Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31 Welcoming Committee

Ranya and I both arrived today. We're staying at the Meramees Hostel off of Talat Harb. I walked over to my old campus, AUC, went to the bookstore, my favorite juice bar, and walked along the Nile before managing to get cornered in small shop by a man desperate to sell me a papyrus with my mother's name on it. When I made it clear I wouldn't buy it, the man disappeared and his son asked what it was about New York City that made my eyes so sad. We're going to a nightclub tonight to see some dancing as the new year seeps in....(The cats were huddled beside the old elevator at the Meramees. Stray cats are everywhere in Cairo.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cairo! December 31, 2009

I land at 12:15 p.m. on New Year's Eve day! Ranya and I plan to go to the Cairo Marriott to see Soraya dance the new year to all.

Mt. Hope, Ohio

Last week, while getting ready for Cairo, I spent a week in Ohio with my family. We spent a day at an auction in Mt. Hope where my uncle was selling a load of hay. At the auction, people sat around talking and enjoying each other's company. Relaxation. It's good to know places like that exist. Next....Cairo!

Monday, November 30, 2009

NYU Class Music: B Quarter 2009

Updated dance class music for NYU classes in the B quarter, which is (sadly)coming to a close.:

Level Two dancers are using for warm up: "Samra" and "Itfarag al Halawa" on the Oriental Belly Dance CD by Noura and Bassem Yazbeck. For our drum solo, we are using "Sawraji Tabla" and "Layali Al Sharq" on the album Layali Al-Sharq by the Al Ahram Orchestra.

Level One dancers are finishing our routine to Nancy Ajram's "Baddala3 alek" from her album Ah W Noss. I still can't find the song on Itunes, but you might be able to find the track or the full album on other sites. Nancy Ajram's website is This is one of her earlier albums. Practice over Christmas break everyone!

Video Clip of Soheir Zaki

After many mentions of Soheir Zaki as one of my favorite Egyptian style dancers in class, I'm including this link to her work, but there are many on YouTube to see. As with all clips from the 70s, the camera work is bizarre, but her dancing and musicality (and hip accents) stay clear. Please watch over the break!

NanoWrimo 2009

Just finished with 50,001 words!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Part II: Watching and Recording

This second entry involving an artist/scholar taking notes and recording information puts me at odds a second time. I suppose this is the "gaze" of Orientalism. In this self-portrait and sketch, the artist Dominique Vivant-Denon can be seen "sketching the ruins of Hierakonpolis." Denon was one of the "savants" or artisans taken by Napoleon Bornaparte to record accurately what they saw as they moved quickly through the country in hopes of gaining power. According to this blog entry from the New York Review of Books, the artists had to work and record quickly on the famous Expedition. For more information, read Peter Brooks' blog entry: "From Egypt to Paris: An Artist Prized for his Travel Sketches."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Part I: "Watching and Recording"

Though I am not so versed in the work of French anthropologist and writer Claude Levi-Strauss, his death last week made for an interesting tribute by Nobel writer (and modern Orientalist) J. M. G. Le Clezio, "The Savage Detective." Among a list of graces attributed to Strauss, Le Clezio comments that he was (arguably) able to walk dangerously close but avoid the trap of the colonial mindset through "his humanity and his melancholy kindness, which made him reluctant to go into the field for fear of intruding on the people he studied or finding himself disappointed by what had been lost to the evolution of modern times." In the picture above, Strauss studies closely the technique of a Brazilian capoeira dancer.

Le Clezio ends with a quote that haunts from Strauss' Tristes Tropiques: “The world began without the human race and will certainly end without it.” (Photo: Claude Levi-Strauss from the New York Times)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Farida Fahmy's "Muwashshahat Raqisah"

For those interested in the stylized classical Arabic dance form refered to here as The Muwashahat, Mahmoud Reda's sister-in-law recently posted on her website a short, excellent history of the Reda Troupe's pioneering work on the form. It is a stylized, reimagining dance form derived from the 10th century court music of Arab-Andulusia. Mohamed Shahin and Karim Nagy recently hosted an excellent introductory workshop on the topic in NYC. You'll hear more about that soon. In the meantime, who could introduce it better than Farida Fahmy? Visit immediately: "Muwashshahat Raqisah: Dancing Muwashshahat." (Both graphics come from Fahmy's site.)

