Building Community Through Shared Goals
As the Salimpour School has grown and expanded over the years, little enclaves of students have popped up all around the world. These communities had first been centered around Suhaila’s longtime sponsors, such as in Florida, Taiwan, and Belgium. And as Suhaila and her Level 5 instructors build their student bases, even more groups of students have popped up, now in Australia, Canada, and even New Caledonia.
Naturally, these students wanted to dance together and to perform Salimpour choreographies, inspiring them to challenge themselves and learn new material. With a shared movement language and nomenclature, as well as similar goals and motivations, it just seemed right to create performance ensembles anchored in Salimpour format.
Learning the Repertoire
But before the Salimpour School became truly global, there was the Suhaila Dance Company. Since the late 1990s, Suhaila continually created and set work on these dancers, adding to her catalog of dozens of choreographies. And while company members had been learning her work, other long-distance students hadn’t necessarily been able to do the same. They didn’t have regular access to Suhaila, and might learn one choreography a year at a multi-level workshop.
After Suhaila discontinued the multi-level workshops (and even before then), Suhaila noticed that students were focused so much on learning and running the certification choreographies that they weren’t taking advantage of or learning other dances in her vast and diverse repertoire. And, by then, the online class website was full of choreographies appropriate for dancers at a variety of technical levels.
Suhaila says, “You wouldn’t go study with the Martha Graham School without exploring her body of work, or study with a painter without ever seeing their paintings,” so it only makes sense that dancers in the Salimpour School are expected to learn Suhaila’s choreographies.
She also felt that if dancers in the program learned these other choreographies, they would have an easier time learning not only the certification material, but also with their overall training. It would help them “cross-train” within the format with different music, sentiments, and phrasing.
So even though choreographies were available to learn, there were, perhaps, too many to choose from! Where would a student start? How would they know which dances to learn first? And what if they wanted to perform them with other dancers?