USA Belly Dance Queen: Arizona Arab BD Contest
posted January 16, 2010
Curious to see how Arizona’s first ever Belly dance competition would go, I accepted an offer for my troupe to perform. I loaded my daughter into the car and set out for the USA Belly Dance Queen Competition.
It was a formal affair in the Ovation Room at the Wild Horse Pass Casino in Chandler, Arizona, and, I have to say, I love the name of the event! It reminds me of Cairo, where dancers like Brazilian Wunderkind, Soraya, emphasize that while dancing your entrance, the attitude should be, “I am a queen; this is my entrance”. Egyptian Momo Kadous states with his customary dignity, “Your hip is the queen”.
In Egypt, references to “queen” are abundant, which initially seemed unusual to this American traveller, yours truly, until after enough trips to the museum and historic spots spelled out to me the simple truth: queens are a natural part of Egyptian history and culture.
Therefore, the term logically befits the carriage of a celebrated dancer, or any dancer in the mood for that matter. The founder, Ashraf Elgamal, of Belly Dance Queen is Egyptian; so the title ties the theme together rather nicely.
The September 18th competition set a precedent on a gorgeous stage, high above the theater seating, light streaming down on the brightly colored ribbons flowing from the high ceiling; it made for an inspiring evening, absolutely fit for a queen. Shirley, a Tempe based dancer, declared she felt like a rock star performing on that magnificent stage! Would the term “rock star” be the modern day equivalent of “queen” to some Americans? Either way, it sounds like a grand time, a way to really live and love life. Welcome to the glamour and light of Oriental dance, Arizona!
To be honest, my favorite part was that the show presented an interesting challenge to many American dancers. They were required to identify the regional and cultural style of music they would be dancing to and represent that root in their technique, costume, and dance styling.
Many dancers had never challenged themselves to find the songs titles, artists, lyrical translations–much less the cultural and regional dynamics that accompany this difficult art. Hossam Ramzy states in no uncertain terms that “until we treat this dance as a science, as they do in Flamenco or Classical Indian style, it will never be respected as a dance form, in the way that those dances, or even ballet or jazz dance are respected.” (Personally, I think every Belly dancer should read the articles about dance on his self- titled website.) My point is that the USA Belly Dance Queen Competition was put on by the Arab American Association, which did a good job of goading us closer to the very goal of creating a higher level of knowledge about the art of Belly dance (and hence respect for the art).
The show and competition lasted over two hours and styles ranged from Turkish to a highly finessed Egyptian style by Russian American, Inna of Iowa. Our grand prize winner, Makara, a well known Phoenix dancer did a dramatic Baladi style dance with Isis wings. (Makara, I may add, is a bit of an icon due to being unbelievably confident with her superb body and appearance, even after giving birth to seven, yes, ladies and gentlemen, seven children.) She clearly believed she was a Belly dance queen in every cell of her body and her stage presence and confidence filled the grand hall.
Hailing from Tucson Arizona, the winner of the intermediate section, Lara Grewe, displayed great confidence and a playful approach. We saw fabulous use of floor space by Amira of California, and truly professional Turkish and pop numbers from California and Arizona Dancers. Carrie Konya of Sedona was at the top of her game in the final round where dancers performed a dance-off by choosing a CD from a stack provided by a DJ and improvising onstage to a soundtrack they may or may not have heard before. I was immensely impressed with the sportsmanship displayed by so many of these women, both in regards to the competition and treatment of each other. The quantity of contestants was not great but the talent certainly was, and I believe it was a very close competition.
My troupe, Shahrazad Dance Company, did a guest appearance with a Hossam Ramzy drum solo and an Awalim-inspired number that I learned from Faten Salama this year in Cairo. It was exciting and also an amazing opportunity for some of our newest dancers to get their initial big stage performance experience. They all loved it.
It was an exciting time for Phoenix dancers and their fans, families, and friends. We all made many new friends and contacts (I’m inviting Innah back to do a workshop in November.) and I am glad that the Arizona Arab American Association and founder, Ashraf Elgamal, put on such a fun event. I’m hoping to come closer to a fewf personal goals: to bring together the Arab American community with that of the dance community, and to raise Arizona’s standards in dance to more closely resemble those of Europe, Argentina, Korea, in short–the International community–and simply to have a more interesting and fun place to live.
Photo at top of page: Ashraf and Radwa award Makara with the winning trophy.
Photo above left is Venusahara
Announcer with Judges:
Helena Vlahos, Nabila Mitwali, Omar Omansi, Amani Elgamal , Rania Sweis
not pictured- Amani Sultan scheduled, but didn’t come, Ashraf Elgamal also a judge is pictured at top of page
2010 USA Belly Dance Queen, Intermediate Category: Lara Grewe – Tucson, AZ
1st Runner Up: Elisa Armetta – Boca Raton, FL
2nd Runner Up: Venusahara – Mesa, AZ
Guest Dancers Shahrazad Dance Company
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