For over 7 years Monica John (Panamanian-American) has been one of Nashville’s major links to the international community. Hosting top entertainers such as Morocco, Tarik Sultan and Amar Gamal, she is a great resource of culture for her social circle and the city.
Over the years, Monica has been a frequent patron of local international markets. She makes weekly stops at her favourite Indian stores including Ms.Shuba’s South Asian boutique where you can find a number of elegant salwars, Hindi films and fine jewelry. Introducing us to Parisa’s exquisite chaihanna style establishment and taking us on trips through the Middle Eastern shoppes are just a part of Monica’s regular routine. She is a model international community member with a heart of gold.
We are thrilled to announce and promote Monica’s most recent addition to her international circle. She will be participating in yet another of the city’s amazing events, this time as a singer and performer. These programs are hosted by Upasana Performing Arts Center under the direction of Sonia Chaudhuri, founder of the studio and a well-known Kathak Dancer. Ms. Chaudhuri is another outstanding individual in Nashville, representing India.
We are beyond impressed with the quality of cultural events that these two are keeping alive in Nashville. We’re encouraging everyone to expand your social circle and include the international community of Nashville. Kudos to these wonderful women! Looking forward to more of their showcases and events.
8 June 2013 Upasana’s 10 year Anniversary Celebration Directed by Sonia Chaudhuri
Kathak Pure Dance
Location: Father Ryan High School Auditorium
700 Norwood Drive, Nashville, TN 37203
Ticket price: $10 prior to 20 May
($15 after & children 2 and under are free)
Featuring guest artists from California, Tabla players and more…
Visit: www.upasanacenter.com for complete info (Recital)
Our Resident Raissa spent some time at the Gems of the South Bellydance Conference this weekend. She shares with us her thoughts. If you’re interested in being a part of this unique competition next year be sure to contact Mina of Dalloua Dance: http://www.dalloua.com/Gemsofthesouth.html
Dalloua Dance presented ‘Gems of the South’ this weekend just outside Atlanta Georgia. This was a raqs based conference that provided not only opportunities to compete but also workshops with truly skilled instructors like Amani Jabril and Naima Sultana.
There was a Saturday night Gala show with some impressive and diverse
performances including a variety of show girl, modern burlesque and African
inspired sets mixed with Raqs. I know that will ruffle some feathers as there
has been a push to keep burlesque and bellydance separate. Trust me, it wasn’t
what one might assume. As a conservative and traditionalist in African and
Mideast art forms, I too have avoided cheering on or encouraging the meshing of
these two types of art simply because removal of clothing and being ultra sexy
have two different meanings in the East. However, what was showcased at the Gems
Gala show was tasteful and presented very well.
It was quite a mix of entertainment in that one minute we’re watching one genre
and the next something completely different. It worked for this program.
Prices to attend and participate were very reasonable. I paid about $26USD for a
VIP seat. I was second row and could see everything clearly.
Our friend and raqs model Faaridah was a guest judge at the event.
The program began at 10am in the morning. It was a full day of competitions and
workshops featuring a variety of participants. There were a mix of ethnicities,
age groups and skill levels. Many attendees said that everyone that performed
brought their best to the table and there weren’t any one-off oddities…meaning
things that were so far out and non-bellydance that it left an audience
confused. It was instead a really focused conference featuring the various
genres that are umbrella’d in Raqs.
This will most likely be an annual conference so be sure to connect with Mina of
Dalloua Dance to get info on 2014′s competition.
Amani Jabril’s performance was top notch!
I do feel that Amani Jabril, as expected, brought the most exciting cultural raqs presentation for the evening. She presented hard core raqs sharqi in the first set as well as Iraqi Qawali/Qawliya style for a second set that blew us away. I went insane with her excellent choice of music, perfect costume and crowd pleasing moves that would have made most Iraqi’s squeal with pride that the nation was not only represented well that night but that a sect of the culture often ignored was praised and highlighted. Amani is an asset to any cultural dance conference because she does “bring it like that.” I see the desire to depict the true Middle East catching on again in the West, but still of all the dancers present, Amani was the main one that presented the region eloquently and with a righteous spirit that let you know she meant business on that stage.
