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Thread: Aziza

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    Aziza has been dancing since age three with a strong background in classical ballet. After twelve years of ballet, Aziza began experimenting with other dance forms including: African, modern, lyrical jazz, and Tahitian. In 1988 she was introduced to Middle Eastern dance and found it to be an ideal medium. Aziza now travels and performs professionally throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Europe. She competes regularly and holds claim to four titles. Aziza has had bookings ranging from weddings to conventions, intimate parties to large gatherings. Aziza has also enjoyed giving her time and talent to many charity functions including; American Diabetes Association, Cascade Aids Project, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Human Rights Campaign Fund, and others. She is based in Portland, Oregon USA.

    Azizaís interview

    Jennifer James
    How did you become a Middle Eastern artist?

    A girlfriend of mine was too embarrassed to go to her class alone, so she begged me to go with her. Iíd been interested for a while before that. I remember seeing a bellydancer in a James Bond movie with a bullet in her bellybutton and I liked the whole mysterious image.

    What funny experience comes to mind?

    I actually did singing telegrams my first year as a student dancer so I could get private lessons. The woman who owned the telegram business was my bellydance teacher and gave me free lessons for doing telegrams for her. So one day I had a Reeserís processing plant telegram and they made me wait in a walk-in cooler. I found myself shivering in this room surrounded by these huge vats of guacamole and macaroni & cheese. I didnít think it could any weirder than that.

    Any other experiences that come to mind?

    Well itís not a funny one and I donít know why it came to mind. But one night I was in a big rush to get ready to perform at this restaurant. I was getting ready in a back room and it was really tiny. They shouted to me that I was next and I turned around and stepped on my hot curling iron! So I limped out to the stage and went on with my best smile. Then I realized that the lady who was on stage before had some beads break off her costume and they were grinding into my scorched foot. I was dancing as the glass was grinding into my feet and I had tears coming down my face. People thought I was getting all emotional about the music. When I was really being tortured.

    Ouch! So, besides a good sweeping to the stage, what you hope to contribute to the Middle Eastern arts community?

    Well, I guess Iíd like to bring it to the awareness of the masses, raise standards, change misconceptions and improve the respectability of the art by presenting myself professionally. I also feel like I have a responsibility to teach younger dancers what I wish I wouldíve known when I first started dancing, like etiquette and inter-dancer communication skills. I want to make it easier for them to join the Middle Eastern dancers community. There are some things that dancers take for granted when theyíve been dancing for a long time. Tipping, when itís not appropriate, what goes to the band and other things.

    That really sounds like a goal that many dancers are working toward today. Actually, Bhuz is also working toward this goal.

    OK, now to change the subject a bit. Tell me about your trip to Cairo

    A friend of mine, who is a drummer, was asked to record a CD in Cairo and invited me along. It was really exciting to watch that process. It was being recorded in a famous studio called Studio Amar. While I was there I met Saiid Artist and hung out with him and had my picture taken with him.

    One night when we were out I was asked on the stage to dance with Ihab Toufiq, a popular singer there. That was fun.

    I also had some lessons from Raqia Hassan.

    How was she?

    It was intimidating at first. But I picked up on her teachings and style a little. I was also secretly happy with her complements on my dancing. I donít want to sound conceded, but it makes you feel good when someone of her caliber says good things about you.

    During that time I had a costume designed by Madame Amira, head honcho of Pheronics design label. Itís the gorgeous blue dress in my photos on Bhuz. I had a lot of problems getting it back into the US because itís so heavy with beads. US and the customs in Amsterdam thought for sure that there was something else inside of it.

    You also met the dancer Dina?

    Yes. It was very interesting to see her live because the videos Iíve seen of her were about 5 years old. Her style was very distinct. I liked itÖ Very sexy. She had a 28 piece orchestra and had four costume changes in her performanceÖ I wasnít impressed with her costumes though.

    One of the best shows I saw was by a dancer Iíd never heard of named Suhair. She had a 35-piece orchestra and her performance had a lot of Saeidi and Malaya Leff. She was Eygptian and had LONG hair down to her butt. She had the singer come down and sing to her like he was a fisherman and she was a mermaid. She used her veil like a net. This was in the same place that Dina performed.

    What struck me about Egypt was the size of the bands and the excellent quality of the music. It was everywhere. I just wish there were more dancers. I wasnít even able to find recorded music or videos there. They only had older videos of Nagua Fouad and Suhair Zaki.

    You were asked to dance on a new boat?

    Raqia Hassan arranged for me to audition for a dancing position on a brand new floating hotel called Al Saraya. It was very opulent! It was ready to open but they just needed a feature dancer.

    So you auditioned?

    Yes. They offered me a year contract but I wasnít able to take it. We were still negotiating the terms when I realized it wouldnít be possible for me to stay. I didnít want to stay there on my own because my friend wasnít able to stay with me. I donít speak Arabic and the issues of living overseas for that amount of time were enough to bring me home. But it was thrilling to be offered the job.

    Anything else youíd like to say about your trip?

    It was very helpful having an Arabic speaking person with me. It really opened doors. I think a lot of my experiences were due to having someone who could make the connection for me and understand what was going on.

    It was just a really magical trip and I canít wait to go back. The question is when!
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