Published in the January 2004 SAMEDA Papyrus
The Oasis Dance Camp - Workshops Extraordinaire!
"Oasis Dance Camp South 2003"
From Wednesday, November 5th to Sunday, November 9th, 2003, I attended the Oasis Dance Camp in St. Augustine Florida, a charming historic town with rich Spanish influence. The intensive workshops were held at the "St. Augustine Beach Front Resort," a moderate-sized hotel by the gleaming Atlantic Ocean. My roommates were vivacious dancers and friends, Maria Cotter-Dale (Maya), Laura Sampieri-Ferdig (Talia), Kelie Oreb (Khalilah). We were the only dancers from the West Coast at the camp.
Our first night we met in the "dance conference room" where the camp directors, Vashti and Sa'ida, introduced themselves and each "camper" was given a notebook with the camp schedule, handouts, a nametag and appetizers. This was our first opportunity to meet the other 52 dancers who traveled nationwide. Instructors Cassandra and Hadia introduced themselves and discussed their itinerary.
We learned that Cassandra, an award winning dancer, is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has danced over 25 years. Cassandra's instructors included Jamila Salimpour, the legendary Bobby Ferrah, Raqia Hassan and other international star dancers. Cassandra has several hundred students. She travels and performs frequently internationally. Hadia, an award winning dancer from Canada, has danced over 30 years. She studied with Badawia, Ahmed Jarjour, Bobby Ferrah, Nadia Gamal and Raqia Hassan amongst others. Hadia has performed extensively on an international level. Both "superstars" are friendly, talented and down-to-earth women with extraordinary experience in international dance and travel. Further, despite their celebrity status, Cassandra and Hadia are modest about their accomplishments and immense talent. They are truly exceptional role models in arts/dance culture.
The following morning at 7 am, Cassandra taught a one-hour stretch class. Although I initially balked at awakening so early (it was 3 am our time!), I thoroughly enjoyed the class. Cassandra taught a series of warm-ups designed to stretch our body from head to toe in a gentle, successful manner. As the class progressed, we relaxed and our flexibility improved. Cassandra explained each move in a calm and soothing voice. The hour passed quickly and we were refreshed and ready to dance!
At 8 am, we had breakfast and introduced ourselves. We learned other campers held a variety of occupations and life experiences. A common element among all was clear - happiness and a love of dance.
At 9 am, Cassandra taught a technique class designed to improve basic oriental dance moves. We practiced hip drops, hip circles, shimmies and undulations and then learned some short choreographed Oriental dance moves. Cassandra demonstrated the difference between "wrong" versus "right" moves and discussed tips for increasing the flexibility of a movement. At 10 am, Hadia taught a technique class designed to improve our flexibility and to increase "passion" in dance moves. The two instructors' regime complemented each other well. Hadia also began to teach us Flamenco dance. This was my first introduction to Flamenco - and I discovered it is very challenging!
After the technique classes, we ate lunch and shopped. Vendors sold costumes, accessories, music and jewelry. At 2:00 pm, Cassandra taught a choreography class to the lovely song "Qalbi Mal." Cassandra's choreography fit the music perfectly and was enjoyable to dance. At 3:00, Hadia taught Flamenco/Oriental Fusion choreography to Spanish songs. The diverse moves were fun and unique.
At dinner, we resumed introductions. After dinner, Nicole LeCorgne taught a drum class. Nicole is an excellent drummer. Having been an oriental dancer, Nicole is especially aware of the need to "play for the dancer." She watches the dancer perform, and adjusts rhythms for the dancer. She is nationally recognized and travels frequently. Nicole explained drumming rhythms and technique very well. There were extra drums for students who did not bring their drum. After class, we sold items at the Dance Camp Flea Market and attended a video party.
For the next two days, the dance agenda was similar. We began with the 7 am stretch class, technique and choreography classes. Zill and drumming class were taught. During breaks, a massage therapist provided massage services for a reasonable fee.
On the 3rd night, a "Gala" was held and each dancer was encouraged to perform. Charming Sa'ida, the show host, introduced performers. During the show, Cassandra and Hadia danced. Cassandra performed so beautifully - it brought tears to my eyes. I was amazed at her extreme grace, elegance and precise technique. She danced effortlessly and glided around the stage area displaying pure Egyptian moves with great style.
Hadia's first dance was the Flamenco Gypsy-Oriental Fusion choreography that she taught us. Her performance was outstanding. Hadia's Flamenco Gypsy moves were beautifully passionate, precise and fiery. She transferred this passion to the rowdy audience. Hadia's second performance was sassy and oriental. She glided effortlessly and displayed grace, showmanship and skill.
I could have spent the entire evening watching both dancers. They were so unique and lovely with diverse styles and personality. It is easily understood why they are in such great demand - as performers and instructors. The audience was in awe with Cassandra and Hadia's performance.
The following night a fashion show, Hafla and Henna party was held. During the fashion show, a troupe performed a hilarious skit. At the fashion show, students modeled special costumes. Two volunteers from the audience were given a "packet" of materials to construct a "costume within ½ hour." Their results were outrageous and creative. During the Hafla, we danced Khaliji to live music and enjoyed open dancing to a variety of music.
During the workshop, dancers were given forms and encouraged to vote for a dancer to receive an award. On our last day, ballots were collected and awards were given to dancers for special categories (i.e., best costume, best oriental dancer and best folklore dancer). Talia received the "Spirit of Aphrodite" award representing what "dedication and generous spirit" she displayed at the Oasis Dance Camp. Maya won the "Best Fusion Dance" award for her sassy fusion rendition of Fosse Jazz and Oriental Dance. Khalilah won the "Beautiful Beginner Dancer" award; she has danced a year-and-a-half. I received the "Best Oriental Dance" award. We were all pleasantly surprised and appreciated everyone's support and kindness. Everyone said farewell, and the workshop ended.
I think this was a wonderful and well-organized workshop with great instructors. The quality of dance instruction was superb. The opportunity to meet other dancers and make friends from dancers across the nation was terrific. I highly recommend all dancers to attend an Oasis Dance Camp if possible. The workshop was $445 excluding airfare. This included hotel accommodations, classes and meals. I wished the workshop lasted longer. For further information about the workshops, please contact OasisDanceCamp.com or Jawaahir.org.