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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