields, and engaged in mock battles.

We also watched numerous versions of Kaşık Oyunları, the dance performed with wooden spoons. It was interesting to see to young men in everyday clothes dance outside – in a relaxed manner, often gazing downward, and sometimes adding hip twists to their foot patterns. This was very different from the all female version performed on a large proscenium stage by The Tourism and Folklore Education Center Troupe. The dancers dressed in colorful pants, skirts, sleeves, and head coverings, gazed out towards the audience, with wide leg stances, and energetic movements, that included drastic level change (predominantly seen in Turkish male dancing).

We also learned that in Turkey Karşılama is a couple’s dance. However, it often performed by multiple male and female couples or by several dancers of the same gender. In many of the videos, the dancers made circular floor patterns, performed small footsteps, and added the occasional deep knee bend and small front leg kicks. One male duet added a hip twist into their front leg kick. Pretty impressive! This version is of course very different from the Karşılama found in Turkish-American Belly Dance. In the U.S., like its Turkish counterpart, it uses a 9/8 rhythm. However, in the U.S., the Karşılama refers to the 9/8 rhythm section often performed at the end of a seven-part solo routine, before the exit music. 
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Review of Melissa Cefkin’s "Choreographing Culture"

Our reading class this month focused on several chapters of Melissa Cefkin’s dissertation, Choreographing Culture: Dance, Folklore, and the Politics of Identity in Turkey. Cefkin examines tensions that the State, the Popular, and the Market produce through their support and vying interests in Turkish folk dance. For example, the State provides funding for research, training, and dance companies, and also constructs national aesthetics and standards by deciding which groups represent Turkey nationally and internationally. The Popular, which Cefkin defines as amateur, regional, local, and perhaps ethnic, works to maintain the integrity of folklore sometimes in contrast to the nationalizing forces of the State. The Market is interested in the display of value of dance. It not only impacts where dance companies will perform, how they are financially supported, but also what version is placed upon the stage. Cefkin’s research is great for those who want to understand how various positions, such as official and private interests, amateur and professional dancers, and authentic and showy formats play out in the politics and identity of Turkish folk dance.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Amara's Belly Dance Video: Arms Going Up and Down

Hi All,
Here is my video covering a common arm pattern: going up and down. I use this one a lot in my dances and classes.

The first section breaks down its mechanics and the second part has some drills focusing on different tempos.

I hope you enjoy it!

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Amara's Belly Dance Video: Posture

Hi All,
I am finally creating my teaching videos series. This has been a project I've been thinking several years now. And am very excited to get it going. I will be posting videos regularly.
Please join my Amara's Belly Dance Video youtube page as well!!!!

Here is the first video: Posture.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

A little bit about the Halay and Horon and a Dance Observation

A little bit about the Halay and Horon
This weekend my video class examined two Turkish folk dances: Halay and Horon. Both are line/circle dances that contain numerous versions. Frequently, they are accompanied by the zurna (double reed instrument played with circular breathing) and the davul (two headed drum). The kemenche (a string instrument) may also be played during Horons.

The Halay is performed largely in Eastern, South-Eastern, and Central Anatolia. Participants hold each others’ hands and often stand shoulder to shoulder. The leader and end dancer typically dance with a handkerchief. At times, the leader may break off from the group and perform more complex and elaborate movements.  Men and women dance together, especially in non-professional settings. Many of the professional dance group videos either have all men dancing or men and women alternating dance positions. The movements predominantly consist of complex foot and knees patterns. The group generally holds their arms still and maintains an upright body position. The soloist may execute some drastic level changes and more arm movements.

The Horon is performed along the Northern Turkey in the Black Sea region. The Horon is fast paced, and can be in different rhythms, such as 7/8, 7/16, 2/4, 5/8, and 9/16. In fact, professional dance performances often have several rhythm changes and a tempo acceleration.

It is also a chain dance performed by men and women, in which dancers typically hold hands.  There are many more videos of professional male groups dancing. When women are present in these venues, they frequently maintain their own chain. In non-professional settings, women and men dance in the same line/circle. The Horon also has a leader. However, unlike many line/circle dances where the leader is at the end, in the Horon, the leader is in the center. 

The Horon contains complex foot and knees patterns, such as knee lifts, small frontal leg kicks, shoulder shimmies and upper body twists that are frequently combined together, hip twists articulated with leg movements, and deep knee bends (performed by men). Horon dancers hold their hands low or circle them forward at hip or shoulder level. Men frequently bring their arms over head. I particularly enjoyed watching Horon dancers fine a line between the looseness of the shimmies and the tension underlying them in the elongated body. 

One of my students asked and commented on the apparent lack of ballet and ballroom in the staged versions of the Horon and Halay. I initially replied that I thought the Halay and Horon did not lend themselves to these types of additions. While studying Egypt folk dance, we discussed the fusion of ballet and/or ballroom into Egyptian folk dance, especially in regards to the extension of arms, the use of releve, and the many feet patterns. Since the Horon and Halay performers focus on holding arms/hands and complex foot patterns, these ballet feet and arms elements could not be fused. However, latter on, my students commented that they enjoyed the precision and tightness of the unison presented by the professional dance companies. Their comments made me compare the staged and non-stage versions, in which the non-staged versions did not contain precise unison movements. And I thought, perhaps ballet’s influence of the choir aspiring to be one unified unit comes in the form of the spectacularly precise unison of the Turkish staged folk dance.

