Monday, April 11, 2011

Workshop Review

OK, I know I haven't updated in a while, but felt the urge to write this up while it was fresh in my mind.

I'm hoping to make it a regular part of the blog, considering that I take workshops regularly, it will give me stuff to write about, at least!

Why workshops? Because it improves your dancing, duh!

Why with different teachers? Because no 2 dance alike. Because you never know what you're going to take away from the workshop, be it a new movement, a new way to listen to music, a new combination, improvement in technique and in the very worst instances... what not to do.

When should you take a workshop? Not as easy to answer, it's different for different people. If you have the income and the means, take as many as you can. Always take the ones that focus on how to interpret the music, because those are the most valuable in my opinion, especially if you're not a native speaker of the language.

Take the technique ones, because even if you think you know everything, you don't. I don't care how long you've been dancing, there is ALWAYS something to learn. Beware the dancer who is overcome by ennui and the sense that she knows everything.

Ok, on the workshop

Yousry Sharif Weekend, Sponsored by Katia of Boston, Lakeville, MA. March 25 and 26, 2011.

1. Location: The Burbs. It's about an hour drive roughly south of Boston, not difficult to actually get to and a pleasant ride. Plenty of places along the road to stop and do a little shopping, if you're into that (I'm not, despite my costume lust, an actual "shopper"). The traffic wasn't bad, since you're headed away from Boston, but in the summer could be difficult since that's when most people actually leave Boston and head out to the Cape and other summery locations. No commuter rail access on the weekends, which sucks if you don't have a car.

2. Studio: almost a proper dance studio, with the exception of the floor, which was linoleum. Hated the floor. luckily I had my little capezio dance slippers (these) *which I LOVE. I also brought my dance sneakers**  which turned out to be a good idea for the saidi portion.  My only comment , other than the floor, was that it would have been nice to have mirrors on at least 2 sides so that you can check your posture. There was ample parking. The workshop was filled to capacity, there would have been space for maybe one more person, but not 2. I really didn't like the floor, which felt cold and hurt my feet.  But coming prepared with shoes and socks and leg warmers made an enormous difference.

3. Timing: as in starting and ending, exquisite. The warm up was a yoga based one conducted by Maisa, which was excellent, even though I arrived both days a bit late and missed the start up.

4. Communication: Excellent as well. Katia made sure that she sent information about every step of the workshop, location, directions, where to eat, etc. There was nothing left to chance and no ambiguity.

5: The Teaching! Finally!: this was NOT a workshop for beginner's. If you did not know how to properly execute a hip drop, there was no stopping and explaining. You either got it, or you didn't. I can't repeat enough, there was no breakdown. You should keep this in mind in the event that you want to attend one of these workshops, you will work hard. There will be no stopping for breaking movements down. You should study the basics and have them firmly under your hip belt in order to get the choreography, because THAT is the focus. Yousry did stop and explain when he wanted a certain look to a movement. For example, there was one portion of the song that is very slow and dramatic and the choreography calls for head and chest movements together. Obviously, you can do this in multiple ways, but he explained when the group was doing more just head movements that the feel of the movement wasn't static and required more emotion and emphasis, not just percussive head flinging (fun as that often is).

The choreography itself was incredibly thoughtful. There are accents and combinations that until you have listened to the music eleventy billion times you will not understand. As a person who knows that choreography is not my friend, I had to stop listening with my head, and only listen with my body. I couldn't intellectualize the choreo because then it didn't make sense to me. I had to do it, and AFTER (waaaayyyyy after) did it make sense to my mind.

There was a trick that Yousry used on the second day that I thought was BRILLIANT! Sooooo goooooooooddd that I'm hesitant to share it, I will, and hope I haven't stepped on any toes.

Throughout the weekend, there had been breaks for one side of the room to do the combinations, then the other side, then all together. At one time, he asked us to tag team, in other words, one side the choreo up until the music changed and then the other side did the next section. It forced you to think about what they were doing while listening to the music and anticipate the change so that you were there to catch it as it changed. For me, it created a dynamic thinking process which bypassed all my issues with choreography and made me think about the music and accents in a way that worked for me so I could participate and get it right.

6. What has it done for my dancing?: Well, I've made some breakthroughs with choreography. Given the different ways that I was forced to listen to the music in the workshop and experience the dancing (that of myself and others) it's made me a more thoughtful dancer. Of course, it's been just about 2 weeks, and I have the attention span of a gnat, so we'll see if it holds.

Has it improved my technique? Not really. My technique is pretty solid, and it wasn't a technique workshop anyway. It *did* work on my emoting during dance. When I perform, I'm an entertainer and have stuck to happy sunshiny performances (for the most part) this made me incorporate the mood changes in one single dance which was reminiscent of a mood disorder. This is not necessarily a bad thing when you are entertaining. I can see using this piece in several ways.

Would I take another workshop from Yousry? Absolutely. And you should too.

* These I bought as an intermediary between dance sneakers and ballet slippers for class. I started out with the ballet slippers, but since they didn't have as much arch support, they didn't keep my feet from pronating, which aggravates my knees. These give me enough support, are flexible enough so that I can still get a good point and arch that are visible when practicing, have suede soles so good for turning and are very light, so easy to carry around. The are not any good for high impact, but anything with low impact, this is an excellent shoe. I like these so much I bought them in "caramel" which is a much better match for my yellowish skin tone than "nude", cause seriously, who is clamshell pink anyway?

** My dance sneakers are MUCH better at higher impact (like Saiidi) and if you're going to spend a substantial amount of time on releve. Mine also have a "turn spot" which makes, obviously, turns a bit easier, less torque on the knees, more turning from core power. You can easily just almost think turn and you've done a pirouette.