Other notable performances were that of the Gems with their showgirl piece
featuring feathers, silver beads and tushy tail boas. This was very different
with not a stitch of raqs sharqi…simply shiny and fun. It would have made a
great show opener and I hope to see more of those pieces as welcoming sets to
grand nights of culture and dance.
I did return the next day (Sunday) and was granted permission to watch the final
two competitions of the day. There was Onyx/The Alternative bellydance
presentations where one expected the experimental styles and tribal fusion.
Following that were ThePearls/Troupe performances. I’ll elaborate on what I saw
in a different detailed review for my Raqs Atlanta pals.
This competition and conference had a lot of good energy. It was very welcoming,
the venue was pleasant, easy to get to and was very cute, clean and a place to
which I would return. I wouldn’t mind attending this again and I hope that more
ethnic dancers will bring the culture front and center with performances and
participating as spectators. Gems of the south certainly has what it takes to
please those who are passionate about “dance as an art.”
I have so much more to say and look forward to discussing and promoting this
event in the coming weeks. Thanks to all who made this possible! Mabrook Mina!
Here’s info on a great event we are going to be a part of. We collaborate with three groups on this, African Asian Business and Cultural Exchange, World Bellydance Alliance and Amani Jabril Middle Eastern and World Dance.
Our resident raissa will be on hand to hand out prizes and gifts to our wonderful community and visitors. We hope you will join us!
This event requires advanced reservations so please click on the links and let the hosts know you’re coming. Many Thanks!
Jahara Phoenix is one of Atlanta’s top Raqs troupes performing pieces that many international community members have said were the best in the city. With several years of dance experience under their belts (literally and figuratively) this amazing team continues to perform strong, ethnically accurate pieces for their audience. Their most recent performance at TribalCon 9 featured them depicting Kali (Kali Maa) (in one of Kali’s blue form vs. her known black – Kali is often shown is black but at times as blue) before a packed crowd. The audience’s reception was full of explosive admiration…so much so that the dancer’s themselves were overwhelmed. Our BFF Andye got a chance to speak with one of the troupes choreographers Jaki Hawthornewho is also known for her bellydance photography. Enjoy!
Photo by Barb&CharlieSmith
Andye: JP in the last 4 years has remained on the cutting edge of culture. What inspired you to do this and go beyond the usual “bellydance” performances?
Jaki: We’ve always considered ourselves to be an eclectic group of dance entertainers, rather than “bellydancers”. Of course, we do practice Middle Eastern and American belly dance, but the heart and soul of the Jahara Phoenix Dance Company are women who simply love to entertain by way of the dance. We perform what we we’d like to see on the stage and hope that others like it too.
Andye: Jaki, you are clearly a major part of the choreographies that JP presents. Who else choreographs? Do you all have a dance training background, dance education or just inspired by the world around you?
Jaki: Our choreographies come about in a variety of ways. I have choreographed many of the pieces for the troupe, as have our former director, Oracle. We’ve also taken solo works from Nikki-Jamila and turned them into troupe numbers because we liked them so much. Sometimes we collaborate as a group by playing a piece of music and everyone just starts dancing freestyle. From there, I can take the individual moves/combos from each dancer and fit them together into something cohesive for the group. Haideh also has a few new things in the works. Ideas just seem to sprout from all directions, and everyone contributes. Our dance backgrounds are quite varied, some of us have studied a little and some a lot. We are most definitely inspired by both our individual training/backgrounds and the dance world as a whole.
Andye: The Kali presentation was one of many South Asian themes you all have put on stage, are you going to stick with India or delve into the Persian/Arab Gulf or maybe even Africa (i.e. Egypt, the Maghreb, Niger?) Jaki: I do have a personal love and affinity for the folk dances, music, and artwork of South Asia (India, Pakistan, etc.), so I’m heavily influenced by that region of the world. We have also performed a Persian piece choreographed by Linda Beeler (Zuhra) at our “Around the World in 80 Minutes” show and many of our pieces are inspired by the N. African region. We have trotted the globe with our presentations and will continue to draw inspiration from all types of world dance.
Andye:Why bellydance? Why not hip hop or classical jazz? Have you ever studied those genres?
Jaki: Both Haideh and I have a wide variety of dance training including modern, ballet, salsa, African, and others. Some of our troupe members have no other training beyond different styles of bellydance. I can’t speak for each individual dancer in Jahara Phoenix, but there is something about this dance, and those who love it, that draws you in and accepts you for what you bring to the art. There are not many other dance styles which allow, and even encourage, adult women of every size, color, age, background, etc. to take the stage and dance as a collective.
Andye: Back to Kali…what was your goal in presenting this piece. What did you want JP to accomplish in that presentation? Jaki: For me, there was no a specific goal in mind. We took some time off in late 2011 due to injuries, departing members, and general fatigue. We knew that after missing TribalCon last year, we wanted to do something really special for 2013. We were literally overwhelmed by the positive response and thankful it was so well received.
Andye: We kept hearing members of JP say, It was “RISKY…” What about it did you feel was a risk?
Jaki: Anytime you are presenting something that is not of your native culture, there is a risk of offending someone. This is particularly true if the basis of the performance is religious in nature. As artists, I think it’s important to approach any theme/subject with research and respect, but also to not be afraid of the small percentage of people who could see it as offensive. We have nothing but the highest respect for Hinduism and wanted to present Kali-Ma in a way that honors her image and promotes the study of world dances, religions, and cultures.
Andye: You all are well-known and what many would term “successful.” What is the key or major element needed for a bellydancer to be successful? Jaki: I’m not sure I can truly answer this one. The definition of ‘success’ is different for each individual dancer. One may feel they are successful simply having the courage to walk onto a stage. Another may define it as joining a troupe or earning money as a dancer. What I can say is this… when I was a little girl, I dreamed of growing up becoming a dancer. I’m all grown up now, and I have become a dancer. That is one definition of success.
Andye: You all somehow avoid “kitsch” in your performances, is that intentional? How are you able to avoid it? Jaki: To be honest, I’ve never really thought about it (I guess that makes it unintentional).
Jaki: In general, we don’t follow the trends of the tribal dance world and I suppose that helps. Dancers will often gravitate to movements, costuming, and music styles that they’ve seen from a performer or troupe they admire, us included. There is truly nothing wrong with that, but knowing you are being true to yourself as a performer is an excellent way to avoid being kitschy on stage. We don’t poke fun of other cultures or other dance styles as a way to entertain either.
Andye: Do you perform for mostly American audiences? If not, to what other ethnic groups and nationalities do you all present your work? If none, are you open to presenting it to others? Jaki: We’ve performed mostly for American audiences at a wide variety of shows and festivals with a few performances for specific ethnic community events. We had been asked to compete in a Bollywood dance competition with the Bhangra piece a while back, but it didn’t work out with the scheduling. That would have been a real treat for us. The opportunity to perform for a more global audience or specific ethnic groups does not come up often, but we are always honored and excited to perform for any event.
Andye: If you had to present a piece to …let’s say, the Ambassador of Uzbekistan and the Ambassador to Thailand at a trade union dinner, give us an idea of what you would put together. Jaki: Wow, what a question! We would gather our best pieces and don enormous smiles. We are entertainers and the quest would be to entertain, no matter who the audience.
We’d like to thank Andye for conducting that interview just off the heels of TribalCon 9 and Jaki for taking the time to share her dance life with the world. It’s always a pleasure to get to know the dancers that make our Raqs world as amazing as it is.