The Awesomeness of Ozgen

Last week, on a very hot Sunday, Atlanta Fusion Bellydance hosted a super cool workshop with Ozgen. I first met him in Toronto during the IBCC. One of the panels he spoke on was about Men in Bellydance and he contributed to the event with some great insight. I appreciated his work and what he provided. So, when Faaridah told me he’d be in town, I knew I had to clear my schedule so I wouldn’t miss him. I’ve been making some improvements to my health. Right now missing physician appointments and being absent from taking great strides at swim meet and activities designed specifically to get me back on track are not an option. However, I rescheduled my swim meet for the 4th of July and told my physician that missing Ozgen wasn’t an option either. His work is a part of my healing and wellbeing. Ozgen did not disappoint.

Ozgen taught Turkish Romany and also Turkish Technique/Choroegraphy. I felt these were important because this was his first time in Atlanta. I understood that some dancers may not be familiar with his work if they don’t travel internationally. Given that, I felt this would be the most comprehensible and give them a foundation that would allow them to enjoy his future workshops. Ozgen did not hold back on the complexity of his work. I attended the second half of the day’s workshops which included the technique course. To the naked eye or non-traveller one might think he taught a complex choreography. But there was more to it than that. There were parts and nuances that I’ve always admired about Turkish dancers. Specifically, when he lifted his arms on a travelling step, his stance and posture was very regional. Every time he went through that part in the choreography I swooned. And there were times when the class would just stop and watch him because he was just so enjoyable to just soak up and appreciate.

Swoonfest
I felt guilty because I had come simply to watch him dance. I wanted to remember the moments from IBCC Toronto and just watch a master at work. He really has some clean lines and culturally specific combinations that make him one of a kind. I felt blessed sitting there and at one point he just enjoyed the song as we watched. He danced around and Stewnell and I simultaneously fluttered in our seats in admiration. We looked at each other and said, “Isn’t it beautiful?” simultaneously. We were on cloud 9 the whole workshop. I could have watched him for hours. He said later that this was a more feminine style that he was teaching and that his own personal performances were a little more indicative of a masculine take on the dance. I saw that in Toronto and was impressed as well.

Dinner & Dancing
We went to Café Istanbul in Decatur afterward. Ozgen was very patient as the restaurant opened an hour later than scheduled. They used to open at 1pm on Sundays but today it was 5pm and we were under the impression (and according to online) that they’d be open at 4pm. The waitress came at 4:45pm and graciously let us in a bit early. She was alone and prepared all the drinks, sides and took our orders. She was also able to converse and chat with Ozgen in language and she also spoke Portugues do Brasil so I had a good time chatting with her as well. She was exceptionally kind. The bread was fresh so my little gluten intolerant body was able to eat it without the issues that come from bread mixed with preservatives. I mean, down to the details it was really great and Ozgen danced for us as well. It was an absolutely perfect Sunday.

Room for Improvement? No – Just Want More!
I don’t think there was anything that could be improved for this workshop. The venue was comfortable. The timing was early enough on Sunday that you didn’t get home too late. Ozgen delivered a solid set that everyone could take home. He allowed us to video tape it in the end. I feel that he was generous to give us a dance at the end of the day as that’s usually something stars do for an additional fee. He was animated and fun. I do agree with him that an information or chat session would be good to include in the future where we hear the low down or down low on what is happening from his point of view (or anyone’s point of view). He mentioned how much he enjoyed the panels in Toronto and how important and helpful they were. I agree. Dancers have stories from their travels and culture that we need to hear in order to truly be ensconced and related as we portray their art. I feel if there had been time AFBD would have had that. AFBD is not one to skip the important things.

One thing that works in our community is themes. I feel it would be beneficial if AFBD took this to another level with a full line up of dynamic men. A mini-conference at a great hotel featuring Egyptian Tommy King, European Rashid, North American Nath Keo for Fusion and perhaps a wonderful raqs celeb from South America. I’m always asked to note something that can be changed because surely nothing is perfect but this was as good as it could get so the only thing to do is just keep going by highlighting more men. So, onward and upward! Let’s keep the momentum going!

Savouring the Salimpour Style

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Suhaila’s Atlanta Team 🙂

*These are my personal thoughts, just a Nigerian (first gen Am) loving the dances and fusions of the cultures I grew up with in various international communities. Been a fan of Suhaila since 1999 and I love it when she comes for a visit.

