Elizabeth Artemis Mourat

Elizabeth

Artemis

Mourat

Artemis has been dancing, teaching and researching dance history in the United States and abroad for over 25 years. She brings her spirited and articulate technique to workshops which include a lecture on the history and/or culture that generates the dances she teaches. Artemis has contributed to many publications. Extensive travel to 33 countries and intensive research into the idioms of the East, women's issues, psychology, ancient history, oriental dance and dance ethnology have yielded many manuscripts and articles. She has an MA in psychology, an MSW in social work (with a specialization in cross cultural awareness) and has done postgraduate work in dance movement therapy. Her research is being used by Egyptian universities, the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC, and the Library for the Performing Arts in New York.

When the famous Egyptian Shammadan dancer Nadia Hamdi made her first tour of the United States, I was fortunate enough to attend her workshop in Richmond VA. This was one of my first really big workshops and I was nervous about looking like a beginner. I was excruciatingly shy and hoping desperately to make some new dance friends because there weren't that many dancers in our area and I was the only one I knew at that time who's true passion was Turkish Oriental, and Rrom music and dance in particular.

Now I'm sure you're wondering what Nadia Hamdi has to do with Turkish Oriental dance. Well first let me say Nadia was incredible. I had never seen any thing like her in person. Nadia is the stuff of legends. Her dance is wonderful but her personality and spirit are astoundingly beautiful. I know there wasn't a woman there who was not impressed and moved by this incredible Egyptian Treasure! I hope to attend one of her workshops again soon. I will never forget her and all she taught us.

Nadia worked us hard although she worked twice as hard as we did. I did occasionally wonder if I was keeping up, but I just stayed focused on Nadia and tried to keep up for as long as I could. I was out for the count by mid- afternoon and felt somewhat a failure because I didn't have the stamina to last to the end of the day.

That night there was a lovely show, starring Nadia of course, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly except for my shyness, which kept me from introducing myself to other dancers. Then during intermission, an extremely attractive woman came over to me and introduced herself. Her name was Artemis and she explained that she was a professional Belly Dancer of long experience who danced in the Turkish style.

She was a vision, a Goddess standing in front of me. I remember thinking she was one of the most beautiful women in the room. And I knew who she was. She had been a dancer on one of the first dance videos I ever had. Her hair was very short in the video and very long now, but I recognized her instantly. She had been the first dancer I had ever seen dance Turkish style and I had fallen in love with her from the minute I first saw her and now here she was standing in front of me, speaking. I was so stunned I could barley hear what she was saying. In typical Artemis fashion she wasn't talking about herself she was talking about me. She said she had watched me during the workshop and had wanted to come over and tell me how well she thought I had done and to introduce herself and offer some encouragement. She even complemented me on how long I lasted in class. She said Nadia was so good she even gave the extremely fit professionals a workout for their money.

Artemis has a habit of noticing people whom she suspects could benefit from a few kind words. She's special that way. Always trying to make someone else feel good about themselves. That was the beginning of what has become a beautiful friendship and I will always be grateful for her generosity and kindness.

For the past twenty-five years Elizabeth Artemis Mourat, "Artie" to her friends, has been researching, dancing and teaching dance history, both in the United States and abroad. She dances predominantly in the Turkish style and is creating quite a name for herself as a conservator, instructor and performer of Turkish Oriental and Rromani Dance.

Artemis' workshops are wonderful. She packs a lot of information in to a short amount of time, yet she explains things well. She has well prepared handouts and the moves and gestures she teaches are simple to understand and easy to execute with a little practice. Workshops include a lecture on the history and/or culture that generates the dances she teaches. Artemis has a prepared slide show, which is beautifully illustrated, drawing heavily from her large collection of antique postcards and images. She goes in to great detail on the history of the Turkish Rroma and her research is very sound, based on many years work involving research and extensive travel abroad. She's made many trips to Turkey and you can see how much respect she has for the people she studies.

As a teacher, Artemis is always enthusiastic and inspiring. A knowledgeable and confident professional, she has a wicked sense of humor and is the first to laugh at herself and never acts like "the Queen Bee". In fact Artemis can always be counted on to seek out the weakest dancer with warm encouragement and a little one on one, as the story of our introduction well illustrates. She is without a doubt the sweetest woman I think that I have ever met.

A genuine love of history and of Rromani culture has led Artemis to performances which usually incorporate both Turkish Oriental style and theactricalised versions of Rromani costumes and dance, including the use of Turkish Spoons, heavy emphasis on Karsilama, and awe-inspiring traditional circle skirts made from 14 yards of material. One of Artemis latest costume ideas draws its inspiration from history and current examples. It's a bright multi-tiered skirt, with a blouse and belt traditionally worn by men. Leave it to Artemis to have the imagination and sense of humor to recreate the costumes worn by the male dancers who were dressed as female dancers during the period in Turkish history when women were forbidden to dance. She's a woman dressed as a man, dressed as a woman. Very creative.

