Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Preview: South East Mosaic Dance Festival

A new festival is coming to metro Atlanta during the weekend of August 17-18:  South East Mosaic.  This event combines belly dance, burlesque, and flow arts in a series of workshops, as well as ongoing performances and a gala show.  It all takes place at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria.

Of particular interest to raqs enthusiasts are workshops and performances from several well-respected performers and teachers.  Here's a profile of each of them (in no particular order), along with a summary of the workshops they'll be offering.

One of the few male dancers performing and teaching belly dance, including American Tribal Style® (his is the first certified "Brother Studio" of FatChanceBellyDance®), Valizan leads the troupe Shades of Araby and teaches at a number of studios in Toronto.  He be traveling all the way from Canada to bring his knowledge and skills to Mosaic. Valizan will be teaching a class in the traditional Egyptian stick dance, "Tahtiib: Hit You With My Rhythm Stick!"

Heidi Hernandez
Photo by Studio Jaki

Heidi Hernandez
Metro Atlanta raqs enthusiasts are familiar with this Cuban beauty from her performances with Jahara Phoenix Dance Company and as a soloist, as well as her ongoing classes in Lawrenceville. A lifelong student of dance, Heidi has experience in ballet, West African, salsa, jazz, lyrical, Afro-Cuban dance, and more. She will offer a session called "Spin Like a Top and Stop on a Dime," in which students will learn how to find their turning "sweet spot" and execute controlled spins.

Karma Karmelota
Photo by Color Envy

Karma Karmelita
If you've ever wanted to study belly dance with a real live mermaid, here's your chance! A recent transplant to metro Atlanta from Pensacola, Florida, Karma is a professional belly dancer, fire performer, and mermaid. Her workshop is called :The Mermaid Concept: Liquefied Motion," and will include a choreography for intermediate/advanced Oriental or fusion dancers. Karma's dance style is influenced by her underwater work as a professional mermaid.

Known for her expertise with props as well as her pioneering work as a gothic belly dancer, the"blue-haired maven of mayhem" will travel from the Washington, DC area to teach and perform at Mosaic.

Photo by Pixie Vision

Mavi will teach two workshops.  "Dance on the Dark Side" will focus on core elements of gothic belly dance.  Mavi will teach several brief choreographies representing different styles of gothic belly dance, provide examples and insight on appropriate music, and more. Mavi will also share her personal philosophy for creating gothic inspired belly dance performance pieces, with an emphasis on stage presence and channeling your dark inner diva.

Mavi will also offer "Intermediate Fire Fans/Fire Palms for Dancers," designed for dancers with fire prop experience. Participants will learn basic combinations that link easily together into a choreography easily adapted for traditional or electronic music. Learn to add spice and drama to traditional fire performance, emphasizing framing, flow, footwork and expressive interpretation.
Naima Sultana
Photo by
Cunningham Photo Artists

Naima Sultana
Charlotte, North Carolina's Naima Sultana is known for her fluid style. If you were at the recent World Belly Dance alliance show with Beat Box Guitar, you witnessed her uniquely lyrical approach to the drum solo.  She will offer a class called "Drum Solo Flow," designed to help dancers break out of their percussive "pop and lock" box in drum solos by teaching them to hear the sounds of the drum as if it were a melody, while respecting the musical traditions of the tabla. This class is appropriate for intermediate to advanced dancers of all styles, or beginners who love a challenge.

ShoShannah Estell
Photo by Michael Baxter

ShoShannah Estell
ShoShannah hails from Augusta, Georgia, where she is the co-founder of Hip2Hip Studios, co-creator of BellyRok, founder/creator of shobelly productions, and artistic director/choreographer of Asuhndree Fusion Dance Company.  She will teach a class called "Seamless Fusion," a unique workshop that borrows principles and techniques from Modern, ballet, lyrical, belly dance and yoga to help every level of dancer polish and bridge movements together seamlessly.

