2012
May 6

Teaching and performing in Ukraine again!

Back in the U.S.S.R. Ukraine :)

Coming back to Ukraine in a month! Will be teaching a Turkish Roman workshop in Kiev, the my birth city and the next day performing at Aleksei Ryaboshapka crazy "East Ukraine" party in Donetsk! Preparing a new Roman set, crazy and fun to fit the occasion :) See you there!

2012
Apr 18

Upcoming Workshops

This May in Jerusalem at the Bellydance Center Turkish style choreography with zills and a drum solo!

2012
Apr 7

IV Oriental Cup of Ukraine – Donetsk – Day II – Ethno-Party - Part II

Sorry for the delay folks! Between the vacation in Thailand and the new group in Tel Aviv I got a bunch of posts accumulated. First thing first – continuing my Oriental Cup of Ukraine 2012 experiences.

The dinner was followed by performances of some of the festival’s participants. Amira studio from Chernovtsi went on first. They have started their performance with a traditional greeting – the bread and salt ceremony. Bread and salt is a traditional Slavic welcome ceremony, usually done in full national costume. The guests are greeted with a huge loaf of bread with salt mounted on top of it. The bread is presented on top of rushnik - a beautiful embroidered towel. The loaf of bread, the sausages and the traditional pertsivka ( chilli pepper spirit similar to vodka) were all home-made and we got a taste of them later on!
Bread and Salt Ceremony
Traditional Ukrainian women costumes consist of several pieces. A white blouse tucked in a black or navy skirt that has a light (usually white) petticoat underneath. All the garments are heavily embroidered by hand! The costumes that Irina and her girls were wearing were of amazing craftsmanship, as they were embroidered with beads. Some of the items, like Irina’s petticoat were even hand-woven! It’s not possible to buy this kind of costumes; they are usually made in the villages and passed to young girls on the day of their marriage.

Chernovtsi girls setting us on fire!

The performance was a dynamic medley of several Ukrainian dances. I’m posting the video of the same performance that opened the gala concert. Personally I enjoyed the club version more because of the direct connection the girls had with us. They literally lit the whole restaurant on fire!
Watch the complete Amira studio performance ( starting at:1:10 ) here.

Followed by Amira studio was Elena Veretennikova’s flamboyant version of a traditional Russian dance. Elena Veretennikova is the head of Eishta studio from Perm, Russia, and she is known for very dynamic, innovative group choreos. It was hard to hold our laughs throughout Eishta’s performance. From the oversized kokoshnik (traditional Russian head piece) to Eishta’s humoristic attitude and the general pizzazz! This ensemble certainly knows how to give a show!

Perm's Eishta Rule!

The party went on with everyone on the dance floor dancing their hearts out! I came back to my apartment completely enthralled by the performances and the good vibes!

Aleksei's RA studio having fun!

Happy among friends!
Stay tuned for posts about competition and the gala concert!

2012
Feb 21

IV Oriental Cup of Ukraine – Donetsk – Day II – Party - Part I

The party was held at a restaurant with traditional Ukrainian food and décor styled after a Ukrainian khutor (farmstead). As I entered through the massive doors I was greeted by our host Solokha. Solokha is a very colorful and slightly naughty character from one of the most famous stories of Nikolai Gogol “Christmas Eve”, a witty witch, in a “bint el balad” kind of way LOL Solokha offered me a Brüderschaft shot of vodka and only then let me through. Throughout the evening she entertained us with her jokes and hilarious games with the audience. She also turned out to be an amazing saxophone player, playing among other songs 7:40 and Hava Nagila!
Partying with Solokha and her magic saxophone!

After Solokha’s welcome Aleksei showed me to our table with an astounding amount of scrumptious appetizers. I am omitting the pictures of the table only because you will find enough food imagery through this post. Trust me, there were many kinds of salo there, delicate seledka (herring), all sorts of pickles ( yummy pickled tomatoes, that always make me wonder why they are common only in East Europe and didn’t break into Western cuisines???), kholodets (jelled meat, mmmm) and much more!

