Professional Development for the professional Belly dancer Aziza’s Dream Camp – My thoughts & musings
This year I had the pleasure of attending Aziza’s Dream Camp in Canada. Aziza’s Dream Camp is a week long dance intensive held in an idyllic rural setting outside of Montreal. We slept in shared cabins in the woods, swam in a lake and trained in a beautiful cabin surrounded by trees. Think of somewhere you’d go on school camp……but with cocktail dresses, wine and yummy food. You definitely don’t have to ‘rough it’ too much!
We had the opportunity to train between 4-6 hours per day and the amount of training was totally up to us. I, for example, am not a morning person. I couldn’t do the early morning yoga and stretching. I did instead get up and meditate every morning and loved the silence that greeted me every morning. It was really blissful to be surrounded by greenery all the time. A rural location meant that the rest of the world could be tuned out, and we could simply focus on dancing.
I had an amazing time. Not only because of the teachers, but because it is refreshing to go to a professional level dance intensive. We all run our own Belly dance businesses around the world, and it was good for the soul to network with other like minded women. Running your own dance business can be lonely work sometimes.
The teachers on this retreat were Aziza, Azad Khan and Gamilla. Aziza, you probably know, but Azad and Gamilla were new to me. Azad is a Turkish dancer with a very particular styling. He is known for his ‘head banging’ (his words…not mine), which translates as big head tosses. Instead of hitting the accents with his hips, he hits them with some amazing shoulder/head tosses. It's a full body thing and his style is full of grace and power. Pretty bloody amazing to be honest! Gamilla is a German dancer who taught double veil. Now, I only have respect for dancers who are experts at props. Mainly because it represents hundreds of hours of your life devoted to practicing with that particular item. And Gamilla is brilliant at double veil. Our class with her was primarily spent trying to get the correct finger hold on the veils! We are felt amazingly inadequate, but it felt good to be a super beginner again. Gamilla is a prop queen, and she also wowed us with an Isis wings number for the end of retreat party. All these teachers were so motivating and a sight to behold.
As only Belly dancers do, the food was extremely yummy. It was a vegetarian camp, and we had a personal chef who cooked up delicious treats every day. He even made the pasta by scratch! (I've included a piccie of the pasta drying on the clothes horse). Whilst I love veggie food, and I appreciated the amount love our wonderful chef poured in the food, I really really needed to eat meat on this camp. We were all training a lot, and I simply need the protein. This was probably the only issue for me.
I have trained with Aziza in 3 countries now – Scotland, New Zealand and now Canada. Every time I come back feeling like I have become a better dancer, but more than that, I feel like I have been able to work on myself. I remember a friend in Scotland commenting that Aziza ‘was like chicken soup for the soul’. I didn’t understand it when I heard it, and now I totally do. She is a great teacher and helps you to become the best version of yourself.
A more challenging aspect of Dream Camp was the opportunity for personal feedback. We danced in front of everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) and the 3 teachers gave us feedback. As you can imagine, dancing in front of your peers without costume or makeup is a really challenging thing indeed. A costume and performance makeup feels like I am in character, and without them it felt quite naked. I am totally comfortable in dancing for hundreds of people and in being the centre of the show at any occasion, but I simply get scared when dancing for other Belly dancers. I am scared of how critical they will be and I tend to freak out. All in all, the process was worth it. I’ve been thinking about my feedback ever since and am looking forward to slowly incorporating it into my future dancing.
Do I advise going to Dream Camp??? Yes. As a professional dancer, we sometimes miss out on high level professional development. Sometimes going to bigger festivals means that you don’t get the individual attention of the teachers. It is also really easy to miss connecting with other women at bigger festivals. It is easy to get lost in the crowds and sea of dance egos trying to push their way to the front of the class. I love going to smaller intensives. I hope Bozenka is still running her Dance Lab in Crete. I think that will be the next one on the list!
Going to Canada was a big trip from Australia, but I feel like I am a better dancer (and person) for it. It was worth it.
Melbourne Belly dance
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