(This essay was written by Adena Bint Sherezzah, a member of the
Rising Phoenix Dancers,
in September 1998, in anticipation of attending her third
Oasis Dance Camp.)
Do you remember when you were a child, and the plan was hatched to have a slumber party (a pajama party or a sleepover, for those folks who grew up in other parts of the country)? Do you remember the excitement, the planning, the near-agony that went into making the evening, night, and next morning's entertainments perfect for your friends? All the ingredients for upset stomachs: plenty of snacks, pizza, candy, sodas. Sharing things you loved to do: playing favorite games, dressing up, dancing, singing with records or tapes. How about staying up late, and playing practical jokes on each other? Or getting up early to watch TV and eat cereal and PopTarts(TM)? And not wanting to leave that day when it was time to go home?
Now think about the first time you went to camp - weeklong, summer, Girl Scout (Boy Scout?), Girl Guides, church, computer, cheerleader, or day? Do you remember the nature walk, campfires at night and stories shared 'round it, meeting new friends you've not thought of in years? Horseback rides, s'mores, sharing secrets, learning new skills? Collecting, fishing, swimming, hiking, crafts, sewing? And not wanting to leave your new friends when it was over?
Well, if you've never been to Oasis Dance Camp, then those are the things you could recall now and have a fair idea of what fun we have. And that's how we feel, myself and my troupemates here in South Florida (and California, too!), readying our traps and treasures, photograph albums, costumes, jewelry, routines, flea market sells, and vacation schedules for Oasis Dance Camp South. It's rapidly approaching (November 4-9 at Jekyll Island, Georgia), and let us just tell you why we're so thrilled to be going....
Imagine going back to one of those camps now - a 5-night, 4-day opportunity to meet new friends and get to know good friends better. A chance for you to immerse yourself in one of your favorite pastimes -- oriental danse -- be it for fun or for your vocation. And how precious spare time is the se days to get away from your adult responsibilities and act youthful (and maybe even silly) again...
At Oasis Dance Camp, the main event of the week/end is making an in-depth study of a choreography by Cassandra (who is one of the foremost dancers in the world today), learning technique, practicing muscle control, and delving into the emotional content of the piece, too. The other half of the main event is studying a specialty with another master instructor, like Turkish Rom or Morrocan Schikkat, as in years past. This year, Angelika Nemeth is our second instructor, and boy, is she phenomenal! We had a preview of her flair and very Egyptian styling in Orlando at Festival on the Nile/May 1998. She's full of energy and passion for the dance, and brings special emotion to her performances.
All the extras that fill in around 'the main event' allow something for everyone. On opening night, you're invited to perform skits or icebreakers to help everyone settle in and loosen up. Were you always the class clown? Love to be the center of attention? Then you'll fit right in... and if you rarely let loose, here's the opportunity. It's a great way to start meeting everyone, and learn the diverse backgrounds of your fellow campers. They are an amazing bunch, these kindred spirits, and the camaraderie that develops in four days, working together, is truly special.
Another night is the costume show. Bring a 'costume under construction' and show it off; bring your best bargain, or the costume you made for the least expense or in the shortest time you ever had. This show is an opportunity to share how your troupe's latest creation evolved, brag on your own handiwork and creativity, or get some new ideas for your next endeavor!
This night is sometimes the night for the Campers' Flea Market, where you can bring those baubles, bangles, and beads that you always wanted to do something with (but always found something more interesting to do first) and sell them to other campers! You can always buy another project from someone else, or something finished, if you've sworn off "another project." Haggle and trade, bargain and have fun. You know the saying: one's junk is another one's treasure.
And yet another night is the Henna and Dance Party: a hafla! Dress in caftans and thobes, drum and dance, paint lovely henna designs on your hands and feet, and get to know your fellow campers. Peruse the books and wall decorations that make our 'tent' gracious and homey. Soak up the atmosphere of a relaxing time.
Of course, with these wonderful teachers and all the happy campers, there has to be a show, and on Saturday night, there's the best show around! All campers are encouraged to perform, and let's face it: it's the most supportive, encouraging, and enthusiastic audience you could ever have for performing a solo or making a first troupe performance. And naturally, you'll get to see your instructors perform in a small venue; there's not a bad seat in the house, and you'll feel what makes all of these women such charismatic performers.
Drumming classes (this year with Nicole leCorgne), history discussions, state-of-the-dance roundtable discussions, costume construction classes, Arabic words and phrases, late nights, early morning stretch classes; these are additional activities that make up the learning experience in which you immerse yourself for these few days. Just imagine: no diapers, no dishes, and no demands, except those you place on your body and your mind.
Are memories bittersweet? Would you live them again? Oh, Dance Sisters, won't you come make some memories with us?
Oasis Dance Camps are held each autumn in September, October, and November.