I believe all modern American belly dancers owe a debt to the Ghawazee dancers because they were the nation's first introduction to Middle Eastern dance when they performed as part of the Egyptian installation on the Midway Plaisance during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Not only does Sakti possess an amazing wealth of information about the art and history of the Ghawazee style of dance and culture, she's also truly enthusiastic about sharing that knowledge and deeply committed to keeping the spirit of this tradition alive (it's a sad fact that it is on the brink of extinction).
She's also committed to doing it in a way that is a lot of fun, as well as educational.
To start our workshop, which I took with friends Marlena (green hip scarf) and Mara (in the orange hip scarf), Sakti explained about her costume, which was a modern version of the traditional Ghawazee costume, and offered students a 10-page booklet she'd put together of Ghawazee images, history, costuming details, basic movements, finger cymbal patterns, and combinations that can be worked into choreography. At $1, it was the best bargain of the day!
Next up, Sakti got us into the right posture (knees more bent than classical belly dance, chest lifted) and then we dove right in to the basic steps, like the Ghawazee Basic No. 1, which is a marching style of step with a vigorous hip shake; the Ghawazee Basic No. 2, with hips bouncing side to side; and various choo-choo, shimmy steps and chest drops. Most of these movements involved an amazing amount energy, and it was astounding to learn that Ghawazee dancers were sometimes hired to dance for up to seven hours at a stretch. While the 10 or so of in the workshop huffed and puffed, Sakti sailed through it all with ease--that certainly says a lot about the fitness benefits of the Ghawazee dance style.
In our two-hour workshop, she taught various combinations, demonstrated how to dance with partners (Ghawazee style is a group dance and not really meant to be danced solo), and demonstrated how to incorporate cane and zills into the dance.
At the end, I was completely exhausted, but exhilarated, too. She says she'll be back in Southern California to teach in November, and I do hope I can make it. If you're interested, you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn move, visit http://www.sakti-international.com/.
Still to come: Pictures and note from Sunday's first-ever O.C. Bellydance Festival. OMG, was it amazing! I can't wait to share more about it later this week.