Eva Cernik - Photo by Fritz Penning

 

 

Eva

 Cernik

 

Throughout her life Eva has always exhibited tremendous physical prowess. As a child, she studied ballet and gymnastics extensively, and as an adult she has studied Aikido Martial Arts. These studies have provided Eva with a solid background in body movement and physical control. She first began studying Oriental dance at age nineteen with Anahid Sofian of New York, whose Turkish style was a huge influence. For the last 24 years Eva has been teaching Oriental dance continuously. She has performed and taught in Europe and the Middle East, as well as all over the United States. Although known for her Turkish Oriental dance Eva is also well trained in Egyptian Oriental, Egyptian Cane and Ghawazii, Kuwaiti traditional women's dance, Moroccan folkloric, Flamenco, Eastern European Gypsy, East Indian classical dance and Nubian dance. Years of study and performance collaboration with Master Sufi drummer, Adnan Sarhan of Baghdad, has given Eva greater insight and ability in teaching and performance, especially in dancing to drum solos. Eva has mastered the zils, Turkish spoons, veil work, sword work, floor work, Assaya, candle dancing, Sufi whirling and live snake dancing.

Eva, who speaks five different languages, is also a well-seasoned tour leader. She has been leading regular tours to Egypt and Turkey for over 14 years. These tours are extensive, with plenty of visits to ancient ruins and shopping; yet relaxing -- how about a cruise down the Nile? The highlights include dance classes by well-known local dancers. Such as Nadia Hamdi or the famous Ghawazii dancer Khairiya Maazin in Egypt. Tulay or Zinnur Karaca or maybe Turkish dance star Sema Yildiz in Turkey.

Eva has studied and worked in Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Spain, Japan and Europe, as well as visiting 12 other countries. She even worked for a year and a half with "The Erdogans" of Baghdad, a modern Turkish Oriental dance troupe. When she realized she wanted to know more about the Turkish Rroma (Gypsy) and the music they played, which so moved her spirit, she temporarily moved to Istanbul. It took time, but eventually she made friends and connections in Sulukule. This is one of the Rromani quarters of Istanbul where the best dancers and musicians have begun their careers. Her experiences there convinced her that Turkish Rromani dance and music still existed, but was in serious trouble. After years of responding to what ever their audience wanted, the Rroma were showing signs of loosing their own art form. This realization led Eva to continue her search for Rromani dance and music with an eye towards the preservation and documentation of this irreplaceable dance.

Eva, currently residing in Denver, Colorado, is well known as a producer of quality shows. These performances utilize traditional dance to live music, expressing themes concerning spirit and life. She is also a dance researcher and writer whose many articles have been published in Habibi as well as several other dance publications. Oh yeah, in her spare time she achieved a degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry!

Eva has produced 3 videos of her own performances, Eva as Dancer I, II and III. Each one as good as the last, often utilizing live music and packed full of incredible dancing. She also offers for sale videos of Turkish dancers on location in Turkey, which no one else can offer. Eva is the only western Oriental dancer I know who has video tapes available of the famous Turkish dance stars Sema Yildiz, Tulay Karaca and Burcin Orhon, with whom Eva shares a warm friendship.

If you ever get the chance to see Eva perform live, don't miss the opportunity. If you've never seen her dance at all I highly recommend you buy one of her performance videos. Whether you see her dance live or on tape you are in for a special treat. Eva is one of the best Oriental dancers of our generation. She is a consummate professional, an extremely talented and dedicated dancer who is always inspirational. Eva Cernik is truly an American Treasure!

 


Eva's Veil Class at Studio Artemis

EVA COMES TO STUDIO ARTEMIS

"Eva Cernik will be teaching a two day Master class in Turkish Oriental Dance, on Saturday, March 28th and Sunday, March 29th, 1998 at Studio Artemis, Silver Spring, Maryland."

"'Throughout my extensive stays in Turkey, researching, observing and performing Oriental dance, I have collected steps and gestures which are characteristic of Turkish Dans Oriental. I have incorporated these into a logical and beautiful choreography. These steps may be used to flavor your own style or the dance may be performed whole to represent the Turkish style. Sufi style warm-ups, which guide the breath and isolated parts, shall be introduced in the beginning. Printed choreography and taped music shall be available.'"

That's what the flier said and I was so excited I could hardly think. Eva Cernik has been my idol for years. Pronounced with a short e, ev-ah, like a very southern "never" (nev-vah) without the "n", and Chair-nic, Eva is of Czech descent. She was one of the first Turkish Oriental dancers I ever saw. About eight years ago I bought one of her performance videos and she made quite an impression on me. I had never seen energy so boundless! She danced with such incredible skill, power and spirit. She was so beautiful and strong her dancing moved me deeply. I had wanted to study with Eva for years but something always managed to get in the way. This time I was determined that nothing would stop me. So, we were off to finally meet the one and only Eva!

This workshop was being held at Studio Artemis, in Silver Spring, Maryland. This is a beautiful, small, in-home studio and one of my favorite places to visit. Over the last few years Artemis has been a generous, encouraging teacher to me and a kind loving friend. She has also been a conscientious mentor and a wellspring of spiritual inspiration, so meeting Eva at Studio Artemis held a great deal of significance for me. Not only because of the awe in which I hold Eva, but the great esteem, which I feel for Artemis. I must admit I was going with pretty high expectations of both women, but they lived up to it all. Artemis and Eva are two kindred spirits who have developed a warm and loving relationship based upon mutual respect and admiration, (Artemis herself being well known for her research and mastery of Turkish Oriental and Rromani music, culture and dance).