NYC Events: Two Shows Celebrating Women

(Photo: Paul B. Goode)
This week, I'll perform in two divinely feminine shows on Monday, Oct. 26 and Thursday, Oct. 29:

Monday, Oct. 26, @ 7 p.m.
The Metropolitan Building
44-01 11th Street,Long Island City, NY
I'll dance with Alembic,
Dunya's Dancemeditation company, as they begin this season's monthly dance series.

Thursday, Oct. 29 @ 7 p.m.
PURE Pandemonium Halloween Birthday Benefit Je'Bon Restaurant15 St. Mark's Place, NYC (btw 2nd & 3rd) N/R/W to 8th Street, 6 to Astor Place $10-20 Suggested Donation 1 food/drink item minimum

This evening includes a roster of dancers including Kaeshi, Tandava, Jaida, and me (Thalia) raising money for another successful performance. PURE's summer show emphasized the transformative potential of belly dance to enable women to accept their bodies and confront confidence issues. This show at Je'Bon is to raise money for a next performance.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beauty, Orientalism, Ownership

As the Neues Museum reopens in Berlin since its closure after World War II, a controversy has risen over the proper ownership of the priceless, 3,300 year old bust of Queen Nefertiti. Zahi Hawass claims the bust was taken in dishonestly in 1913. Germany claims the possession was legal and that the conditions in Germany make the relic better off there. Like last spring's Greece vs. England Elgin Marbles debate, the voiceless, stunning female beauty at the heart of the controversy and power mongering haunts. See the New York Times' article: "Egypt Demands Return of Nefertiti Statue."

Monday, October 12, 2009

To Learn to Die is to Learn How to Live: "Egyptian Book of the Dead"

At a lecture on how die (and consequently live well) at the New School presented by philosophy superstar Critchley, the Egyptian Book of the Dead came up repeatedly. The human obsession with the afterlife by ancient Egyptians is not unique; humans at all intervals can't stand to believe their souls might simply end. But what intrigued me was Critchley's reference to Montaigne, the French philosopher and essayist, who was fascinated by how the Egyptians constantly put the inevitability of death in their midst. At feasts, during the revels and eating, a human skeleton would be brought out to remind revellers that the end was inescapable. The title of the funerary script "Spells of Coming" (or "Going") "Forth By Day" presents also the quandry that because we don't know our afterlife situation, we don't know if we are coming or going.

For a better print discussion on dying and Egyptians and philosophy, see the recent review in the Nation by Alexander Provan: "The End of Self Help." Simon Critchley was entertaining (he stands on his toes as he speaks) and the lecture was thought provoking rather than dark. His recent book is The Book of Dead Philosophers.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy in "Mid-Year Vacation"

While working on a new belly dance article, I found an a beautiful clip of Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy on YouTube. Beautiful folkloric dancing from both the choreographer and his sister in-law.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Les Femmes du Maroc"

A new exhibit at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA (just north of Boston) opened this week. The New York based Saudi Arabian photographer Lalla Essaydi photographed women in poses and settings that suggest the famous "orientalist" painters such as Delacroix. The exhibit runs through January 3. A panel will be held on Sunday, Oct. 11. Check the website for detail exhibition information on "Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc." The Decordova Museum and Sculpture Park is worth visiting anytime. .

Sisters of Bast 2009

We had a beautiful day at Fort Tryon. The weather was perfect and tens of thousands of festival goers strolled by. The Sisters of Bast danced at 1:30 and 3 p.m. and everyone performed beautiful solos to the music of "Sir Scott Lancelot" aka Scott Wilson. Though the knight (pictured below) turned out to be a bit pompous, we left inspired for more shows.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sunday, October 4th: Medieval Festival

The 2009 Schedule for the Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon has been announced! The Royal Procession begins at the Front Gate of the Gardens at 11:30 am. After that, I'll dance with Scott Wilson at the Triangle Pub at 12:30 p.m. Then we'll roam to the Riverside Market Theatre to perform with my fabulous group the Sisters of Bast at 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. This year's Sisters include: Carrie, Carolina, Hana, Lateefah, Alexandra, and Mariana. At 5 p.m., I'll dance with the cast of dancers and musicians at 5 p.m. on the Pageant Wagon Stage.

Purists ask: How does belly dance fit in with Medieval Europe? It doesn't. But nevertheless, I'll be wearing a chain mail costume for the occasion.

