Gilded Serpent presents...

Dreaming in Massachusetts

Photos from MassRaqs 2011

Meiver and Karim

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.

Gala Performances

Saturday Evening, September 10, 2011
Boston University Theater, Boston, MA


Hadia’s Raqs Sharqi piece during the MassRaqs Gala.


Meiver Karim Duet


Karim Nagi & Meiver in improvised duet during the MassRaqs Gala.


Karim Saidi

Karim Nagi’s Saidi solo.


Meiver Saidi

Meiver’s Saidi solo.



Melina of Daughters of Rhea, performs her double sword balancing and Vintage Orientale dance


Roshana Persian

Roshana Nofret performs classical Persian dance



Belly Dancer of the Universe 2011 winner Paula performs an electrifying Raqs Sharqi and drum solo



Shema performs an energetic Moroccan Shaabi with urban feel,


Hadia Roma

Hadia in her fierce performance of Turkish Roma dance


Meiver Veil

Meiver performs a passionate veil dance



Roshana Nofret performs Raqs Sharqi


Katia Students

Katia’s students perform Tunisian Dance.
From left to right: Rianna, Mahira, Ma’isah, Sabah and Angela.


Karim Tabla

Karim Nagi’s Turbo Tabla solo.


Opening Night Celebration

MassRaqs Opening Celebration – September 9th 2011,
World Rhythms Dance and Fitness, Boston, MA

Roshana Opening Night

Roshana Nofret performs a classical Raqs Sharqi set

to live music by Mitchel Kaltsunas (oud and vox), Tony Lahoud Chamoun (tabla), Youssef Aitelhadj (frame drum), and Sameer Almadani (keyboard),


George and Mitchel

Legendary singer George Chamoun spontaneously joins the band for a song. Here pictured with Mitchel,








Shakima Leila

Shakima Laila





Zameena and Tony

Zameena Asmar and Tony Chamoun.















Please help us with the names for these individuals. Thank you!
Sept 9-11, 2011, World Rhythms Dance and Fitness, Boston, MA.

Meiver's Veil Class

Meiver with students after her workshop "Fluid and Larger than Life: Veil for Oriental Dance".


Katia Tunisian

Katia with students during her Tunisian Folk dance workshop


Katia's class

Katia’s Tunisian Folkdance Workshop


Hadia's class

Hadia with students during her dance workshops in Egyptian and Turkish Roma dance

WHICH PHOTO IS WHICH CLASS? Egyptian or Turkish class?

Hadia's class
Hadia with students during her dance workshops in Egyptian and Turkish Roma dance


Karim Workshop

Karim Nagi’s workshops Oum Khalthoum Intros for Belly Dance and Rhythms for dancers


Karim's OmK class


Karim Rhythm class

Karim’s Rhythms for dancers workshop
From left to right, students Cyndal and Paula.


Karim's Drum class

Karim Nagi’s “tabla touchers” after his
Rhythm for Dancers workshop.

Left to right, back to front:
1-Kanina Hague, 2-Lizzy Mulen, 3-peeking-FangYun, 4-pink shirt-Angela Clayton, 5-peeking- Eli, 6-Kaylin, 7-Anabee, 8-Rachael, 9-peeking?, 10?, 11-Yael Zohar, 12-Jemileh Nour, 13-Cyndal Ellis, 14-Nepenthe Ahlam, 15-peeking, 16-Sobeida Lagrange, 17?
Tamsin Maxwell, Megan Gackstetter, Jaylee, ??, tabla, ??, ??, Melissa Kelman with green bracelet, Meiver, Sara, Paula, Karim, Shakima Laila, ??


Event Website:

Photographer’s GS Biopage

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