 Lady M
Lady M
Lady M is a local performer who specializes in both belly dance and exotic dance, and can be seen performing regularly in several metro Atlanta restaurants.  She frequently travels forth to Louisiana to perform with her troupe, Tribal Happenings, and at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival. Lady M will teach a conditioning class,"Strength and Flexibility for Dancers," a program she developed that uses conditioning exercises, ballet, modern dance, yoga, and exotic dance movements to strength and lengthen the dancer's body.

South East Mosaic is produced by Dalloua Dance CompanyClick here to learn more and to purchase tickets!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Preview: Essence of Belly Dance 3

Jill Parker
Essence of Belly Dance is back and bigger than ever September 6-8. This weekend-long event will feature four outstanding teachers and performers... two of whom are generally associated with Tribal Fusion style belly dance, and two with Oriental belly dance (or what some call "cabaret," though that word seems to be falling out of favor). All four of these women have much to offer belly dancers of any style -- their skills and knowledge cross genres to help dancers build a solid foundation. Here's a brief profile of each:

Jill Parker
Mira Betz
Considered by many to be the founder or "mama" of contemporary tribal fusion belly dance, Jill Parker has been a seminal force in our art form since her days as an original member of FatChance BellyDance. Jill is the founder of the influential troupe Ultra Gypsy and the director of the Foxglove Sweethearts.  She is committed to bringing solid Oriental technique to the world of tribal fusion.

Mira Betz
Another legendary performer often classified as a Tribal Fusion dancer, Mira Betz has studied Middle Eastern and North African dance extensively, and has been teaching for over 15 years. She was a founding member of the Aywah! Ethnic Dance Company, which featured many of today's most prominent dancers performing a myriad of folkloric styles.

If you do a search for "belly dance" on YouTube, the first result you'll see features Sadie Marquardt. She is an immensely popular performer, considered by many to be the "queen of the drum solo." Sadie has produced multiple DVDs and maintains a full schedule of performing and teaching worldwide. We are fortunate to have her here in the Southeast!
Amar Gamal

Amar Gamal
Another seminal force in the raqs world, Amar Gamal began her studies at
13 with the legendary Tamalyn Dallal. She went on to become a founding member of the innovative New York troupe Bellyqueen, whose performance inspired the development of the Belly Dance Superstars tour.

These four extraordinary women will be teaching technique and choreography classes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel & Conference Center. Passes are available for single days, single workshops, or the whole weekend.

Local and regional raqs favorites will join the four featured performers for a gala show Saturday night. The event will also include a fashion show!

Don't miss your chance to learn from, get to know, and enjoy these ladies!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

August Preview

Lisa Zahiya
Photography by Pixie Vision
Saturday, August 10
Shimmy Mini-Workshop with Lisa Zahiya - "“I’ve Got 99 Problems but a Shimmy Ain’t One″
2:30 - 4:30 p.m., Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance
AFBD's summer mini-workshop series continues with guest instructor Lisa Zahiya of Asheville, NC's Studio Zahiya. Lisa will cover a variety of shimmy techniques, proper usage, creating variety, level change, layering and more!  Admission is $30 -- click here to register.

Sunday, August 11
Awalim Apprentice Dinner Show
7:30 p.m., Nicola's Lebanese Restaurant
Awalim Dance Company and student troupe Banat Almeh will present an evening of fun and dance, with range of tribal, classic, and fusion performances with a special focus on soloists and performances by the Awalim Dance Company. Ticket price is $20.00 and includes a full Lebanese dinner with dessert -- click here to get your tickets. Bring your hip scarves for a hafla after the show with Nicola himself!

August 16-18
South East Mosaic
Wyndham Atlanta Galleria
This new weekend-long festival, produced by Mina of Dalloua Dance, combines belly dance, burlesque, and flow arts. Workshops, performances, and a gala show Saturday evening will offer a true mosaic of popular art forms. Instructors and performers who may be familiar to raqs enthusiasts include Mavi, Valizan, Naima Sultana, Heidi Hernandez, Lady Morrighan, Shoshanna Estell, and Miss Mongoose.  Click here for more info on the workshops being offered... click here for showcase tickets.

