Suhaila/ Jamila Level I Certification Intensive workshops Brussels, October 24-29, 2013

The month of November has just flown past with all the gigs and gig related trips we had lined up. So many wonderfully unique and greatly inspiring sensory impressions were to be had that frankly, I have not quite had the time to process even half of them yet. The incredibly energetic and sexy Depeche Mode, the ever so powerful The National and otherwordly Sigur Rós all played at the O2 in Dublin and we also travelled to Paris (my very first time in the French capital) to see Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds live at The Zenith. I consider myself so very blessed to be able to see all these incredible bands live and admittedly, even though I often resent my full-time office job it does have its advantages. When my favorite bands release their tour dates and are performing live, I do whole heartedly thank the monthly pay check for covering the gig (and dance/arts) induced expenses. At those times I definitely do not miss my student days when I barely scraped by on a part-time job.

I am not going to describe the individual gigs in great depth here, as this was meant to be a brief write up on my impressions of the Suhaila Salimpour Intensive in Brussels at the end of October.

Suffice to say that Depeche Mode swept me off my feet with their truly unique, dance inspiring live show and their amazingly energetic delivery (Hail to Dave Gahan and Martin Gore in particular). Dave Gahan's precise impeccable spinning technique could possibly teach any aspiring dancer (or any more experienced dancer wanting to perfect their turns) a thing or two and his hip work is simply mind blowing. The National- What can I say! I don't think I could ever get tired of seeing them live (we had only just seen them live at the Parco della Musica in Rome for my birthday a few months ago). I am glad I was introduced to this fabulous Indie Rock band from Brooklyn whose frontman Matt Berninger never ceases to amaze me with his truly authentic stage presence. He delivers his heartfelt lyrics with all his soul and presence every single time they play live.

And Sigur Rós!! My first time seeing them perform live at the O2 in Dublin on the 16 November! I don't even have the words to describe how I felt during the gig. It was magical, dreamy and truly special, their stage art and projections well reflected on and perfectly matched to their tunes. I felt like dancing in Icelandic fairy forestland all throughout the show, and the musicianship of Jónsi and Co is jaw "dro(ol)ppingly" skillful for lack of better words. To wrap the November gig saga up- Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. What more to say. Dark Lord, Count Dracula, Sandman aka Nick Cave and the incredible Bad Seed musicians managed to create the most magical atmosphere. Nick Cave just floored me with his incredibly strong and powerful presence, and deep sultry voice. telling/singing tales of sadness and sorrow and many more. And Warren Ellis is the best rocker- violinist/ multi-instrumentalist, ever so talented musician ever- Wow! So worth the travel to France. Despite the sleep deprivation and many hiccups on Parisian (not so great) public transport and scammers everywhere, I would do it again every time. This band is worth it for sure!

Now after drooling over the aforementioned musicians who continue to inspire me with their artistry and stage presence, I want to just briefly attempt to recall my experiences and summarise my impressions of the Suhaila Salimpour Intensive in Brussels at the end of October. It was an intense five days spent dancing and training our butts off, topped off with late nights studying Dance History for our Jamila Level I exam. But it was worth every drop of sweat. And I am not lying when I say that we sweated buckets of sweat. Trust me, despite the freezing weather, the sweat pools were comparable to when I was training for the Pro-Track at Tribal Umrah in tropical heat this past July. I think this truly points to the physical intensity of training with Suhaila Salimpour. Whatever your opinion may be on certification programs in general, it's difficult to make an argument to contest the hard work students of the format put in. Suhaila Salimpour really does kick arse, and every time I train with her I extremely grateful that she pushes me beyond my boundaries (in this case, it was hard core cymbal playing that kicked my arse and bruised my fingers big time). It now almost feels like a class reunion every time I participate in workshops with Suhaila, and I just realised it's three years in a row now that I have done workshops in the format. It was great to see some of the Tribal Umrah Pro-Trackers again, and to share a flat (and frantically study) with the lovely Shereen who I first met at a dance event in Brighton a few years ago,

I am grateful for this truly invigorating, physically and mentally intense experience which reinforced my spirits and proved that I am a strong player on both a physical and mental plane. I am also happy that I decided to try out the exam scenario and test in the end. I did both the Level I Suhaila and Jamila exams, and participating in this highly stressful, intense environment has taught me a few personal lessons for sure. I have been studying the format (especially Suhaila material) for quite some time now but nothing could prepare me (or anyone judging from the reactions) for the exam related stress that makes your knees feel like jelly and which makes technique you normally (think you) have down resemble an out of body experience.

I personally found the Jamila exam challenging, maybe not as much in a technical sense as it's not pure technique (as is the Suhaila format) but more so because you have to successfully work in and around a group while still being tested on your individual skills and knowledge. You need to trust and utilise your spatial awareness and accurately follow verbal movement cues with confidence even if at times they may be difficult to make out over the music.

It's so easy to get thrown off by what other dancers are doing around you, or to get derailed, so it's really a great lesson in being present and concentrating fully. The other challenge was of course the cymbal playing. For it being "just" Level I Jamila a lot of skill in terms of cymbal playing mastery is required of the student, and I find left hand dominat cymbal patterns a definite challenge especially when they are sped up. Suhaila proved once again that she wants each one of the participants to perform at their best abilities, and while she was firm in the testing environment, she was very encouraging and supportive as well.

All in all, I am super excited about having had this precious experience, grateful about studying with Suhaila and her lovely assistant teacher Sabriye and to Maëlle for organising this event. It was such a great opportunity for further development which I would recommend to any dancer, whatever their preferred stylisation (be it Tribal Fusion and Modern Style Belly Dance, traditional Raqs Sharqi etc).

Thanks for such a wonderful dance experience, looking forward to seeing you all again, and dancing with you soon!

~Dance OM~ 

Jamila Salimpour Level I workshops

Suhaila Salimpour Level I workshops