In performance Artie is astounding because her joy in dancing shines out the minute she begins. She can really produce the high energy that Turkish requires as well as the languid sensuality, and her Rromani gestures are authentic and very evocative. I could happily watch her dance for hours.

When she dances veil, Artemis' gentle and passionate nature is evident in every turn and swirl. She is ever youthful, yet refined. She exudes a maturity and confidence that only experience can bring, which gives her the strength to blow across the stage like a hot Sirocco wind or gently waft by like the sweetest breath of a prayer.

When Artemis dances fast Karsilama, with zils so fiery hot you expect to see sparks, her strength of character and impish good humor send her flying across the dance floor fueled by the inexhaustible energy which comes from her love of life.

When she dances slow Karsilama her Rom enflamed heart breaks and bleeds in floorwork and then throws it's head up high in defiance of a hard life and shares it's happiness at one more day in the warm sun and one more night of dancing with family and friends! OPA!

When I experience Artemis dancing her Ancient Dance based on her research in to the ancient dances of Egypt, Greece, Crete and Rome, I hear whispers of important things spoken of long ago. Remembered, yet not remembered, and spoken of again by this beautiful woman, who is reaching out to all women, as did the Priestesses of old using the language of dance.

 

Artemis's Turkish Gypsy Workshop
by Shibar

It's not often in life that you get a chance to see a fantasy come true. Not only did I see my fantasy realized, but it was everything I'd hoped for and more. I'm referring to a wonderful two day workshop taught by Yasmin and Artemis, March 9th and 10th at Artemis's beautiful in-home studio in Silver Spring, Maryland. Yasmin taught Egyptian style oriental dance, with cane and make-up instruction on Saturday. On Sunday we had a full day of Turkish Gypsy dance history and culture taught by Artemis, who has been researching Turkish Gypsy dance history for nearly a decade in both the US and Turkey.

I won't go into detail about Yasmin's excellent Egyptian class, as I understand someone else is already writing a review, but I will say I learned a great deal and can't wait for this very knowledgeable teacher's next workshop.

I have always been drawn to Turkish style and have longed to study it for years, so I was very excited about attending Artemis's workshop. There were dancers from all over-Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. We started with a thorough warm-up which left us feeling energized and ready for anything.

The first choreography we learned was a theatricalized version of Turkish Rromani (Gypsy) dance, which emphasized skirt gesturing, and was performed to the song "Mastika". It was so simple to pick up, but oh so beautiful. Artemis had prepared hand-outs with the choreography broken down for either solo or troupe performance. She had first discussed the karsilama, a 9/8 rhythm very prominent in Turkish music, and its correct pronunciation. (KAR as in car, SHILL as in shilling, and AMA as in mama without the 'm'.) We also learned several Zil patterns, along with the definitions of the songs used in the workshop and some tips on how to shop for Turkish music.

We then enjoyed a very educational lunch (entertainment with your meal). Artemis presented a history lecture describing the dancing of the Turkish Rroma from the 16th century until the present. We were shown a slide show of about 150 different slides, many of which had come from Artemis's own antique picture collection. She discussed instrumentation and costumes. It was fascinating to sit and listen to her talk about subjects she knew so well, and obviously loved. Artemis also showed us a video tape of actual Turkish Rroma dancing in a reenactment of a wedding henna party, and an absolutely gorgeous Turkish Rom cabaret dancer, who was strength, beauty, and passion incarnate!

Artemis explained how the Rroma have always been victims of racism. We discussed stereotypes, myth breaking and separating fact from fiction about the Rroma. Even little things can be important, for example we should discontinue the use of the slang word, "gyp" as in "That guy 'gypped' me!" This perpetuates the myth of the untrustworthy "gypsy".

The second piece of choreography we learned utilized the slow karsilama, with the steps and gestures done exclusively by the Turkish Rroma. The song was Aglama Anacigim, which is a soulful piece, sung by a Rromani woman who declares her right to cry for her sorrows. Again the gestures and steps were fairly easy to learn but so powerful, beautiful and fun. I think the best description of the depth of emotion necessary in this passionate dance was, "Turkish dancers sweat--Egyptian dancers glisten."

Artemis had tapes available that had both of the songs used in the class along with other Turkish music and goodies, including a "bazaar" in her living-room. I've already worn out my slow karsilama tape!

To really round out the workshop week-end we had the opportunity to go to the Casablanca restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia and watch Yasmin and Artemis in performance. Artemis opened the show in an 18th century Turkish Rromani costume, with a dance featuring the karsilama rhythm. She utilized both hand gestures and a few of the swirling skirt gestures which she would teach the next day in class. If you've never seen Artemis dance you're missing something magical. Her many years of study are obvious but what really comes out is her spirit, her strong passionate nature, the real "Gypsy" in her soul. I could watch her for hours.