The Festival is free and maps are available when you arrive at Fort Tryon. Please note that while there is subway service to 190th street on the A train, there is no shuttle bus running to the Cloisters. Expect a good 1/2 mile walk to the museum and to make your way through the festival. In addition to belly dance performances by Manhattan Tribal and Aleeyzah, make time for jousting, mead, Medieval and Celtic Music, dance lessons from the SCA, and purchasing homemade goods from the many local craft vendors. And oh yes, Medieval fried dough. Though last year's rainy weather made for gorgeous pictures, I hope this year's Festival will bring sun.

For Festival transportation information:
For a detailed program:

Current Class Music: NYU

For current classes running at NYU and beyond, we are using a song from the album Ah W Noss by Nancy Ajram. We're using the second track on that album, Baddala3 alek. I couldn't find the song on Itunes, but you might be able to find the track or the full album on other sites. Nancy Ajram's website is For those working on the routine at the Medieval Festival, we are using Hossam Ramzy's Baladi Plus album for rehearsal. For new students, please see previous posts for music recommendations:

I couldn't resist this perfect "orientalish" picture from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sisters of Bast 09

This year, a set of new Sisters will perform at the Cloisters! This picture is from 2007; see more pictures at the link below. Curent class music:
Hossam Ramzy's appropriately titled:
Arabian Knights on his album Baladi Plus, available at the ITunes link below.

See you at the Festival!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon Park on Oct. 4

The Medieval Festival takes place Sunday, Oct. at Fort Tryon Park surrounding the Cloisters Museum. I'll be dancing with students this year. Festivities last from noon-6 pm ish. There are dancers, musicians, josting swordsmen, kings,, queens, etc. Dress up for occassion or just gawk! For more information:

Fall Dance Classes Begin at NYU

Fall dance classes begin this week at NYU! You must be a member of Coles Gym and/or a student to take the following courses:

On Tuesdays and Thursdays: Beginning level from 3:30 to 4:25 p.m. and Intermediate level from 4:30 -5:25 p.m.

On Fridays: Intermediate Level from 1:30-3:25 p.m. and Beginning Level from 3:30-4:25 p.m.

Register September 15-17 at Coles Gym, noon-8 p.m.

Questions? Call me: 347-782-1357.

(Photo: PunkDolphin)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Orientalists' Desire: Define and Explain

In a review of Judith Thurman's new biography of Isak Dineson, aka Karen Blixen, in the Nation, Joanna Scott dissects Dineson's stories ("Seven Gothic Tales) and her famous memoir Out of Africa. The memoir troubles Scott more than the stories. In the stories, Dineson allows the characters representing the native people of colonized Africa to speak for themselves. Scott writes of the memoir:
The memoir is about Dinesen's love of East Africa--the cultures, the landscapes, the animals. The feeling that saturates the book is reverence. Dinesen doesn't pretend to be an expert on the country; much of what she encounters puzzles her. But she is respectful of indigenous traditions and protective of the people. ... Dinesen's typical strategy in the book is to name something, define the name by a set of associations and then unravel her own definition.

Scott continues, considering her stereotypes at times blatant an other times insidiously naive. She doesn't call Dineson by the label Orientalist, but the implication pervades this consideration of a writer I certainly admire. Dineson's detailed descriptions mixed with invention, give a dangerous implication of authority, Scott claims just before quoting well known Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o who called Out of Africa : "one of the most dangerous books ever written about Africa."
Though inspired by love and a desire to understand the culture she'd immersed herself in, Dineson's attempt to "define" the people and customs and even the natural world reveal her lack of knowing.

I was recently taken to account by a musician for considering a certain style of belly dance "more Lebanese" and another "Egyptian." There is good dancing and bad dancing, he said. By creating labels, and then creating definitions to back up these labels (even "traditional" or "authentic"), it seems we distance ourselves even farther from what we're trying to understand. Like this blog, for instance. Am I trying to justify by explanation?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Maureen Fleming: Dances From Home

Maureen Fleming performs this weekend at La Mama Galleria alongside a showcase of photographs highlighting her 30 year career as a solo artist. Live performances will take place at:
Saturday Aug. 22-Monday Aug. 24
7, 8, and 9 pm
at La Mama La Galleria (not the theatre)
6 East 1st St., between Bowery and 2nd Ave.
Reservations: 212-677-6998

The photography will be on view through Sept. 4.