Suhaila came, she took her Atlanta team to new heights and now she’s gone and left us with the huge responsibility of carrying the torch, keeping her family’s legacy of dance alive on the east coast. The dedication that so many brought to this 6 day event deserves a lot of recognition. People drove in from near and far, out of state and from out of the country to participate. Saturday was focused on Jamila Salimpour’s work while the remaining week was a level 2 certification. Salimpour soldiers who were familiar with her material from level 3 and beyond were also present during this week as well. Pictures, social media shares and more detailed the outstanding stamina that these young men and women had in their quest to become many of Suhaila’s best. It was extraordinary to watch. Shout out to her Aunt Alima who comes down every year to support Suhaila’s presence in the city.

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Jenny was there! She’s one of my favourite people on the planet. Photo by Faaridah (head of AFBD)

Sunday was a special treat. We as a community had the opportunity to see the fruits of the dancers’ labour. At Atlanta Fusion Bellydance, family and friends were invited to see what this east coast Salimpour school had done. It was clear that they had practiced really hard and were striving to make their sister/Uhkti Suhaila quite proud. I was fortunate to sit next to her again and had no shame showing my enthusisam for her work as attendees of the Salimpour Collective zilled out their best bellydance and Salimpour family raqs moves. There were times I just cried. It was a full circle moment for me. It’s awesome how you can be a kid watching someone online and years later sit next to them among their fan family watching their work praised by devotees. I won’t go into my annual reminder of how I have photos of Suhaila from years past still on my phone. But I will remind all how grateful I am for moments like these! Hard to put it into words,  you just have to be there and feel that energy.

Talking about the show is one thing, seeing it is another. Let the pictures and video speak for themselves. I was too busy chair dancing to write and take notes for the blog. Each section was introduced with great historicaal background on the song, composers and detailed info on the music and much more. As for performances, I envy anyone that can spend that kind of time in this discipline, memorising choreographies to that extent. It takes a lot and they put in hours and hours of sweat and love. Mabrook, congrats to all who completed a challenging week. Suhaila’s format is no joke and you will feel every second of it…and come out victorious like our beloved friends and extended family at AFBD!  Shukran jazillan to all involved!

 

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One thing I was taught to appreciate is footwork and synchronicity… look at their little feet…speaks volumes

Lively and energetic

Thanks for reading!
AA

Andrus Ramir… the “A” Stands for Awesome!!!

People travelled from hours away to be with Andrus today!

People travelled near and far (some hours away) to be with Andrus today!

Today was a beautiful because Andrus Ramir was in it. He arrived early in the morning and we went to lunch, hung out, hugged as much as possible (though I could have hugged him for two more days without ceasing) and rehashed the great years we spent together at raqs sharqi conferences. It was lovely to be with him again, this time with Atlanta’s Jenny Nichols and Deance of Team Essence by our side. I’m going to put this out there right now; I pray to G-d that Andrus is a part of Essence of Bellydance 2016. Just lunch alone with him made me want him to stay forever. Andrus is more than the person we once knew, he is *ALL THAT* and heaping helping of Yaaaasssss!!!! He has gone from dancer to ICON in just a few years…Miami’s BellyMotions is more than fortunate to have him there, they are blessed beyond words!

The workshop he taught today, Oriental Shine, might need to be renamed because it was so much more than that. The title doesn’t do it justice. The workshop was so good I was frozen with admiration. Every movement, every turn …just breathtaking. He delivered what I like to call, “the secret sauce” to each dancer. Each one turned his work into something very personal and perfect. All attendees did such a spectacular job, so much so, I felt tears swelling up in my eyes for those that weren’t able to make it. I was simply amazed at his skill level. It began with a thorough warm-up which was incrdible to watch on it’s own. Just like Yanis Marshall’s workshops, the opening to the course was so exquisite one wouldn’t even know one was warming up. Near the end, Sable of Sable’s School of Bellydance and Drum made it in. Wow, Andrus fans together again! After a water break and hugs he went right into the choreography and took it up a notch with a fantastic entrance that included an 8-count walk in two strides. There was a great deal of torso work and at one point he lifted his shirt to demonstrate what muscles were moving so the class could better understand the tummy flutters. This gesture also revealed an incredibly fit body that fluttered with such ease. It was so beautiful I had to look away. His signature turns and spins were there and he spoke of their origins. The entire routine was just packed with so much raqs magic. Though it looked a bit “fast and challenging” at times, the attendees pushed forth and made it work for them. Kudos to all who kept going through such a dynamic set. Again, it was simply breathtaking.

