Yasmina Ramzy is revolutionary choreographer and visionary committed to the evolution of Bellydance as high art. After many years of performing throughout the Middle East for royalty and heads of state, Yasmina Ramzy founded the critically acclaimed Arabesque Dance Company and Orchestra, Arabesque Academy and the International Bellydance Conference of Canada (IBCC). She received her key training from leading masters in Egypt and Syria including Aida Nour of the Reda Troupe and Mohammed Khalil, director of the National Folklore Troupe of Egypt.
Her unique and highly creative choreographies have won numerous awards and
Yasmina is invited to teach and perform regularly in over 60 cities on five continents. She has produced 8 instructional DVDs, 8 performance DVDs and 7 CDs that sell worldwide. The "Ask Yasmina" column which is published in the world's largest Bellydance magazine,The Gilded Serpent, is translated into several languages.
Yasmina is well known for elevating the status of Middle Eastern dance as high art and conveying its relationship with Arab music and culture. She is a member of the Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists and has served on the Board of Directors for Dance Ontario since 1996.
Bassam Bishara – Musicality, Improvisation
Prof. Bassam Bishara was born in Ramah village, upper Galilee, Palestine in 1954. He began his early training in Middle Eastern Oude at the Academy of Music in Hafia and at the University of Jerusalem. He eventually went on to teach in private schools and formed a Middle Eastern Orchestra quickly becoming sought after throughout Palestine. In 1983, he was appointed Music Director for Alhakawati Theatre in Jerusalem, where his concerts, music and songs were dedicated to the Palestine cause. He has toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States performing with an orchestra and as a soloist. Now living in Canada, he composes and records music for many artists including Arabesque Dance Company. He is the lead vocalist, oude and violin player as well as musical director for Arabesque and is professor of Midde Eastern Music at York University.
Suleiman Warwar – Musicality, Improvisation
Suleiman Warwar was born in Nazareth, Palestine in 1977. He began playing Arabic Tablah or Dumbek at age 6. The self-taught musician was the lead Dumbek player in his high school orchestra in Nazareth and performed traditional and modern musical pieces around the country. Suleiman immigrated to Canada in 1995 where he was introduced to Latin American, African, Turkish and many other types of music. As well as traditional Arabic percussion including Dumbek, Duff, Katim and Riqq, Suleiman also plays Bongos, Congas and Djembe. His innovative style of drumming has led him to play with such artists as Bassam Bishara, George Wasouf and in various peace movement events. Suleiman is a sought after master dumbek artist who is invited around the world to teach. He is the lead dumbek player for the Arabesque Dance Company Orchestra and has composed many popular drum solos available on his CD entitled "Beyond Rhthym" and the Arabesque Dance Company CDs entitled "Nawaem", Asala 1 and Asala 2.
Dr. George Sawa – Musicality, Improvisation
George Sawa was born in Alexandria , Egypt in 1947. He studied Classical Arabic music at the Higher Institute of Arabic Music specializing in qanoon, voice and theory. After immigrating to Canada in 1970, he studied ethno-musicology and obtained his doctorate in Historical Arabic Musicology at the University of Toronto. He has taught medieval, modern and religious Middle Eastern Music at York University and the University of Toronto, and is the author of "Music Performance in Early Abbasid Era 750-932AD" published in 1989.
George Sawa has given numerous concerts and lecture demonstrations at universities, museums and art galleries in Europe and North America He has been teaching at Arabesque Academy, School of Middle Eastern Dance and Music Arts since 1995 and regularly teaches alongside Yasmina Ramzy in many dance workshops. He was awarded the 1990 Ontario Folk Arts Recognition Fellowship for his performances and lecture demonstrations on the qanoon. George served as a performer, composer and music coach in R. Murray Schafer's RA in Toronto (1983) and Holland (1985). As well as serving as the Musical Director for the Egyptian exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, George has arranged music for and directed the musicians of the Arabesque Dance Company Orchestra since 1996 where he also plays the qanoon and naye in all of their performances.
Robert Desrosiers – Movement
Robert Desrosiers is well known as one of Canada's most innovative and imaginative choreographers. He was a member of the National Ballet of Canada during the 1971-1972 season before pursuing a career as an independent dance artist. In this capacity he has worked with numerous other artists and companies, including Felix Blaska, Hugo Romeo, Ballet Y's, Dancemakers, Toronto Dance Theatre and Lindsay Kemp. Desrosiers also has collaborated with several Canadian artists, including Dan Solomon, Leonard Cohen, Toller Cranston and Bruce Cockburn. In 1980, he formed Desrosiers Dance Theatre in Toronto. He was awarded the first Jacqueline Lemieux Prize for his innovative choreography. One of his most famous works, Blue Snake, commissioned by the National Ballet of Canada in 1985 won the Jean A. Chalmers Award for Choreography. The work premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in 1988. The Calgary Olympic Arts Festival commissioned Desrosiers to create a full-length work for the Calgary Winter Olympics. For the Glory of Mozart Festival in Toronto, Desrosiers was commissioned to choreograph Full Moon. More recently, Desrosiers worked on a film by Robert Altman featuring Neve Campbell entitled The Company. In 2007, Desrosiers created Rendezvous for Ballet Jorgen.