Eva began Saturday morning with a Sufi inspired warm up. While entrancing Mevlevi Dervish music played, Eva explained how important breath control is for dancers. It can be a magical ingredient which turns a good looking move into a great looking move, adding polish and finesse to your dance. Proper breathing also adds strength to your dancing. I once asked Eva how she maintains that tremendous level of energy she exhibits while performing, and she quickly answered that her high energy was centered in breath control. This concept was underscored later in the class when Eva taught her Zinnur Barrel Turn (named after Zinnur Karaca, a well-known dancer in Turkey). For this turn you inhale when your chest points to the ceiling, giving your ribcage extra extension, and exhale when your chest points to the floor, collapsing the abdomen, and accentuating the curve of the body. It's imperative that you breathe and breathe correctly at both points. This is when I discovered I have a tendency to hold my breath. You wouldn't think something as simple as breathing in and out would take so much concentration.

Eva's warm up led us through pelvic rocks that began in a stationary position, then traveled, then double-timed it. Once up to speed, Eva added stomach flutters. Eventually she moved the flutters to her thorax, from there to the ribcage and on down, back to stomach flutters. The key to the thorax and ribcage flutters is using the back muscles to support an open chest.

At this point Eva began to teach her choreography "Sulukule", for which she had explicit handouts. This dance is performed to a Karsilama, a lively 9/8 rhythm popular in Turkish Rromani music. Eva designed this choreography to incorporate only those movements; gestures and feelings, which she herself had seen, performed by the Rroma of Sulukule and Istanbul. At one point during the Saturday class Eva was uncertain as to the validity of a particular variation on a move. She referred to Artemis who was not only able to verify the move based on her own observations of live Rromani dance, but proceeded to give an enthusiastic demonstration. The students at this sold out workshop were fortunate to be able to draw on the knowledge of two such well-trained and experienced teachers.

We learned a great deal of material, like a hopping grapevine I've become addicted to. There was traditional Rromani gesturing with belly and arm cuts; hip, shoulder and head pounding; pot stirring, pelvic and thoracic flutters and exquisite full body and face salutations. There was even floor work with head tosses. Eva has a wonderful sense of humor as evidenced by her "Drunken Sailor" turn and when she gave a demonstration of Rromani head flutters, and lip quivers, she could hardly keep from laughing at herself. (charmingly breaking into giggles)

As with every workshop there were a few rough spots in the weekend, like Eva arriving exhausted, around one o'clock on Saturday morning, hours later than expected, because she had been bumped off of four different flights. For a while there it looked like we might have to start the Saturday class without her, but she finally made it. That would have been one long warm up! There were difficulties with the Saturday night show and the restaurant where it was held. The airport lost Eva's suitcase containing her costume for the show and most of the items she brought to sell. After much hassle and stress it was finally retrieved. Unfortunately, do to circumstances beyond my control, I had to make the decision to skip the show and dinner Saturday night. This was a big disappointment. Although I had attended several workshops at Studio Artemis, the majority taught by Artemis, she had never seen me dance except on video. I had my heart set on seeing Eva dance in person, and I had wanted Eva to see me dance too, because even though we'd never actually met face to face, she and I had been corresponding by mail for several years and I considered myself one of her very long distance students. This was my first opportunity to dance for two women who had taught me a great deal. To try to give back to them some of the pleasure they had given to me and I so wanted them to be proud of me. I was very sad not to go, but I enjoyed hearing that Eva's performance completely blew everyone away. The audience was astounded at her skill and dexterity on the infamous table top stage, which Artemis explained was a tiny table with a board nailed on top, surrounded by booths which had to be climbed over to reach the "stage". It sounded like some sort of Olympic Belly Dance competition!

On Sunday Eva began with another Sufi inspired warm up focusing on body waves and segueing nicely into veil work. Almost 20 people dancing veil in a small studio can be very challenging but Eva insisted everyone try. At first it was awkward with everyone extending their arms at the same time while moving around the room, material flying. However it wasn't long before everyone relaxed, interacted better with their veils, and learned to fill the space between each other. Eva then divided the class up into threes, like the strands of a braid, and taught a wonderful figure eight floor pattern which when danced with veils was just beautiful. It reminded me of a Maypole dance or a dance of the Greek Muses. She then demonstrated a veil technique she calls the "Cone". Holding the veil in front of you with one arm extended over your head and the other arm held down with the veil crossing your body, spin in a continually reversing paddle turn while moving the lower hand in a figure 8 pattern. A bit difficult to explain but breathtaking with two different colored veils. Eva made a point of going to each individual student to make sure they understood the mechanics of the move. She then taught the class a clever way of wrapping the veil around you, framing the head, but leaving one arm free to gesture or frame the face. Then how to remove yourself from it and reverse the veil at the same time.

Regretfully it was about here that I had to stop and say my good-byes. As is usual for a workshop at Studio Artemis we had made new friends, bought a lot of goodies, enjoyed Artemis hospitality and all things considered, had a wonderful time. Eva was everything I'd hoped she'd be, beautiful, gracious, personable (she told some wonderful stories), patient, knowledgeable, talented and funny. I can't wait for another opportunity to study with Eva Cernik. Just watching her move in class was a joy. Opa, Eva, Opa!

For more information on Eva's guided tours "Dreaming about Egypt" and "Delightful Turkish Tours", or for a listing of her available merchandise, contact Eva at:

EVA CERNIK
419 South Sherman Street
Denver, CO 80209
http://home.earthlink.net/~evacernik/

 

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This page last modified: December 22, 2005