I have just returned from Exeter, where I took a truly inspirational three-day intensive in the Suhaila Salimpour format of Arabic Dance, with Sabriye, and organised by Tatanya.
I went with little prior knowledge, only Raphaelle's enthusiastic endorsement of the technique - and the caveat that I'd feel like a total beginner again. How true. It was certainly challenging; by the end of the three days I thought my brain would explode with so many demands made on it. And my gluts haven't been the same since!
But it was really worth it. As I've said before, when you've been dancing for some time, it's easy to get stale and lack inspiration. There are always new things to learn, but it's a question of finding the ones that speak to you. This course definitely did.
Sabriye is one of Suhaila's senior teachers. Based in Dubai, she is a lovely, elegant performer and a fun and down-to-earth teacher. I enjoyed every minute of her teaching, even though my body often refused to do what was expected of it!
Glut squeezing is a key aspect of Suhaila's technique - and one that I have yet to master with any great success. When Sabriye did a side-to-side using just her gluts, her hips moved with real force. My effort was more like a twitch. I've definitely got my work cut out.
By all accounts, all this glut activity can become something of an obsession. As part of the warm-up you spend some time practising your squeezes - both cheeks, right only, left only and both - at various speeds. By the end of three days you find yourself squeezing at every available opportunity. This can go undetected when you're a novice, but with practice the movements get much bigger, and so harder to conceal - even under a big coat. You have been warned!
There is a serious side to all this buttock work. Using the gluts helps protect the knees and also frees you up to build up layers of movement.
The course was actually a five-day one but I arrived on the Saturday night in time for the hafla, and stayed for the following three days. The numbers were very low, for several reasons, I feel.