Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Randa Kamal: Egyptian Style Dance

I love this video for many reasons.  I've seen Randa every time I've been in Egypt and her graceful athleticism has always impressed me.  She has a style that's strong and as "no nonesense" as I've seen.  Additionally, in this video, you can really see her legs and the posture that is often called "Egyptian style" in the States.  By this, I mean the straighter, long-legged posture that gives the shimmies and hip-lifts the relaxed flavor of an afterthought that in my view is inherent to modern "Egyptian style" belly dance.

And....Randa always looks like she's having a great time time!  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NYU Belly Dance Level 2 Routine

Here is our drum solo from the Belly Dance Classics with Fifi Abdou CD, "Tabla of Said."  Nice work everyone!  It was great semester, including the beginning of the NYU Belly Dance Club started by Aakriti and Misty.  Join us again everyone in January for classes and in February for a (possible) show.....

NYU Belly Dance Level 1 Routine

Here is the routine we finished in our Level 1 class in addition to a semester of quarter-rolling and stretching our hips on a weekly basis.  Nice work dancers!  Have a great winter break and join us again in January! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Writers on Belly Dance: Simone De Beauvoir (1)

Photo from The Guardian
Yes! Simone De Beauvoir writes about dancing, belly dance specifically in her first novel, She Came to Stay I've had this book on my shelf for years; I picked it up first with Sarte's work, "The War Diaries." The bookseller at the Gotham Bookmart insisted I couldn't read one without the other, but I did until now. Set in Paris just before the Second World War, the novel is very much about the manner in which artists, in this case playwrights and writers, respond to impending war.

 This excerpt is from the second chapter and very much in theFrench Orientalist vein, but dance throughout this book represents freedom of the body and expression in a time when nothing else in life is certain:
 From Chapter 2 of Simone De Beauvoir's She Came to Stay:

"From the back of a Moorish cafe, seated on rough woolen cushions, Xaviere and Francoise were watching the Arab dancing girl.

 "I wish I could dance like that," said Xaviere. A light tremor passed over her shoulders and ran through her body.

 Francois smiled at her and was sorry that their day together was coming to an end. Xaviere had been delightful. "In the red-light district of Fez, Labrousse and I saw them dance naked," Francoise told her casually. "But that was a little too much like an anatomical demonstration."

"You've seen so many things," Xaviere said with a touch of bitterness.

 "So will you, one day."

 "I doubt it."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Show: Aakriti and Misty at Lafayette Grill!

We had a great time on November 6 with solo performances by Aakriti and Rachel, both founding members of the new belly dance club at NYU!  The live music was provided by Scott Wilson and band, performing every Sunday at the Lafayette Grill.

Layla Tayeb who taught classes last summer also performed. Everyone was amazing and we had a great time!

Class Music: Level 1 Choreography at NYU

In our Level 1 class at NYU, we’re currently working on  a routine to Najwa Karam’s "Bkhaf Mnil'May (I'm Scared of Losing You)" from her CD Kibir Al Hob, an album that was popular in Lebanon in 2005 due to an innovative advertising campaign.  Najwa Karam is Lebanese and her albums often include the heavier drum accents and a few dabke or line dance tracks, characteristic to Lebanese music.  Other tracks we've use for warm up music is Ali Jihad Racy's "Land of the Blessed," Simon Shaheen's "Saarab," and Nancy Ajram, in a ddition to traditional tracks from an older album, called "Baladi Plus" from Hossam Ramsy.  Enjoy.....

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nov. 6 Lafayette Grill with Scott Wilson and Band

We're dancing this Sunday with Scott Wilson at the Lafayette Grill!  Come support new belly dance club founders Aakriti and Misty and last summer's teacher Leila Tayeb and me with music by Scott Wilson and his evolving group of musicians.  
November 6, 7-10 p.m.
54 Franklin Street (just off Lafayette)
$5 cover.  

We'd love to see you!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Simon Shaheen in Brooklyn on Oct. 29

Simon Shaheen plays a concert celebrating the historical connection between Arab political identity and musicians, composers, and writers in their respective countries.  Don't miss this important event taking place during this pivotal time.  Tickets are available from the Wold Music Institute: http://www.wminyc.org.