Fleming will also host a workshop Tuesday, Aug. 25 from 1-4 p.m. for $30. I've studied with Maureen and her husband Chris Odo for many years! I absolutely recommend her work to all. Telephone: 917-575-4969

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Dance Essay Publication

My essay of a dancer who overhears advice about women and music--"it never works"-- shared by a wise, seasoned oudist and a bighearted clarinest is featured in a new anthology published this summer by Open City Press. The book is a great collection of the city and has been featured on NPR and in other news outlets. My story "Players" can still be found in its original form on the website (click "Players"), but the revised version in the new anthology is better

Bellies in Antiquity

While teaching a belly roll workshop in July, I attended a gallery talk at the Metropolitan Museum of Art titled: "The Body in Antiquity," I was peculiarly aware of the amazing bellies that surrounded me in white marble, bronze, obsidian, and roughed up stone--bellies had withstood time.

The pictures at the right focus on women's bellies though there is one male scribe in the Egyptian section. I started with the Egyptian Wing at the Met and then went over to the Greek and Roman room, and finished in the achingly small (if one can complain about the riches of the Met) East Asian wing. I was overwhelmed and had to call it a day. (Works from the Greek, Roman, and East Asian rooms are coming.)

As I walked from room to room, snapping photos and leaning toward bellies, I became aware of several things.

One, though I knew women's bellies were sexy, I wonder if the process of teaching dance and breaking down and analyzing technique makes me about technical and detached from the subject, the bellies themselves. As I progressed through the galleries, however, I was beautifully reminded of how erotically charged this center is. I became increasingly self conscious as the beefy, male security guards followed from room to room. Though I presume they were tracking me to make certain I didn't raise my flash, my activity started to feel illicit and dark. I began to wonder--why? Was it because I was only photographing women and rather closely at that? I considered telling one of the guards what I was actually doing and giving them my card, but worried an anxious description of the project would make my intentions seem even more sketchy. I was breaking no rules after all.

I also wondered if they actually were tracking me. In truth, they were simply standing in their assigned rooms doing their jobs on a busy, summer, Saturday night. Why was I getting so anxious?

Secondly, though different cultures and eras define the body, the difference of the portrayal of men and women in striking. Men are always straight, standing tall, confident. Women curve and bend, more often caught in movement rather than being portrayed at rest. Even in the Egyptian wing--with the exception of the female Pharaoh Hatsheput-- the women's bare, elongated torsos often curve with a sense of movement. They are musicians and dancers. They work in the fields or nursing children. Even the Goddesses are doing something. Repose, command, and stillness, appear to be part of the male experience.

Maureen Fleming: Dances from Home

This week, Aug. 14-21, I'll working in the Catskills with Maureen Fleming and Chris Odo. I'm taking their certification course for Fleming Elastics. For those of you in NYC, Maureen is performing and exhibiting photography in the East Village beginning on Aug. 22. Information follows, but you can also go to their website:

La MaMa E.T.C. presents DANCES FROM HOME,
the first gallery installation/performance art piece by choreographer/performance artist Maureen Fleming.
This unique performance and installation will feature a
retrospective of photography, video and live performance
spanning her 25 years as an artist in residence at
La MaMa E.T.C.

DANCES FROM HOME is on view August 22 - September 4,
6:00 - 10:00 PM daily with live installation presentations
Saturday - Monday August 22 - 24, at 7pm, 8pm & 9pm.
La MaMa's LA GALLERIA is located at 6 East 1st Street,
between Bowery & 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.
Nonprofit contributions for photography will be donated
to La MaMa E.T.C.