Sashar Zarif – Creative Movement/Persian Dance
Sashar Zarif, BFA, MA, PhD Cand. Middle Sex University, UK. (those studies currently on hold) Artistic director of SasharZarifDanceTheatre/ Joshgoon, The Canadian Academy of Azerbaijani Dance/ Dancers for Peace International Festival and Centre for Dance Studies. Inspired by a strong artistic family background, recipient of numerous awards for his excellence in arts, Sashar Zarif is an internationally renowned multi-disciplinary artist, educator, and researcher in the field of dance ethnology and ethno musicology based in Toronto, Canada.
He received his formal academic training in performing arts at the Azerbaijan Conservatory of Music and Dance where he was awarded the honorary title of "Artist for People of Azerbaijan". He continued his Bachelor (Fine Art, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Performing Arts) and Master (Arts-Dance), degree at York University in Toronto. Zarif has studied various forms of dance and music including Uzbek, Tadjeek, Persian, Georgian, Chechen, Afghan, Middle Eastern, Flamenco, Bharatanatyam, and Lezginka. He is a part time faculty at the Dance Department teaching "Fundamentals of Dance Performance" and "Introduction to World Dance Practices: Dances of North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia" and Fine Arts Cultural Studies teaching "Performing Arts in Global Perspective" at York University.
Among many other fields, Sashar specializes in the filed of Sufi and Shamanic dance rituals of Near and Central Asia. Through many years of fieldwork and study he has been able to share the result of his research and creativity internationally by teaching and performing across the globe. His accomplishment in this field has brought him golden opportunities such as his collaborative project/performance with internationally renowned, singer, Alim Qasimov from Azerbaijan and Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali, the prodigious nephews of legendary qawwali master, Nusret Fateh Ali Khan. He has collaborated with many well known artists such as Holly Small, Carol Anderson, Keiko Kitano, Soheil Parsa, Terrill Maguire, Anne Bourn, Suba Shankaran to name a few. Sashar and Susan Cash have been collaborating on a number of cultural, global projects that are revealing intriguing creative results.
Karen Louise Parker – Character Portrayal
Karen Parker is a Toronto based actor. She was most recently seen performing on the Second City Toronto Mainstage where she co-created their much anticipated 62nd Revue, BARACK TO THE FUTURE.
Karen also co-created and performed in The Second City's very successful 60th and 61st reviews, FACEBOOK OF REVELATIONS (Canadian Comedy Award Winner) and TAZED & CONFUSED (Dora Award Nominee) In 2008 Bravo!FACT adapted four sketches from the Second City's acclaimed stage show, Facebook of Revelations, into four short films which Karen co-wrote and starred in.
Karen has toured the world with The Nearly World Famous Duffle Bag Theatre and has performed in regional theatres across Ontario in various productions such as Having Hope At Home, Animal Magnetism and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Film and Television credits include The Joh Dore Show, CTV's Instant Star, Global's The Final 24, Forensic Factor and The Four Horseman.
Brian Smith – Improvisation
Brian Smith is a filmmaker, writer and educator specializing in comedy. An award-winning alumnus of Toronto's 'The Second City', Brian now teaches improv and uses the art-form liberally in his productions. Brian has produced television, theatre, short films and multi-media in Canada and the Caribbean. At present he is director of You and Media.com, a creative production company in Toronto and is a mobile journalist for Now Magazine in Toronto.
Wagdi Bechara – Middle Eastern Culture
Wagdi started performing in the early 60's with a small group of musicians known as the Rainbows in Heliopolis, Egypt. He then moved on to work with a band known as The Hearbeats in Kuwait city as lead vocalist and drummer in 1968. The band travelled during this time and performed in many countries including, Cyprus, Jordan, Bahrain, Dubai and Lebanon. Wagdi also performed with Edwardo's Quartet in England, France, Portugal. In 1978 he immigrated to Canada with his young family and continued as a musician until opened a Middle Eastern restaurant called Cleopatra in Toronto that featured live Arab music and Bellydancers six nights a week. After many years in the music industry and various recording projects, Wagdi is now living in Toronto and focusing on exploring Egyptian and Middle Eastern art, music and culture. He is a member of the teaching faculty at Arabesque Academy imparting his knowledge of Egyptian culture and its prominent music and dance artists throughout history.