Yasmin was next. Her confidence, poise, and joy characterize her movements, which are in pure Egyptian style. The play of lights on her Madam Abla was mesmerizing, as was her cane work.

The lovely Adena performed after Yasmin and her sword work and zil playing were electrifying. I was thrilled since I had not known that she would be performing that night. All three of these ladies seemed like celebrities, since they had all danced for me in my living-room on the video tape, Lifting The Veil Of Time.

Artemis's final performance was a real "show stopper". She wore an entrancing turquoise cabaret costume from Turkey. Her Turkish Oriental style show was energetic, exciting and definitely inspiring. Although the Turkish and Egyptian styles are very different, they both are equally beautiful, either to watch or dance. I was thoroughly captivated all evening.

For me it really was a "fantasy come true" weekend. So, Artie, when did you say the next workshop would be?

 

Articles and Manuscripts By Artemis

THE ILLUSIVE VEIL - Sixteen years of research yielded this manuscript which describes many aspects of the veil. Topics include: the veil as an item of clothing, a means of oppression, Islam and the veil, ancient people who veiled, ancient Christians who veiled, the veiling of men, the history of the bridal veil, the veiling of holy objects and those with divine wisdom, the veil in ritual and dance, veiling and spiritual transformation, veil dancing and the initiation rites of the cult of Dionysus, veil dancing in ancient Greece, the dance of seven veils, the veil and oriental dance, veil dancing in North Africa and the antique pictures of women from North Africa and the Middle East. (200 pages)

THE ANCIENT DANCES OF EGYPT - This research describes the religious, festival, combat, harem, and banquet dances, as well as dances of the common people and the wandering performance troupes. Descriptions of the costuming, instrumentation and the evolution of these dances are provided. (56 pages, 34 illustrations)

GYPSY (ROM) DANCING - SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION - This manuscript addresses the truth about Gypsies (Rroma) and their dances, the need to define terms, how to increase our awareness about the Rroma, the dangers of stereotyping, the racism that plagues the Rroma and what we can do to help, how to find good workshop instructors and a resource guide for those who want to learn about authentic Rromani dance, history and culture. (36 pages, 18 illustrations)

THE ART OF TAKSEEM - Topics include: the nature of takseem and all slow dancing, the pros and cons of choreographing, how to make your dancing a living art form, how to talk to musicians and how to familiarize yourself with the music. Included are ten techniques for increasing your dance vocabulary, how to make your dance more visually appealing and what to do when you are performing and you "freeze up" and cannot think of the many steps that you know.

GIGUE SHEETS - This packet contains everything you need to know to book a dancing job, 25 copies of the specially designed "Gigue Sheets" which have all the pertinent information at a glance and the "Forget Me Not Checklist" reminds you of everything you will need to pack for a successful dancing job.

THE COPTS AND THEIR ORPHANS - A brief history of this ancient Egyptian Christian religion and the plight of their orphans today.

STANDARDIZING OUR WAGES - Describes the need for solidarity within our dance community regarding demands for decent wages.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO KILL YOURSELF TO BE HEALTHY - A series of articles about health, exercise and fitness. Part I is a guide to exercise videos, Part II describes other aspects of health and fitness.

FLOOR PATTERNS - Series of articles about the floor patterns that we can create in our dancing.

CRITICISM - THE CLOAKED COMPLIMENT - Article about the dynamics behind dancers' abusive behavior towards each other.

TOP TWENTY CLUB CLICHES - List of the typical "lines" and cliches that club owners tell us and what they really mean.

ESMA, REIGNING QUEEN OF GYPSY (ROM) MUSIC - Article about this world famous Rromani singer, her life, her philanthropic activities, her museum and her orphans.

IN SEARCH OF TURKISH GYPSIES (ROMA) - An account of some of Artemis's field research in Turkey.

THE ORIGINS OF BELLY DANCING - A perspective on the origins of oriental dance.

PLEASE DON'T CALL US "GYPSIES" - Article about the word "Gypsy" and why this group does not like the term.

PLEASE DON'T CALL ME ROM - A moving article by Sani Rifati, a Rom (Gypsy) political activist, who addresses racism and his people.

RACISM AND SEXISM IN EARLY ANTIQUE POSTCARDS - Lavishly illustrated account of the messages portrayed in the antique postcard industry of colonial North Africa and the Middle East.

For more information on Turkish Gypsy Dance, Roma, or any of the above listed workshops, articles or manuscripts, contact Elizabeth Artemis Mourat at 2945 Woodstock Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910. Also see http://www.serpentine.org/artemis/artemis.htm.

 

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This page last modified: March 12, 2007