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Riskallah Riyad
CT Dance Oasis
Center for Middle Eastern Dance



April 24, 2022

"The darkness of the last two years of the Covid epidemic was pierced by a most welcome announcement. A dance celebration was going to be held on April 24, 2022 at the Ives Concert Hall in Danbury, CT. Not just any celebration, mind you, but a Celebration marking A Lifetime of Middle Eastern Dance by none other than Riskallah Riyad ( Dolores Matzen.)



A sizeable crowd gathered in anticipation of the golden jubilee and Riskallah did not disappoint. She appeared on the stage as effervescent and as engaging as ever, the dance melting away the years. The program was a journey through the ongoing creative portfolio of Riskallah's choreographies, starting with A Cairo Chorus Line from 1978.
The dances have progressed with the teacher. Effortlessly danced by her beautifully costumed students, Riskallah's early choreographies are a bazaar of the elements of the Middle East. Oriental and folkloric components, so near and dear to every Middle Eastern dancer's heart, form the backbone of the dances. They are physical, animated, and dynamic. A Woman's Dance (1979) done with special guest dancer Chelydra (N.C) captures the unique spirit of women in dance as does a video version of a younger Riskallah with co-choreographer Aszmara Sherry (NY) in Cane Dance (1985).

As Riskallah finds her voice in the dance, her choreographies become more subdued, more introspective, and have more to say on a spiritual level. Especially pronounced was the contrast between A Prison of Our Own Making (2014) and Embrace the Silence, done just 3 years later. The first sets a dark, somber mood with no resolution of pain. Embrace the Silence becomes a meditation, a prayer of healing, a counterpoint to Prison. It brings hope and light to those struggling with the darker aspects of life.

Celebrate! also brought to the stage special guest dancers and percussionists. Aszmara Sherry (NY) swept the audience up in her own unique style of motion while Tashira Wadiya (NJ) dazzled in a live drum solo and her choreography, Epic Tales. Chelydra ( NC) lent an

Andalusian/Moroccan flavor to the celebration as well as presenting a choreography by the late great ibrahim Farrah. Another special guest, Tava Naiyin„ found appreciation from the audience with a mesmerizing performance of Se'a Biqurb Il Habib, followed by a live drum solo. Drumming was provided by James Allen and the indomitable Walid Assaf. Walid and his lovely dancer wife Morwenna, who also graced the stage in exuberant Lebanese dance, had come from California for the occasion. They are originally from the Boston area and have many fans on the East coast. Walid's energy on the drums and his passion for entertaining fueled the audience into a clapping and zaghareeting frenzy.

Riskallah, as both performer and dance educator, is a powerhouse in the field of Middle Eastern dance. When one does what one loves, there is a sparkle, a gleam, an energy that radiates clear to the back of the concert hall and embraces each audience member with a sense of enjoyment and well-being. Thank you Dolores for your dedication, your wisdom, and your generosity of spirit in making your knowledge available to others. Middle Eastern dance survives because of dance educators like you, and those within your special circle who have dedicated almost half a century or more to this dance form. Here's wishing you many more years of doing what you love" !


~Aiva Drukovskis, NJ