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Gilded Serpent presents...
A Tribute to
Reema

by Taaj

Hill and Veil is a student belly dance troupe at the University Virginia Tech. They made their first contest appearance at the East Coast Classic in 2006. They were first-time competitors who went into it with an attitude of, “Let’s have some fun.” The founding member of Hill and Veil competed the year before as a soloist, so the rest of the troupe decided, “Why not?”

So, four members of Hill and Veil headed off to the 2006 competition without knowing what to expect. They decided to use their choreography from their annual hafla and plunged right in. 

They walked away without a trophy, but they were glad they experienced the competition and the judges’ comments. They knew they’d be back the next year. I was so surprised by their performance in 2007, they improved so much in the last year! To me, the purpose of competing is to use the experience to get better. I really love it when people come back with performances that show so much growth from the year before. I sat down with members Hali and Chelsea.

I had to ask Hill and Veil what made the difference. They told me that they came away from the experience with new ideas about the dance.

These ideas included moves, props, choreography, and use of space. With the coming of a new school year, Hill and Veil gained a lot of new dancers and all of a sudden there were 50 new dancers! So they divided the group into beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

One of the new members was Reema Samaha, a student of Lebanese heritage who had been dancing since she was 2 years old. Her dance styles included: ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, and belly dance. Reema helped the advanced troupe create the choreography for Hill & Veil’s competition routine. Reema was a big part of the group. If she missed practice it was because she was attending some other dance event, and her absence was always noticed. She was always happy to be dancing and that energy rubbed off on the rest of the group. She was always able to provide new ideas when the choreography seemed “stuck”. She worked really well with the group and her input really helped Hill & Veil get their routine together for competition.

Then on April 16, 2007, Reema was killed by a fellow student along with 31 other people on the Virginia Tech campus.

Hill & Veil didn’t know what to do. Nobody felt like dancing anymore. They cancelled their annual hafla scheduled for April 21. They considered canceling their contest appearance. They couldn’t imagine dancing their contest piece without Reema.

But they made an effort to dance together because they thought it was the best way to get through the tragedy and give something to Reema. Especially since she’d worked so hard on their routine. Ultimately they decided to compete to honor her memory. 

Hill and Veil sent six girls (Hali, Chelsea, Nicole, Cathy, Helen, and Liz) to the competition. Hali said, “The day of the contest, backstage we could all just feel her. We were like, ‘This is for Reema! She’s here!”’ She continued, “I think we forgot everyone was there and we just danced. It felt so good.” Hill & Veil was rewarded for their efforts with People’s Choice and a third place trophy. 

When I asked Hali and Chelsea what they would do next, they said that they were going to keep on dancing! They will be graduating in 2008 along with other dancers who were original members of the group. They want to pass along the dance and to keep on creating excitement and entertainment for their audiences.    

A memorial fund has been established in memory of Reema Samaha. This particular fund is a scholarship fund for a member of Hill & Veil. To donate, send a check to Virginia Tech Foundation, Inc., University Development, 902 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24061. To donate online, go to  https://webapps.banner.vt.edu/giving/academic_index.jsp 
In the "Gift Designation" area of the form go to the box "Other Designation" and type in Reema Joseph Samaha Middle Eastern Dance Memorial Fund. 

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