Class Music: "Claude Chalhoub" by Claude Chalhoub

We used Claude Chalhoub's version of Erik Satie's classic "Gnossienne #1" this last week for a cool down in Level 2 and one of you students came up and immediately asked for album info., which always happens when I use this track a first time.  Classical music players and fans often know who Erik Satie is (French pianist and composer) but know less about Chalhoub, a younger violinst originally from Beirut and composer who only has one recording from what I can tell "Claude Chalhoub" but has worked and studied in London and worked with conductor Daniel Barenboim in his "West-Eastern Divani."  He also, according Wikipedia, plays Arab folk music.
Unfortunately, the only album I found on Amazon was $60.  Here is the YouTube version of "Gnossienne":

Class Music: "Belly Dance Classics with Fifi Abdo"

Belly Dance Classics with Fifi Abdo, featuring the Cairo Orchestra, is invaluable to dancers at all levels.  Many of these songs (such as "Sallam Allay," "Zikrayat," and "Ghannali Shawayyi, Shawayyi") comprise the standard belly dance repertoire.  The only downside is some of the drum tracks sound "electronically enhanced" (aka drum machine).  We're using Tabla of Said for our Level II class at NYU.  Practice!  Enjoy!  Also, check out Fifi Abdo on a previous link in Orientalish.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Schiff's "Cleopatra" on WNYC FM

Leonard Lopate's Book Club features a discussion with biographer Stacy Schiff on her book, Cleopatra: A Life. She'll discuss her bestselling work on Oct. 31, 2011 at 8 a.m.  (Yes, 8 a.m.  Plan ahead.)

The Rosetta Stone on "Entitled Opinions"

I love the podcasts on Stanford University's  "Entitled Opinions" and get hours of mileage on the elliptical fitness machine thanks to ever smart and intriguing host Robert Harrison and his astounding cadre of guests (look up Blair Huxby on Aristotle's "Poetics," Rush Rehm on Greek tragedy, a two-part session on Beethoven, Epicureanism, or "Romanticism and Organic Form").  The October 12, 2011 episode featured Patrick Hunt on the Rosetta Stone. Politics, ownership, power, Empire, lust, classic Orientalish.   Listen to all podcasts for free at: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/fren-ital/opinions/

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Novelists Hisham Matar and Ali Al-Muqri Speak on Writing During a Revolution

Hisham Matar
Ali Al-Muqri
Libyan novelist Hisham Matar (Anatomy of a Disappearance) and Yemeni novelist Ali Al-Muqri (The Handsome Jew) consider the writer's role during revolutionary times in this recent post written for Arabic Literature (in English):  http://arablit.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/hisham-matar-and-ali-al-muqri-on-writing-during-a-revolution/  The IPI will bring writers from other parts of the Arab world in the same series.  See M. Lynx Qualey's great blog for more information: Arabic Literature (in English).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"The Best of Habibi" Goes Online

Covers from the earlier years.
When I was dancing in Boston in the early 90s, I remember crowding around my friends to read Shareen El-Safy's invaluable magazine, Habibi: A Journal for Lovers of Middle Eastern Dance and Arts Journal Dancrs at my teacher's, Lorraine Lafata's, house.  This was in the days when the magazine was carefully curated and had classy black and white covers.  El Safy edited the magazine from 1992-2002.  We miss that Habibi and the even older Arabesque!  I just got the announcement that Ms. El-Safy is putting the magazine online.  A great resource for dancers and students.  Sign up on her website, The Best of Habibi, for email updates!Thank you, Shareen!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Belly Dance Classes at NYU: 2011 A/B Quarters

Previous NYU dance students after a group performance at the Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon (NYC) with me and musican Scott Wilson.

