Egyptian Bellydance Past & Present
In the Fall of 2009, I came up with the idea to produce and direct my very first show. After having lunch with my friend, Samar, I walked away from our meeting, feeling as if a seed had been planted.
Throughout the years, I’ve been extremely fortunate and honored to have been featured in various stage productions and DVD projects. After doing shows for a while, I started to pick up a few things, noticing all of the hard work that goes into putting a professional show together. I have always known that I wanted to produce a show myself but felt that I didn’t have enough experience to do so, and I also felt that perhaps I was too young and would not be taken seriously. Nevertheless, after reassurance from close friends and family, I took the first steps towards my dream.
I’ve always admired Saida of Argentina because she continuously produces great shows every year. Her shows feature the students and instructors from her dance academy, and they are always in a theatre with professional lighting and sound. Every year, there’s a different theme. I wanted to bring something similar to the Bay Area.
My purpose for doing this show was to bring Bellydance to the stage.
We have such amazing talent in the Bay Area, and I feel that those dancers deserved a stage to showcase such amazing talent.
There was an amazing cast for the Ana Ra’asa Showcase. This year’s theme was “A Tribute to Egyptian Dancers of the Past and Present.” I had given the cast a list of dancers ranging from Naima Akef and Zizi Moustapha to Dandesh and Randa Kamel. Each cast member was to choose one dancer to emulate. They were required to study costuming, hair, make up, mannerisms and of course, dancing.
After everyone chose her dancer, I created the time-line:
- Samar as Samia Gamal
- Zahara as Taheia Carrioca
- Tabitha as Soheir Zaki
- Salena as Nagwa Fouad
- Jhermanie as Lubna Emam
- Myself as Fifi Abdo (my dance idol)
- Shaunte as Dina (Unfortunately, Shaunte was unable to perform.)
My main challenge was finding the venue. I wanted something that was suitable, but affordable at the same time. What I realized along the way was: if you are hoping to book in a theater, you either have to book more than one show (for example, a show on Saturday and Sunday). If you’re planning to book your show on a Saturday evening, good luck! Those slots are taken very quickly! If none of the above, then you will find that the venue charges a ridiculously inordinate sum of money. Because all of this money was coming out of my humble pocket, I had to choose wisely.
Finally, I found La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley, CA. It had a stage, a dressing room, professional lighting and sound; they handled the ticket sales, and advertised the show on their website and calendar, which gets dispersed throughout the Bay Area. On top of all of that, they were affordable.
Initially my show was supposed to be in January, but because of scheduling differences, it had to be pushed forward to the first Sunday of February. Considering the fact that I am not a sports fan, I was totally oblivious to the fact that that particular date, February 6th, in fact, was Super bowl Sunday! However, now it was too late to change the date.
Contracts had already been signed. So we crossed out fingers and hoped that people could break away from their television sets that evening to see our show.
In the Summer of 2010, I had the entire cast pose in a photo shoot for the advertisement for the show. We found a great photographer, Topher Adam, who had never photographed Bellydancers, but was excited about the theme of our show. It was important to me that we all worked with the same photographer for the promotion of the show. Additionally, thanks to Tabitha’s husband, we got a great design for our postcards.
The day of the show, I found myself calm and collected. Finally, after a year of preparation, the day had finally come! In the end, our showcase was a complete success. The audience attendance far exceeded my expectations, and the show received great reviews from those who attended.
Strangely enough, a few days before the show, the uprising protests in Cairo took place. It was a coincidence that the same time Egyptian people were fighting for democracy and freedom; half-way across the world, six American women were praising six Egyptian women who had made a lasting impression in their lives. Since the show was about Egyptian dance, it was only appropriate that we acknowledged the situation that was happening in the Middle East.
I was completely elated, even six days after the show was over. We had successfully put on a quality show, bringing the dance to the stage, where it belongs!
Author Ahava does a drum solo
Ready for more?
- 12-18-06 My Moment with Nagwa
While dancing I kept eye contact with the judges and guests of honor. I still remember their mannerisms and what I perceived to be their glares. Randa and Dr. Mo were conversing and smiling contently, Faten and Zahra were clapping. Also, there sat Nagwa Fouad, “Queen of Cairo!”
- 5-4-11 Raqs Royalty Lights Up Atlanta! Black Orchid Danse, 2010
She turned this modern Maghreb raqs raissa into a belly dance fusion fanatic.
- 5-3-11 Rakkasah West Festival 2011, Saturday, Page 2" J-Z
This group of photos is from Saturday, March 12, 2011. Bands in the background include: Vince Delgado and Coralee, The Mediterranean Raqs Band, Pangia, and Al’Azifoon
I do not know exactly what will happen, but I know it’s a beautiful start to present a Dominican dancer to the dance world. One very important thing also is that this award means to me that dreams do come true. I always wanted to be a dancer, and I could never really make it work because my country does not considered it a true profession.
- 4-25-11 You Say Zills, I say Sagat, So What’s the Difference?
Nevertheless, many dancers outside the Middle East still think the only difference between zills and sagat is semantics – “two words for the same instrument.” If you’ve played both – correctly – I doubt you would agree.
- 4-23-11 Sahra gives us a reports on her friends in Cairo since the Jan 25 revolution.
Sahra Kent with the help of Roxanne Shelby reports on what she has heard from her friends in Cairo since the protests began less than a month before this interview on February 20, 2011. It was conducted at the Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition in Long Beach, California
- 4-20-11 Hip Hip Hooray for Bellydance Day
Bellydance Day was created by Shabnam to inspire, educate and celebrate the beauty of this often misunderstood dance form. The dances presented on August 21, 2010 included Saiidi, Modern Oriental, Egyptian to Fusion.
- 4-18-11 Fashion Trend Report 2011 What’s New This Year at Rakkasah?
What I noticed, first and foremost, was not the costuming, but rather, a change in the sellers themselves. The seller demographic has radically altered, creating a new vendor landscape. Without a doubt, this is a response to the on-going sluggish economy and the need for companies to reduce expenses. The reduction in costumes and products coming out of Egypt also affected the merchandise. Many small factories had a gap in production, and shipping has become even more problematic.