Monday, April 3, 2017

Shahrzad Superstar & Egyptian Stylization

Back in January, I had the opportunity to study with the lovely Shahrzad. Shahrzad is an American dancer, currently based in Egypt. An in-demand performer and teacher, she travels around the world to share her gifts, and one such stop was Seattle. I won't say much more about her and just let one of her videos and her dancing speak for itself:

With striking features, her face and figure remind me of a cross between Dita Von Teese and Elizabeth Taylor. I thought for sure someone so pretty and talented must surely be a bit distant and aloof. Not the case. Not even close. From the moment she started teaching, you could tell she was fun, friendly, and down to earth. Despite being one of the current superstars in the belly dance arena, she didn't talk down to any of the workshop participants or otherwise make anyone feel "small". She was happy to share her expertise, and secrets to some of her fabulous technique, like her big juicy shimmies. Her friendly attitude made me want to share a girls night with her; drinking wine, eating popcorn, and sharing beauty tips and gig stories. I didn't quite get that opportunity, but I did at least ask her for an after-show photo op.

I highly recommend studying with her if you have the opportunity. To tide you over in the meantime, here's a few tips from her Egyptian-stylization workshop:
  1. Want to look more Egyptian in your dance style? Key characteristics of Egyptian style dancers are (a) bending at the knees; (b) low center of gravity; and (c) moving the knees, hips, chest, and shoulders outside of the shoulder column.
  2. Try moving from the wrists and elbows when performing arm work, rather than the hands and palms, which is more American.
  3. Don't think about moves as one dimensional. Focus on changing your position and shape in your entire body to create more curve and dynamic movement. 
  4. The attitude of an Egyptian performer has two key characteristics: femininity and humor.
  5. Keep the feet closer together to create curvier, bigger and more vertical hips. For Soheir Zaki hips, move the knees in toward each other to create a more elegant look.
  6. Remember: A native dancer changes her vocabulary as the rhythm changes and changes her style as the song changes, so listen and let the music guide you. 
To learn more about Shahrzad, you can check out her website, or watch her dancing light up the stage on her Youtube channel. Shahrzad also has a number of great DVDs available that you can use to practice with at home, available on Amazon and other sites:

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