Gilded Serpent presents...

Why I Went to Camp This Summer

A Report on Bahaia’s 2010 Camparet

Ranya and author

by Anala Nahada
Photos by Author
posted October 26, 2011

[Editor’s note: Camperet was held October 8-10, 2010 at Camp Rio Vista – Ingram, TX
I’d like to apologize for the late posting of this article. It’s so much fun that I thought our readers would still enjoy reading it. Thanks!]

My last venture into the belly dance sleep away was to Las Vegas, Nevada. Now, you would  think that I would have known better as I don’t gamble, hate crowds, and need to sleep with my windows open to better feel a breeze slip across my nose and ruffle my hair. So, when Bahaia’s ad for Camparet came across my computer screen, I thought that this might just be a great opportunity to learn in an environment more conducive to my sense of well being.  Turns out that my husbands family lives minutes from there, and he needed to pay them a visit, so, decision made…I signed up. 

I spent the next months in fear and in anticipation. I hadn’t camped since I was exiled from home by my Mom who thought it would be good for me (and her). 

My last camping memory consists of a large bat flying into the 3 sided cabin that I shared with 3 other 10 year olds where it ended up lodging in my wadded up jammys, squeaking and fluttering its wings every time I tried to get into my sleeping bag. So with wary pessimism, I packed enough stuff to fend off hunger, cold and wild animals.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the fabulous campground Bahaia had chosen, located on the very banks of the Guadalupe River near Ingram, Texas. Not one stick on the ground, one errant leaf, and the beautiful stone bunkhouses even had indoor plumbing! Ok, the bunks were a bit short for this dancer, but I fold up pretty good. We were 7 to a room that holds 20 kids, so no cramping there. There was even enough room to turn the top bunk into a mini bar. The staff was used to cooking for large herds of kids, so the food was more than plentiful, with the cook constantly urging me to take the leftovers to class. 

The first class was offered the evening of arrival and was given by Roxxanne Shelaby. The subject was Dabke, a dance form this right/left challenged dancer has always feared. Being an Amazon, I am always worried about crushing the delicate toes of the petite dancer next to me. I was delighted when Roxxanne (who is my size) took me by my right hand and we started a 25 person Dabke circle. After a bit, I got it, and we got in that tight shoulder to shoulder harmony of Dabke that is the whole reason for doing it in the first place!   

The next morning it was time to take Ranya Renee’s Oriental Technique class.  Before much time had elapsed, I found myself dancing while bound mid thigh with a hot pink velvet stretchy band and a drinking straw inserted between my teeth. Crazy?  Yeah, like a small red fox.

2010 teachers
Roxxanne, Bahaia, Tamra Henna and Ranya Renee

Turns out that the subject of breath technique for dancers is very important to Ranya and we talked about it a lot in class. Lunch was had and then back to the gym for Ranya’s El Andalus class. I was prepared for a type of Spanish fusion, but it turns out that Arabs have a different take on that name, and all that it implies.  We were treated to working with some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard. We were the dancing to Sayed Darwish’s musical compositions to Muwashahat, a form of court poetry and song popular during the height of Muslim culture in Spain. The steps were Ranya’s own take on Mahmoud Reda’s movement vocabulary. After class, Bahaia made an announcement that a private lesson with Ranya would be possible for those who desired one and if her time allowed.  Can we say – SOLD!

Ranya does MuwashahatThe next day allowed me time to find Ranya at the gym and we started talking.  She was most gracious, and she treated this small time, small town teacher and dancer with the respect one would give a peer. She had indicated earlier that I could really use some breath coaching; however I was a bit resistant, as breath technique sounded a bit esoteric for this “old age” pragmatist. We all breathe, right? 

So, within the first 3 minutes of looking into her open gaze as she asked me why I held my breath as a matter of habit as I danced, I rediscovered some very old, very painful memories of breath holding during my childhood. It was a mechanism for maintaining emotional control during times of stress. I had force marched my emotions up out of my body and into my brain where I could better control them. I prevented their return back into my body by pinching the throat muscles so hard that the pain in my trachea was almost unbearable.  This same breath holding was being used in my dance, as my brain (or as Ranya would say, the office) would try and take over even when transported by joy. I was dumb struck. This, this was my issue?  Not noodle arms, my inability to stand still and dance, my left/ right challenge, my short term memory? Really, really?

Turns out that after doing some visualization exercises while breathing consciously and dancing, I realized that to inhabit your body and not just your head, you have to make room for yourself to live there. Expand the chest, take in the nourishment of the air around you, and trust your emotions to make a successful journey back to your heart. Your dance will thank you for it. I thank Ranya and Bahaia for it!  See you next year, ladies!


Photos from Camp Rio Vista
class with Ranya


Beautiful gym!


find out about next year’s camp here-

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  1. Edna Hakenson

    Nov 5, 2011 - 11:11:20

    Hi, Anala!  Glad you had such a good time?  Are you going to write about your 2011 trip too!  Hope so!!

  2. Edna Hakenson

    Nov 5, 2011 - 11:11:55

    Oops, change the ? to an exclamation point!

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