Wednesday, December 05, 2007


DVDs Clarification
In response to various inquiries from dancer friends around the world:Some of you may have seen a "Belly Dance Total Workout For Body Shaping" with Samra for sale at various venues. To make a long story short, I am NOT the person on the cover and it is not a Total Workout For Body Shaping DVD. Instead, this version is an excerpt remastered by a distributor of an instructional video that I authored and produced independently using rhythms by the fabulous Uncle Mafufo. It introduces 6 rhythms, 14 combinations and 8 special types of shimmies, plus short clips of drum performances on stage. The original DVD is entitled "101 Shimmies Vol 2" by Samra and is available at my website and also at and Create Space E-Store.
Next week I (Samra) will be releasing SHIMMYROBICS, which is more of a workout DVD, containining 1 hr of basic instruction for beginners followed by a 50 min workout using 5 combinations in repetitions to progressively speeding tempo to the great music of Sayed Balaha, courtesy of Balaha Records USA. It also contains a warm-up and cool-down. This Shimmyrobics DVD will also be available directly from me, Barnes and Noble and perhaps Ebay at a later date, or any vendor who wishes to carry them.
I will soon be completing "101 Shimmies Vol 3" to conclude the series, which will be a Drum Choreography to "Clap Happy" by Uncle Mafufo, and will use material from 101 Shimmies Vol 1 and 2.I just wanted inform everyone of what is original, and that the Total Body Shaping claim of the "Belly Dance" DVD used by that distributor was not my idea and is practically beyond my control, as is the photo of the beautiful young model on the cover :-(
Thanks for your support and for helping me spread the word. I will be glad to answer questions privately upon request.

Delight of Turkey

This was my second trip to Turkey within 16 months. I went last year as part of Eva Cernik's group and I loved Turkey so much that I had to return soon and see another part of the country that I didn't have time to see last year since I couldn't partcipate in the full month tour.
This year I went with a regular tourist group, but one that gave lots of "optional" tour time, so rather than participating in the optional tours, I followed my own agenda and interests. The great advantage of this arrangement was that it was very affordable, and gave me the security of arranged hotels and a comfortable bus to take me from city to city and some guided tours to amazing historical sites.
The genuine friendliness and welcoming nature of the Turkish people never cease to amaze me. I could go on and on with daily stories of people who would stop what they were doing to help me - a stranger who couldn't even speak their language! Very refreshing and touching in these days when everyone seems to be rushing and too busy for each other. Besides this wonderful experience of human care and concern, there were many highligts from this trip, some of which I will list:
1)The Hellenistic and Roman ruins. Ephesus is awesome. Turkey's ancient history is underappreciated, in my opinion. Our guide pointed out that the Turks themselves are not very good in promoting their richness of history and geographical features, and I totally agree. I personally was not aware of the antiquity of the history of what is now Turkey, neither was I aware of the variety of climate, geographical formations and immense ethnological diversity of the country. In my case I had always been fascinated by the ancient cultures of Egypt, China and India, and somehow didn't realize that the history of Turkey goes as far back into the past. We were fortunate to visit the revered Ataturk's Mausoleum on Nov 14th, the anniversary of his death, and share this commemoration with hundreds of thousands of Turks. Our group felt emotional and patriotic even without a drop of Turkish blood in our veins. Totally beautiful and powerful.
2) The food! Wow. I love Turkish food. Even those little "pit" stops can have the most amazing lentil soups, shish kabobs, and yogurt! Try goat mild yogurt with poppy seeds!. And the pastries... A delight for the tastebuds. I soon got used to cucumber and tomatoes with yogurt for breakfast and miss it already. And did I mention the PASTRIES???
3) And of course, music and dance. Read Below.

MUSIC AND DANCEThese were the magnets that drew me to Turkey to begin with. Dance has been my motivation for traveling for several decades, and this time was no different. This time I was focused in exploring, observing and learning. I did not attend the 5 star clubs as we did last year, so I didn't see any of the super famous dancers, because I had other plans for this trip.
In my quest to hear Turkish Arabesk music in its natural environment, I searched obscure night spots, all alone, often spending a fortune on taxis, but I was able to actually see it performed live in the manner described in the "books": smoky bars, some people drinking Raki, and a melancholic and melodic singer's voice on the microphone. My most authentic setting was in a little club in Instanbul, populated by only a few customers (it was a Thursday night). A group of young men invited me to dance Halay with them, so we made a friendship of sorts and I was brave enough to dance with them during other renditions. I made a lot of notes about how people react to Turkish Arabesk music, which was the purpose of my personal research. Being in that smoky environment, surrounded by the deep raspy sound of the lovely female singer was my perfect welcome to Turkey.
At each town and city along the way, I managed to find a night spot where I could go and listen to live music, and invariably I got "adopted" by a group of people with whom I danced or just sat together and listened to music. Even when language was a barrier, we smiled and gestured a lot and managed to have a great time. I danced a lot to all kinds of music genres from karsilama (social style) to folkloric, to pop, and the patrons, often much younger than I were always delighted to show me moves, and delighted and surprised when I showed them some moves of my own. I learned SO MUCH from these encounters.
As for formal lesson, I had the great honor of taking a private lesson with Reyhan Tuzsuz in Romany dance. Since this is the only style she teaches, this experience was like getting water from an original spring, totally untouched by fusion. She is a bundle of warmth, enthusiasm, and pride of her heritage and background. I had the lesson in a small studio in her house, in her own neighborhood (which is vanishing because the government is demolishing the houses gradually to make room for other construction projects), and met her beautiful family. This lesson was arranged by one of her students, Jennet, an American young lady studying dance and Turkish language there. Jennet plans to bring Reyhan and her husband (an accomplished violinist) on a tour in the US next year. Keep your eyes open and if they come near you, make every effort to attend. She teaches by the "follow me" method, so you should know what to expect. But she repeats the movements and gestures often enough that you will be able to learn considerably. If I can learn under these conditions, everyone can :-). Just observing her expressions and demeanor while she dances, how all those movements we learn in workshops come together from someone who grew up doing them is totally worth the time and money. This lesson was definetely one of the main highlights of the trip for me, and one to which I had looked forward to for months and was not disappointed.