Phoenix Belly Dance

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Aziza in New Zealand - Part 2
by Candice Frankland

There I was looking out onto the most stunning view of Lake Rotoiti from the cutest little bach I’d rented. A glass of wine in hand, that special person cooking me a delicious meal of nachos, looking forward to getting into the spa pool and reminiscing over the successful weekend retreat just passed. It was the most romantic moment I could imagine… it’s just too bad that my husband Martin couldn’t be there… :) So instead I got to woo Aziza and share bits of our beautiful country with her, and in return she taught me some of the most exhilarating cards games I’ve ever played! Yes I mean it - ask her about Crystal’s Palace and my heart palpitations during the game! Oh and if you ever play against her - a word of warning - when (not if) she wins, you will be treated to her victory dance which looks a little something like Charlie Chaplin crossed with a scene from Chicago. 

Between private lessons, admin and preparation for the next event, we managed to have a bit of down time between the two big weekends. We thoroughly enjoyed the luging in Rotorua and seeing some of the sights in Auckland and Central North Island. Before we knew it though, it was time to get on a plane to Christchurch and sprinkle some Azizaness (yes - that’s a real word - look it up!) all over that awesome city.

We were promptly collected at the airport by my wing woman Dori, and chauffeured to our accommodation. Dori got us up to date with what’s happening in the Christchurch belly dance scene in no time, and it was, as always, so much fun to hang out with her! Evening came and Suei, one of my Phoenix troupe ladies, and I started to get ready as we would be dancing at Topkapi restaurant that night thanks to Tracey from TribalDiva. Suei and I had gushed at length about Aziza’s visit and as it came closer to the event, it started to dawn on us that we would be dancing for her and all of the Christchurch community that came to join us at the restaurant… so our conversations changed from how we were going to stalk Aziza, watch her sleep, cut locks of her hair, and never wash our hands after they touched her (*please note I am kidding about the last two*), to how terrifying it would be to have to perform in close proximity of her!! Needless to say all of our panicking was for no good reason. She is the most generous audience member, smiling, clapping and cheering us on with all of the other lovely dancers and their friends that came to watch. Whew! 

Next morning - time to get up! Coffee in hand and workshops underway. We started with Layers, Layers Layers, and Hands Arms and Poses on the Saturday, and Aziza did not disappoint. She had our brains and bodies in belly dance overdrive and stretched our limits to show us how much more we are capable of than we think. 

Saturday night arrived and it was show time! Aziza was on top form as were all the other talented dancers in our lineup. We also got a chance to see the stunning Sydney dancers Jrisi, Kamelia, and Jessica who visited us from across the ditch. Here is an excerpt from Kashmir’s review of the show: "Christchurch is no stranger to good quality belly dance but seldom does the general public get the opportunity to see international, professional performers.The nine dancers performed a range of traditional belly dance. From the elegant style of the Egyptian Golden Age to earthy Egyptian beledi; from ethereal (double) veils to percussive drum solos; from heartfelt passion to upbeat pop – the audience was treated to depth and variety.” Here is an excerpt from Emily Napolitano’s review for Theatre Review: "Aziza performs with remarkable stamina, as she shimmies, vibrates and flutters her way through an extensive set of skilful and precise body isolations. Her veil technique is superb, as she creates lovely images and shapes with the silk. Her controlled and subtle manipulations of the light-as-air veil are gorgeous to watch. Aziza is also a polished performer, graciously dancing her way through sound system issues, warmly engaging with the audience and clearly enjoying herself and her art form."

It was a superb show and I would like to thank each of the dancers for sharing their love of dance with us and the audience: Aziza (Montreal); Jrisi Jusakos, Kamelia Querruel, Jessica Moreno (Hathor Dance Theatre, Sydney); Candice Frankland, Lisa Lawford, Suei Lin (Phoenix Belly Dance, Auckland); Tatyana Laptsevich (Auckland); and Siobhan Milner (Dunedin – ex Christchurch).

After a night of too much excitement and not enough sleep, we wake up to start the day with Aziza’s Big Fancy Oriental Choreography to the song Zapphire of Love. It is an intricate, mesmerising, and wonderfully complex choreography littered with Aziza’s signature veil moves, some sassy saidi folkloric sections, and a great addition to our repertoire. After a lunch break we ended the day with Master Level Conditioning (I smacked myself in the head more than once for scheduling that last in a long weekend of dance- my apologies to the very tired and sore participants and kudos for holding on until the end!) Again I was amazed at how well this master teacher has managed to take the complex conversations we all have with ourselves as students of dance and simplify them into one question to ask our selves, or one word to motivate ourselves, or one principle to practice to. 

What I discovered about Aziza, by the end of her time here, is that she is more than a teacher; she is a thought leader, and we can all do with a lot more thinking in our dancing.

Thank you to Dori, Suei and Lisa who were incredibly helpful throughout the weekend, and everyone else who lent a hand too - your support is so very much appreciated! Thank you to MEDANZ for their underwriting grant and helping to make it possible to bring Aziza halfway across the world to New Zealand. It has been an unbelievably valuable experience, and I cannot say thank you enough to all the people from across the country and our Aussie friends who came to these events to meet Aziza and support what we love to do… dance our beads off!

Watch our interview with Aziza here.

Here’s a link to our 2015 Retreat - find out who’s coming to NZ next!