Photos from MassRaqs 2011
Text by Meiver, Producer
Photos by Heather Emerson of Dreamer’s Realm
posted October 6, 2011
Event held September 9-11, 2011
In Boston, we have had the proud honor to be the first city in the US to host a Middle Eastern Night club with live music and dancers. Our Festival’s name, MassRaqs, represents our geographic location (We are located in Massachusetts,) along with our desire to celebrate the dance culture and history of New England, fused with the Arabic word meaning dance (raqs).
The work we do in our event is driven by a desire to connect that beautiful history to the global present and future of our dance, by the fervor of Boston’s intellectual culture, and by the talent of our local community of dancers and musicians.
You can also think of “MassRaqs” as “Massive Dance”: a weekend long dance intensive during which we share dance (through performance), learn to dance (attending workshops), and learn about dance (in panels and discussions). Our workshops are planned around developing a dancer’s skills and better informed teachers.
Last year was our first year, and we were fortunate to host workshops and performances by widely-renowned dancer, Bozenka, and we learned Bedouin folk dances with talented Shadia of Boston. We also discussed New England’s Belly dance history in a panel on the film “Aziza!”, which was lead by it’s producers, Amy Smith and DeAnna Putnam as well as in the career retrospective presentation delivered by Shadia. This year we continued to celebrate local dance history through a recognition of the long standing work of Katia, of Boston who delivered her career retrospective presentation.
Live Middle Eastern music followed Katia’s talk. The music ensemble was comprised of Mitchel Kaltsunas (oud and vox), Tony Lahoud Chamoun (tabla), Youssef Aitelhadj (frame drum), and Sameer Almadani (keyboard). Joining these musicians on stage were a selected group of dancers who had been part of the talented and committed student group we were pleased to welcome this year. A new process this year was making the Friday night dance performance into a curated show featuring MassRaqs participants. The dancers presented styles of Belly dance as diverse as our community, and the show was an example of the dynamism and bright future of this dance/art form. The dancers selected this year were: Anabee, Ariella, Aslahan, Badriya, Helena Melone, Jaylee, Kaylin, Melissa, Nepenthe, Sara, Shakima Laila, and Zameena Asmar.
Additionally, our line-up of teachers, performers, and panelists this year included Hadia (Canada), Karim Nagi (Egypt/Boston), Katia (Boston), Tempest (Rhode Island), EmmaLucy Cole a.ka. Shema (UK), Paula (Dominican Republic), Roshana Nofret (Miami), Melina (Boston/Greece), Belly Beat (Boston), and Donna Mejia (Northampton).
In 2011 we were especially proud to welcome dance students, artists and scholars from all over the world to contribute their talent and insights to our festival. The theme of this year’s MassRaqs was “Globalization Within Belly Dance.” The dissemination of this dance and its many emerging versions and styles throughout the world also raises questions about its cultural appropriation. For this reason, we concluded our weekend on Sunday with a panel discussion that sought to answer questions about the roles and responsibilities that we should take on as participants in this global dialogue.
Through our Sunday panel (“Globalization and Cultural Appropriation”) we asked, “What does the spread and transformation of Belly dance practice throughout the world mean, and what the is the impact and potential of all these global dance communities?” The panel line-up was outstanding because its speakers were also active dancers, and represented diverse approaches The panel lasted 2.5 hours, and I plan to soon share what came up in the process of organizing it, and in the conversation itself!
It was very important to involve the local Arab community. We were able to successfully engage with The Center for Arabic Culture and The Boston University Lebanese Club as sponsors and community liaisons, bringing an important dimension of accountability and cross-community dialog. We organized jointly with a local community organization, bringing women from The MataHari Haitian Solidarity Network to our Saturday night performance. The MataHari Haitian Solidarity Network is a group comprised of women from MataHari: Eye of the Day (a Boston-based, anti-violence, non-profit group), The Gilbert Albert Community Center, and The Greater Boston Nazarene Compassion Center (GBNCC). Most, if not all, of the women were displaced by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, but they were coming together to support one another in healing with the purpose of advancing the economic, emotional, physical, and spiritual status of themselves and their families. We offered them gala tickets as our treat, a space for cross-cultural work, and a opportunity for diversion and enjoyment. Seven members of this group attended the Saturday Gala, courtesy of our local dance community members. We thank all of them for their generosity.