We're starting classes again this fall at NYU Coles Gym! There will be a beginning/Level 1 class studying basic movements and isolations ending with a short combination and an Intermediate and Advanced Class/Level studying more complex layering and a drum solo combination. Please join us and consider joining the newly forming NYU Belly Dance club!
Registration for classes: In-person at Coles Gym: Tuesday, Sept. 13: 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14: noon-8 p.m. Online starting Tuesday, September 13:
Course codes:
Level 1: CLS 230.1
Level 2: CLS 232
(Picture shows a previous NYU class group performance at the Medieval Festival at Fort Tryon (NYC) with musician Scott Wilson.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Writers on Dance: Said Makdisi on Gypsies

In this excerpt from Jean Said Makdisi's memoir, Teta, Mother and Me: Three Generations of Arab Women, the author tells of her childhood memories of the mysterious gypsy women who came to their summer village in Lebanon. In this section, the natural lifestyle of these women, the freedom they exhibit with their gestures, makes the author conscious of her own:

"A band of gypsies came to Dhour al-Schweir every summer, as surely as we did, and camped just beyond the summit of the hill behind our house. Although we were strictly forbidden to go in their direction, there was no way to stop them from coming in ours. And sothere was a steady stream of young women--at least, now they appear young; at the time, they seemd ancient. We would hear a call in the distance: "Bassarra, barraje; bassara, barraje', a fortune-teller claiming to see what others could not, and to interpret the zodiac.

"If mother was out--for we would never dare do this if where were at home--my sisters and I....would rush out and call for a gypsy to come and tell our fortune. A young gypsy woman wearing long black robes and usually bare-footed, her head covered with a black scarf wound tightly over her forehead and around her chin, would suddenly appear out of the woods, startling us although we were looking for her. Her costume gave her cheekbones height and her face character, all of which was accentuated by the tattoos on her face and hands, and by her eyes heavily lined with kohl. These women always bore themselves with extraordinary grace, as if they should have been carrying a water jug on their head, which they were doubtless used to doing. They swung their hips as they walked, while their upper bodies remained fixed and straight, their necks and heads held high." (p. 96)

I'm breaking this passage in two because it is lengthy. What I like in this passage is the mystery imagined in the women's dancelike walk and lifestyle. While Makdisi is describing a culture on the fringes of her own culture, I am reminded of both Emerson's journals when he went down the Nile of his perception of the Egyptian manner of walking so gracefully and of Flaubert's controversial descriptions of Kuchuk Hanem. While Makdisi is intrigued as a child, there is some element of "otherness" that is similar in all of these writings--certainly financial class (the Saids were financially privileged) and displacement or lack of place of those being observed. But more powerfully, she experiences an enchantment when viewing these women. The perceived lifestyle of the women being observed make Makdisi, it seems, more aware of her own. Orientalist? Of course.

The book, Teta, Mother, and Me, presents a case study of three generations of women living through turmoil in Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt. Jean Said Makdisi is Edward Said's younger sister. Someone gave the book to me recently at an Arabic music conference. Before then, I wasn't aware of her work. (Photo: Gerome's Almeh. I used this iconic painting because it represents a woman with the tatoos Makdisi mentions and represents those of us on the outside, looking in.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

From Gilded Serpent: Orientalizing Orientalism

I just came upon this article, "Orientalizing Oriental" by Paola in Gilded Serpent, a dance review about UNESCO's dance conference. Despite somewhat typical complaints, this writer offers interesting pauses including the optomistic: "We need healthy, robust debate about our dance’s identity, and we need more scholars willing to brave the front lines of the intellectual battle. We need to discuss, doubt write, question, agree, disagree, and make proposals – in the spirit of sisterhood and advancing not only the cause of our dance, but the cause of modern-day women’s community." The above picture comes from the full article, Orientalizing Oriental , at Gilded Serpent.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kazuo Ohno performs "Admiring La Argentina"

This famous tribute to the Spanish dancer "La Argentina" keeps coming to mind after seeing Elena Lentini's new work with her company, Caravanserai. The following clip was released a year ago by the Ohno studio around the time of this master's death. I'm not certain of Ohno's age in this clip, but the haunting (video) representation of this older man inhabiting the spirit and art of an older woman will never lose its effect on me.

