Ispahan aims to dazzle..!
But who is/are my shining example(s)?
I consider myself very lucky. The very first
'Belly Dancer' I ever saw, was the superb Salomé (Margot
Widdershoven-Sijbers, 1960 -2006). She became my teacher and role
model for many years to come.
Salomé had it all, phenomenal technique, intelligent dance,
a wonderful stage presence and great creative ideas. Originally,
she was a sculptor, who discovered Hawaiian dance ‘on the
side’ and soon after, became one of the first Dutch Oriental
dancers. At times when this was not yet common, she had ‘the
outfits’! I was mesmerized... It all came together: her
choreographies, her stage and costume designs, the music she selected,
the people she worked with…, it was all so artistic, bold,
new and exiting! Most of her pupils looked up to her in amazement
and, obviously, so did I. Sadly, we had to part from her much
to soon, but she will always be in our hearts.
Which such a high standard, it is hard to find a new idol. I guess
that is why I didn’t. Not that there aren’t any great
artistic and creative dancers at the moment, like Shahrazad for
instance. If I run out of ideas, I now turn to her, watch her
magnificent costumes and stage designs, her brilliant choreographies,
her knowlegde of different dance forms…and feel inspired
again. If can mention a third, it would be Rachel Brice…for
Outside of Oriental Dancing, I greatly admire Kate Bush.., my
stage name origins from her song: ‘Kashka from Bagdad’.
Her music is intelligent, she is always reinventing herself and
her videos are works of art. I guess its because I am a painter
by profession, write columns for a magazine for women on the internet,
organize creative en inspiring workshops, design, dance and always
try to make things different, creative and original myself, that
I feel attracted to these magnificent, multi-talented and original,
authentic women, who are shining examples to me.
Salomé - Shahrazad - Kate Bush - Rachel
Kashka in the Epilepsy Project, Maastricht (NL), 2010.
For more Kashka: click here.
Kashka in the Exils Project, a modern belly dance choreography
made by Kashka, based on the second generation migrants,
Maastricht (NL) 2010.
For more Kashka: click here.
About twenty years ago..
when I discovered Oriental Dance..
Kashka on Oriental Dance:
What I like about ‘Belly Dancing’, or rather: love,
is that anyone can practise it, whether young or old, tall or
short, slim or heavy.. it doesn’t matter. Very much in contrast
to my first (and everlasting) dance love interest: ballet.
Auditioning for a famous ballet company at ten years old, I was
told that the top of my feet were a couple of millimetres to low,
or thin to be accepted. I was talented, I could dance, it was
just my feet.. My father asked one of the judges from the auditioning
committee, why I needed to have bigger insteps and the answer
was: ‘Because the public wants it’. It was prettier
to look at, when on pointes. Fortunately, in Oriental Dance my
feet proved to be no 'problem' at all, in fact, any body shape
will do, as long as you are able to move gracefully..!
Of course there also is no Oriental Dance Academy (at least not
recognised as such) and Oriental Dance is not yet really accepted
as a professional sports or serious, theatre worthy, art form.
Not yet! Since I started to follow lessons in Oriental Dancing,
twenty years ago, I witnessed a significant change in this particular
dance scene. Back then, it used to be for the odd and artistic
few, mostly women studying at art academies, who were interested
in anything new, strange and mysterious.. It was quite brave in
those days to tell or admit you were a 'Belly Dancer'.. Often
we were considered to be involved with kinky stuff, or just simply
lunatics, possessed by some evil genie, or worse. Since then,
Oriental Dance has become more accepted and women from all walks
of life are practising it. And dance in general has become more
and more popular.
about ten years ago.. still dancing!
At the same time that Oriental Dancers have become more ‘normal’
dancers in the eye of the public and also have become more professional,
training almost like regular ballet dancers and striving to perfect
their moves, the artistic part of it seems to have shifted a bit
to less regulated and ‘new’ trends like Tribal Fusion
and other Oriental fusion forms, that are developing at the moment.
Not only Oriental Dance in Europe has changed, so has the audience.
As a matter of fact, Oriental Dancing has become so popular that
you can find a performer or teacher in almost any city or village,
whereas ‘in the old days’ you would certainly have
to travel.. Even though we are all happy that the stigma had gone,
this also kills the mystique surrounding it a little.
One thing I have never really understood is the ‘classical’
Oriental thing.. I understand that there has to be a word to differentiate
between old and new Oriental Dance styles (like Tribal/ Tribal
Fusion/ Oriental Hip hop, etc.), but to me, the term gives a false
idea of its origin. The question is: how far back in time do you
want to go? Classic Oriental Dance usually pointes back to the
1940-1960's: the days that the Egyptian film industry bloomed.