Reservations: 212.677.6998

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dust, the X-Men, and the "Male Gaze"

I am not a comic book reader, but a three part posting by Jehanzeb Dar in Altmuslimah (Exploring Both Sides of the the Gender Divide): Part 1: Female, Muslim, and Mutant: Muslim Women in Comic Books raises interesting questions about the X-Men's depiction of the female, Muslim character Dust. Comic books, like comedy, often rely on simplified stereotypes, which fast become creepy and politically charged. While much of the article focuses on the uncomfortable portrayal of Islam in the comics--"Mutants are misunderstood, feared, and hated by the public, while the media and government powers propagate fear, persecution, and even war against them.Sound familiar?"--what interests me for the purpose of this blog is Dar's concern with the "male gaze," a term that often comes up in the study of "Orientalism." The entertainment industry (including belly dance and belly dancers) often caters to the uncomfortable and easy stereotype of "mysterious and sexy.":

" can be strongly argued that the male gaze is still in effect. For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology, the “male gaze” is essentially female characters being depicted and presented in ways their heterosexual male writers, artists, and audiences would like to see them. In the case of Dust, we can make an argument for the Western male gaze: an “oppressed” Muslim girl is rescued from Afghanistan by Wolverine, a Western male mutant. Wolverine is told that the Taliban were trying to remove Dust’s burqa, obviously to molest her, and since there don’t seem to be other Muslims around to take a stand against the Taliban’s perverted behavior, who better to rescue her than Wolverine, or rather, “Western democracy?” The scenario of Dust fighting the Taliban, as admirable as it is, occurs enough times in later issues that it makes one question if this is how Western male writers, artists, and readers want to see a Muslim super-heroine, i.e. to rebel against her oppressors, the mutual enemy of the U.S. government?

Read the full article, "Part 1: Female, Muslim, and Mutant" here. The above photo of The New X-Men's Dust comes from the entry for Dust in

Monday, July 27, 2009

Desire and Pursuit of the Roll: Class Music

Our summer belly roll and veil work intensive is coming fast to a close! In class we are using two pieces from Simon Shaheen's CD Blue Flame. The belly drill is to "Saarab" and the veil routine is to "Tea in the Sahara." (Pictured left, sun on the Mediterranean Ocean, 2007)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Belly in Antiquity

Last evening, I attended a rather haphazard gallery lecture at the Met, "The Body in Antiquity." The focus interested me: how did early artists portray the body in art We started with a Greek sculpture, the Kouros, the oldest freestanding, fully nude sculpture of the human body in marble. The young male body likely marked a burial site. The guide pointed out the Egyptian artistic influences: angular lines, the jewelry, eyes apparently lined with kohl, the left foot stepping forward. Depictions of the body quickly evolved into more anatomically considered renderings with curved features and musculature. The male body focused on power and ruling and physicality.

The first fully nude female depiction of the goddess Aphrodite/Venus suprised at her bath came later and created a different stir. Men stared at her for days, the guide informed us and one man was rumored to have hidden in the temple at night in order to "defile" her. This is a marble Roman copy of an earlier bronze statue made by the famous Greek sculptor Praxiteles who changed art by making it more anatomically correct. He wrote a book on the subject which has since been lost, but other writers make reference to it. The physical body has always had such mystique, respect, and deep meaning to artists, writers, healers, and scientists alike.
What I notice, of course, is the sensuality detail of the breasts and belly, always such a power source and the place where the differences in male and female gender are centered.
The lecture ended with a fast streak through the Persian galleries where we looked at a priestly seated ruler, heavily clothed save for a bare shoulder and a priestly, shaved chin (this was in opposition to the hairy Roman rulers) and finally a dive into the Hatshepsut room in the Egyptian galleries where the female body was depicted as male and female. This interested me less not because of content but because I'd seen this material before.
Those interested in this idea might benefit from the online lecture: "The Nude in Western Art and Its Beginnings in Antiquity."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

NYU Class Music: Summer II 2009

In the NYU Level 2 classes we are dancing to the Drum Solo and Balady Taksim on (Track 6) on Egyptian Academy's Wash Ya Wash, Volume 3. In Level 1 classes, we are dancing to Saad's Bel Arabi from his album Shukran Al Akher.
(Pictured: NYU Students (Sisters of Bast) at the Medieval Festival 2007)

Desire and Pursuit of the Roll, Part III: Yoga Links

Yoga has helped me develop my abs and core strength for many years. Strengthening exercises are necessary in addition to drilling the tiny isolations we use in belly dance (see the breakdown of the Triple Axis Belly Roll and Triple Axis Drills), but yoga exercise, including all forms of back bends and nauli breathing, lengthens the muscles in the rectus abdominus and the inner groin and psoas muscles, which also must be more accessible when working with belly isolations.

