We have the pleasure of knowing so many great leaders in the raqs world, from the dancers to the producers and the fans. Over the last few years we’ve watched many surpass milestone after milestone, doing things that no other dance team, show host or group of enthusiasts have done. One of the many include Faaridah of Atlanta Fusion Bellydance who is bringing Suhaila to Atlanta this weekend, one of many great things she is doing in 2014. Please enjoy part I of this interview…
Many may remember Faaridah from RakStar, a raqs conference in Miami that has featured greats like Tito Seif and others from our region of the world. We recently sat down with her to talk about her accomplishments, awards and what’s to come.
Why Rakstar of all the competitions around the world?
Well, first of all, this was my very first competition! I was frightened but my dance sisters kept us driven and focused. RakStar is a very wonderful event. This was my 2nd time attending. The producer, Virginia, runs an extremely well organized weekend and the judges are some of the most talented artists in the Middle East and US. Her shows are very creative and full of life! It’s a huge event and I’m really happy we had a chance to experience it. Not to mention, I really love Miami! It’s such a diverse city, with so much culture and full of action. From the food to the music, there’s just so much to enjoy!
Did you meet any other dancers there and who were the most memorable?
At RakStar, I was fascinated by the dancers from Asia. In this particular competition, there was a troupe from Japan. They were very focused, the ENTIRE time (I tried to make small talk, and they shut me down, quickly…..smile and walk away!). They exuded confidence and determination. They were pleasant but it was clear (to me) that they were there for 2 reasons:
1. To absorb as much as they could from the workshop
2. To Win.
There was also a group of teenage dancers (the Rakettes, I believe). They were age 14 to maybe 18 and really blew me away. From the costuming to how they executed the choreography, you can feel the passion.
It was truly a memorable experience and I’m looking forward to it again this October; whether we just perform in one of the shows or compete again, Amoraat Dance Ensemble will be there!
That’s incredible! It’s good to see you representing Atlanta by roaming the globe, seeing other cities’ communities and bridging the cultural gaps that others may not have the opportunity to gel. We may need to bring the Japanese group over and give them some Atlanta Love, as we have a different style of mingling in our competition circuit. It’s lovely that Japan and many parts of Asia are (and have been really) doing so much in Middle Eastern art. Maybe that’s something we need to bridge here, let’s look at that soon. Wow, you’ve given me some ideas.
But I’m curious about you personally…
You host some of the city’s top events, how do you manage all of this and a career?
I really don’t know! I take it one day at a time and I really enjoy what I do. I think the biggest factor is that I have a husband who really understands my passion and accepts me for who I am. I have a very rewarding full-time career working for one of the Big 4 Consulting firms. Dance was something that I did for fun, after work, to create some balance in my life, but after a few years of classes, I became immersed in it.
Event producing was more of an organic venture that I fell in love with. I travel weekly for work, so being able to bring some of my favorite artists to my home city was something that I became passionate about. Traveling out of town for workshops and events can be very fun but also very expensive, so being able to enjoy these events in your own city is something that really excites me. Plus I’m a project manager by profession, so organizing events that I personally like just makes sense!
What do you aim to do to make you stand apart from the others?
I try to be true to who I am: a hardworking, committed dancer, performer, career woman and most importantly, a student (for life). I am constantly training (workshops in Atlanta and across the US, 2-3 weeklong trainings annually with Suhaila Salimpour, online classes, and weekly classes with instructors in the cities where I’m working). I also really try to avoid being defined by titles. I enjoy Oriental Dance/”Cabaret,” as well as Tribal Fusion, Bollywood, Bhangra, Salsa, Bachata, Ballet and many other dance forms. I think to really understand what you like or where you fit, you should have a full perspective (and I think there’s still so much more to learn).
That’s a big responsibility…and you do it very well. We admire that. We also love that you are here with us in Atlanta…a major raqs hub.
In your opinion, what makes Atlanta the heart of raqs sharqi in the southeast?
Atlanta is such a diverse city with so much talent! That’s the reason why I stayed here (this was supposed to be a short stop after college, over 10 years ago!). I think out of all of the cities I’ve had the opportunity to visit, Atlanta, by far, has one of the biggest and most inviting raqs sharqi communities. We are really building a strong network here in Atlanta and I think that’s what makes us so well respected. There’s really room for everyone, and as a community, we make it a point to promote that.
Any advice to new dancers?
I would say, keep learning. There’s always room to grow. Meet new people, make friends and respect the differences. There is soooo much to learn from fellow dancers. Don’t limit yourself. Make the best of each opportunity! If you enjoy it, stay focused. Avoid drama J Live your life to the fullest.
We want to thank Faaridah for bringing Suhaila to Atlanta for exciting workshops that really challenge and push dancers to be the best. This year’s workshops and shows are something we’ve looked forward to for months! This is sure to be one of the top events of the year and MissBellydance.com will be right there cheering and supporting this program. For tickets please click here!
Tomorrow we delve into the Suhaila weekend workshop and show highlights in Part II!!
*Like the troupe photos? We do too! Click here to learn more about Studio Jaki and Jaki Hawthorne photography.