ETA: Hell no, I decided to go for a tease and show you the appetizers.
Yummy appetizers!

Of course I made sure to taste from every dish, but then I was also careful not to get too full since I ordered something very special! One of my favorite foods of all times: borsch!!!

Allow me to present you with the borsch guide graciously shot by Zhanna Denisova! Thank you Zhanna, for following my whims!
So first you order borsch of course. Then you spot a tiny plate with cute little bombs on it. These darlings are called tovkach, they are basically another kind of salo LOL, lard mixed with tons of garlic, fresh herbs and salt. You put one into your mouth and savor the explosion of flavors! Then you grab a piece of rye bread and spread tovkach over it. Not thinly please! You are in Ukraine, treat yourself the same way you’d treat your guests! You take a bite and at the same time spoon the borsch… Ahhhhhhh… You are in heaven now! Your taste buds thank you and you thank Aleksei for making this dream come true. Lastly, don’t forget to check out other people’s plates and plan in advance your next gastronomical conquest!

And now I’m ready! Or at least I thought I was ready for anything, but, boy, was I wrong!

To be continued…

2012
Feb 19

IV Oriental Cup of Ukraine – Donetsk – Day II – Workshops

The next day I got up early to brush up my workshop notes. Even though I am a native Russian speaker I’ve never taught in Russian before (only Hebrew and English) and I wanted to make sure I don’t waste time during the workshops trying to recall terms and expressions.
My apartment was located in the city center, a short drive from the workshops venue. I enjoyed the ride across Kalmius. The river was completely frozen, and it was fun to watch occasional people crossing it by foot.
The workshops were held at the Youth Arts Palace, a huge building with lots of dance studios, dressing rooms and a big theater, where the competition and the gala concert were held later on.

I caught a glimpse of Elena Ramazanova’s high energy lezginka drum solo, and then taught my first workshop - Sombati variations with sagat. Then Gulden Fatkula from Kazakhstan taught the most beautiful choreography to Warda’s Tab Wana Mali. And then me again teaching Turkish Roman fundamentals to an upbeat song. After I finished I caught a taxi back home to prepare for yet another party that deserves a post of its own!

2012
Feb 18

IV Oriental Cup of Ukraine – Donetsk – Day I

It’s been two weeks since I got back from my trip to Donetsk, Ukraine and I’m still excited and grateful for every moment I spent there! It has been an amazing experience both on professional and personal level, and I can’t thank enough to Aleksei Ryaboshapka for inviting me.

So here we go, day one.

Early morning at the Borispol airport in Kiev, the beautiful city I was born. The temperature outside - -26C. It has been 21 years since my family and I left to Israel without looking back, not knowing whether we would ever be able to return. Skip some emotional moments here…
In the airport of Kiev, my city of birth

Donetsk, here I come!!! At the airport I was welcomed by Alina, my guarding angel, who made sure I had everything I needed during my stay. Thank you so much for your help! In the car I was surprised by a very special treat that Aleksei prepared for me. Pickles made by his mom and two kinds of salo!!! Aleksei remembered that I crave for it and made sure it welcomes me as I arrive! For those who don’t know what it is, salo is a traditional Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian food, but trust me, the best salo in the world is made in Ukraine, the rest are poor imitations!!! Cured slabs of fatback, that melt in your mouth, nom-nom!!! There are many kinds of salo, and during my stay I made sure I tasted them all :)
Warm Ukrainian welcome

With Alina’s help I settled down at my very warm studio apartment and in the evening Aleksei picked me up for the opening party where I got to meet some of the participants and the rest of the team.

