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)

Protection and Eternity:Ancient Egyptian Fashion

An excellent Gallery Talk at the Met, " Fashion in Ancient Egypt: Clothing, Cosmetics, Coiffures" explored changing fashions in ancient Egyptian hair, makeup, and jewelry. Because contemporary views of these scenes are limited to walls of temples and tombs or painted interpretations of walls of temples and tombs, styles of dress, hair, and faces appear static. But subtle changes in length and styling and each kingdom's unique definition of beauty are visible, and the guide showed how these differences offered insight into that particular period's ideals.

Like today, a person's social status was displayed through such things as hairstyle and the quality of their linen. As time progressed, the aesthetic preferences became longer and thinner, and youth was depicted more often for implications of vigor and energy in the after life. Because drawings were made to represent how the buried would be perceived in the next life, everyone is healthy and young. Wigs were used for ceremonial and everyday purposes, and in sculptures, a person's real hair was sometimes shown underneath. One modern presentation of a wig with braids and gold tabs took weeks for modern hairdressers to recreate. The craftsmanship of curved alabaster and ceramic cosmetic vessels seems to be as sacred as the art of applying the makeup. Jewelry was worn for religious and/or superstitious reasons as well as for ornamentation. Though I may have mangled this interpretation, jewelry with a "sa" symbol was for protection and circular "shen" objects refer the idea of eternity.

An "Orientalish quandary": during the Middle Kingdom, upper class women began wearing their hair in the style of the Nubian people they were conquering. It's human nature perhaps that power struggles and war brings fascination between cultures; only in recent time have we become uncomfortable and questioning of this fascination. Walking through the museum's stunning Egyptian collection, I was struck by how these ancient depictions fascinate me most not for their goal of glorifying their gods (or their own wealth), but rather how they glorify and embrace and strive to understand everyday life. The tour will be repeated in August.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Video Clip: Zaina Tuuli and Saad

During my travels in Egypt in 2007, I hung out with Zaina, a dancer now working in countries around the Middle East. One night at the Semiramis Hotel in downtown Egypt, the famous singer and actor Saad had her come on stage for an impromptu solo. Saad and Zaina had previously worked together in NYC at Layali.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Movie: "Laila's Birthday"

A lawyer, Abu Laila, returns to Ramallah but is forced to drive a taxi cab to make a living. The details build in this "day in the life" movie that shows the comic despair in a society where even the donkeys gone mad are forced to keep plodding along. Abu Laila's breakdown comes after a day that incudes witnessing a bombing, carrying an ex-prisoner and then a widow trying to decide whether to go first to the cemetary or hospital. But after he grabs a microphone and starts screaming at his own people, he too gets in his car and simply starts driving again. Director and writer Rashid Masharawi provides a subtle and perfectly timed ending. Unfortunately, I saw the film on the day it closed at the Museum of Modern Art; read the New York Times review here. Maybe it's available on Netflicks?