Nauli breathing and backbends are best attempted with a certified yoga instructor or a video. Yoga Journal has a generous on-line component that makes home practice a safer and inspiring activities. I like very much an article by Fernando Pages-Ruiz that ran this spring about the natural shape of the abomen. The bad news is delivered unapologetically (fat cells in the abdomen, once you get them, never go away), but the good news is that some relatively easy exercises can offer belly dance students the additional development and flexibility in the front body. Highlights from "Forget Six Pack Abs" are links to helpful poses, breathing tips, and a theory regarding the depiction of yogis and many images of the buddha with large, voluptous bellies. They have prana, Pages-Ruiz explains. Our obsession with flat, six pack abs is certainly a modern convention.

There are also several YouTube links that show nauli breathing. The one I've linked here is the most professionally demonstrated though there seems to be some discoloration in the filming.

Please read Fernando Pages-Ruiz's informative, factual breakdown-- "Forget Six Pack Abs."
(Photo above: Lina Jang photography:

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Desire and Pursuit....

Because this came up in class on Sunday, I've posted this. The technique is impressive though the belly gram act brings up memories I'd rather forget. Neenah has it down though...and she looks like she's having fun!

Desire and Pursuit of the Roll, Part II

(In the You Tube Link: Helena Vlahos)
In this previous Sunday's belly roll series, we reviewed the Triple Axis Belly Roll broken down in the previous post, added a horizontal top lock, and also worked on quarter rolls and coin pops.

Points to remember about Quarter Rolls:
  1. Lie on your back and prop up the chest with the forearms on the floor and do a few horizontal circles to find the placement for the chest and to better find your "skin folds." I suggest working with a skin fold a few inches below your rib cage.
  2. Place one quarter flat against your skin, touching the skin fold at the base of the coin.

  3. Squeeze the quarter toward the ground, using your skin fold like a pincers.

  4. Squeeze the quarter until it flips over.

  5. Repeat with your next skin fold (everyone has them!) until the quarter passes your navel.Repeat the whole series in reverse, rolling the quarter back up.

Points to remember about Coin Pops:

  1. Lie on your back and keep the chest down this time, propping your head up with your hands.
  2. Set the quarter about the width of one hand below your navel.

  3. Pull the abdomen down toward the floor, as if drawing a bow back, hollowing all of the way up to the chest cavity.
  4. Press the abdomen straight up. Keep trying until it flies in the air.
  5. Note: You must draw back to push the coin up. Thrusting the abdomen forward only will only make your belly sore!

I highly recommend Deliliah of Seattle's video on belly rolls and floor work (Number 3 in her original series) for additional practice. I used this video constantly when I began dancing with the Goddess Dancing in Boston. Here is the link to her company: Visionary Dance Productions.

Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival Quandary in the BBC

The BBC featured belly dancers attending Raqia Hassan's festival in Egypt. The article very briefly compares the views on dance from native, religiously leaning Egyptians with those of the eager foreigners. Also, Diana Esposito, who is in Egypt on a fellowship to investigate the dance's decline in popular support, is mentioned. View "Enduring Allure of Egyptian Belly Dance."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Show at Je'Bon on July 22

Please join me this Wednesday for a show at Je'Bon with Kaeshi Chai and the lively band Djinn. The evening begins around 8 p.m. and lasts until 10:30 p.m. Kaeshi will also perform. Visit the beautiful Belly Queen website or just come-I've been told the fish noodles are amazing-

D'Jam at Je'Bon
Je'Bon Noodle House
15 St. Mark's Place
New York, NY
$10 cover charge; $5 minimum at the table.

The Desire and Pursuit of the Roll, Part I

Last Sunday in our Flow Workshop at the Panetta Movement Center, we discussed the "Triple Axis Belly Roll." While any roll is a vertical wave, or undulation pattern, of the rectus abdominis muscle (see left diagram), I find manipulating the wave from the three separate sections creates variety and develops the muscle more intensely. My participants and I did this in a drill that moved through each axis, circling in toward the spine and then stretching away from the spine. For the full benefit, the spine should continue stretching upward, providing a strong, straight line that contrasts with the undulating action of the rectus abdominis.

The three axis points are: the break at the very base of the muscle, the break at the navel, and the break just above the navel. An even higher break can be added by pressing down the rib cage, which adds a bit of skeleton to the controlled muscular isolation and lengthens the roll for a higher variation.