Additionally, in a previous post I quote Federico Garcia Lorca's " In Praise of Antonia Merce, La Argentina."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Writers on Dance: Lorca on "La Argentina"

Spanish Civil War-era writer Federico Garcia Lorca's searing poetry and tragic life has been covered many times. A favorite portrait of mine is one that ran in the New Yorker many years ago, "Looking for Lorca" by Elizabeth Kolbert. In his short book of essays, In Search of Duende, he offers an introduction he gave for the famous Spanish (Argentinian born) dancer "La Argentina," who was visiting New York City. (Butoh master Kazuo Ohno also danced a tribute for her.) The excerpt below from: "In Praise of Antonia Merce, La Argentina," his specific and poetic imagery and his identification of her real name (which many others don't do) keep it from falling into the traps of cliche that often comes when portraying dance.

Whereas Said, in writing about Tahia Carioca, defends culture and dignity, the poet in Lorca focuses on the search for harmony in this dancer's art:

"...In the art of dance, the body struggles against the invisible mist that envelops it and tries to bring to light the dominant profile demanded by the architecture of the music. Ardent struggle, endless vigil, like all art. While the poet wrestles with the horses in his brain and the sculptor wounds his eyes on the hard spark of alabaster, the dancer battles the air around her, air that threatens at any moment to destroy her harmony or to open huge empty spaces where her rhythm will be annihilated...The dancer's trembling heart must bring everything into harmony, from the tips of her shoes to the flutter of eyelashes, from the ruffles of her dress to the incessant play of her fingers. Shipwrecked in a field of air, she must measure lines, silences, zigzags, and rapid curves with a sixth sense of aroma and geometry, without ever mistaking her terrain. In this she resembles the torero, whose heart must keep to the neck of the bull. Both of them face the same danger--he, death; and she, darkness.

" She must fill a dead gray space with a living, clear trembling arabesque, one which can be vividly remembered. This is how she speaks, this is her tongue. And in all the world, no one is as good as Anotonia Merce at inscribing the drowsy air with that arabesque of blood and bone. She combines her intuition of dance with a rhythmic intelligence and an understanding of bodily forms possessed by only the great masters of the Spanish dance. . . [She] is a heroine of her own body. She is a tamer of her own facile desires, which are always the most tempting. She has earned the reward of pure dance: double vision. I mean that when she dances, her eyes are not trained on herself; they are looking ahead, governing her movements, making her expressions more objective, and helping her receive the blind, impressive bursts of pure instinct. "
Photo from Wikipedia: La Argentina

(In my previous post featuring Edward Said on Tahia Carioca, I mentioned these two sections were written in response to a teaching assignment given me by Wah Ming Chang for her class at Barnard. Thanks, Professor Chang!)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Counterpoint: My Experience of the Sahara (January 2010)

Because I just posted Tanya Hurley's animation of Paul Bowles' poetic statement "Baptism of Solitude" about the Sahara that's making the airwaves today, I have to offer my experience traveling from Siwa to Bahariyya Oasis through the Western Desert and the Great Sand Sea. This took place midway on the 10-hour caravan my driver and I were a part of, and I asked several of the drivers how they would dance to the music blasting from their stereos across the dunes. (This crew would have nothing to do with Egyptian/Arab pop.) Though it's not obvious in this clip, riders from the other vehicles are on a blanket having tea prepared on a bunsen burner. Unlike Bowles' depiction, my experience was comprised mostly of laughter and bright, glaring beauty.

"Baptism of Solitude": A Tribute to Paul Bowles by Tanya Hurley

Thanks to Mikhail Iossell on Facebook, I caught Tanya Hurley's dramatic animation of Paul Bowles' famous recording : "Baptism of Solitude." Bowles is of course, one of the great Orientalists at its best and worst. Anyone who has read The Sheltering Sky (or at least seen the movie) knows his vision of the Moroccan Sahara represents violence, silence, and overwhelming emptiness. However, much of this borders on that idea of the violent and animal "other," which is uncomfortable for those of us with far different, if not opposite, experiences. Still, as is often the quandary, Bowles' language is so evocative and disturbing and evoked so beautifully it becomes something (if not accuracy). My favorite line: ..."Loneliness presupposes memory."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Writers on Dance: Edward Said on Tahia Carioca

My good friend Wah Ming Chang asked me to visit her writing class at Barnard to talk about Writing and Dance. In preparation, I looked up two of my favorite dance descriptions, Edward Said writing about his admiration for the famous Tahia Carioca (1919-1999) who comes in this essay, to represent the fluctuating politics and social mores of her beloved Egypt, and Federico Garcia Lorca's written introduction for "La Argentina."

