Gala 2016: Interviewing First Year Choreographers

Clark University is hosting its 14th annual International Gala on Friday, April 1st. Make sure to check it out! 

Given the size and scope of International GALA at Clark, it’s hard to imagine someone choreographing an act for an event they have never seen before (YouTube videos aside). This year, 3 brave souls are hoping to prove to all that it can indeed be done. I sat down with two of these ladies, Bru Barrera Demicheli (B) and Lara Ibrahim (L) to find out how they planned to do this. Bru is from Spain and born to Argentine parents but is choreographing for Spain this year. Lara is Egyptian, and choreographing for Egypt.

Lara:

lara

Lara Ibrahim (Clark ’19) on Atwood stage during “hell week” (Photo by Ram Sharma)

Q) What made you decide you wanted to choreograph for GALA?

L: I decided to choreograph for GALA because I really wanted Egypt to be represented and as one of three Egyptians on campus I didn’t think anyone else would do it. Also I had very little belly-dancing experience and wanted to use this as an opportunity to learn.

Q) How do you come up with ideas for an event you’ve never been to?

L: I heard a lot about GALA from the first week at Clark and my PA told me that if I was going to do anything at Clark it would be doing as many GALA dances as possible. So I waited to hear more and when I did I started watching YouTube videos of it and started coming up with ideas for it.

Q) How do you manage the time constraints?

L: It’s very stressful balancing the time since I am in two other dances. There is a lot of pressure teaching people who have never done or seen belly dancing before. But I think I’ve done a good job at it and the dancers are very enthusiastic which helps a lot. I am really scared about hell week because I don’t’ know what that’s going to entail because I’ve heard that it’s hell (Laughs).

Q) Is there pressure to perform at a high level? Is this a country that has been represented before in GALA?

L: Egypt has not been represented at GALA over the past few years and so it’s pretty scary to be the one to do it, but then again there is nothing to compare it to so that’s a little better. At the same time, all the other GALA dances are really intense and their choreography is really good, so it’s pretty hard to work yourself up let alone 10 other people to that level.

Q) Is there pressure to represent your country? Are you the only one from this country? If yes is there additional pressure because of that, if no do you feel pressure from your fellow countrymen?

L: There is a lot of misconception about Egyptians and Arab culture in general, so I think this dance is going to a good way for me to show people that we are not all extreme Muslims and that we do know how to have a good time and that we are open minded people. I don’t feel too much pressure from the other Egyptians, one of them is helping me choreograph the dance and she’s been really helpful.

Q) Did you choreograph the dance yourself or did you use another person’s dance?

L: I had help from Amira Farouk, a senior who is Egyptian but who has lived in the USA most of her life. She has helped me a lot with the belly dancing and choreography. She has helped teaching me and the dancers the basics in the beginning, and helped me choose the right songs as she’s had experience with belly dancing. But many times she is unable to attend practices leaving me to finish and add moves, also the group of dancers helps out a lot making it more of a group effort.

Q) We know that your country has many different regions and forms of dance and music why did you choose this particular dance style and music?

L: There’s a lot of different forms of Egyptian dance but the most common one at weddings and for girls is belly dancing, and I thought that would be the most fun to learn and be different from most cultures. The first song I chose is a very common belly dancing song and the second one is a funny one from an Arab comedy that has an easy beat that I could choreograph to, and they both remind me of home.

Q) What has been the experience coordinating all the people in your dance?

L: Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating because the times that work for me are not the times that work for 10 other people. So finding a room to book and a time while competing with all the countries has been a bit hard, but people have been very flexible and even if they come late they are willing to learn. I have also posted new choreography on the Facebook page so that people can work on it at home and some people come to me for extra practices which I am willing to do, so it’s worked out in the end.

Q) Would you consider doing it again? Did you enjoy it? What would you do differently?

I would definitely consider doing GALA again, I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve gotten to know my friends much better in the process. It’s been interesting to see the difference between different choreographer’s methods from the two other dances I am dancing, which has taught me a lot. I think it’s a great way for people to get to know each other and to get involved at Clark. Next year what I would do differently is I would do more dances because initially I was sacred I would be too busy, but now I feel like I could have done more. I cannot wait for the actual event, I will not enjoy hell week for sure but I have enjoyed it overall.