In today's workshop, we'll add multiple horizontal variations to the vertical basic roll. Please come! For more information on the workshop, which continues through Sunday, August 2, please visiting my previous post on this blog: (The diagram is from Wikipedia and Gray's Anatomy. Alas, the pictured abs are male, but it was the easiest diagram to access. If anyone has access to female diagrams, please let me know!)

Pina Bausch Dreams of "the East"

Walid Aouni of Egypt's Modern Dance Theater Company at the Cairo Opera House offered a beautiful portrait of Pina Bausch whom he admired and knew. Bausch's company was scheduled to present work in Cairo this October and then she planned to tour the ancient cities on the Nile. In this tribute, Aouni writes:
"Our conversations about the eastern human being were deep. She dreamed of coming to Egypt. She asked, "What does the Great Pyramid look like?" I was surprised by the question, since she concentrates not on the look but on the meaning of something. Yet such was her approach. It was as if she asked, "What does love look like?" Matter to her is not matter, nor is feeling simply feeling. Both are the secrets of paradox and symbol."
Read Aouni's full article from Al-Ahram Weekly here (and please notice the spontaneous likeness between this photo from the paper and the bird goddess pictured in the previous post.)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"She Walks in Beauty: The Feminine Ideal in Ancient Egypt"

A brief gallery talk at the Brooklyn Museum gave a brief overview of the role of women in various dynasties and time periods. The museum is famous for its Egyptian collection, known for the quality of works on view rather than quantity. The collection is smaller than the Met, but I did see many pieces that were stunning in detail and the pieces seemed to have a more sensuality in nature. The erotic musicians and the sculpture of Osiris returning to inseminate Isis are like nothing I've seen at the Met, the British Museum, or the Egyptian Museum.

The bird goddess, pictured left, is worth the trip to the museum. Her face appears to have the shape of a beak, an ibis perhaps, associated with wisdom and writing, or perhaps a bird that represents sexuality, which appeared on an unrelated scuplture. There is no mystery to the rest of her physicality, powerful hips and butt, defined breasts, her hands making the same beaked gesture of her face. Everything suggests fertility. She may be dancing......

According to the guide, ancient Egyptian women and men valued beauty, investing time and money in make up, wigs, and jewelry. Women kept their last names and were in charge of their own dowries, even if the union ended in divorce, which was practiced. Many of the sculptures of couples are side by side and similarly sized. Other times, a woman had her arm wrapped around her husband's leg and was about calf high. Sculptures of a voluptuous Isis and Hathor abound, often in a nursing role--icons for protection and abundance. The gestures of the bird goddess, the offering hand position, and the acrobats contain glimmering antecedents of hand gestures dancers use today. I would have like to know about the walking in beauty referred to in the title. Many statues have a left foot forward, a mystery my previous guide at the Met said was still unsolved.

Photograph info:
Female Figurine (“Bird Lady”). Egypt, from Ma’mariya. Predynastic Period, Naqada II, circa 3650–3300 B.C.E. Terracotta. Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 07.447.505

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"The Thief of Baghdad," 1924

I couldn't resist posting this photo of Douglas Fairbanks in "The Thief of Baghdad." The film is showing in Austin TX for their Orientalist Silent Film Festival..."focusing on early Western views of the Orient."

NYU Dance Class Music: Summer I

Level 1 dancers have finished a routine to Saad's "Bell Arabi."

Level 2 dancers have finished raqs assaya or cane dance routine to Hossam Ramzy's "Eddalla Ya Gamal" from his double album, Best of Baladi and Saaidi, Volume 1. I recommend the whole album.

Practice and enjoy! (Pictured is the National Folklorice Troupe in Egypt (2007) in traditional dress, not Hossam Ramzy.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Orientalish Dilemma: Do Heads Belong to Bodies?

Update on this article from the front page of the New York Times on June 24: Julie Bloom's "Rekindling the Elgin Marbles Debate" and Michael Kimmelman's "Elgin Marble Debate in a New Light."

ORIGINAL POST: Christopher Hitchens weighed in on the Elgin (Parthenon) Marbles debate in an Op-Ed: "A Home for the Marbles."
An interesting and timeless issue-- the British Museum worries that if they return the marbles to Athens where a grand new museum is opening at the Acropolis, it would set a "precedent" of great works being taken from other museums. It was eerie during my trip to England in 2007 to see so many works from Egypt and the Greece (my photos of the "Elgin Marbles" are here). I also remember the opposite experience of being in Mexico City's archeological museum and seeing so many tags identifying the displayed item as a replica of an original in Germany, England, Italy, the US, Spain, etc.

