Photo provided by BDSS office
Rania of Orange County. Thanks Tracy!
at Raqs LA
Journey Back Home
by Emily Farasha
On the drive down to
Raqs LA from the Monterey area of California, I thought a lot
about why I had moved away from Los Angeles after high school. LA
has a certain reputation. Everyone who lives there is
famous, wants to be famous, works for someone famous, or is
their 15 seconds of fame via TMZ. LA women are known
for being beautiful in a cookie-cutter plastic surgery sort
How in the world can
bellydance live and thrive in an area like this? I was
skeptical. The logo for Raqs LA is very stereotypical
LA… hot pink and reminiscent of Angelyne billboards.
BDSS is frequently
criticized for being too pretty, too skinny, too LA-esque. What
sort of weekend was this going to be? A festival full
of Barbie look-a-likes? I really didn’t know what to
I arrived early Saturday
morning at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, already sweating
from the heat. My first workshop was at 9am with Jillina. At 8:30 I walked to what I assumed was the correct
entrance, there weren’t any signs up yet. I checked in,
got my wristband and my tickets for the show that night. There
was a lot of yelling and discussion amongst the staff. It
appeared that they had just arrived as well. I was directed
upstairs for my workshop, and wandered around with some other
lost dancers past vacant vendors’ booths. Eventually
we found the stairs (you have to go through the exit doors)
and went to up to the main stage area. The hall was dark,
full of more vacant vendor booths. After some more discussion
and yelling amongst staff, chairs were moved away to create
our workshop space.
Jillina arrived and,
after some minor technical issues with lighting and sound,
our “Oriental Fusion” workshop started. This was my first
workshop with Jillina and I was very excited. She taught
a short choreography to Paul Dinletir’s “Pharonic Odessy”. It was
a lot of information for a 2 hour workshop, but Jillina moved
along at a brisk pace.
As an instructor,
she was very encouraging and gave more praise than critique. She
also took a moment to talk about the khaleegy style and rhythm,
as both were a part of the choreography.
At the end of the workshop,
we sat on the floor to stretch and reflect. Jillina asked
us to be grateful for our health and for having dance in our
lives. Then she stood up and told us to do this: slide
our hands down our sides while saying “Mm’mm’mm. Perfect!”. As
I did this, I looked around at my other workshop participants. Women
and men of all ages, sizes, ethnicities, none of whom looked
like Barbie. And indeed, we are all delicious and perfect
just as we are!
My next workshop was
drum solo choreography with Ansuya, my
first workshop with her as well. There was a note posted
by the door saying all workshops were running 30 minutes late. I
grabbed some coffee and made some notes on Jillina’s hand-out. After
a very lively 2 hours with Jillina, it was nice to sit for
a moment and relax. Vendors were beginning to open up
their booths, and the hall was beginning to fill with people.
Ansuya’s workshop started
and she jumped right into her choreography after the class
voted not to warm-up or cool-down. She also had some
minor technical difficulties with the sound equipment, but
dealt with them quickly. The track was off of the “Jillina
Raks” CD. She also moved at a brisk pace, stopping frequently
to answer questions. Her instruction style was very relaxed,
and felt more like hanging out with a friend than instruction
from world-renowned dancer. Her dance style is very energetic
with a lot of locks and precise movement, and the choreography
had a few very challenging combinations.
the importance of feeling the music and not just doing the
We ran out of time towards
the end of the workshop, and Ansuya stayed outside to answer
questions from the participants. Obviously fame has not
gone to her head.
If I had to compare
Jillina to something LA, I think she is like the Getty Center. Modern,
sleek, elegant, and full of information. A reminder of
how much beauty and art there is in the world. Ansuya
is like Venice Beach. Funky, new, full of energy, unpretentious. A
reminder of how art is always evolving. They were a wonderful
contrast to each other.
My workshops done for
the day, it was time to shop.
There was a nice
variety of vendors, mostly leaning towards the cabaret style
of costuming and props, although there were vendors catering
to tribal dancers as well. Dancing on two open stages
provided constant entertainment with a variety of performance
As I walked around,
I again saw a huge diversity in the people around me. I
realized I had forgotten just how diverse LA is. It’s
only natural that the bellydancers here are as diverse as the
communities that they come from. My shopping done, I
ventured out into the blazing heat and downtown traffic.
