Category Archives: Signature Shows

Silk Road Journeys: Dancing across Central Asia

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Dances of the Silk Road – Sunday Nov 6th @ 5-7pm

Mill Valley Golf Clubhouse

267 Buena Vista Avenue

Mill Valley CA 94941

Ticket purchase: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2628850

Experience the exquisite joy and colorful beauty of Central Asia’s rich artistic heritage as Hannah Romanowsky presents 5 dances from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Samarkand, Bukhara, and other ancient cities of Middle Asia were once world centers of commerce and trade; and the wealth created from their strategic position along the vast network of trading routes we call the Silk Road contributed to the development of high artistic traditions, including music and dance.  Connecting the great civilizations of China and India in the east, through Persia, to Rome and Arabia in the west, the trade routes facilitated not only the transmission of precious goods, but of technology, art, and religion. The dancers and musicians of Central Asia traveled with the caravans to as far away as Chang’an (present day Xi’an) where they were immensely popular in the courts of the Tang dynasty. 

In addition to highlighting the rich cultural legacy of the history Silk Road, Hannah will address the shamanic traditions still alive in Central Asia, how pre-Islamic mystical practices intertwine with mainstream religion in these predominately Muslim countries, and what effect the Soviet era had on both art and religion.

This informative and entertaining evening will feature dance performances in traditional regalia, multi-media presentations, and an informal talk and Q&A. 

Refreshments included. Bring a potluck dish to share!

BIO: Hannah Romanowsky is an ethnochoreologist and edutainer from the San Francisco bay area specializing in women’s dances from Central and Western Asia. She has over 30 years of experience training, teaching, and performing world dance traditions, and has performed at museums and festivals throughout Asia, Europe, and North America. Hannah is founder of the DanceVersity multicultural youth arts education program and holds degrees in both Dance Ethnology and East-West Psychology.  She was a featured artist with the esteemed Ballet Afsaneh for 10 years, where she trained in Persian and Central Asian dance under the directorship of Sharlyn Sawyer. In 2011 she joined a team of dance scholar-artists as part of the Tajik Dance Initiative where she studied traditional dance in Dushanbe and the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan.

Flame of the Heart: Mystical Dance from the Middle East

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Performing artist, teacher, and dance ethnologist Hannah Romanowsky presents an evening of mystical and ritual dance inspired by the rich spiritual legacy of the Middle East, including the whirling of Sufi Mystics, the zar healing ritual practiced among women of Egypt, and the Guedra blessing ceremony of the matrilineal North African Tuaregs.

Informed by her academic background in psycho-spiritual development and consciousness studies, Hannah will follow her performances with an informal educational presentation and slide show on the history of embodied spiritual practices in the Islamic world, followed by a Q&A.

BIO: Hannah Romanowsky is an international performing artist, dance educator, and choreographer from the San Francisco bay area specializing in Middle-Eastern and Central Asian dance. A recognized Persian dance specialist, she is in high demand among the Bay Area Iranian community as a performer and teacher. With 30 years of experience training in world dance traditions, Hannah draws her aesthetic impulse from both Eastern and Western classical arts and is honored to have shared the proscenium stage with esteemed artists at museums and festivals throughout Asia, Europe, and North America; including San Francisco’s Ethnic Dance Festival at the Palace of Fine Arts, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, the British Museum in London, and the Roof of the World Festival in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan.

Hannah is Founding Director of the DanceVersity multicultural youth arts education program, and holds degrees in Dance Ethnology and East-West Psychology. At age 20 she began studying dance and music from North Africa, the Near East, and the Balkan Roma with folklorist and early Bal Anat dancer Katarina Burda, performing in Aywah! Ethnic Dance Company for many years alongside notable luminaries of the contemporary Tribal Bellydance scene. She went on to train in Silk Road dance with Sharlyn Sawyer, and has performed with Ballet Afsaneh under her directorship at some of the most prestigious venues in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Ms. Romanowsky was a founding artist of Wan-Chao Dance, an award-winning ethn0-contemporary company that draws inspiration from Chinese, Indonesian, Mongolian, and other world heritages.