I chose the following excerpt from Said's essay (which appears in his collection of essays Reflections on Exile) for obvious, pedagogical reasons. In these paragraphs, he begins with his eloquent definition of why her dance is specifically Egyptian ( "As in bullfighting, the essence of the classic belly dancer's art is not how much but how little she moves...") and then deftly transitions to a paragraph that concretely describes her movements with such clarity, a reader with some knowledge of the dance could enact the movement. Specificity and definition and context were, of course, fundamental in Said's quest to understand and avoid generalizing those with less power.

The essay, "Homage to a Belly Dancer," (which originally appeared in the London Review of Books) is a great find to anyone interested in belly dance, Tahia Carioca, or the process of writing about dance and the body. Here is an excerpt, starting with Said as a teenager infatuated with this woman who was for many, the essence of beauty and feminity:

"...We were about as far from the stage as it was possible to sit, but the shimmering, glistening blue costume she wore simply dazzled the eye, so bright were the sequins and spangles, so controlled was her quite lengthy immobility as she stood there with an entirely composed look about her. As in bullfighting, the essence of the classic Arab belly dancer's art is not how much but how little the artist moves: only the novices or the deplorable Greek and AMerican imitators, go in for the appalling wiggling and jumping around that passes for "sexiness" and harem hootchy-kootch. The point is to make an effect mainly (but by no means exclusively) through suggestiveness and--in the full-scale composition Tahia offered that night--to do so over a series of episodes kintted together in alternating, moods, recurring motifs.

"Her diaphonous veils were laid over the modified bikini that was basic to the outfit without ever becoming its main attraction. The beauty of her dance was its connectedness: thefeeling she communicated of the spectacularly lithe and well-shaped body undulating through a complex but decorative series of encumbrances made up of gauzes, veils, necklaces, strings of gold and silver chains, which her movements animated deliberately and at times almost theoretically. She would stand, for example, and slowly begin to move her right hip, which would in turn activate her silver leggings, tnad the beads draped over the right side of her waist. As she did all this, she would look down at the moving parts, so to speak, and fix our gaze on them too, as if we were all wathcing a separate little drama, thythmically very controlled, re-configuring her body so as to highlight her semi-detached right side. Tahia's dance was like an extended arabesque elaborated around [the seated singer who shared the stage]. She never jumped, or bobbed her breatsts, or went in for bumping and grinding. There was a majestic deliberateness to the whole thing that maintained itself right through even the quicker passages. Each of us knew tha we were experiencing an immensely exciting--because endlessly deferred--erotic experience, the likes of which we could never hope to match in real life. And that was precisely the point: this was sexuality as a public event, brilliantly planned and executed, yet totally unconsummated and unrealizable."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

HYPHEN Magazine on the Syrian Lesbian Blogging Hoax

Lisa Nakamura's blog post at Hyphen Magazine: Syrian Lesbian Bloggers, Fake Geishas, and the Attraction of Identity Tourism is a well considered report on recent blogging scandals and, more importantly, the motivations behind these thefts of not only identity but image of other cultures. She quotes Gayatri Spivak who writes in her book, Can the Subaltern Speak? about the too frequent practice of: "...white men...saving brown women from brown men." (Graphic from the Hyphen Magazine post.)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer II Classes at NYU

Registration for Summer II classes at NYU is underway. We have a Level 1/2 course from 6:30-7:25 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, July 12-Aug. 4. (Four weeks)

In person Registration: July 5-6, noon-8 pm at Coles Gym

Online Registration: now through July 6: http://www.gonyuathletics.com/recreation

Join us this summer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Leila Tayeb Teaches at NYU

While I'm in Montreal, NYU dance students will get the opportunity to study with the beautiful Leila Tayeb, a performance studies graduate student who specializes in Middle Eastern dance. Students will benefit from Leila's extensive and very recent travels and field research in the Middle East and North Africa. I'll return to teach at the end of June.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NYU Summer Dance Classes

We're beginning registration for the first five week summer session of dance classes at Coles Gym. In advanced classes, we'll work on drum solo technique and then there will five classes taught by the fabulous Leila Tayeb who has traveled extensively and lived in Morocco and other parts of the Middle East! I'll return for the last week of classes to finish up the drum solo. (Leila is subbing for me because I won a writing fellowship to Concordia University in Montreal where I'll be studying from June 12-25.)