Saturday, August 17
TURKU in Concert (Savannah)
Banat Almeh at TribalCon 2013
3:00 p.m., Jepson Center for The Arts
If you're in the Savannah area (or up for a road trip), here's an unusual chance to see a band that's become very popular among Tribal dancers in particular:  TURKU, Nomads of the Silk Road. This
performance is part of the Jepson Center's opening of a new exhibition, “Allure of the Near East: Treasures from the Huntington Museum of Art’s Touma Collection.”  Visit the Facebook event for more info.

Maddie with Fire Fans
Photo by Anderson Smith Photography

Saturday, August 24
Intro to Belly Dance with Fire with Maddie
2:30 - 4:30 p.m., Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance 
A newcomer to the metro Atlanta scene, Maddie, a specialist in performing with fire, will share technique and safety tips for candles, candle tray, shemadan, fire sword and fire fans. Participants will be able to “try out” all fire props in order to get a feel for them. Maddie will also have candles available for you to use in class and teach a fun “double candle” choreography to get your started on your belly dance fire journey. Admission is $30 -- click here to register.

West African ITS Workshop with Wendellyn Lodapo (Augusta area)
5:30 p.m., 929 Hunting Horn Way, Evans GA 30809
Evadne Medina will host South Carolina's Wendellyn Lodapo, who will explore the evolution and interpretation of dance as it performed within the West African diaspora. Wendellyn will teach in a improv style, creating a vocabulary that can also be used in choreography.Visit the Facebook event for details.

Sunday, August 25
Hot Egyptian Combos - Master Class with Amani Jabril (Athens) (SOLD OUT)
3:00 - 5:00 p.m., Floorspace Studio
Sulukele Dance welcomes Atlanta's Amani Jabril in her first teaching appearance in Athens! This session in advanced Egyptian technique will cover technique and combinations grounded in Amani's deep understanding of both contemporary and ancient Middle Eastern culture.

August 30 - September 2
Dragon Con
Downtown Atlanta
Belly dancers, costuming enthusiasts, and geeks of all flavors flock to Atlanta every year for this science fiction and fantasy convention.  The Silk Road track offers workshops in belly dance and classical Persian dance; the Silk Road Expo performance event (this year it's Saturday at 4:00); costuming classes; and many other sessions devoted to Asian arts, crafts, and culture. Click here for the 2013 Silk Road track schedule, and join the Facebook group for all the latest news.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Meet Artemis Mourat: An Interview with the Crossroads and Origins Instructor & Performer

Check out a great interview with the one and only Artemis Mourat, brought to us by guest blogger Raksanne (Julie Thurlow)! Raksanne is a freelance writer, as well as one of my troupemates in Banat Almeh. We'll be learning from Artemis and performing together this Saturday at Crossroad & Origins!

Artemis Mourat is best known for her specialized workshops in Turkish Oriental and Turkish
Romany (Gypsy) dance, both of which she’ll be teaching at Crossroads and Origins this weekend! Mourat is a dancer, teacher, writer and historical scholar. She’s won multiple awards for her dancing. In fact, if you look up belly dance in the Oxford University Press International Encyclopedia of Dance, you’ll find her picture. After reading an array of Mourat’s well-versed articles (some of which could possibly end up in the book she’s currently working on) I was curious about about a few things. So, I caught up with her for an interview -- this is what she had to say.

What do you love most about Turkish Oriental dance?
I love the energy of it. It is passionate and powerful, and Classical Turkish Oriental never lost its Romany (Gypsy) roots.

Artemis Mourat
How did you learn Turkish Romany (Gypsy) and Turkish Oriental dance?
My family are Greeks from Turkey and we can now trace our history there for over 1000 years. My first time seeing Turkish Roma dance was when I was 14 at a Sunnet (male circumcision) party in Istanbul. I was mesmerized. Then I first learned about the Romany and Oriental versions of Middle Eastern dance while doing field research in Turkey, starting in the 1980s and continuing to this day.