An inspiring and joyful teacher, Hannah is passionate about cultivating a sense of wonder for the human impulse to dance and appreciation for the incredible reservoir of humanity’s wisdom and creativity throughout time and cultures that enriches our lives today.

Hamsa: 5 Women’s Dances from the Middle East

 

Hamsa: 4 Women's Dances from the Middle East
Hamsa: 4 Women’s Dances from the Middle East

HAMSA: 5 Women’s Dances from the Middle East

An evening of dance artistry, multimedia education and Q&A highlighting the richly diverse cultural heritages of the greater Middle East; featuring beautiful women’s dances from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.

UPCOMING DATE: Sunday September 25th at Siren’s Studio in Sebastopol. Workshops offered September 18th with optional performance opportunity.

Book now at your studio, theater, community center, or learning institution.

Can be booked as a solo show by Hannah Romanowsky, or in conjunction with workshop intensives that will culminate in an opportunity for students to perform in the show. Inquire for rates.

Producer’s Notes:

This production debuted the day after the Paris bombings in November 2015, when Europe was in the heat of the refugee crisis and many Westerners were torn between wanted to act from a place of compassion and humanity, and the impulse to protect the citizens of the EU against vast influx of immigrants from cultures whose values were different from their own. The terrorist bombings in Paris seemed to confirm for some that we have reason to be afraid.  After hearing this sad news, while putting the finishing touches on the show, I was dismayed, for a moment doubting the import of what I wanted to express.  In this time of reactionism, who is going to listen to and support my work? And why do I feel so invested in it, anyways? 

I came to the conclusion that it is exactly in times like this that we must move towards those perspectives that retain our sense of humanity. The arts are a beautiful way to connect with others who may speak different languages, dress differently, and call God by a different name. We all create, dream, and love. We all want to find the highest expression of who we are and create a better life for our family. We are all a little spark of divine spirit. It is the misguided ones that don’t understand this that cause all the trouble – and they come from many nations. Some of us are just fortunate enough -in my opinion- to be born into circumstances that support our growth through providing our basic needs; including food, shelter, safety, and the opportunity to feel valued by society. 

Hamsa is the Arabic word for 5. It is also a symbol of protection, especially for women, also referred to as the hand of Fatima. Prevelent throughout the Middle East and North Africa, where it is incorporate into jewelry and wall decorations to ward against the evil eye. the HAMSA goes all the way back to ancient artifacts in Mesopotamia related to Ishtar/Innana. Early use of the hamsa has been traced to ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). A universal sign of protection, the image of the open right hand is seen in Mesopotamian artifacts in the amulets of the Qāt Ištar/Inana. Protects women in childbirth. 

I chose this as the title of tonight’s program because I feel a personal intention of wanted to wish  protection on those that are suffering very profoundly right now in the Middle East, specifically Iraq and Syria, and those going to great lengths to protect their family and create a better life. 

I am profoundly humbled by the fact that here I am in one of the safest parts of the world able to make my living engaged in the beautiful and rich arts of the Middle East when many of those people are living under constant threat. And it touches me all more that women in many of these countries do not have the luxury of being a professional performing artist, and if they are it is often with great personal cost. 

I don’t consider these cultures as Other. I consider the heritages of these lands to be part of the heritage of humanity. The birthplace of civilization, it also the birthplace of many of the worlds great spiritual traditions and the center of where ancient knowledge was collected, translated, and spread.  Greek thought, on which the United States prides itself as being based on, came down to us through Islamic scholars of the Golden Age in Bagdad. 

I also believe this is relevant because our lives are intertwined. What happens in the Middle East affects us, as we them.

I believe if we as a nation/culture are going to throw our weight around the world, for better or worse, we have a responsibility and moral obligation to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the the places and people whose lives we profoundly impact/alter. Only then we can make wise choices. 

It is with this intention that I offer this performance tonight. It comes from my heart, and from wanting to honor the vibrant cultures that have enriched my life immeasurably.