An Homage to the Vintage Dancers in my Dance Journey

Nizana El Rassan

Being as I started in January 1989, I’ve been able to see the trends and changes over the decades since compared to what it was shortly before. I was lucky enough to study with and catch the tail end of wonderful vintage and golden era instructors such as Nakish, Dahlena and Mahmoud Reda. I was actually able to attend several of Dahlena’s workshops, and these wonderful instructors and others provided me with a classic foundation that I cherish.


To me, these fabulous dancers are connected to times of more authenticity to the roots of this dance style. When I first started, at last in my geographical region, there was pretty much Egyptian, American Cabaret, a little Turkish and folkloric. Now, it seems you have to work really hard to find folkloric, and the same with Turkish style dances, though not to the same degree. Egyptian is still going strong, albeit with ballet influences, and fusions of multiple variations have been presented through out the years.


Mahmoud Reda

When I say “more connected to authenticity,” I am well aware Mahmoud adapted dances specifically for the stage. I also realize the influences of TV, theater and movies taking creative licenses on what is “authentic.” However, these styles stay more true to their roots as opposed to taking creative liberties that transform them into something else, sometimes almost entirely. These outlets also provided us opportunities to see and study videos of folkloric and classic Egyptian dancers, having sometimes up to 25-piece bands.


Today, the big bands are mostly gone, although some lucky dancers have local musicians that do provide some live music opportunities. American cabaret, while still my personal favorite, has been watered down from the 5 to 7-piece sets that were done back in the day. Full sets are pretty rare, as showcase and hafla solo performance slots are typically between 4-7 minutes depending on the region, venue and the event. I was thrilled when Malia of the Hawaii Belly Dance Convention hosted Marguerite Kusuhara a while back who presented old-school AmCab with the veil tucks and finger cymbals, bringing back great memories. Not too many dancers these days come out wearing the veil and playing zils. The first troupe I performed with did a choreography in that style and I keep prodding myself to find an opportunity to do at least a short set like this, but alas, I haven’t...yet.

Nakish



Today, you see more fusion styles, including a litany of “tribal” styles (the use of the word “tribal” is transitioning these days to terminology like “world fusion,” and “transnational.”) Belly dance has been fused with just about everything, sometimes at alternative haflas, sometimes in showcases. Many times, they are great performances for the styles they are presenting.



Luckily for us, the vintage and golden era dance styles are making a resurgence with such lovely dancers as Shahrzad, Roshana Nofret, and an entire online showcase of dancers dedicated to that special time. That era was so classic and timeless, and it is great to see dancers honoring the dancers from those time periods. I pay homage to the beautiful dancers then, and those who are giving it the attention it deserves now. Such magic, grace and beauty deserves a continued place in the Middle Eastern dance world.

Nizana has long been involved in Middle Eastern Dance as a performer, instructor, student, troupe director, choreographer, event producer, and competition judge. Nizana's articles and reviews have been published in seven Belly Dance magazines and newsletters including Fanoos! Having studied with a wide variety of instructors, in addition to performing Egyptian flavored American Style Belly Dance, Nizana dabbles in folkloric and fusion styles. She is known for her expressiveness and connection to the audience. Nizana is available for instruction and has workshops scheduled in Florida and Washington State.

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