I returned back home to Dublin on Sunday 31 July 2016, after two amazing and intensely satisfying weeks spent training with Suhaila Salimpour at the Mothership Studio in Albany/California. Since first joining her Brighton workshops in 2011, every time I train with Suhaila, I come out a stronger, more mature and knowledgeable individual and overall, a better dancer version of myself. However, the intense sensation of growth and gratitude for Suhaila's work and the Salimpour legacy became particularly tangible for me when training at the source directly these past two weeks.
The first week (18-22 July 2016) we delved into Suhaila Level 2 (SL2) material, focusing on technique and drills around the room that would make the fittest individual break into a pool of sweat. Despite training regularly at home, my sweat glands were working overtime like in no other dance trainings! In all those years of attending her workshops and Intensives in the UK/Belgium and the US, Suhaila never fails to surprise me with new and improved, harder drills. Her creations are sure to get your brain cells and physical body run on full blast. In fact, the level of Level 2 has increased over the last few years, and this is a testament to the format constantly evolving.
What I love about the Suhaila format is that it provides an incredibly strong technical foundation for any dancer, whatever their preferred stylisation may be (Tribal Fusion, Cabaret etc). The superior technique this particular training instills in students, will then allow you to skillfully manifest any of your preferred stylisations in your own body. Suhaila's mission is not to create carbon copies of herself. It's not about dancing like her but about becoming the best dancer you can be based on a sound technical framework. I found the SL2 Intensive to be incredibly rewarding, in that we were made to work hard during the day and given assignments to be turned in the following morning. The homework gives you the opportunity to deeply research music and history in the evenings, while letting your creative juices flow. During the week we also got to study ballet and modern dance technique and had informative discussions around music, history and Middle Eastern culture. It just leaves you wanting to research more and collecting as much knowledge as possible about the roots, culture, and history of our chosen dance form.
To my surprise, performing the Level 2 choreo in front of the class was not as stressful an experience as I had expected. The whole group were supremely supportive of one another and the atmosphere was so positive. That said, I can't wait to work on the L2 drum solo more and perform it at recitals here in Europe. We also scratched the surface of emotional work in relation to staging and stage presence and many tears were shed. I can't even imagine how intense the emotional work of SL3 must be!
Week 2 (24-28 July 2016) was dedicated to Jamila L2 material. As opposed to the Suhaila format which primarily focuses on technique and emotional work, the Jamila format is a stylisation based on the strong technique of the Suhaila format. I just love it! Jamila format brings you right back to the joy students must have felt at Jamila's classes and the Bal Anat performances in the 60/70s. We got to do educational assignments that help you practise the "concept of completing projects" and remaining (or at least trying to remain) composed in front of an audience. I also loved Abigail Keye's history lectures which puts everything into perspective and really appeals to my academic nature. I adore that we are not only able to train our bodies but also our minds!
Performing Shams El Shamouseh in front of the class was a bit more nerve-wrecking than I had anticipated. I was called second last and despite trying my best to rehearse in my head while everyone else was performing it, my nerves started building. Dancing El Samer was a more relaxed experience, and I was lucky to be called up the first day and really enjoyed it! Not sure if the nerves still showed, but I loved performing the choreo.
In addition to the ballet/contemporary modern classes, lectures and screenings, another special treat was to watch the Level 4 Certification Show in Walnut Creek on 24 July 2016. So much respect for all the work the two dancers who were testing put in, it really paid off! Oh and I also treated myself to a pair of turquoise scrunchy pants, and top after the two weeks:)
I recently found out that I passed the exams and I am now officially certified in L2 of both formats. This is just the icing on the cake of a wonderful dance experience that helped me grow immensely as a person and a dancer. It restored my faith and confidence in my own abilities and I am ecstatic that the work and dedication I invested paid off.
Thanks Suhaila Salimpour for being such an inspiring mentor, TA Abigail Keyes (and everyone behind the scenes) for all your support and encouragement throughout the Intensives! I can't wait to continue on this path and venture on the next track now:)
See the below links for more information: