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.
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.
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!