Monday, August 30, 2010

Golden Coast

Hi all, again it's been a long, long time between updates!  I think probably readership has dropped off quite a lot, but the truth is that I'm still going through moving-home adjustment, and post-Cairo interviews, which still feels like part of the process.  The good news is, I'm back in California finally for college!  It's never looked so beautiful as when I've been gone for over year.  I'm a senior now, so it's all going to be work work work for the next several months since I'm doing my thesis in the fall.  It's due on my birthday, doesn't that figure?

In more academic news, I'm being asked to present my findings and experiences about AUC at a study abroad committee meeting, and make a recommendation regarding whether my college should pursue an official affiliation or not.  I will be saying they should, much to my surprise, but it's not for the reasons one would expect.  All of us who went to AUC experienced major problems with the bureaucracy, from things like adding and dropping classes, to getting our tuition checks processed (that one was me), to getting refunds at the proper time.  It was frustrating, and terrifying (especially when I got dropped from my classes automatically from "lack of payment" which was simply my check lying around in the NY office), but the magic word for me was when my college called them on my behalf and threw around it's institutional weight.  Suddenly everything was resolved, and I could breathe again when my check was finally found and processed and I was re-enrolled in my classes.

The fact of the matter is that I want other students at my college to have a way to do what I did, and I don't want it to be difficult for them, because living in Egypt is challenging enough as it is.  I'm hoping if my college is supporting a program through which other students can go to AUC students going to Egypt will have less trouble with the bureaucracy, because the classes and experiences you get in Egypt are completely worth it.  I was impressed with the Political Science department over all, and clearly the Arabic department is one of the world front-runners.

I know the blog seems dead now that I'm back in America, but I still would like to share experiences, maybe some guest posts, and articles/interviews my fellow students are writing.  Here's one from a girl I met "over there" that I think was quite good and illustrates how life can go in Egypt from stagnation to breakthrough, and (if you stay long enough) back and forth all over the place again:

PS-Got an interview with Karim Nagi coming up on Gilded Serpent soon, stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

No Place Like Home & Gaby Shiba

Here I am, back in Seattle!  It's beautiful here, and the weather has been pretty darn nice.  A lot of people reading this blog probably know how sick I was my last few months in Cairo, so I'm pleased to report that coming home to the cooler climate seems to have done the trick.  I'm feeling much better and happy to be home!

New dance stuff is that I'm working on sort of processing and consolidating everything I learned in Cairo, as well as going over lots and lots of choreography to memorize and rehash.  I'll be adding a couple Shaabi pieces to the few choreographies I have on hand, and next week I want to do two melaya pieces. I'll memorize everything sort of as I go this fall, but I wanted to get them marked out. Most of these were choreographed by teachers at Nile Group, but I found myself wanting to build on and adapt their choreographies to my style.  This has been really interesting as a project actually, because I have previously been very squeamish about trying to choreograph as well as having some kind of mental block.  Building on and changing around someone else's choreography has been a nice midway point since I have a lens for looking at the structures of the music and help me to see things like how verses repeat and where the changes are. I'm having fun making these choreographies into my own, and of course if I use them I'll credit the originators, except where most of it really has been changed in a significant way.

Otherwise. I'm going through music I got ahold of in Cairo and sewing a melaya dress!  Pics to come, it looks like the construction may be done by the weekend and then I'll go on to doing the beading either next week or when I return to Oakland.

Next up on the list is a website overhaul, a haircut, and a photoshoot!  I have lots of new pretty costumes that need some nice photos online!

Gaby Shiba
I just wanted to talk about another excellent teacher I took private classes with while in Cairo since I'm already writing this blog post.  Gaby is originally Lebanese, and is one of Lebanon's most famous debke dancers.  Of course he has expanded in his life into doing oriental style, Shaabi, and Egyptian folkloric as well, and now he teaches at Nile Group on a variety of topics (I took debke from him at the June 2009 festival, but he was teaching Khaleegy in 2010 for example).  Since his studio was close to me in Maadi, I had the chance to take a series of lessons with him, which was interrupted a couple times by festivals or work.  I did manage to go over 5 times though over the course of the month that I prioritized studying with him, and that gave me lots of food for thought.  I did buy a couple CDs from him, since he has nice Debke music and I was curious about his theatrical production of Salome which I haven't had time to watch yet.

We covered some Shaabi, Oriental, and Debke.   It was nice to have the variety, and Gaby is strong on all of those, however taking Debke with him is particularly special and I found his Shaabi style to be a bit more relatable than his Oriental style, which sometimes was too flamboyant for me.   He charges pretty reasonable rates for his classes compared with other big stars in Cairo, and is a kind, patient teacher although he does tend to try excessively to make sure you aren't worrying about if you are making progress quickly or slowly, etc.  I just smiled and nodded when he encouraged me to just keep trying and it was no problem if I didn't get it right away, etc.  I guess it's his way of soothing students.

Gaby does base most of his teaching based on choreography, but he will do technique corrections which I found to be always useful and delivered fairly clearly (and yes, he will gently physically correct you with his hands when appropriate, which I actually found useful because a lot of stuff can be hard to communicate verbally).  The choreographies were for me more of a device to show him in a comfortable framework how I was doing things so that he could give me corrections on technique but also attitude and musicality (especially for debke).  I felt much less self-concious following his short choreograhies for each style and like it freed me up to focus on technique within a context, so I didn't mind studying choreography.  He did give me a really difficult debke one at first since he's seen me in his workshops before though, but I had fun with it after chewing on some of the combinations a bit.

I would recommend Gaby hands-down if you want debke instruction.  He's solid for both Oriental and Shaabi too, but if you can afford to get one of the-big name female, Egyptian dancers it's probably a better bet in some ways since Gaby mostly focuses on group-style choreographies for those styles.  He's good if you want someone reasonably priced that you can go to a lot and get consistent corrections to take into workshops with big stars or private lessons.  If you drop in, his studio is right across from Sakanat El Maadi Metro station (oh, my old Metro stop, how I miss it.....sort of?) and tell him Nicole said hi!