Reminiscing about Baghdad by the Bay

06/22/2018 - 22:39 PM

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When I was a little girl, my mom enrolled me in all kinds of dance classes, including jazz, tap, ballet, and modern dance (just to name a few). It was important to her that I learned as many dance forms as possible. One summer we saw an advertisement for an Al Gilbert weeklong workshop and my mom signed me up. It was a dance camp, and my mom, being curious, wanted to join me and be my roommate. At the time I was really bummed because most of the other kids got to bunk together. I wanted to be with the other kids my age, to have pillow fights at night, and gossip. Here I was, stuck with my mom each night reviewing the choreography learned earlier in the day. Nonetheless, the camp was incredible! We learned a choreography each day and at the end of the week we had a performance.  We had the opportunity to show our proud parents what we had learned. My mother had been with me for the entire process so it wasn't as much of a surprise for her, but the look on her face showed she was proud of me too.

When we returned home, my mother immediately began advertising for the first weeklong belly dance workshop. She had already produced the first all belly dance festival, "Workshop and Play at Bagdad by the Bay", where she would host and teach workshops over the weekend. Never before had an instructor organized a belly dance weeklong workshop like the one she had just experienced with me at Al Gilbert's. Feeling inspired with a fresh perspective, she changed the structure of her workshops and followed the same format as that of the dance camp: mornings consisted of technique and afternoon was choreography. She would start the weekend with her festival and then the next day (Monday) she would start her weeklong.

Needless to say, fifty years later, we are now spoiled with weeklong workshops all over the world. Today, we routinely follow this model, but back in the 1970's this idea was revolutionary. My mom would coordinate "Workshop and Play at Bagdad by the Bay", entirely on her own. Producing such an event was exhausting for her, and it took a toll on her health, both physically and mentally. However, despite the demands, I knew the entire process was incredibly rewarding for her in the end. I learned so much from these early experiences, and it is with this lens that I would later evaluate the field of belly dance. My family has always worked to align belly dance with the more technical fields of dance, by creating standards that are commonplace in the performing arts. My workshops are constantly evolving, but I continue to follow these standards to this day; they are the foundation of the Salimpour Program.
 

 

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Selected rhythms from Suhaila's Rhythm ID album, looped. Each rhythm is looped for 10+ minutes. This is a wonderful tool for teaching and for personal practice.

 

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