June 2007/Volume IV

Student Spotlight: Oxana!!!

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*** Oxana Tokarchuk ***

With her sweet disposition, Oxana is a pleasure to instruct and perform with. Her delicate yet sharp isolations and infectious smile make her dance a true joy to behold.

Oxana was born in Russia and moved with her family to the Ukraine. After graduating with a degree in finance, she decided to travel a bit and found herself in Italy. It was there that she began studying Middle Eastern dance with a local Italian dancer who structured her classes to be a meditative and fun loving social outlet for women. Oxana studied bellydance for four years during which she performed group and solo performances. She then decided to come to the States to study at Economics at UCSD. She enrolled in the bellydance class held at UCSD's Recreation Department and continued fostering her love for this dance form.

One year later, Oxana still takes the UCSD class as well as Wednesday (Beginning) and Saturday (Intermediate) classes with Vilia. She was excited to attend the recent San Diego workshop with Suhaila Salimpour and was invited to perform with the HipSlingers at the subsequent showcase.

Oxana's next show will be this month at Claire de Lune with Middle Earth! Unfortunately, this will be a farewell performance for Oxana as she will be returning to Italy at the end of this month. However, plans for her return in September are in the works! We will miss her while she's gone, but in the meantime, don't miss Oxana's unique and beautiful style on Thursday, June 21st at Claire de Lune. Show starts at 8PM and features three additional dancers from the San Diego area. Cover is just $5!

Glutes Demystified...

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With the Suhaila workshop behind us, I have now had time to reflect on my goals in this dance form. Of course there are the spiritual and mental goals but even more pressing are the physical goals which so annoyingly emerged while attempting to master the various isolations upon isolations demanded by the Suhaila dance format. And then of course there is the coveted "glute" shimmy made famous most recently on "You Tube" as well as The Ellen Degeneres Show. View Clip Here!

Those of you unfamiliar with the "Glute Shimmy" phenomenon, Suhaila is the one who created and mastered this movement. Where hip movement had always been taught as a simple bending and straightening of the knees, Suhaila decided she would have a helluva lot more freedom to interpret the music with her body if she could achieve hip movements (aka shimmies) by using her glutes so as not to rely on her feet, hamstrings and quads. Not to mention the wear and tear it would save on her knees.

Years of practice later (she started routinely squeezing her glutes an hour a day to Prince's Purple Rain album when she was 14), Suhaila can now vibrate her glutes achieving a perfect, double time shimmy without relying on her feet/legs etc... In other words, try sliding down into a second position split while shimmying with your knees!

So how does one achieve such a feat? Well, tons of practice in the form of glute squeezing wherever and whenever you can. Suhaila suggests an hour a day of practice for one year. This might sound incredibly out of reach for those of us who crave immediate gratification. However, in order to have this dance form taken seriously, we have to accept and welcome the fact that there are some techniques that will require time and hard work to achieve. After all, it takes five straight years of ballet practice before one can even think about acquiring the ankle and arch strength necessary to dance en pointe! Why should it be any different for Middle Eastern dance?

So...is Suhaila a freak of nature or can others achieve the "glute shimmy"? Apparently, a handful of her dancers have achieved it. However, Suhaila did admit that her two closest proteges, Kendra and Tiffany were having trouble. After so many years of daily practice and teaching of Suhaila's format, why were these dancers not able to achieve their goal? It took some detective work by Suhaila's physical therapist to determine that the Iliotibial Band was a likely culprit.

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** The IT Band **

The Iliotibial or IT Band is defined as, "a superficial thickening of tissue on the outside of the thigh, extending from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee, and inserting just below the knee. The band functions in coordination with several of the thigh muscles to provide stability to the outside of the knee joint." There is a whole syndrome associated with the IT Band (ITBS) which is often suffered by runners and is characterized by pain in the knee.

So what does this have to do with the glutes? Well, if this band gets too tight from various exercises involving repetitive flexion of the legs as in running, cycling etc... it can not only cause knee problems, but can prevent the full contraction of the gluteus muscles when attempting to do glute squeezes!

Since Tiffany was a former long distance runner prior to her training with Suhaila, this seemed to make sense. So what to do about loosening up this IT Band? Well fortunately there are a number of stretches designed to remedy the situation (Check out www.howtostretch.com/iliotibi.htm). However, Suhaila recommends the use of a foam roller (prescribed by her PT) which you use to literally roll out your IT band by laying on top of it, while positioned on your side. Slowly roll your leg up and down the roller, pausing for up to 20 seconds at each sore area along your outer thigh. This can be extremely painful for a beginner, but the pain will ease up the more time you commit to it. Suhaila's prescriptin is to roll out your IT band once a day for 5 repetitions (that's 5 times up and down the roller).

You can purchase various sized rollers online (www.ptmart.com) or at some sporting goods stores for a reasonable price. I got mine for just 5 bucks! It is compact and easily fits into my gym bag. Larger ones are also available if you would like to use it for other body parts such as the back, neck, shoulders, calves and hip flexors. By the way, professional ballet dancers have been using these rollers for years!

I've been "rolling" now for the last couple of weeks and I can tell you it was extremely painful at first but after a few days I find that I now look forward to stretching and loosening up that tissue...especially after a work out. Check out this PDF file for more detailed pictures and descriptions of how to use the roller for the IT Band and other parts of the body:


Happy Rolling!

Upcoming Events...

********** SHOWS! **********

Friday, June 1st, 15th and 29th, Sunday, June 10th & July 13th & 27th - Vilia will be performing at the Marrakesh Restaurant in La Jolla. Enjoy an exotic Moroccan dining experience featuring two dance shows (7:30PM/9PM). Reservations recommended.

Friday, June 8th - Vilia performs at Armenian Cafe in Carlsbad. Enjoy two dance shows (7PM/8:30PM) with live music by Tatool and John Bilezikjian! See side bar for location information.

Friday, June 15th - Jennifer performs at Armenian Cafe in Carlsbad. Enjoy two dance shows (7PM/8:30PM) with live music by Tatool and John Bilezikjian!

Thursday, June 21st - Oxana performs at Claire de Lune featuring live music with drummer Frank Lazzaro and Middle Earth! Show starts at 8PM and features 3 additional dancers from the San Diego area. $5 Cover. See side bar for location information.

Friday, June 22nd, Jennifer performs at Zorba's Greek Buffet. Enjoy live music, great food and four dancers! Seating is at 7:30PM..show starts at 8PM. (Chula Vista)

Tuesdays - Jennifer performs at Marrakesh in La Jolla. First show starts around 7:30PM. Reservations recommended.

** See the "Relevant Links" column to the right for restaurant websites and location information. **


For Detailed Class Descriptions
Click Here!

Middle Eastern Dance Basics
Sat 11:30-1PM
UCSD Rec Center
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 534-3772
Registration Form (pdf)

Beginning/Intermediate Technique
Wed 7:30-9PM
La Jolla YMCA Firehouse
7877 Herschel Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037

Intermediate/Advanced Performance & Technique
Sat 2:00-3:30PM
Stage 7
3980 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92104

Private Coaching by Appointment


** Existing Students ** Bring a friend to class and receive your class FREE!

** All Students ** Purchase a 6-class card and receive a FREE half-hour private coaching session valid for six months.