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This winter's issue #15 in CARAVAN TRAILS; A Journal For Tribal
Bellydance, includes an awesome look into Zafira Dance Co. The
journal is ran quarterly by Paulette Reese-Denis of Gypsy Caravan in Portland, Oregon.
For a copy or to subscribe contact Gypsy Caravan at http://www.alvens.com/gypsycaravan/index2.htm
Zafira Dance Company nomintated Troupe of the Year 2000 -- Zagaret Magazine
The New Zafira (Ex-Ghawazee) Troupe (PA):
The New Blood in World Fusion Belly Dance
by Maja, the Girl from the Nile
It was love at first sight when one of my students handed me in 1999 a video and said, "Watch this." It was the former Ghawazee troupe. I was immediately mesmerized and decided that I had to go after them. I was lucky I did! The same year in August I went to the PENSIC WAR of the society of Creative Anachronism, their most important gathering in Pennsylvania. I was amazed by the extensive and intense Middle East community, so seriously and deeply engaged into the culture, costumes, language, religion, dance and music performing classes of all kinds during 10 days.
My love for the Ghawazee then went deeper and wild. I invited Olivia and Maria (2 of the 6 members then) to teach in my Festival in Florida during 2000. They were great! A smashing success! They were the must amazing, tuned, centered, creative teachers/dancers in the 1st Festival of Belly Dance in South Florida. They have developed a seamless and seemingly effortless way of moving together that showcases the beauty and earthy sensuality of Tribal style. With whirling turns and sudden drops and rises, with shoulder shimmies so small they resemble the fine fluttering of birds. They brought such a magic to the festival that they inspired me to bring together in a gathering the different styles of Tribal. Last March we had the Meeting of the Tribes here in S. Florida, a gathering of the major teachers of American Tribal, village folklore and world Tribal.
This year they were 3: Maria, Olivia and Christine and with a new name, "Zafira Troupe". They are the most special, different, fun, outstanding World Tribal group at the present moment. This time, again, at the Meeting of the Tribes they were absolutely the most amazing dancers, so unique in their style merging and blending dance styles from central Asia, Middle East, North Africa, Uzbeki, Turkish and so much more. Here is the Zafira Troupe sharing with us their own experience and feelings about our Art Dance form in an exclusive interview.
Maja: Why Zafira? What does it mean? Is it going to be hard to change from Ghawazee to Zafira?
Zafira: Zafira is an Arabic word meaning "Victorious". Together we chose this name because of the strength and unity its meaning suggests. The name change will be difficult because most people do associate us with Ghawazee. However, we are excited about the future of "Zafira" and we have begun to make a name for ourselves.
Maja: Who are Maria, Olivia and Christine? How did you get together and get started?
Christine: I began Middle Eastern dance 12 years ago. Maria is my younger sister. Olivia's interest in Middle Eastern dance was a great motivation for holding dance classes on a regular basis.
Olivia: Christine and I used to do East African Dance together, and about 6 years ago I began studying Middle Eastern dance with her. Within 6 months I was dancing in the Ghawazee troupe. The dynamic with the girls was very exciting and natural. Watching and performing with Christine and Maria has inspired me from the beginning.
Maria: Christine is my older sister and she began training me in Middle Eastern Dance 8 years ago. In her classes, I met Olivia.
Maja: From the beginning did you perform this style, or did you get started with a different style?
Zafira: The style is in a state of constant flux. Our basis is in Turkish/Egyptian dance. We have been influenced by many cultures including North and West Africa, Central Asia and India. We've also been greatly influenced by American Tribal: FCBD, Hahbi'Ru, Gypsy Caravan, Suhaila, Rayah Blackstar, Maja, Morocco, Eva Cernik, Jill Parker and the amazing dance community from Pensic.
Maja: What would be the difference between the American Tribal and your style?
Zafira: From our understanding, American Tribal is a very specific style with an emphasis on improvisation. We incorporate improvisation into our dances, but we also feel that choreography allows us to develop complicated formations while emphasizing the nuances in the music. Our costumes and moves are distinctive of Zafira and are always changing.
Maja: Would you do Cabaret or Egyptian style, or do you just perform the World Tribal Style?
Zafira: We have been influenced by many wonderful Egyptian dancers. Although we probably would not do anything so specific as Cabaret, we definitely use and fuse many Egyptian movements.
Maja: Is your dance improvised? Rehearsed? Choreographed?
Zafira: yes we rehearse. Mostly bi/tri-weekly, but before shows, as much as every day of the week. We like to have some part of every choreography left for improvisation. We also do lead and follow improvisation.
Maja: Do you share the design of the choreography?
Zafira: We choreograph most of our group numbers together, although some of the dances have been choreographed individually.
Maja: Are you teaching?
Zafira: We teach in Pittsburgh and we are interested in teaching throughout the states and abroad.
Maja: Do you have a musician group?
Zafira: Not currently, we would like to find a musical group we can work with on a regular basis.
Maja: You came to the Meeting of the Tribes in Florida in March. How did you feel?
Maria: Going to Florida allowed us to exhibit our unique style to bigger influences in today's modern American belly dance.
Olivia: It was a chance for us to meet other dancers and troupes, and it was also an honor to meet and perform with people who have inspired us for so long.
Christine: It was such a great time. Meeting up with old dance friends, and meeting the old school folks I've heard about for so long. So much inspiration and excitement! Thanks, Maja!
Maja: Can you tell us about The Society of Creative Anachronism? How important is it for you?
Zafira: Christine met her first teachers in Middle Eastern dance through the SCA. The dance community that has evolved and currently exists there is incredible. It's ever changing and growing. We've gotten a great deal of support and inspiration from dancers and musicians from the SCA.
Maja: What's the next step? Future plans?
Zafira: We plan on holding more local dance classes. We'll be performing at Kajira's Tribal Dance Fest in California. And in the fall, we are teaching a seminar in North Carolina.
Maja: Christine, how was India and your experience there?
Christine: India? Beautific, horrific, chaotic, simplistic. I love it and thank God for my chance to go there. The dance I learned in India is something I will study for the rest of my life. It's an exciting and vibrant dance form. Some moves are strikingly similar to Middle Eastern dance, but the nuances definitely remind you where it comes from. I'm still learning how to fuse the two dance forms smoothly and comfortably.
We wish the Zafira troupe all the success that they deserve and to continue sharing and inspiring us with their beautiful Art Dance.
To get in touch for local classes or to book Zafira Troupe for seminars, call (412) 422-1127 or e-mail: OliviaKiss@hotmail.com
Maja is a performer/teacher and sponsored the Meeting of the Tribes in South Florida. The video of the show is available at (954) 929-7155 or e-mail: email@example.com