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The Gilded Serpent presents...
Photos from
Chicago South Side Hafla
by Shira

The belly dance scene on the south side of Chicago is a bit more sparse than the dancers in that area would prefer.  There aren't as many workshops, haflas, and other events as in other parts of town.  Sumaya recognized this. Deciding to make her own contribution to building a sense of community among south side dancers, Sumaya has begun to organize a series of informal haflas for dancers in the area.  These photos show the dancers who performed in one she held January 21, 2005, at a bar called Tommy's Place.

This photo shows Sumaya kneeling in front of the dancers who performed.  From left to right, they are Lauren, Kaela, Galatea, Tahira, Aliyah, Jade, and Kimahri.  Two performers, Na'ama Rose and Erika, needed to leave before the end of the show and therefore were unable to appear in this group photo.

Being new to the Midwest, I thought it would be fun to attend one of Sumaya's haflas and meet other members of the greater Midwestern dance community.  At first I hesitated to make the 200-mile drive, but then two things changed my mind.  One was the realization that driving to a dance event in Chicago from my new home in Iowa City is really no farther than driving to dance events in Reno, Nevada from my former home in Sunnyvale, California, which I used to do.  The other was the discovery that Tahira, who currently lives in Lincoln, Nebraska was planning to go, and there was an opportunity to carpool with her.

Sumaya was quite surprised when people from four states (Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska) came to town for what she intended to be a low-key, casual event.  For some of us, that's exactly what made it attractive!

The Performers
The line-up of dancers consisted of volunteers who signed up in advance. About half were from the immediate Chicago area, and the rest came from farther afield. The majority were either experienced intermediates or professional dancers. Sumaya told me that beginning performers hesitate to sign up for her haflas because they are intimidated at the thought of appearing among so many experienced dancers.  The most pervasive dance style represented was Egyptian, but there was sufficient variety to maintain an enjoyable show.

Many of the performers who appeared in this show are active on the Internet discussion boards.  For those who are, I'll indicate their Internet forum names as well as their dance names.

From Chicago, Illinois. Known online as "chicagobellydance".

Erika, who has studied with Jasmin Jahal and Jehan Kamal, opened the show. This performance reflected the Egyptian styling she has learned from her work with Jasmin. Later in the evening, she did a second performance which was a more meditative piece using some of Jehan's music.

From Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Known online as "laura 2".

Galatea's slim-line skirt flattered her figure beautifully.  She did two performances, one early in the show, and another near the end. Her stage personality came through as sweet and charming.

From Elmhurst, Illinois. Known online as "kikib1".

Kimahri's brilliant smile throughout both of her performances showed how much she loves to dance.

Kaela Zahira
From Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Known online as "chessurecat".

Kaela danced twice. One was a powerful interpretive sword piece, and the other a fun-loving dance to the song "Brick House". Although she has her own individual style of moving, the sense of feminine power that she exuded in her sword dance reminded me of Rachel Brice.

Aliyah Abir
From Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Known online as "jiimaanikwe".

Aliyah, formerly from Monterey, California and now based in Illinois, danced with a shamadan. It was wonderful to see shamadan presented in an environment where live fire could be used instead of battery-operated candles.

From Chicago, Illinois.

Jade's elegant performance included veil work and floor work. Her graceful style was a joy to watch.

From Belleville, Illinois. Known online as "lauren".

Lauren entered in a swirl of lovely silk veils and enjoyed experiencing how a Chicago-area hafla differed from those in her own dance community near St. Louis, Missouri. She experienced the dubious pleasure of driving home the next day in a Midwestern winter storm!

From Lincoln, Nebraska. Known online as "tahiradancer".

Tahira relocated in fall of 2004 from the Los Angeles area to Lincoln, Nebraska. Like me, she saw this hafla as an opportunity to connect with fellow Midwestern dancers.  She selected non-Middle Eastern music for her segment, which provided an enjoyable change of pace.

Na'ama Rose
From Chicago, Illinois.

I'm afraid I became so absorbed in Na'ama Rose's graceful performance that I failed to take any photos of her myself on my own camera! This photo of her has graciously been provided by Kimahri.

From Chicago, Illinois. Known online as "sonora_rose". Organizer of the event.

Sumaya was the final dancer of the evening, and she was a living example of how it is possible to throw a party that is fun for the guests and hostess alike.  

After her performance, the dancers gathered together for a series of group photos.

The Event as a Whole
Comparing this hafla to various California haflas and dancer showcases I have attended over the past 20 years, I was very impressed at how well organized Sumaya's hafla was.  She decided the order of dancing in advance and notified the performers so they could plan their preparations accordingly. Last-minute changes were minimal. Sumaya had asked the dancers to stay within a 5-minute time limit, which everyone honored. This ensured that even with the large number of performers, the show was still a reasonable length to hold audience attention throughout. The show started a little later than advertised, but I was actually happy about this because it allowed me time to chat with the other attendees.

One small glitch was that three different dancers all used the song Warda. Of course, each interpreted it in her own individual way.

It reminded me that for a performer it can be helpful to take a couple of different CD's to this type of event, so if someone earlier in the show uses the same music as the first-choice CD it's possible to switch to the other.

Breaks were inserted periodically into the show, allowing audience members to get up and stretch their legs dancing to entertaining music such as Baila Habibi.

A group of tables was reserved for the performers and their companions, providing a safe place to leave their belongings while they were backstage.  Printed programs identified the performers and the order in which they would be dancing, making it easy for audience members to follow.   The only snag here was that Na'ama Rose's name was inadvertently omitted from the line-up in the printed program. Sumaya served as announcer, introducing each dancer with a bit of background about her and identifying the music she would be using.

Shira joins the group for a final pose!
The location for the hafla was a bar, so the audience included an interesting mix of dance community and regular bar-goers. The bar-goers seemed to be quite fascinated by the entertainment! Attendees who wished to eat could order assorted typical bar food meals such as hamburgers and pizza, at affordable prices.

The only thing I didn't enjoy about the evening was driving back to my motel in the winter storm that had moved in while the show was in progress.  One of the fans who came to support the dancers was involved in a car accident on the way home that totaled his car. Kaela from Milwaukee reported that the drive home which normally would take about 90 minutes instead took over 3 hours. Thankfully, the siping on the snow tires I had purchased in November gripped the road securely and the drive back to the motel was only a couple of miles. Tahira and I made it safely with large, sticky white flakes falling all around us! 

In summary, it was worth the 200-mile drive.  The event was exactly what I had hoped it would be, a fun-loving party. I'm already thinking about performing myself in one of Sumaya's future haflas!

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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
more from Shira-
6-28-04 Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival 2004-Intro Travel Journal by Shira
Middle Eastern dance artists and students from throughout the world attend this event to immerse themselves in instruction by leading Egyptian instructors, shop for costumes and other supplies offered by Egyptian vendors, and enjoy the gala shows featuring top Egyptian dancers. Check back for regular updates!
Day 9: The Evening Show
Day 10: Classes and the Sphinx Speaks

1-25-05 Intruder, BEWARE! comic by Lynette
"How dare they pollute our pond!"

1-19-05 BDSS Auditions January 14-15, 2005, North Hollywood, CA
-Inside the Bellydance Superstars Final Auditions by Michelle Joyce
-"What have I got to lose?" by Zaheea
-Photos by Lynette

1-16-05 Photos from The Luna Gitana Festival, Santa Cruz, California photos by Monica Berini
Event produced by Vashti on November 13, 2004

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