Gilded Serpent presents...

Raqs Royalty Lights Up Atlanta!

Tito and Karim

Black Orchid Danse, May 2010

by Andye
Photography by Jaki Hawthorn
posted May 4, 2011

Black Orchid Danse (BOD) hit the ground running back in May of 2009 with a stellar line up that won the hearts of dancers nationwide. Rave reviews and fan chatter followed for four months and is still popping up on various social media outlets such as Facebook and Yahoo groups. BOD 2010 brought in twice the number of raqs stars and raqs royalty including world renowned Kaeshi Chai of BellyQueen, David of Scandinavia and Egyptians Karim Nagi and Tito Seif to name a few. Global participants flooded into this extraordinary raqs world which has always been housed in some of Atlanta’s finest hot spots such as Ibiza (an Andalucian bistro and club) and the Sheraton Gateway Hotel.

Black Orchid Danse workshops are structured to provide diversity in topics and to challenge dancers of all levels “something for everyone”! You really have a smorgasbord of material to pick from and it’s strategically scheduled so that you’re able to take from everyone within the 4-5 glorious days. The workshops were held in large ballrooms that, despite their size, provide an intimate setting. One feels a part of a larger community as opposed to being a random guest. I think that’s what brings people back year after year – this sense of family and kindness. Strangers become your first cousins, brothers and sisters. You may not have known a soul when you first walked in the door but before day one is over you’ve already snacked, befriended each other on Facebook, coffee-breaked and danced side by side with someone based miles away from your home.

In 2010 we began our night at Ibiza. Tito Seif, Frank Farinaro and Amalia Maya were hailed with zaghreets as they walked in the door while stars that had arrived previously were already getting their taste of the very warm embrace of Atlanta’s Raqs community. Dinner was barely finished before the Moroccan rai and Maghreb dances began featuring members of Atlanta’s African Asian Exchange, local bellydance community and international community.

Click photo for enlargement

Back Row: 1-Azraa,2-Alima,3-Andye, 4-Amanda, 5-Tamar, 6-Dahne,7-Kalinka,8-Naima Sultan,9-Galina, 10-Tito,11-Lauren, 12-Diana,
13-Alyssa, 14-Cheryll, 15-Alexia, 16-Patrice, 17-Lauren, 18-Kim, 19-Samira, 20-Gail, 21-Belly Bolly, 22-Andrus, 23-Laura, 24-Naomi
Front Row: 1-Ardyce, 2-Amalia Maya, 3-Mary, 4-Ahava, 5-David, 6-Amira, 7-Lacey, 8-Karim, 9-Maite,

The next 4 days were filled with authentic raqs that you usually have to travel abroad to see. This was mixed with traditional, pop, modern material and well thought out fusion. Tito Seif taught several classes including a Saidi session (complete with tahtib). David did what felt like sha’abi and nearly shook us all into a fantastic frenzy. Watching him execute moves is beyond exciting. He’s a real crowd pleaser! Amalia Maya’s courses were some of the best fusion I’ve ever seen. She broke down moves extremely complicated moves that I’d only seen executed well by pioneers such a Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes. Amalia made it look and feel flawless.

She turned this modern Maghreb raqs raissa into a belly dance fusion fanatic.

BOD keeps them coming one right after another for the entire event. One of my most memorable was with Kaeshi Chai. I caught up with her in the hallway with my one question that led her to sit down with me. She pulled out her laptop and showed a great deal of the projects she’s been working on. Soon a crowd gathered and she welcomed them all explaining a myriad of things from her PURE project. Of course my new friends and I began sniffing and snotting into tissues as we watched segments from her shows. It was such a warm raqs moment. This is something I feel BOD encourages and expects.

My main reason for attending conferences are the lectures and talks. David’s class on expression and presentation had a lot of cultural tips and advice, music history and how to respond to Qawali vs Bhangra.

I won’t give away all that we learned in the workshops and classes because I think those moments supercede into the spiritual; words won’t do the moments justice. I can say that the amount of material given is huge yet manageable. Many brought their notebooks or had others take notes for them while they danced. We worked cooperatively to make sure each person soaked up as much as they could.  All the instructors gave out very complete and concise material that has proved more than useful and has been used and shared in local shows and cultural projects on the academic level and beyond.

Black Orchid’s gala shows feel more like the best of Broadway. It’s a spectacular array of top talent from around the world. The lineup is clearly carefully picked because each show has a variety of dance styles from Khaleegi, classic Orientale, bollywood, raqs fusion, Indian classical along with South Asian modern pop and, of course, the “Tito Show”! Which is a show within show, and oh what a show it is! Tito Seif is a true entertainer! I’ve seen him in Toronto and have tons of footage from his global travels but never have I seen do what he did that night. He spoiled that crowd and his adoring fans with one up close and personal experience after the other. The whole show was surreal. One lady at my table shook her head in amazement the whole time.

To this day that performance has been hailed as the best raqs sharqi show many have ever seen. I concur, as much as I adored him in Toronto he was absolutely astonishing in Atlanta.

No other conference compares. I’ve been to hundreds of shows in the last 10 years and a ton of other international ceremonies and events before that …just like most who grow up in global communities. So, I cherish BOD as much as I do my cousins’ weddings, Toronto’s bellydance conference and eid. BOD has left me smitten and forever changed! And everyone I speak with says the same! Mabrook wa Shukran jazillan to Cheryll Bolden who is the mastermind behind it all! Here’s to another stellar year!

A mixed sampling of photos from the shows each night.


Asha of Georgia

Aziza Nawal

Belly Bolly of Florida

Daivd, Karim, Simon, Tito, Sal, Frank

Drum Solo Contestants

Daughters of the Nile of Florida

Karim Kaeshi


Simon Karim Kaeshi

A debke line broke out featuring none other than Tito, Karim, Lebanese Simon, drum solo competition winner Sal Vargas along with a ton of wailing zaghareets from the rest of our international family.

Tito performs



Join us for the 2011 events: Tito, Hayat El Helwa, Sharon Kihara, Nath Keo, and much more,

May 26-30, 2011, Peachtree City, GA

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  1. Saniyah

    May 6, 2011 - 02:05:36

    An incredible time and I am SOOOO looking forward to 2011!  One of the best shows and some surprising performances that made me a fan of several performers.  It is a wonderful place to see the best of Raq world as well as learn from them.  I have made friends, met  stars and grown so much.  Come on Memorial Day I CAN”T WAIT!!! 

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