Here is the info. on the dance classes:
Beginning Level
(CLS 230.1)Tuesdays and Thursdays: 6:30-7:25 p.m. at Coles Gym
Intermediate Level
(CLS 231.1) Tuesdays and Thursdays: 5:30-6:25 at Coles Gym

4, noon-8 p.m.
ONLINE REGISTRATION: May 24, 8 a.m through midnight May 26


Come dance with us!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kaeshi and Djinn at Je'Bon

It's always hard to follow Kaeshi at Je'Bon! Here are two pictures from her shows on Wednesday at Je'Bon:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sisters of Bast at Je'Bon, May 4

We had a great time at Je'Bon dancing with D'Jam hostess Kaeshi Chai and the music of Djinn. We danced to two songs: the introduction to Alf Layla wa Layla, the classical version, and to the pop song, Mayagoreshk.
These photos came from my Ipod and contain mostly pre-show jitter shots. If others have some to share, particularly of the dance, please send them in!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Democracy Now: Rula Jebreal and Issandr El Amrani

Pen America's World Voices Festival hosted a panel last night that featured both journalists featured on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now that appeared earlier the same day. Some of the issues discussed are similar. This clip focuses on Israel, Palestine, and tenuous relations between Fatah and Hamas:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thalia and the Sisters of Bast at J'Bon on May 4

D'jam at Je'Bon
Je'Bon Noodle Shop
15 St. Mark's Place
Reservations: 212-388-1313
Cover: $10; table minimum: $5.

With Kaeshi Chai and live music by Djinn.

Thanks to lovely Kaeshi Chai, we'll dance once more this semester at Je'Bon before classes end! Kaeshi will dance as well. Please come and dance or watch or both..... (Photo: Peter Turco)

Friday, April 8, 2011

PEN World Voices: Revolutionaries in the Arab World

PEN World Voices offers a panel with Abdelkader Benali, Abdellah Taia, Rula Jebreal, Ghassan Salamé, and others. Wednesday, April 27: 7:30 p.m. 92nd Street Y, Unterberg Poetry Center, 1395 Lexington Ave., New York City
Tickets: $20/$15 PEN Members, students with valid ID. Call (866) 811-4111 or visit ovationtix.com
Co-sponsored by the 92 Street Y, Unterberg Poetry Center

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NYC Event: Hafla Honoring Ibrahim Farrah

This weekend's show and workshop promises one of the most unique events of the season. Though these dancers from NYC are gathering to honor their late mentor, Ibrahim Farrah, they are legends on their own: Elena, Samara, Phaedra, Leila Gamal (who was my very first teacher in the late 1980s), and the list of dancers goes on. Eddie "the Sheik" Kochak is also scheduled to make an appearance. Anyone with interest in the this field should come to honor this history. And, of course, to have a great time. For more information: http://www.samaradance.com/

Hamid Dabashi's Brown Skin, White Masks

Hamid Dabashi's Brown Skin, White Masks sounds sorely needed. I'm not a great fan of John Green's review and wondering why find no reviews here...curious.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sufism vs. Traditional Islam in The Huffington Post

As a teenager, the only Sufi order I knew of lived in a communal trailer park in western Kansas. When I moved to Boston in the early 90s, I encountered the American version of Sufism through dance mentors and poetry and used copy of Sa'adi's Rose Garden I found in a used bookstore in Davis Square. I still remember a memorable lecture on Sufism at Harvard Divinity School presented by a Sufi scholar from the American southwest. Unfortunately, his name escapes me. His main focus was that American Sufis avoid the connection between Sufism and Islam. I'd always associated both together and was surprised by this, but soon became aware of this sticky topic. Since then, I've also encountered doubt from those who follow traditional Islam toward contemporary Sufis in the US. This topic continues to interest me. Today's appearance of this column by Omid Safi "Is Islamic Mysticism Really Mysticism" showed up in The Huffington Post's Religion section. ..." The second half of the essay interests me most: So what we have had for the last few decades is a situation of Orientalists and Salafi Muslims seeking to construct a "real Islam" that is untainted by Sufi dimensions, and many new agers seek to extract a mysticism that stands above and disconnected from wider, broader and deeper aspects of Islam."