I returned later that
evening for the show, this time with a friend who is not a
bellydancer. The show included the Bellydance
Superstars and guest performers who were also workshop instructors that
weekend. We arrived at the hall around 7:30 for an 8pm
show start. Of course the show did not start on time. There
seemed to be more technical difficulties. At one point,
someone in the audience shouted for Miles Copeland to dance,
but he declined. The show began with the guest performers
doing solos, followed by an intermission. The show ended
with a condensed version of the BDSS full stage show.
All of the guest performers
were fabulous, featuring cabaret and tribal styles. My
favorite was Morocco,
whose expressive dance style and finger cymbal playing were
perfectly matched to the music. My friend’s favorite
was Helena Vlahos, because she enjoyed seeing a more seasoned and full-figured
dancer. We grabbed some hummus and pita bread at the
intermission, and discussed the performances.
The BDSS show was impressive. The
dancers projected a lot of energy, even though the hall was
less than full. The stand out performance for me was
the cabaret and tribal duet. I enjoyed watching a piece
that celebrates the similarities and differences between the
two styles. My friend enjoyed the spinning piece. Anyone,
dancer or not, would find that impressive. The show as
a whole had a nice variety of fusion and traditional numbers. Some
criticize BDSS for having too much fusion, but it is this variety
that keeps the attention of a non-dancer like my friend. It
also inspires dancers like me to try new things.
Over all, Raqs LA represented
the true LA. I had bought into the stereotypes and had
forgotten just how diverse LA really is. Bellydance,
like LA, is incredibly varied with people from all backgrounds
finding joy in this art form. In spite of the technical
problems, Raqs LA showcased the full spectrum on the bellydance
community in a welcoming environment. Thank you to BDSS
and Marta Schill for putting a great event, and reminding me
of my true roots.
Anja's Court lead by Anja.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
Belly Dance From Burlesque by Miles Copeland
it is traditionally understood, I do not find Burlesque, (meaning
nudity—no matter how hard one pretends it does not) amusing or
creative in the slightest when it comes to including Belly dance,
an art that has suffered too long with such unfortunate associations.
I find it completely irresponsible and detrimental.
5-21-08 Saturday Gala
Peformance Part 2 of the International Bellydance Conference
of Canada video and photo report by GS staff
in Act 2 : Aisha Ali of Southern California, Bozenka of Florida,
Amy Sigil & Kari Vanderzwaag of Unmata from Sacramento, California,
Tito Seif of Egypt, Aida Nour of Egypt
Part 3: The Community Response- Dream Big by Betsey
Flood, Photos contributed by Masouma Rose and Monica
did those who attended that Las Vegas event last August –the
one that strove to become the biggest belly dance convention
ever -- think about their experience? Their answers may surprise
Fest 2008, Saturday May,17 2008, Sebastopol, CA photos
and video by Lynette
Produced by BlackSheep BellyDance and held in the Sebastolpol Community
Center, photos and performance clips of Hahbi’Ru, Unmata,
Sexy Scallywags, Romka, Tempest, Clandestine, Titanya, RockRose,
New Venue for Rakkasah Festival West by Susie Poulelis
retail, there is a saying that having an item sell out was a happy
problem to have. You want to keep your customers yearning for more,
making sure they won't hesitate to buy the next time they see something
from Carnival of Stars 2007- A-Z Page 3 Casual photos by
Carl Sermon, Duane Stevens, John Kalb, Murat Bayhan,
and Lynette Harris
10 & 11, 2007, produced by Alexandria and Latifa Centennial
Hall in Hayward, California
Night at Wahib's Roxxanne Shelaby's "Pure Sharqi" video
and photos by Lynette
January 19, Gilded Serpent was in Los Angeles for Pure Sharqi,
a special evening of live music and dance, hosted by Roxxanne Shelaby
(Hypzotica Productions), at Wahib’s in Alhambra. The evening
featured the house band, led by Mouhamad Salem, along with invited
dancers Aubre, Alexandra, the Lumina Dance Company, Debbie Smith,
Sahra Saida, and Roxxanne herself, in addition to the regular house
dance company the Sahlala Dancers.
Breaks Its Silence by Rachel Lazarus Soto
agreed that this was a good idea, and Schill volunteered to do
the paperwork, presumably on the behalf of MECDA.
Vendor's View by Artemis
need to respect their vendors, not just for fees that they have
given them, but because without the vendors lining the room, where
is the color (other than on the stage), and where is the “bazaar”atmosphere
of the event?