Monday, 25 March 2013

Discovering Feldenkrais

I started learning Feldenkrais method a little over a year ago.  I first heard of it when one of my Egyptian Dance teachers started the teacher training course and started a share a little of what she learned.
I first attended some workshops, then weekly classes and eventually moved on to private lessons.  Bit by bit, Feldenkrais lessons are starting to change the way I move, the way I think, and challenging my own assumptions about dance, bodywork and movement.

There are 2 ways in which Feldenkrais is taught.  The first is 'Awareness Through Movement'.  This is a group class, where the teacher talks the students through a series of movements, starting small and building up gradually into bigger things, helping the student to discover new possibilities.  The talking through, rather than 'watch and copy' is really important as it has the effect of stripping away any ideas of what a movement should 'look' like, leaving behind the opportunity to explore and observe, and allow real understanding and learning to take place.  There is play, there are 'a-ha' moments, there are new discoveries...

The second method is called Functional Integration.  These are one on one classes with a practitioner, as a kind of hands on physical therapy.  Classes focus on the individual needs of a student.  The movements are subtle, gentle and gradually bring the different components of the body together into an integrated whole.  

Here is a short video about Awareness Through Movement.  I particularly like this film because it beautifully illustrates a spiral, something which also appears in the movement vocabulary for my studies in Hilal Dance

Here is another clip, showing more of the class environment, interspersed with interviews with the students themselves:

To read more, find resources, or a teacher in your area you can try the Feldenkrais Guild UK or the International Feldenkrais Federation.

Main photo by Mary Beth Smith, from here.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Baladi Blues Live - More photos from the NADA AGM

Here is a selection of my own photos I took at the NADA AGM in Lancashire, featuring Guy Schalom and the Baladi Blues Ensemble. You can also read my previous post with photos of my solo with the band.
Guy Schalom and the Baladi Blues Ensemble
Claire Novis and the band
The Baladi Blues ensemble is led by darabuka (Egyptian tabla) player Guy Schalom.  The regular line up includes Adam Warne on frame drum and riq, Ahmed El Saiidi on saxophone and Sheik Taha on accordion.  Guest artists were Ali El Minyawi on daholla and Abdul Salam Kheir on oud and vocals. 
Melody from Abdul Salam, Taha and Ahmed

Rhythm from Guy, Adam and Ali

All eyes are on...
...Katie Holland

Getting into the groove

Monday, 11 March 2013

Barefoot Dance Shoes Review - Bloch Soleil Foot Gloves

My new purchase from my local dancewear shop is a nice pair of gloves... for my feet!

My new Foot Gloves
In nearly all the dance styles that I do, I dance bare feet.  But unfortunately it's not always possible to go barefoot all the time.  So occasionally I will wear either soft ballet shoes for performances or a split sole jazz shoe for greater protection and support whilst practising (think cold church hall floors...).

The problem is a shoe can change my dance, as I find myself using my feet differently as I subconsciously transfer my weight onto the balls of my feet, point my feet more and play with swivels and arabesques.  But that's not always the look and style I want to go for, especially when dancing a more earthy style.

I've also been studying Hilal Dance.  This is an extremely grounded dance that is much more flat footed and earthy than other contemporary styles.  It uses a lot flowing of movement through space, including walks, turns, spins and spirals, and it's very important to have good contact to harness the energy through the floor.  However, I've found the training to be a little harsh on my feet and by the second day of an intensive workshop weekend, I've had to tape over the blisters on my feet rather than resort to shoes.

So, I've just invested in a pair of Bloch Soleil Foot Gloves.   I chose this kind of shoe because it both respects the shape of the foot and the need to go barefoot, whilst providing protection over the balls of the feet and, as a huge bonus, comes with a a nice big cushion underneath the big toe.  
Bloch Soleil Foot Gloves close up
They cost me £14.50 from a local dance supplies store.  Before I bought them, I was a little worried about fit.  My feet are very wide and find it hard to get a comfortable fit from my dance shoes, and Bloch only sell these in 5 sizes.  However, after inspecting them in store, I found that they are in fact very stretchy and the size 'L' was fine for my UK size 6 feet.  

So I wore them for the first time in class last weekend and I think they worked quite well.  They looked a little tight when I first put them on at first, but were comfortable enough once I got used to them.  They also stayed on my feet the whole time, sliding down my feet only a tad, but not enough to cause any real difficulty.  They helped to prevent the blisters I get from sticky floors and made the turns smoother and easier.  The ease of movement against the floor did change my dancing a little, however, so I had to think a lot harder about my balance and adjust my steps a little to prevent sliding.  As this natural floor contact is important, on the second day of workshops I kept my feet bare as long as possible, and only put the shoes on once we started drilling turns.
Barefoot chic by Bloch
Overall, I think the Bloch Foot Gloves worked quite well, stayed comfy, and did the job they were designed to do.  I still prefer barefoot, but accept that this is a good option that I would definitely keep in my dance bag for next time. 

Oh, and after I bought them I found out that they also come in lots of cool prints, including zebra, leopard, snakeskin, and even a version with a cute little band of henna drawn on! I might need to think up a reason for a second pair...

Fuzzy pack shot shows the choice of prints
I'd love to know if you go barefoot or wear shoes when you dance?  And if you prefer shoes, which kind do you wear?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Amel Tafsout in Peebles, Scotland!

A few years back, I was lucky enough to learn North African dance in Scotland, direct from master teacher Amel Tafsout.  Amel is originally from Algeria and teaches North African dance.  She is a very special, warm and spiritual person and I was lucky enough to have attended her Stirling workshops on a couple of occasions.  I really loved Amel's teaching style and her insightful teaching.

Amel Tafsout
Well the good news is she's coming back to Scotland.  Thanks again to Celia Buchan of Borders Arabic Dance, Amel will be teaching 2 days of workshops in Peebles, on 13th to 14th April 2013, and there will also be a Hafla. 

On Saturday 13th April there are 2 workshops on the Dance of the Ouled Nayl and Algerian Rai, followed by the Hafla in the evening.  Then on Sunday 14th April, there is a very special workshop in Sufi spinning.  I've taken the Sufi workshop before and can thoroughly recommend it. 

For all the details and to book, go to Borders Arabic Dance.  And don't miss the excellent early bird deal for all bookings made by 18th March (£65 for all 3 workshops). 

If you don't know Amel already, here's a wee excerpt from her official bio:
Amel Tafsout inspirational master dance artist, choreographer and one of the finest exponents of contemporary and traditional Magreb dance of our time.  Raised in Algeria she has been fascinated by dance and music since childhood.  She holds 2 M.A .degrees in sociolinguistics and romance languages a research in dance ethnology and a long training in healing practises. Her knowledge and experience make her completely unique.  Now resident in the United States she is a voyager between countries, languages and cultures.

I hope to see you there!

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