Montreal in June with SLS

I just received a fellowship to study in Montreal for two weeks this June at Concordia University with Summer Literary Seminars. This news was timed perfectly. I'm returning full attention to my novel now that I finished my yoga teacher training last weekend at YogaWorks. Yoga? Orientalism? Yes. Even more of an Orientalist than before.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Level 1: Desire and Pursuit of the Roll

I'm reposting a few belly roll posts I made for a workshop in 2009. We won't go so in depth in this class, but these sources are still valid. I've learned a few new things in my current Yoga teacher training but will have to add those here when I'm done with my yoga finals. Bring your quarters and try to take a look if you can: At this description of the Triple Axis Belly Roll; explanation of quarter rolls and clip of a Nine Quarter Roll, and yoga links for desiring belly rollers I put together for the previous workshop. Bring quarters to class if you remember...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Level 2 Class: Entrances with Veils

In last Friday's class, I mentioned both the famous dancer Dina (the music we were using for an exercise was named for her) and also the use of the veil as an entrance prop more than a dance prop. YouTube has a great video of Dina demonstrating this technique. This is an older video, but Dina was still in amazing shape when I last saw her, and in this clip, she dances beautifully. The music is live and worth the watch.

Enjoy! Bring your veils on Friday!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nawaal El Saadawi Speaks on Thursday at NYU

Thank you to Jasmine Perryman for sending this information about feminist writer Dr. Nawal El Saadawi. Since it's publication in the 70s, this writer's seminal novel Woman at Point Zero continues to be a staple on many Women's Studies rosters in the West. I remember well my first reading of it in the early, early 90s.

Dr. El Saadawi was also vocal in January's revolution in Tahrir Square. Her comments on this week's events are awaited. NYU people: she's reading at the NYU bookstore tonight. Click here for information on Thursday's event.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Orientalish Lit Hit: The Sacred Night

After a first read of This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun a few years ago, I have wanted to read this earlier work. The book is part of a trilogy that begins with The Sand Child. The Sacred Night picks up themes that run the other work I've read: injustice, the individual's ultimate "aloneness" in the face of the world, and the act of storytelling.

Best in The Sacred Night is the presence of storytelling as a life force. Here, the continued story of a girl raised as a boy to overcome the Islamic tradition of allowing only men to inherit a family's wealth hinges around the act of storytelling. A storyteller opens the novel with a dreamlike sequence where we see this woman, who appears as a man, uses her stories to make a living.

As the book steps farther back, a clearer storyline emerges. After her father's death, the narrator south where she loses her virginity in a confusing rape scene and then joins the house where she falls in love and learns from a blind man the art of writing and the raw value of holding onto memory. The blind man leads her into his dreams where there are factories of words. Sensual scenes where women exist as forgotten, discarded words seem to illustrate the beauty of forgotten stories, which are ultimately all stories.

The culmination of the novel shows her falling in and out of madness in prison, which reminds me of the power of Ben Jelloun's This Blinding Absence of Light. For me, the downfall of this novel is the storyline of the demoralized Muslim woman. While reality might fuel the original stereotype, the overuse of this as a plot line (and in a bigger sense to justify other acts of aggression) makes the storyline itself feel formulaic. That said, the ornate writing style and successful dream-making made The Sacred Night an evocative read.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Orientalish Lit Hits

I’m starting a new blog category of book reviews, mostly fiction, that relate to my interests in Arab culture. They may or may not relate directly to dance, but I will keep dance interests in mind as well as those relating to the theme of this blog, Orientalish. My inspiration is from M. Lynx Qualey's "One Minute Review" on her blog: Arabic Literature (in English).

