Coming up next weekend, Amar Gamal will be in town to teach a raqs workshop. Our resident historian and raqs traveller discussed with fellow dancers what it was like to take from her.
I was so thrilled when I learned that Amar Gamal was coming to our area. I had been fascinated by her work since the day I saw her on the Gordon Elliot show back in like…1999? I remember visiting a friend from Kenya’s home to watch her on this episode as I didn’t have cable in my dorm room. She and her roommate were kind to turn off the news and switch the channel to The Food Network for an hour. This was a big deal because they were big on watching nothing but news. However, seeing the previews of Amar made them turn the channel and watch her with me for an hour. Afterwards I searched for Amar Gamal online as I do with dancers who just floor me. I learned as much about her as I could and then went to study with her in Nashville’s International Community with her host Monica John.
Sadly I was too excited and star struck to complete the work she had prepared for us. Her style was full of amazing technique and passion. There were elements of other dances (Modern and Jazz I believe) for her transitions and that segued into these smooth, amazing bursts of pure raqs sharqi as she shimmied or hip dropped. Her raqs presentation was filled with effortless energy as if she was gifted with this ability to move flawlessly and I don’t doubt for a minute that she was simply born with this talent. Every move was so sharp and perfect it was overwhelming to the point I started crying (tears of joy) watching her. She mastered it so well with her own outstanding personal touch. I was floored with amazement.
The workshop wasn’t hard but I definitely felt challenged. Had I been in better shape physically (I had been diagnosed with some stress-related blood sugar issues and was quite ill when I went to see her) and not been so star struck I would have lasted a lot longer. One of the well-trained dancers in the workshop (Gina) was really killing it. Amar was quick to praise her and acknowledge her skill so we had another body in the room from which to follow in an effort to master the steps. Amar remained very visible and worked hard to make sure everyone understood the moves. We learned technique first and after lunch we did a short choreography where we were able to use the techniques we went over earlier. The level of professionalism and fusion of Modern and Jazz were perfect. There’s a way to fuse other dances and then there’s a way to make a mess of it. Amar Gamal’s inclusion of the additional dances was refined, beautiful and perfect. The entire workshop was a turning point for me. I’ve always thought raqs sharqi was beautiful and I felt a since of pride in it…but my goodness, I never realised how good this art form can look until I studied with Amar.
The workshop also reinforced my belief that one really must dedicate quality time to the art outside of weddings and haflas with your family. I think we as kids from the culture have to get away from the idea that just because we are from (insert Mideast/African nation or the child of those from the region) we are going to be automatic pros. I never saw myself as such but I expected to master the art pretty fast and I did not in this course. Despite having taken modern and ballet, I was still behind and didn’t know some of the terminology. I always promote spending time in the culture and that goes without saying. But, if one is going to be a pro, spending time with the music, in a classroom setting alongside a teacher who can give you industry terms and critique is also key. After this workshop I wanted to give several hours a day to this art in order to produce a flawless look. Amar’s workshops will jumpstart you to the next level in raqs sharqi. If you want to be on the pro circuit or add finesse to your raqs art, then get with her.
Will you be able to dance like her after this workshop? I don’t think Amar can be replicated. I’m not sure any amount of time can produce a clone so gorgeous and skilled but she can be saluted and honoured in your work when you put forth the effort. I’ve seen people who studied with her and continued to perfect their raqs presentations with her guidance. They are some of the people you see at top competitions today. So it’s well worth the investment. To start that process, go to her classes and workshops. You will see the difference in your own approach to raqs sharqi immediately. I’m one of the fortunate ones to have had that opportunity and now AFBD has followed up with another chance to study with her. Eventhough I’m recovering from an injury, I still plan to be there and absorb as much as I can. -AA
Wow, what insight! MissBellydance.com will be in studio the entire weekend as the workshops take place in our home as well. We’re offering a couponcode to those who need to buy things early. You can contact us online and we’ll send it to you. We’re going to look into an in-store pick up option for those who are local. That way you can come in and pick it up when you arrive to events.
Thank you so much for being supportive of Atlanta Fusion Bellydance. If you have not registered, be sure to take a moment and do that here. See you in the studio!