Along with watching videos from the JVC’s Anthology of World Music and Dance and video clips on youtube, I also came across a website that I love: They not only have clips of Turkish dance but also a few clips demonstrating dance moves!!!
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Fitness videos will focus on exercises and stretches that will help any Middle Eastern dance strengthen her or his body, increase flexibility, and keep in shape. I call my personal practice Bellates, in which I fuse Belly Dance, Pilates, Yoga, and Ballet. I combine these different practices together for a fun and dynamic workout. Students will strengthen and tone their muscles, increase flexibility and fortify their posture alignment.  
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Amara is a versatile Middle Eastern dancer. She is well known for her entertaining and dynamic American belly dance style that is interspersed with sword, veil, double veil, and zil work. She is equally skilled in many Middle Eastern folk dances. Amara is also a leading innovator in theatrical and experimental Middle Eastern dance.

Amara has performed as a soloist and in Middle Eastern Dance companies all over the United States. She has held long-term dance engagements at several Middle Eastern restaurants and nightclubs including Pars (LA), Elbasha (LA), Mamounia (LV), and Alborz (Austin). She has also been highlighted in numerous videos by IAMED, BDTV, and EEMED.

Amara teaches Beginning through Professional level classes. She is also a featured instructor at many belly dance events throughout the United States, offering workshops and classes in: American, Egyptian and Turkish cabaret, Staged-Folklore from the Middle East and North Africa, Experimental performance and concepts (X-MED), sword, veil, double veil, candles and candelabra, stick, zils (finger cymbals), floor work, and how to teach dance.

Amara is known for her innovative teaching methods. In her studio classes, she stresses strong foundational technique through combinations of choreography, improvisation, solo, and group work, while she also helps students explore the workings of Middle Eastern dance and their own individual needs. In addition, Amara presents information about the history of Middle Eastern and Belly Dance, differences between various genres, and issues facing dancers today. She has taught accredited courses on dance appreciation and Middle Eastern dance at UCLA, UCR, and California State Polytechnic UniversityPomona and workshops at a number of universities and colleges.

In addition to teaching, Amara is the Director and Choreographer of Ya Helewa!, a Middle Eastern dance company which performs a diverse repertory of traditional and experimental improvisations and choreographies. Ya Helewa! has held a long-term dance engagements at Moun of Tunis (LA) and Pars (LA). They have also been invited to perform at numerous functions for Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive, IAMED, UCLA, The Knitting Factory, and Desert Sin.

Amara also produces numerous events. Her main focus is “An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance” concerts and videos. She co-founded “Dance Under Construction,” a UC system wide dance conference, co-produces "X-MED," a workshop series presenting tools and methods for creating experimental Middle Eastern dances, and produces "How to Teach Middle Eastern Dance," a seminar series designed for new and seasoned teachers to learn and practice new pedagogical styles.

Amara holds a PhD in Dance History and Theory (UCR), a BA in Music History and Literature with a certificate in Ethnomusicology (FSU), and worked towards an MA and MFA in Dance (UCLA).
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Warm Up and Cool Down

What is a good Warm Up?
A warm should be a 5-10 minute routine in which you perform Dynamic stretches. Think of a Dynamic stretch as a moving stretch in which you perform a controlled movement starting slowly and then building up speed and range. Each should be repeated 8-10 times.

A good warm up also targets the whole body.

Why should I Warm Up?
The number one reason to do a Warm Up is to prevent injuries!
v  Raises the heart rate
v  Gets oxygen into the muscles by opening up blood vessels
v  Warms up muscle and joints
v  Reduces tension
v  Reduces DOMS (Delayed-onset muscle soreness)
v  Allows for a transition from the outside world into dance/exercise space

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Short Review of Metin And's "Dances of Anatolian Turkey"

This weekend my reading group covered "Dances of Anatolian Turkey" by Metin And from Dance Perspectives, published in 1959. (Here is some biographical information about And). This is a great article for those looking to understand the broad scope of dance in Turkey.

There are a few drawbacks that I would like to acknowledge. And presents his categories of Turkish dance in the common omniscient voice of his time. From reading the article, the reading group quickly noted that he relies heavily upon his own expertise supplemented by a few other (often Western) writers. However, we were not provided with details about where And received his details. We certainly did not hear voices of the practitioners although we did get to read descriptions about some of their movements. And does not examine the dance in terms of economics, although he strongly distinguishes urban and peasant dances. In addition, And at times presents an inconsistent overview. For example, we learned much more about male outfits than female ones.

However, And offers readers a lot. First of all, it is one of the few texts in English that focuses on Turkish dance. Secondly, And is an expert in not only dance but theater and this comes through in a mind boggling number of dance names and locations that he presents to his readers. It is in this area that I think the article is certainly worth reading. Dancers and researchers can employ it as an entry point into the vast and diverse culture of Turkish dance. 
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