While I'm not always a fan of Hitchens, he gives an interesting argument for the Marbles' return and that artworks should be viewed whole when possible--fewer decapitated gods and goddesses--and that return would not begin an era of empty museums in the West. Also interesting is "Majestic in Exile" by Nikos Kostandaras who considers the original acquisition by Lord Elgin who obtained them while serving as ambassador in Constantinople (Istanbul), elevated the importance of the Marbles that inspired so many writers and scholars in England. Kostandaras still wants them back. (Photos: British Museum, 2007)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Muslim Voices: Arts and Ideas--"Ruminations with Zahra Partovi"

A small exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, "Light of the Sufis: Mystical Arts of Islam" focuses on the Sufi, or tasawoof, tradition, and the influences of cultures that contributed to its origins as well as artistic expressions that have emerged from these practices.

A lecture,"Ruminations with Zahra Partovi" featured this artist and translator of Jalalluddin Mohammad Rumi's poetry who works with artists in NYC who are creating visual artworks drawn from the ideas and interpretations of his Sufi poems.

During her passionate talk with a background film of people's feet going up the stairs at the Met, Partovi read works in both Persian and English and pointed out the poet's fluid outpouring as a Sufi teacher, Muslim preacher (her term), philosopher, scientist, psychologist, poet, and storyteller. The reach and depth of his knowledge, she believes, contributes to his ongoing popularity. She also described the origin of Sufism as a response to a need for "softness" in traditional Islam as it was being practiced in 12th c. Iran. There, Sufism flowered out of the advanced learning and philosophies developed by traditional Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, and Neo-Platonism.

Partovi's response to one very general question from the audience interested me. When asked, "Who was Shams of Tabriz?" Partovi offered first the famous story in which Rumi, renowned scholar, after three days of non-stop discussion with this stranger named Shams of Tabriz, throws his books into the river having found a deeper source of knowing. But then, rejuvenated that story with a line from one of Rumi's poems---Shams was "an excuse"; he already was the knowledge. One artist in the audience complained that the presentation smacked of proselytizing. While museum representatives quickly jumped in to explain the intention to explore art and culture, Partovi listened with a wry look on her face.

Partovi's translation appears in the exhibit on a glass sculpture by Kelly Driscoll. Light seeps through graduated glass plates and casts shadows of the words for the viewers to read instead of the etched letters, including: "I am like the sun drowned within the light; I know not how to distinguish myself from light!"

Monday, June 8, 2009

FLOW: A Veil and Belly Work Intensive

A four Sunday night series in July will explore classic belly dance technique with emphasis on the centering movements of veil dance and belly rolls. The full series will include a complete belly workout and veil routine.

Panetta Movement Center
214 W. 29th St., 10th fl.
Between 7th and 8th Avenues
New York, NY
Sundays, July 12-August 2
5-6:30 p.m.
Four sessions: $60
Individual classes: $20 each
Information and registration:
Thalia Jennifer: 347-782-1357
(Photos by PunkDolphin and Peter Turco)

Video Clip: Dancemeditation with Alembic

In May, Dunya presented her new work titled "Destiny" featuring for soloists performing her choreographies. This piece opened the evening

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Video Clip: Randa Kamel in Egypt 2007

While in Egypt in 2007, Zaina Tuuli and I saw the amazing Randa Kamel perform at a hotel in Zamalek. Randa mesmerized us then; her well deserved internation recognition has been growing ever since. Thank you Randa for allowing me to post this clip:

Final Belly Dance Classes at the Graduate Center

After six years of teaching many students at the CUNY-Graduate Center, Ranya Renee and I will be teaching our last three weeks beginning this Wednesday. Our three week schedule remains as always:
Level 1: Wed, 6-7:30 p.m. (with me)
Level 2: Wed., 7:30-9 p.m. (with Ranya)
Graduate Center, C Level, 34th St. and 5th Ave.
Classes: $20 each session; 3 sessions $45
To register: 212-817-8215 or visit the website for Wellness Classes

Please come and join us as we dance our farewell to Scott Voorhees and all those who supported us at the CUNY-Graduate Center. (Photo: Nile Sunset, 2007)