His work has soared beyond anything that he’s done before. He has taken the workshops and raised the bar, adding some really advanced material that looks really good. It’s a shame he is only here for one more day. He’s one of those instructors that I wish taught and performed regularly here in Atlanta. I know I’d be eager for his work the way I’m eager to see Tito Seif when he comes through town. I’m more than impressed with Andrus, I’m in love with his skill let alone Andrus as a person.

I admit today I was a little melancholy. Having the privilege of spending so much time with him at other conferences, gelling and meshing with fellow fans and outstanding dancers, we both remembered how sad we felt when we had to part ways. I fear day two (Sunday) just a much as I feared the Monday we separated back in 2012. HE leaves an imprint on your soul that is completely captivating. You just have to experience it for yourself.

I’m going to get some rest and try to deal with the fact that we only have him for another 24 hours…but he has got to come back. He is too much of a treasure to miss. Huge thanks to all who shared in the magic moments of the day. What an incredible workshop! Tomorrow, Sha’abi and Sa’idi at Atlanta Fusion Bellydance… it’s a can’t miss opportunity!

Thanks for reading…and huge thanks to Jenny who went above and beyond today!
AA

Essence of Bellydance – Day Two

imageIt’s gorgeous!!!
It’s certainly gorgeous over here. Because of this event, I explored the neighbourhood, real estate and so much more. Seriously looking to make a shift in this direction if possible. It’s really clean, organised and nice. My only issue of course, as with any place I go, is the parking and trying to find the exact place one needs to go. Let’s cut to the chase… say it with me now, I almost went home because I couldn’t find it. I know, I know, even with GPS I could not find it. I have a directional handicap (recently learned that is normal – I don’t feel so bad), I’m not able to find things easily. I still get lost going home if I miss my exit. Some streets in Georgia are not mapped, so I don’t blame myself completely. In this case, everyone’s directions were useless to me. I ended up calling Faaridah. This is the LAST thing I wanted to do because she’s obviously busy. Well, she was helpful!

Remember Stairwell #10!!!
Here’s the deal, from 10am to 11:45am I drove around and around trying to find the valet sign where we are only to pay $10. Long story short, I found myself in a parking garage for what is to be $12 max for the day. The hotel is next to stairwell #10. So if you suffer like I do and end up in that vast parking deck, try to get to stairwell #10.

The Venue: Beautiful, well-airconditioned, pristine, clean and wonderfully lit, great for photo shoots. You’ll look good under every inch of light. Vendors are set up and it looks like a bellydance shopping mall with amazing items everywhere. My favourite vendors right now, top 3 are MissBellydance (I really like their new stuff, their lifestyle wear, Moroccan Abayas with matching modern dance wear underneath, they have an shimmer set that is to die for, really like it). And all of their professional bra and belt sets are discounted. There’s new jewelry too and tribal belts from Turkiye/Turkey and India. I’m also liking the options from Magical Fashions and Beladi Boutique.

image Food Options: For those of you with gluten allergies, bring a lunch maybe? The hotel menu is available but I really haven’t seen anything I can eat yet. Wait, just found something. Also, Cafe Mezo (YUM INFINITY) is catering tomorrow and perhaps Sunday? They have some spreads, etc plus lots of kebab options. It’s really good. I’m very picky when it comes to food from the region. I had it fresh in the restaurant with Faaridah and MBD, it was amazing. I bought some to go, it was just THAT good. There are also some other spots in walking distance, some offer breadless options. That’s my sandwich in a bowl in the photo.

I hope that helps those of you headed over to the venue or at least clears up some questions for those of you who may not want to come out here due to directional fears, financial concerns. Expect the show and workshop fees, parking under $20 (remember to say you are with Essence of Bellydance if you valet, it’s only $10). I’m hearing someone right now, say they drove around in circles. There are no big signs that say TWELVE, but it’s a gorgeous silver building that kind of blends in with the concrete so just be aware.

*I hope I wasn’t too brisk with anyone this morning. You know directions test my last nerve.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got right now. Just soaking up the lovely atmosphere. Someone called it urban upscale. Whatever, you call it, just call it the place you’ll be at in the next 10 minutes.

Thanks for reading!