Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fall Belly Dance Classes at NYU

Fall Belly Dance Class Registration has begun at  
NYU Coles Gym.

Level 1: (230.1) Fridays, 3:30-4:25 p.m.
Level 2: (231.1) Fridays, 4:30-5:25 p.m.

Tues., Sept. 10th 8:00am-1:00pm and 4:00-8:00pm
Wed., Sept. 11, 12 noon-8:00pm

ONLINE REGISTRATION Through Wednesday, Sept. 11.  11 p.m.
Classes Begin:  Friday, Sept. 13, 2013

Improve body awareness, flexibility, and muscle tone with this powerful, feminine art form inspired by the music and rhythms of the Middle East.  All classes cover hip isolations, shimmies, snaky undulations, and veil dance technique.  Intermediate classes include choreographies and folkloric styles.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thinking of Egypt.....1874

British novelist Amelia B. Edwards' memoir
(from the digital archives of the
University of Pennsylvania.)
For the past two months, I've been immersed in a project set in Egypt, specifically the Nile between Thebes and the First Cataract, circa 1874, and have not stayed on top of 2013 events as I should be.  For the most part, I've been checking headlines at trusted sources.  However, as I read accounts by Americans and Europeans traveling up and down the Nile in that different era, I keep running into the deep misconceptions and fears these wealthier or mission-driven outsiders had about both place and people, misconceptions that seem so egregious and obvious to readers now.  What will seem obvious in the next 100 years about this painful transition as we watch and unfortunately judge so much (and so loudly) from the outside?

Notes from my comfortable confines: a few of the works I've been looking at in particular, are the travelogue Murray's Handbook for Travelers in Egypt (1860s) and Amelia Edwards' 1000 Miles Up the Nile.  Despite its dated attitudes and perspective, the information and detail of the British novelist's voice bring the river alive and with well-intended affection.  Earlier this spring, in my class on Biography at the CUNY-Grad Center, I had the good fortune to be assigned, Lytton Strachey's "The End of General Gordon,"which takes place in Upper Egypt in close to the same year. This short work takes a direct hit at late Victorian colonialism in Strachey's signature, darkly humorous style, and reveals the short-sightedness and narcissism that ignites misuse of power. My project is not  political in nature, but views offered from this very particular window sadden further what I see happening now.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Translating Najwan Darwish: PEN World Voices Fest

Najwan Darwish photo from:
Last Friday, I went to an event at PEN World Voices at the Public Theatre that featured Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish and two of his translators.  Issues that came up, how do you translate such culturally bound terms as "tea boy," lover vs. mistress, bathroom clogs, and eviction?  M. Lynx Qualey posted my write up on Arabic Literature (in English) as well as a great write up of a more comprehensive event, "All That is Left to You," which featured a panel of Palestinian writers moderated by Elias Khoury.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Spring Dance Classes End: Practice! Recommendations for Studying

Photo: Paul B. Good "Practice Wherever You Are"
I can't believe how quickly the semester went this year!  As promised on the last day of classes, here are suggested resources for studying on you own this summer.  Keep in mind that finding the local belly dance community, wherever you may be, can be a great way to meet others and to stay active and disciplined in your practice.

Technique videos I recommend:
My friend Ranya offers several DVDs focusing on Egyptian style technique with an emphasis on musical sensitivity.  I highly recommend the Baladi DVD though the also offers studies in Taqasim and Oriental.

Deliliah of Seattle (VisionaryDance.com) offers many videos, some of which I followed regularly in the 90s.  I have memories of many hours spent in my Florence Street apartment in Somerville, MA, watching and following her Workshop videos (coin tricks and belly rolls!) into the early hours of the morning.  Both her technique and performance videos are instructive and inspirational for all levels.

Finally, Dunya offers her brand of Sufi Dancemeditation videos, which were a fundamental part of my learning and integrating dance into my practice of life.

Local teachers in NYC abound!  If you're in the city, check out: Kaeshi Chai and Bellyqueen, Jehan Kamal, Neon, Nourhan Sharif, Dalia Carella, Anahid Sofian, all of whom have had a direct influence on my own dance.

In the meantime, you can trawl through the many offerings on Youtube or see my page of performances I've found throughout my years of running this blog.  I've found many clips by searching for Randa Kamal, Fifi Abdo, Rachel Brice, and any of the dancers I've posted previously on my resource page.  There is no shortage of available material!

I've had a great semester and hope you have too.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

On Arab Female Superheroes: Wonderwoman

Photo and graphic from the site: Barrelhouse Magazine.
Editor Susan Muaddi Darraj's thoughtful essay on "Superheroes and Superpowers" an introduction to Barrelhouse Magazine's online issue reminisces about Wonder Woman and her mistaking Wonder Woman for being Arab when she was a young girl watching the television series.  Darraj states in her comments: she could pass for an Arab woman, with that black hair and that attitude. And those eyebrows! Or maybe it was just because there were no Arab heroes on television when I was growing up  (there still aren’t.) and I really longed for one. 

I suppose there are many reasons why children, who often feel powerless and often have a more certain belief in the moral rights and wrongs, end up being so drawn to superheroes.  Reading Darraj's essay brought to mind a show I grew up watching: Isis.  She didn't have Wonder Woman's bullet proof wrist cuffs, but she did have hair down to her waist and a snake crown, and I remember distinctly her l call: "Oh Zephyr winds which blow on high....lift me now that I may fly!" I remember being drawn into the story, which was wildly "orientalish" if there ever was an example.  Oddly, this Youtube clip for the "Shazam/Isis! Hour of Power!" (sudden and intense flashbacks of sitting in the TV room with the red shag carpet even as I write this) begins with a 70s-style love call to respect all people and all languages. Sad that her presentation sounds so naive and sincere to the modern ear.

