Riskallah Riyad
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Biography of Riskallah Riyad

“Riskallah (Riyad) is a very gifted and talented …artist.
She’s worked very hard, not only as a dancer, but as a spokeswoman for the dance. She’s a very special person, a beautiful talent…”
The late – Ibrahim Farrah, NYC


Riskallah_Riyad
Photo by Michael Baxter

Riskallah Riyad (Dolores Matzen)

Middle Eastern dancer and choreographer Riskallah Riyad has performed and taught nationally for over forty years. Known for her graceful yet crisp style, impeccable technique, and energetic teaching, she has inspired a dedicated professional and student following.  Middle Eastern Dance New England recently called her a “stellar performer and teacher.” Riskallah has been featured in Spotlight and Arabesque magazines, gracing the cover of the former in 1981.  Additionally, she distinguishes herself as an innovator, having originated and perfected the double veil technique in the 1970s. Today this method is routinely imitated by other dancers and incorporated into belly dance canon. She also sets herself apart from other artists with her versatility and knowledge. Her solo and ensemble choreographies in folk and classical Oriental styles demonstrate a deep understanding of their cultural origins. “Her work always retains an authentic flavor while being distinctly her own. Further, her contemporary fusion works succeed in expressing modern day reverence, mystery, and appreciation for drama.” 

Riskallah Riyad
Photo by Michael Baxter

Riskallah’s creative skills attest to a rigorous and diverse background in dance. Formal classes began in childhood and continued into adulthood with jazz, ballet, and modern, but her Arabic descent and love of Middle Eastern rhythms eventually led her to focus on Oriental dance. She trained in New York City first with Serena Wilson and for over ten years with Ibrahim Farrah. Other notable mentors are Valarie Camille, Elena Lentini, and Marta Zorina. Studies continue today with Elena Lentini and Marta Zorina. In order to become more thoroughly versed in the many complex Middle Eastern rhythms, she studied percussion with the late Hanna Mirhige, percussionist with Ibrahim Farrah's Near East Dance Group.

Performance highlights include stage shows throughout Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, including Tarrytown Music Hall, NY Columbia University in New York City, Fairleigh Dickenson University, NJ, University of Hartford in CT, University of Connecticut, Storrs; Bill Miller Art Center, Branford, CT, Ives Concert Hall, Danbury, CT. Cabaret work includes Faizel’s and Darvish in New York City, all major cabarets in Boston, MA, Washington D.C., Richmond, VA, and CT. She currently directs the Riskallah Riyad Dance Theatre Company, presenting concerts and performances for both stage and cabaret. 

Riskallah Riyad
Photo by Michael Baxter

Riskallah holds BS and MS degrees in Education, has taught public school and been a consultant to teachers. She currently maintains a robust schedule teaching Middle Eastern dance classes daily in Connecticut. In addition to working with students of all levels, she conducts master classes and special workshops nationally. She is the innovator of the acclaimed Teacher Training Course, "Footprints a Journey Toward Teaching Excellence." A testimony to her reputation for excellence, she is the only instructor invited by the popular Beach Blanket Beledi, Nags Head, NC to return seven times. She is scheduled for a ninth engagement in October, 2010. Recently, Riskallah was honored to host the legendary Mahmoud Reda, pioneer of Egyptian dance, at a special event which attracted national and international attendees to Connecticut. Due to its overwhelming success, the exacting and disciplined Reda looks forward to returning in 2010 to once again work with her students, whom he praised for their high level of training and performance ability.