Hadia -New Year Special Interview 2011-

Photo by Bill Lewis

Canadian Raqs Sharqi Artist and Master Teacher Hadia named Raqs Sharqi –The Joy of Dance-.  Hadia advised how naming is important for our SNS community. I greatly appreciated Hadia’s advices and respect Hadia as an Artist. For the begging of 2011 Raqs Sharqi –The Joy of Dance-, Hadia answered my interview request.  This is Hadia’s story with Raqs Sharqi.

Photo by Serge Vaillancourt

1. Why did you start Raqs Sharqi?

I call it the best “accident” of my entire life. I had never even heard of “belly dance” (this was in the 70s) when I received a call from a family friend who invited me to join her at her class. Although I was devoted to my jazz and contemporary dance, I was basically in love with DANCE and a bit intrigued, so although I no idea what to expect, I decided to try it. And here we are today, doing this interview…

2. What is the most important thing to do when we dance in public?

Without a doubt, LOVE YOUR AUDIENCE – they will understand immediately on a visceral level, love you back and make the magic of sharing such an ethereal moment unforgettable.

3. Could you tell about your Raqs Sharqi style?

Photo by Serge Vaillancourt

It is definitely Egyptian Oriental – with a bit of a tendancy towards the older styles of Mona al Said, Fifi Abdou, Naima Akef, but I do love Dina and Randa too. However, I am very well versed in many forms of Middle Eastern folklore and rip up the floor with Turkish Roma dance. I really do believe that the more that one studies and commands any dance form, the more you understand about their relationships and differences. This is why I have had a long and dynamic career that includes many years devoted to flamenco, African, Polynesian, Indian, Brazilian, Salsa etc.

4. Could you tell about the relationship between Raqs Sharqi and your background?

Well, I would have to say that there is none. I am Canadian of French and British descent, born in Saskatchewan (most of you will have no idea where that is) and I had no exposure to any other cultures until moving to Vancouver to go to University. However, dance and music both transcend all national and cultural boundaries, so what more is there to say.

5. Could you give some advices or comments for Raqs Sharqi dancers?

Photo by Lenny Goldman

Oooooooh, this is a tricky one these days.
I am an undying idealist and fortunately I had the luxury of being able to simply BE that idealist and to follow my heart, my inspiration, my teachers and my career wherever they took me, which was all over the world and full of all kinds of fabulous experiences – JUST because I loved the dance so much, never tired of learning, teaching or performing it.
The practical, business side of my life took care of itself because I was truly on my life path. I would love to tell my many students all over the world to maintain their artistic and personal integrity, never stop exploring from the inside out to discover who you are as a dancer, as that WILL make you truly unique,
However, it is a different world now, one in which the market place rules, not the art form. So many are so hungry that they can not find who they are, because they are trying to become someone else who they understand to be successful.
I urge them to continue their journey and their exploration to really understand who they are and what they have to share through dance, because then they will touch so many lives in important ways, they will enrich their own lives and they will be honouring the art form at the same time.

6. Who is your ideal dancer?

Well, she would have to be some very unique combination of Mona al Said (for elegance), Fifi Abdou (for her in your face, straight from the hip baladi) and Dina for her mastery of refined technique and depth of soul).
Why do you like the dancer? I think that I answered that in the first question, but how about a combination of strength, elegance, sensuality, emotional maturity, command and just plain old non-stop FUN!! This is what oriental dance should be about.

7. What is your future plan with Raqs Sharqi?

Photo by Serge Vaillancourt

Although I have shifted back into my second career as a massage and manual therapist for the past couple of years again, I am currently working on a new on-line DVD project that will allow me to continue to teach my students all over the world without having to spend so much time on airplanes and away from home. This new project is really interesting as well, because it is really a synthesis of oriental dance technique/training and therapy through movement. For those who study with me, they know that they can dance with me for hours, entire weekends, even weeks without ever experiencing any pain, strain or fatigue. This is because I apply the principals and body mechanics directly from my experience as a therapist and instructor of advanced manual therapy workshops. Many people come up with the latest, greatest thing with all of the documentation to support it, but at the end of the day, how your body reacts to it and feels while and after doing it is really what speaks louder than anything else. I am sure that people will also love the option to study this system at home, whenever they want.

8.You are good at creating choreography to dancer on a huge stage. What is the most important thing to create choreography?

Without a question, the music is the most important thing that should create the choreography through ones body. This requires a long, slow and gentle but deep understanding of the music, the instruments, the rhythms, the nuances and the lyrics.
It is also extremely important for any dancer to have full command of HER instrument (which is her body), particularly the delicate and highly refined movements to that she can literally incorporate the intricacies of the oriental instruments.
I highly recommend that a dancer should embrace every opportunity to work with skilled musicians and orchestras as this will teach her so much in so many ways. It is also really important to choose music that moves your heart.
Finally to really create a complete picture through choreography, one should not only be able to follow the details, accents, dynamics, movements and changes in the music, but also to understand and grasp the entirety of the piece, to physically present the unity, repetitions with variations and recurring themes within.

9. How and/or with whom do you train?

I could give you a list as long as both arms and legs of who I have trained with, as well as the stories of what I went through just to be able to train with these people in an age where dance classes in the Middle East did not exist. However, I will have to say that the most influential people who I trained with are Badawia, Ahmad Jarjour, Ibrahim Farrah, Ibrahim Akef, Mona al Said, Faridah Fahmy, Fifi Abdou and Dina. After 40 years of a career primarily focused on dance, I prefer to study a select few dancers via their performance videos, as I am able to understand what they are doing and how they do it thanks to my other career as a massage therapist. This is where they truly shine, and this is what I want to learn from them. The exceptions might be Mona al Said – just to be there for a weekend with her is an amazing infusion of her exquisiteness (with no particular plan) and Dina. However, I prefer Dina’s workshops in America, as the numbers are limited. Also, when she sees a high skill level in the class, she will outdo herself and push to bring the students up to her level. She is truly a dancer’s dancer with an intimately refined command of her technique and a depth of soul and expression that for far beyond her “costume choices”.

You can enjoy more Hadia’s performance videos on RaqsSharqiDance YouTube Channel!!! Check the site!!!

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About Yuki Okamoto

Freelance Internet Marketer/ Bellydance Japan Magazine Writer/ Raqs Sharqi -The Joy of Dance- SNS Managerとして活躍中。 2010年には、ベリーダンスイベント運営/ Marketing戦略立案施行を行うRaqs ART Internaitonalを立ち上げ、Suhaila Salimpour, Huleya HiromiのSNSの運営管理、インターネットにおける市場戦略立案施行を行う。 I hope that Raqs Sharqi -The Joy of Dance- promote every Oriental/Middle Eastern/Belly/Raqs Sharqi dancers and everyone who loves dancing sisterhood!
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