Q) How will this experience help you as a person in the future?

L: I think this experience is going to help me in the future as I have become closer to new people and my friends. It’s also helped me become more confident. I’ve always loved dancing but never actually pursued it. Now that I’ve done it, I will probably pursued it more in the future. It has also helped me manage my time better.

Bru:

bru

Bru Barrera Demicheli (Clark ’19) on Atwood stage during “hell week” (Photo by Ram Sharma)

Q) What made you decide you wanted to choreograph for GALA?

B: Firstly I am from Spain and I knew it wasn’t represented last year. I also love dancing and even though my schedule is really busy, dancing is a stress reliever and I think for other people when they dance together they can have fun whether they can dance or not. Also, I am doing a mix of hip hop and flamenco because I want people to know the traditional dance but at the same time I don’t want people to think it’s boring.

Q) How do you come up with ideas for an event you’ve never been to?

B: In my high school I participated 5 times in a dance contests and I was a choreographer for that as well, which I loved. So when I heard about GALA I knew this was a chance to learn flamenco because I didn’t know flamenco. I’ve been watching YouTube videos constantly. I think when you love something and you put a lot of attention into it, ideas come really easily.

Q) How do you manage the time constraints?

B: I don’t manage time (laughs). My schedule is crazy and busy and because I have many labs, I have not much free time. I also have to give up some free time to give dancers extra time, so honestly my schedule has been a mess but it doesn’t matter. Choreographing a dance takes a lot of time and is hard, but I knew what I was getting into so it’s all good.

Q) What is it like being in charge of upper classmen?

B: At the beginning I was like “oh my god, I am a first year student, they’re older than me and I don’t want to be too bossy.” But then I thought about it, this is about dancing not age. At the beginning I was being too nice and so some people wouldn’t show up to practices because they thought I wouldn’t care. So then I started being more assertive and people started showing up more to practice. One time some girl told me that she didn’t need to come to practice because she knew everything because she had done GALA before. I had to tell her that she hasn’t done Spain before so she does need to show up. I have been dancing for 7 years and I still show up to practices when I need to dance.

Q) Is there pressure to represent your country? Are you the only one from this country? If yes is there additional pressure because of that, if no do you feel pressure from your fellow countrymen?

There is only one other Spaniard here that I know of, and he doesn’t really care so there is no pressure from him. It’s not like countries like Ghana or Bangladesh that have a lot of people to put pressure on the dance. There is a little bit of pride involved as one of the only representatives from my country, but at the same time I cannot make a very hard dance because I have 40 people dancing who expect to have fun as well as learn.

Q) What has been the experience coordinating all the people in your dance?

(Laughs) I am still trying to coordinate all 44 people, which is a lot. I knew it was going to be complicated but the people in my dance have been great. At the beginning I split the dance into two groups and some people weren’t happy about that, but eventually they understood that there are too many people to teach all at once. 70% of the dancers are sophomores and juniors who have been through GALA and they have been encouraging me which is very helpful. The practice times are really hard to coordinate, but it’s working okay.

Q) Would you consider doing it again? Did you enjoy it? What would you do differently?

I will definitely do it again, I don’t know if I’ll do Spain again. I’ll probably do Argentina next year instead of Spain. I would probably take less people next time and start thinking about the dance much earlier because this time I was making up the dance the day before the first practice. I will also get the costumes much earlier next time.

Q) How will this experience help you as a person in the future?

Choreographing for a group of people this big means that I’ve made new friends and it has helped me learn to communicate better. I know that there are many people who signed up because their friends were in the dance and not because they like dancing. So I’ve tried to keep a positive mindset about it, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I am a dancer so I always try to make my dances completely sharp, perfect and on time, but this is GALA, it’s to have fun. I thought I was going to be really stressed, but then I realized it was all about having fun, so my level of stress has gone down much lower. Also it has helped me to learn that if you push people and encourage people, they do better. So this is going to help me learn to understand people better.

Lara and Bru: See you on the 1st of April 🙂

-Ashleigh 

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