Back then, I took lots of footage with my big old video camera, which I had to hold on my shoulder. Later, while there, I bought video footage when it became available but I had to go to the Turkish porno shops to get it (THAT was an adventure!  I was so bad for their business because all the men ran out the back door when a woman walked in that eventually the shop owners would just hand me the videos with dance on them at the front door and I would slip them the money). I took this footage home and studied it thoroughly (slow mo is our friend).

At one point, while home, I listened to nothing but Turkish music and did nothing but Turkish dance for two entire years (my poor husband). Total immersion. I saturated my brain with all things Turkish until it felt as if it got in on a cellular level. Then I swapped steps with my buddies Dalia Carella and Eva Cernik. I worked extensively with Tayyar Akdeniz, who is Turkish and who does excellent Turkish Roma dance. We became dance partners and toured and performed together for several years, and we put on the Folk Tours Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp in the U.S. and in Turkey for several years. We had lots of classes in Turkish as well as Arabic music and dance. And I also studied with the wonderful Reyhan Tuzsuz.

Eventually I put together all the dance material that I knew in the manual which accompanies my
annual Five-Day Turkish Intensive. It is amazing how making a "manual" forces you to evaluate and organize what you know! And when Yasmin Henkesh and I put together our "Viva La Difference" intensive, which compares and contrasts Turkish and Egyptian dance, things came together for me on an even deeper level. We got together night after night and asked each other; "How would you do that step/move/gesture?" We could really delineate what the similarities were and where there were very clear differences. We watched hours of each other's footage. There was wine involved and it was fun and fascinating for us both. We had many "Aha!" moments. When you study something comparatively, it highlights the differences more clearly, things gel, you see the big picture from different angles.

 It has been quite a journey. It also showed me how American Cabaret became what it was. That is a vivacious version of Oriental dance that combines pan Arabic (not just Egyptian) and Turkish Oriental dance with American "showpersonship." I prefer the name "Vintage Orientale" since, in my opinion the only true "American Cabaret " dance started in Vegas. Vintage Orientale is an excellent example of a fusion dance that became its own genre.

You have quite an extensive collection of antique pictures of women and dancers from North Africa, the Middle East and of the Roma throughout the world. How did your collection get its start?
My dad was a stamp and coin collector and my family always loved history so it was not a far reach for me to fall in love with dance related ephemera. I began collecting in flea markets in other countries. I was living on the road and traveling from country to country dancing. There were times when I lived on peanut butter but I always managed to have the money for the postcards and pictures. Then I began to buy things in the U.S. at ephemera conventions before there was any such thing as the internet.

Can you tell us something interesting about the Romany culture that people might not know (perhaps something you’ll be expanding on at Crossroads and Origins)?
Each of the Roma cultures have their own specific dances. There are some shared aspects but the dances do differ from place to place and from ethnic group to group. That is why Roma people are offended when outsiders simply fluff up their hair and dance with gusto without ever taking a lesson and call it a "Gypsy" dance. These are fantasy or perhaps interpretive Roma dances and there is nothing wrong with that. Some of it is really good dance! But performers should use labels to help identify what they are doing. And the authentic forms are SO COOL, that people who are interested in this style and culture should dip into that well and drink the waters. In doing so, they are honoring the cultures that they are portraying. They can then fuse what they learn into their fusion forms or perhaps they will want to sometimes do the authentic versions.

I always fuse Turkish Oriental with Turkish Roma in my shows. And I sometimes do skirt too, which is not a Turkish Romany dance at all (although we used to think that it was). Skirt dance as it came to our Middle Eastern dance world in America was the wonderful fusionary creation of Dalia Carella in the mid 1980s. She mixed some Roma and non Roma dances to create it. Then a few of us from that era branched off and created our own versions. It works amazingly well with Turkish 9/8 and we all love it! You see? This is the value of fusion dance. It allows for the birth of new art forms.