MissBellydance.com at Essence of Bellydance 2017

Big thanks to the dancers that wore our skirts, accessories and more during the Essence of Bellydance Festival! We appreciate it! Our archivist wrote her review about the show and here are some highlights from her report.

Is Essence Worth Attending? YES!

Essence is always exciting. No question. This year was my favourite year of all the EOB events I’ve attended. Having Suhaila Salimpour sitting with us, Jacques al Asmar, Mohammed Shahin and the core raqs community plus a plethora of international guests that flew in from as far as Germany and Northern Asia was the icing on the cake. It’s not that it’s not an international conference to begin with…but it’s hella awesome to see so many from around the world go through the trouble of travelling alllll the way from the far corners of the globe to spend 4 days with us in Atlanta. We’re a cool crowd, I have to give us credit for that. A lot of people WANT to be here and perform in this community. We love art and are obsessed with many of the artists…and it shows!

Studio Jaki
Be sure to check out Studio Jaki and see about getting some prints

Mohammed Shahin was one of the headliners and presented his signature Tanoura Masri with the colour lights – I’d seen him present this in Vegas and was again just crying like a wailing superfan by the time it was over. Again, that is just a religious moment for me and a full circle moment given I used to sit for hours in my teens reading about what the café guys were doing – thank you distant relatives in the region for all those great entertainment updates that introduced me to this style of whirling. Now, thanks to EOB17, I was able to see it live again – this being a fourth time for me. I just wanted to go stand backstage and hug him for an hour as if he were a living doll just waiting for love from a new doll keeper. I could talk about him all day but I’ll stop now or I might end up writing a book about the experience as I’m known to do.

Amani Jabril.jpg

Atlanta’s own Amani Jabril performed a real Iraqi raqs set to Mohamed al Salem’s “Galb Galb” and it was so perfect she “Came up out of her jewelry” as the MC said. This piece was one of the three most important pieces of the raqs presentations of the night. When you visit the region, THAT is the level of energy and emotion that you will see. If you’re expecting to witness rapid head slinging and people looking as if their necks are going to snap from the over the top hair spinning you will be disappointed. That is just simply over the top interpretation of Iraqi dance. There are many dances of Iraq and they do include lot of hair and beautiful movements with the hips and shoulders but few look anything like what’s been going around in the video circles of the many dance boards. If you stick to what Amani presented and those like her from the region, you’re going to grasp a grace that is unique to that specific area and the ethnic groups that inhabit it…and it will be appreciated by locals and original people of the area.

Amani’s suave demeanor and regional hair tosses followed by a variety of footwork and travelling steps were executed perfectly. Of all the dancers I’ve known on the circuit these past 11 years (her career is longer than that), she has always stayed a few steps ahead of the times introducing more than just bedluhs and beladi rhythms to her community, students and followers. She is certainly a force and will remain one as it’s just her nature to work hard at staying true to the region that she also calls home. Amani isn’t someone you call as a filler to a show she is a MUST HAVE when you want to make a statement that your production is committed to greatness! Remember that!

For more information on Essence of Bellydance and how to get involved and possibly win one of our cool prize packs if you enter the dance competition visit our Facebook page and theirs to see all of the links and amazing opportunities to be a part of this community dance picture!


Speaking of photos, be sure to reach out to Studio Jaki and explore the amazing photos she captured for the event. Both Amani and Jaki will be in our studio this October and we’ll take along on the fun of a MissBellydance.com fashion photo shoot!

The Art of Teaching, Going Beyond the Basics

Khaleegi workshop with Kay Hardy
Khaleegi workshop with Kay Hardy

A good foundation in raqs sharqi is essential for a good performance. Few presentations compare to those based on a solid cultural education. Our resident archivist discusses a recent workshop where such regional raqs knowledge was given by Kay Hardy Campbell and Uza of New York. Here are her thoughts:

Praise for Kay
I recently discussed some of the highlights of the Gulf Dance Weekend hosted by Amani Jabril Middle Eastern and World Dance. Though the workshop has passed, I’m still having moments where I stop and think, “Wow, we really got a good deal on that workshop.” The classes took place at Atlanta Fusion Bellydance and Babylon Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia. Again, as I mentioned in a recent article, we are so fortunate to have a large international commnunity with leaders and producers that are committed to showcasing raqs sharqi beyond the bedluh so to speak. The Khaleegi and Iraqi Dance workshops featuring those two instructors/teachers (I consider Kay a scholar) went above and beyond the countless Khaleegi courses that I’ve seen in the past. It went beyond hair tosses.

Amazing group of attendees, all in thobes, absorbing and learning...
Amazing group of attendees, all in thobes, absorbing and learning…

Kay demonstrated not only dances for women but also for men. This is very important. When one is constructing presentations and dance shows for a cultured audience (i.e. members of governmental organisations, young students looking to learn about the region or even those looking for a true glimpse into the East through a party) you’ll want teachers like Kay who are familiar with the language and cultural nuances, i.e. a teacher who can (or is eager and willing to) go beyond “Yalla Habibi.” It’s awesome to have the basics down but it’s even better when alongside learning “dance steps” one is learning about the people and the music that fuel these steps. It’s extremely important. Kay provided all of that and more. She talked about the garments used in the region for this particular dance in depth…both the mens and womens thobes. I can’t stress how wonderful and thorough she was. While this was perhaps new for some, a treat and learning experience; it was a great deal of welcomed nostalgia for those of us who are expat kids, international community members and dancers who embrace and appreciate “regional raqs.”

Uza is Outstanding
I feel Uza really does a great job of teaching as well. She does this by giving her students and attendees visuals featuring the people and dance from the region. She also shows the development, progress and changes that Iraqi dance has experienced. She was very honest in her presentations and didn’t pretend to know every single thing. She stated what she knew and allowed others who were also knowledgeable about the dance to speak as well. While I can’t just give away her work online, I must say I felt her instruction was very thorough and well thought out. She’s certainly worth booking to teach a class or get students introduced to Iraqi dance.

Neither of these instructors carried an air of superiority or some of the controversial attitudes that we sometimes hear about when someone gains this type of cultural dance knowledge. They were gracious and eager for their attendees to grasp what they were teaching. There was no showing off or large egos shown toward us as students and fans. There was just a real desire for everyone to “get it.” I feel that many in that studio walked away with a wealth of knowledge greater than what one might get in a course that focuses on just “the dance.” It’s understandable that some are not interested in the cultural aspect but I feel knowing it makes a difference and shows in performances. A performance can go from good to oustanding when those intricate cultural moves just show up, sometimes naturally as one “becomes one” with that cultural knowledge. I hope that makes sense. I could discuss the benefit of these two instructors’ teaching methods all day…they were two of the best courses I’ve ever attended in regards to Gulf Dance and regional raqs. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to see them in person and enjoy their energy and dedication to the culture.

imageFor more information on cultural dance classes in Atlanta you can always reach out to us here at askmissbellydance. To get in touch with Kay, Uza or their host Amani please click on their names highlighted within the sentence. We encourage everyone to take some time to enjoy going beyond the bedluh. Sign up for a class that focuses on the music and culture of the area you are most interested in and let us know your thoughts on the course.

Thanks for reading!

Team MBD

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