Judges hanging out, clockwise: Elena Ramazanova, president of the League of Bellydance Masters and Zhanna Denisova, head of Alisha, an Oriental Dance School in Tolyatti, Russia scheming world domination, Zhanna and Irina Demchuchina, head of Amira, an Oriental Dance school in Chernovtsi, Ukraine, Elena Ramazanova and Gulden Fatkula, a master teacher from Kazakhstan, me and our generous host Aleksei Ryaboshapka , Elena Ramazanova, Gulden Fatkula, Elena Veretennikova, head of Eishta, an Oriental Dance school in Perm, Russia and Irina Demchuchina, Irina Demchuchina and Elena Veretennikova.
Hanging out at the judges table

And the party goes on! RA studio of Donetsk (Aleksei’s students) on fire!!!
RA studio on fire

Highly emotional moments: Elena Ramazanova dancing lezginka for Aleksei
Elena Ramazanova dancing lezginka

Hugs with everyone!!! Clockwise: with Alina, my garding angel, with Gulden from Kazakhstan, with Valeria Bakurova, who won second place at the Eilat festival competition, with Alyona Zhokhova, a gorgeous dancer from Donetsk.
Hug anyone?

2011
Sep 1

Summer Bellydance Festival - Day II

On the second day of my arrival I taught two sagat (finger cymbals) workshops. Most of the students didn’t have any sagat experience, so we went over basic strokes and patterns and incorporated everything into a short choreography. I know that this is not how finger cymbals are taught traditionally, that usually strokes are introduced one at a time and drilled while walking first, but this method never worked for me. Working on incorporating the cymbals directly into my dance combinations did the trick. It provided me with motivation to keep practicing and set me on a path of creative exploration of this musical instrument. I’ve also gotten inspired by my early childhood piano training and believe it or not by the years I have spent in front of the computer working as a Software Engineer. In both cases ergonomics, such as correct wrist and fingers “posture” and loose “conserving energy” playing, is the key to developing clean injury-free technique and speed. This is why I prefer a more “top to bottom” approach at workshops. In the limited time we have I opt for familiarizing the students with a wide range of tools and providing them with “homework” so that after the workshop they are ready to start practicing on their own.

After the workshops I had a chance to catch up a bit with my online friend Kyria! I have been admiring her amazing costume creations for a long while now and I was glad to finally meet her in person! She is sweet and funny and too bad she had to leave early and we didn't get to hang out more.

Later in the evening the teachers have reunited for the first round of competition. Contrary to what you might have thought judging ain’t easy! You find yourself questioning not only the contestants but yourself: what are the key ingredients that make a successful performer, how do you balance technique with expression, control with enthusiasm, innovation with authenticity. The heated arguments we had at the judging table served as a proof that there is no right or wrong, it’s very personal and open to interpretation.

Day one is here! Day 3 is coming soon, promise :)

2011
Aug 28

Summer Bellydance Festival - Day I

Aug 28, 2011 00:48////

It’s been three weeks since I got back home from the Summer Bellydance Festival in Leiden, Netherlands, but I don’t believe I have landed yet. The festival was organized by Anusch Alawerdian , whom I met at the Eilat festival this January. Anusch saw my Turkish Roman set and invited me to teach and perform at her festival!
6 months later I landed with two suitcases in Netherlands. (Stay tuned for another post on how to pack 5 costumes into a small trolley that fits into an airplane overhead compartment!)
Since we arrived early in the morning, Shayma, my roommate and fellow festival teacher and I went on our first trip around the town. Leiden, the birthplace of Rembrandt, is a green picturesque town, intersected by numerous canals. The weather was just what I needed after the scalding Israeli heat: sunny but cool enough to enjoy a stroll along the canals. We managed to explore about half of the long pedestrian shopping street, then went back to meet Milla Tenorio, who arrived to Leiden by train from Paris. Milla was supposed to teach and perform at the festival, but unfortunately she broke her toe just before the event. Being a true pro and a trooper she didn’t cancel and came to support the festival and to judge in the competition.
In the evening we went out to a Greek restaurant to celebrate the beginning of the festival. Yamas! Cheers!