But in fact, Oriental Dance has developed from a mixture of so
many cultures and has so many influences, from the Orient ánd
the rest of the world that ‘a classic style’ really
doesn’t exist, in my point of view. Since learning at bit
about Persian Dance, for example, I found out that a crossover
has taken place, about two centuries ago, between Persian Dance
and Ballet, leaving its marks in both dances and costumes.
The origin of dance..
Apart from that, cultures have always mixed, people tend to travel,
tell stories back home about the new cultures they have discovered,
conquerors bring back dancers… African, Indian (‘Gypsy’),
Spanish (Flamenco), Egyptian and other dance forms have mixed
since the beginning of time. In more or less isolated area’s
new mix-forms have become trend and are now considered classical..,
or specific for that region. Like the American or Hollywood style,
dramatic and sensual, with lots of props, based on what the Western
world imagined the mysterious Orient to be. It’s the style
shown in old Hollywood films that travelled to Europe and was
thought of, for some time, as ‘Oriental Dancing’.
But dancers, travelling to the Orient, soon discovered that it
was much more complicated than that.
Some of them, have gone to extreme length to describe the many
different dance styles, from different regions, by different clans
or cultural groups. But since people are travelling the world
for many thousands of years, this mixing of styles has been going
on for so long, that the name ‘classic’ always seems
a bit silly to me. Folk Dance, the dance you will still find in
secluded areas of the world, in tiny villages, that has been transferred
from mother to daughter for centuries, is probably the closest
you will come to traditional dance. But these dance forms can
differ from town to town, or family to family (clan)..
1001 Dance styles..
The effort modern Oriental Dancers make, to be ‘true’
to classic Oriental Dance, opposed to new (fusion) trends, are
valuable, but I do not understand the rejection by of some of
them of these new dance trends, as the classical form once was
a new trend as well! (In costume, trends like Tribal and Tribal
Fusion may even come closer to the Oriental traditional costumes,
new challenges bring spice to the world, rejecting them, or thinking
less of them, seems silly to me. As I mentioned, the arty way
to approach Oriental Dance has shifted to these new trends and
dancers who do not like to follow, but want to created themselves,
without boundaries, have found a place there. Let’s embrace
all. Let’s not consider one style to be ‘the real
thing’, leaving the rest out. Let’s not forget that
not so long ago, any 'Belly Dancer' outside the Oriental world
was considered a weirdo! ;-)
my own choreography, a cross over between
Oriental Dance and Modern Ballet
Speaking of embracing…
If you, like me, grew up in the most southern province of the
Netherlands and are in your thirties or over and 'Belly Dancing',
you will probably have heard of Yamila and Salomé. Not
their real names, obviously.. They were two Dutch Oriental Dancers
who, in the early ages of Oriental Dance in the Netherlands, formed
a duo and performed successfully together, but later found themselves
in a bitter fight. The fight was never resolved and sort of split
the region into two camps.
I, completely new to Oriental Dance at the time, took lessons
in Maastricht, taught by Salomé. She sometimes brought
me along when they performed together and I sat backstage and
watched in awe. I wanted to be her. Everything I have learned
about Oriental Dance, I learned from her. It was never talked
about, but for us, her students, it was understood and agreed
upon that, whether informed about the grounds of the feud or not,
we were and would ever be, loyal to her. And I always was. As
I am sure Yamila’s students were as well.
myself and friends at Miep's Party
Salomé’s friend Miep taught Oriental Dance lessons
in the region as well. One day, a long time ago, Salomé
organised a Oriental Dance party in honour of Miep’s birthday.
It became a tradition and also the first stage that I performed
on and would continue to perform on, every time it was held, up
until this very day. It was also at this party that I first saw
Shahrazad dancing, a very memorable day about twenty years ago.
After Salomé’s tragic death in 2006, Miep’s
parties slowly ‘crumbled’ a bit and gradually lost
some of the fun and good atmosphere they used to have.. The audience
slowly disappeared too. We all felt very sad, because the nice
thing about it was that it never was a place of competition..,
anyone could perform, the joy of dancing was key. But the venue
it was held was demolished and new venue’s never seemed
to have the right atmosphere again. Miep’s Party was held
for the very last time on 10 October 2010. I was there…
I danced and it was an emotional day.
the final goodbye
This year, the Miep Party however has a rebirth.., across the
border, in Maasmechelen/ Belgium. It is no longer called the Miep
Party, but has gotten the contemporary name of: the Belly-2-Belly
Festival. It is organised now by two lovely dancers Luna and Chadia,
both educated (amongst others) by Yamila..
Ispahan also accommodates dancers from both the Yamila as the
Salomé ‘side’ and the dancers of the present
time have grown up and entered a new era.. I have to admit that
at first I had my doubts about the Miep Party ‘falling into
enemies hands’, to put it strongly. But I have realised
that we all have to move forward and I do wish both organising
ladies all the best. I hope to be able to dance at their Festival
for many years to come. Miep will be there too, by the way..!
Miep at the Festi Village