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Gilded Serpent presents...
Paradise Found at
Habibi Hawaii 2005

A Report by Tammy Yee

Azure skies and sun-kissed palms provided the perfect backdrop for Habibi Hawaii, Honolulu's Premier Bellydance Festival and Celebration. Every October, Taj Productions promises a veritable "Bellydancer's Paradise" of Middle Eastern dance workshops, performances, bazaar shopping and cuisine, and this year's celebration was no exception.

There was something for everyone, from veteran performers, instructors and choreographers to avid enthusiasts and novice dancers like myself.

The Preview Dinner Show
The gala opened on Thursday, October 6, with an intimate Preview Dinner Show at The Pyramids Restaurant on the edge of Waikiki. Egyptian frescoes bathed in warm desert hues and the tantalizing aroma of owner Tarek Guirguis' menu of Egyptian and Mediterranean specialties--beef and chicken shawarma, falafel and spanakopita--transported us to another place and time, setting the stage for the spectacular show to come.

The air was charged with anticipation. When Shadiya glided into the restaurant in a luxurious cabaret costume rich in shimmering fuchsia fringe, one could almost hear a collective sigh from the spellbound audience. My husband has always said that in Shadiya you can feel her pure energy and passion for the art, and he's right--her graceful and charismatic style is electricfying, and her mastery of the zils reflects her commitment to authentic Egyptian dance.

Next came Mahina, Shadiya's eight-year-old daughter, who we were told has been performing for four years. She was pure joy to watch--shimmying across the room in blue velvet and chiming golden coins, she captivated the audience with her Saidi dance, her golden cane a blur. To see a dancer with such charm and talent at so young an age was a treat--truly someone to watch in years to come.

Being new to the scene, I had never seen American Tribal Dance--so when Kalae entered I was blown away by the sheer physicality of her performance. Her sinuous floor routine left me longing for the flexibility and abdominal toning of youth. If this was a preview of the diversity and showmanship that Habibi Hawaii attracted each year, then I was hooked.

Last came Shoshanna. Every year Taj Productions works hard seeking out the most talented visiting performers to lead Habibi Hawaii's intensive workshops. This year they hit the jackpot with Shoshanna, 2004's Belly Dancer of the Year and director of Ya Habibi Ensemble. I had signed up for her workshops over the weekend and wondered what her dancing would be like. She immediately captured the audience’s attention with her dramatic flair and refined technique. Her style can be both playful and alluring--when she establishes eye contact with you, she makes you feel like she's performing for you alone. And her isolations and combinations! That night she established herself as Belly Dancer of the Year. But I was intimidated--how could I possibly keep up with Shoshanna in her workshop?

The Workshops
The Habibi Hawaii festival itself opened on Saturday and Sunday--two full days of bellydancing fever, beginning with intensive, four-hour workshops on both days.

If I had some trepidation about keeping up in Shoshanna's workshop, I needn't have feared. Her sessions promised tricky techniques, dynamic combinations and lessons in the dramatic art of the four-yard veil. Could she challenge experienced dancers and beginners alike? I looked around me. Sure enough, I saw some of Hawaii's most talented dancers among the attendees, side-by-side with beginners like myself.

Shoshanna's warm and vibrant personality immediately put us all at ease. Her ready laughter and ever-present smile was a salve to my aching arms as I followed her movements, only to find myself entangled in my impossibly long veil.

How does Shoshanna do it? She makes it look so easy! Nevertheless, I came away with a deep appreciation for the beauty and drama a four-yard veil can add to a performance. The next day Shoshanna led us through grapevines and mayas, Arabesques and attack shimmies, challenging combinations, and subtle posturing and facial expressions that add drama. Time flew by and I felt like three years of lessons had been condensed into four hours on each day. Shoshanna promised, and she delivered--the workshop left me tired but deeply inspired, ready for more.

After the workshop I was lured by tables and racks of beaded bedlehs and hip scarves, breezy silk veils, an artist's palette of velvet tops, and glistening gold and silver galore! Earrings and anklets, baubles and bangles. Henna painting to make you feel like royalty. Crystal lamps from the Himalayas and body-melting massages. Add to this the mouth-watering aroma of The Pyramid's cuisine, and I had no choice but to seriously go over my budget.

Things heated up that afternoon as the heart of Habibi Hawaii came to life--performance after performance by some of Hawaii's most talented dancers and troupes, resplendent in sumptuous costumes. Each dance was a feast for the eyes, and the diversity of the performances--from sword choreography to Israeli and Saidi folkloric dances--was a testament to Habibi's calling as a mecca for bellydancers across the Pacific. And not just from Honolulu; on the mailing list I spied visitors from Las Vegas, Arkansas, and the Big Island, to name a few.

Top-notch instructors, spectacular performances, authentic cuisine and Eastern bazaar shopping, all in the paradise we call Hawaii--I'm sold. I'm practicing my zaghareet--Habibi Hawaii 2006, here I come!

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Ready for more?
11-27-05 Belly Dancer USA Competition, Canyonville, Oregon, June 11-12, 2005, photos and report by Saroya Ahlaam
Mezdulene and her supporting staff need to be commended for their hard work and effort. It was a smooth running event that was well organized and a joy to attend. I’ll be back next year!

11-24-05 My Incredible US Tour by Maya
This trip was almost two months of intensive adventure and provided an exchange of experiences with many dancers.

6-18-05 Gitaneria Arabesca: A Different Approach to the Student Recital by Vashti,
Photography by John Steele
Ah, the student recital. There is nothing like watching fledglings leaving the nest, discovering their own creative wings and flying off into the wonderful world of belly dance.

10-17-05 How MECDA Began by Feiruz Aram
M.E.C.D.A., (Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association) is a nationwide organization which began in 1977 for the purpose of organizing working dancers, sharing information between teachers...

10-16-05 The Egyptian Category 2005 of The Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition, report by Amy Bonham
held February 19-20, 2005 in Long Beach, California, photos by GS staff

10-9-05 Zaharr's Memoir, Part 11- The Minerva
What do Greeks know about Belly Dancing anyway?” He just grabbed my hand and we headed toward the door. Grumbling, I followed him inside and I was startled to see a big stage with a large wooden dance floor right in front of it.


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