So much material awaits...
(Photo: Toth at Philae (the Temple of Isis) in Luxor, 2007.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Revolution on Every Street in Egypt

To follow events: The Nation: Revolution on Every Street in Egypt, M. Lynx Qualey still reporting on arts and literature while living in Cairo in Arabic Literature (in Translation), and on Democracy Now: Live Coverage of the Mubarak Resignation.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reading Lists for Egypt

M. Lynx Qualey's blog, Arabic Literature (in Translation), offers an insider's reading suggestions about Egypt during this time for understanding of the unfolding events as a counterpoint to the New York Times' dubious one. Qualey's pick for fiction Moon Over Samarqand, translated by Issa J. Boullata and published by AUC Press. Among nonfiction picks: Tom Mitchell's Colonizing Egypt See the blog post for a better wrap up: "What Does the New York Times Think You Should Read About Egypt?"

Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Belly Dance Classes at NYU: Level 2

Level 2 dancers just started a new routine using the introductory music from the legendary composition for Oum Kalthoum, "Alf Leila wa Leila." This is an Egyptian classic, drawing from a time when Egyptian politics and music and artistic expression were deeply intertwined. L up: "Alf Leila wa Leila" and try to get the original recording.

Suggested reading:
Voice of Egypt: Umm Kulthum, Arabic Song, and Egyptian Society by Virginia Danielson and Selim Nassib's
I Loved You for Your Voice.

Winter Belly Dance Classes at NYU: Level 1

Welcome new students to belly dance....revious posts you might find useful are links to practice music and links to books and media and a few clips of dancers posted through the years including Fifi Abdo, and Turkish dancer Didem. There is an overwhelming amount of material out there! Also, check out Gilded Serpent for events and articles and Nourhan Sharif's dancewear. Also, I'm currently working on an article synthesizing recent academic treatments of belly dance and colonialism.

Keep dancing everyone...

Watching Egypt

This moment in Egyptian history is sobering and stunning. Speculations are useless, but in trying to stay informed of shifting elements and powers, the following resources have been most informative for me:
Democracy Now's Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports live from Cairo:

and also offers perspective from Egyptian novelist Nawaal El Sadaawi and on the US's role. Also the Angry News Service and the Nation have been worth reading. My friend M. Lynx Qualey has had her thorough and important site, Arab Literature(in English), suspended.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reading: January 9, 5 p.m.: Family!

Reading Series: Family Stories
When: Sun, Jan. 9, 5pm – 7pm
Where: The Cell Theatre, 338 W 23rd St. (map)
Donation: $5 * (writers, see note below)

Whatever you say, they’re still family!

I'm taking part in Karen Heuler's reading series this Sunday! Please come out and hear stories about family (fiction, mind you...) written and read by Matthew Lansburgh, Amie Hartman, and me. Then we’ll have an open discussion with these writers, joined by host Karen Heuler, about using our families in writing—how much do we change? How unethical do we feel? How much do you want to reveal—and is anyone revealing it about you?

Reception to follow.

For writers, this new year of the Tandem Reading series opens with a switch—the price of admission is $5 or a story. And any story you hand in, literary or genre, will be considered for future readings. Again, the Cell Theatre is located at 338 West 23 St. (between 8 and 9 Ave.; take the 1, C, E to 23rd St; www.thecelltheatre.org). 212-989-7434. Donation: $5. Or a story.
(Pictures from a trip last spring with my parents to one of my mother's ancestral sites in Pennsylvania.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Metamorphosis 2011

Best wishes to all throughout the coming year! I spent the evening assisting Butoh artist Maureen Fleming in her new "Dances from Home" production funded by LMCC. Her choreographies are experienced rather than simply watched, slowly evolving studies of they body's organic form. During the evening, I also read from "How to Be a Staircase," about assisting Maureen and Chris in previous shows. My last hour of 2010 ended with attendance at St. Bart's midnight organ concert and an impromptu commute home on the L train with big, buff Jacques, East Williamsburg's favorite personal trainer. There are so many reasons to love NYC! (Photo of Thalia by Aristo)