This event was made possible by the dedication and hard work of the MassRaqs 2011 team: Aleksie, Badriya, Cecilia Al-Barh, Jewels, Eli and Rosa Noreen. Their enthusiasm and contributions made this festival possible and they deserve the credit for what we all enjoyed. Photos below are by Heather Emerson of Dreamer’s Realm Photography and represent only a glimpse into our weekend.
Saturday Evening, September 10, 2011
Ready for more?
- 4-16-10 Belly Dance and Feminism: Different Issues, Different Perspectives
Feminism embraces more than one point of view, and feminist perspectives lead to many different decisions and courses of action. Feminism is a tool for thinking - for understanding and putting a name to issues you may be wrestling with in your own dance life, and for seeing belly dance in the light of broader economic, social and political realities.
- 11-15-02 Dancing again in Afghanistan
As I had suspected, Afghan women belly dance
- 2-14-03 God Belly Danced. Part 1: Biblical Accounts of Belly Dancing in the Ancient Near East
While Yahweh is not female, the man may have given Chavah a name similar to Yahweh because the woman and Yahweh had something vital in common
- 8-29-08 The Hippie Connection: Robert Altman’s 1969 In Utero Belly Dance Portrait of ME
There it was, the second of a series of black and white hippy portraits –people raving, a woman blissfully breastfeeding, couples hugging, dogs leaping -The Seminal Photo of my Life- only, I was cut out!
- 4-17-07 Finger Cymbals
Above all this cross-cultural cacophony soared my mom’s perfectly paced zills, right left right, right left right, right left right left right left right. If you put me in a room blindfolded, I could distinguish her playing from any other dancer on earth.
- 5-24-04 "Dancing Darkly"
This may come as a shock to many, but Gothic Belly Dance isn’t really a new phenomenon, and it’s not just centered in California. First of all, it’s simply a merger of two entities that go well together, like peanut butter and chocolate.
- 5-31-02 "The Art of Tempest"
The first image, "Dance," is inspired by the Minoan priestesses and is a monotype/mixed media
- 5-5-09 One Hip in Each Camp, My Experience of Working in Both the Arabesque Dance Company and the Arabesque Orchestra
My dancing is fuelled by my understanding of the music and now, my playing is influenced by the emotions I experience when I dance. It is a cyclical experience which has been boosted by this incredible opportunity to work with some of the most talented Arabic musicians on the scene.
- 8-15-10 Inverting the Gaze, Medusa Dualities in Female Bellydance Performance and How the Gaze Continues to be Relevant Today
This is not so hard to understand when we consider that the representation of female sexuality has been so over-developed as to become almost a parody of itself.
- 3-2-10 Latest Craze- Egyptian Oriental Dance, The Fitness Benefits of Our Dance
This is a fabulous idea, except for the very important and primary fact that the majority of efforts in this direction have attempted to fit this archetype of feminine activity into the current prevailing masculine model of linear strengthening and tightening, complete with fitness speak, crunches, squats and sweat!
- 10-3-11 Assiut / Assuit, Fascinating FAQs
However, mosquito netting was invented by the Egyptians and dates back thousands of years.
- 9-28-11 Aubre Hill, New Fussion Energy in Taiwan
As time has passed, the local community has found itself on a changing path. The heavily choreographed (written notation) dance trend remains the staple of the main stream while increasingly, local dancers (and instructors as well) have begun to realize that there is something else in addition to set notations of dance movements to learn.
- 9-27-11 Competition Strategies, A Judge’s Suggestions
Choosing a costume that fits and flatters your choreography is equally important. If you want to highlight your amazing hip work, be sure to choose a costume with lots of fringe and tassels on the hips so the judges cannot fail to see that hip work.