(And thank you again, Barrelhouse Mag for printing my story in the first online issue: Heroes for Parties: 59 Bucks.)

"Heroes for Parties" in Barrelhouse Magazine

I am honored to have my work featured in Barrelhouse Magazine's first online issue dedicated to Superheroes edited by Susan Muaddi Duaj.  I've been reading and watching this magazine grow for years.  The editors are tasteful (even when claiming not to be) and humorous and literary at once.

The story included, "Heroes for Parties: 59 Bucks" is fiction, of course, though it's drawn from a friend's experience in Boston, a musician doing stunt work for his uncle's entertainment business, spiced up for effect.  Please read and comment on the site if you can!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Writers on Dance: Lytton Strachey on General Gordon

General Gordon's Last Stand from Wikipedia
I'm taking a class on Biography as Genre right now at the Grad Center and came across a belly dance scene in Lytton Strachey's beautifully written Eminent Victorians.  The last section, "The End of General Gordon," dissects the career of  Charles George Gordon whose military career ended in southern Egypt.  In this short scene, Strachey mocks the self-righteous morality of the Victorian era (calling him a "Christian hero") and the cold eye cast by this lonely, fame-driven, "eminently unromantic" colonialist who hated more than anything "the flesh."   This scene takes place in 1874 when Gordon returns to the Sudan:

"On his way up the Nile, he was received in state at Khartoum by the Egyptian Governor-General of the Sudan, his immediate official superior.  The function ended in a prolonged banquet, followed by a mixed ballet of soldiers and completely naked young women, who danced in a circle, beat time with their feet, and accompanied their gestures with a curious sound of clucking.  At last the Austrian Consul, overcome by the exhilaration of the scene, flung himself in a frenzy among the dancers; the Governor General, shouting with delight, seemed about to follow suit, when Gordon abruptly left the room, and the party broke up in confusion."

Gordon, unable to see beyond the lens of his own judgments, ends up miscalculating both the forces against him and his own mortality.  He died in a standoff in the Sudan (romanticized in the painting above, the cover of "Emminent Victorians").

Happy Spring Break: Classes Resume April 5

Spring Break!  We had our makeup session for the snow storm on March 15.  D Quarter classes resume Friday, April 5 and run through May 4.  Because our last class focused on Shimmies, I'm attaching a video of Randa Kamal who is known for her amazing shimmies.  If you Google "Randa Kamal" and shimmy, you will have no problem finding more information on her shimmies and even a Randa Kamal  shimmy discussion at the belly dance social website www.tribes.net.  This website, along with www.bhuz.com, are good resources to be aware of you are interested in furthering your dance on your own!

Two (Free!) Orientalish-Related Events at NYU

Photo: Khcheich by Bassem Fayed
from the NYU AbuDhabi event site.  
Information: click here
Two (free!) events happening this week at NYU Abu Dhabi for those interested in Middle Eastern music and literature.  First, this Friday at 8 p.m., a classical music concert "Music of Lebanon and Rahbani Brothers" with Lebanese vocalist Rima Khcheich.  In class throughout the years at NYU, I've used Fairouz's music and the Rahbani Brothers.  Come here this beautiful repertoire live with Khcheich and the Al-Bustan takht ensemble.
March 22: 8 p.m.
NYU Kimmel Center
Eisner and Lubin Auditorium

Second, on Monday, March 25, a talk with Egyptian writer, director, and performance artist Dalia Basiouny.  According to the press release, Basiouny's “Solitaire”: ". . . documents, dramatically and visually, some of the experiences of Arab Americans post 9/11, and the impact of these events on the Arab World. It also records the early phase of January 25th Revolution in Tahrir Square through the eyes of an Egyptian woman who changes and creates change in her journey to shape her identity and find peace." Basiouny will speak with playwright Catherine Filloux at this free event curated by Tisch School of the Arts.
March 25, 6-7:30 p.m.
NYU Abu Dhabi
19 Washington Square, 
New York, NY

Both events are free, but registration is recommended at the NYU Abu Dhabi website.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Regenerative Body Architecture" with Maureen Fleming

Maureen Fleming
I am doing a three-week training with Maureen Fleming again!  I've studied with Maureen for many years now. Because her work and form is so internally driven--reaching and drawing form the inner body and the inner muscles and working from between and below the muscles, I always go to a new place.

In yoga or any movement form, there is always the experience of finding a holding pattern in the body, feeling a surge of freedom and expansion for an hour, a day, on a good riff, a week.  But then, invariably our new opening leads us to the next closing, or more positively, the next inner chamber waiting to be released.

Maureen's work includes a series of expansion exercises with elastics on the hands and feet.  Dancers use their own body for resistance, the body opens itself, part of the intimacy of her work, in my experience.  In addition to the elastics, we dance through images associated with an area of the body and then, at the end, move the body with dynamic symbols for movement, pressing what ever part of the body touches the black marley floor into the ground as our limbs spiral into highways or contract and expand and compress mercury from the perineum through the spine and to the finger tips.

After doing a three hour session at her East Village loft, I leave feeling lighter on the inside as I stand on the subway platform.  Sounds seem louder as if I've quieted something internally that is too often chattering.   When I went to yoga afterward, I lifted into poses by reaching from that deeper center.

I'm so glad there are two weeks left (18 hours!).....

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The "Fifi Abdo" Hip Circle

In class last week I referred (again!) to the "Fifi Abdo" hip circle.  This is my label, but Fifi Abdo, a top dancer in Egypt starting in the 70s, does it very well and very often in videos I've seen of her dancing.  On this site, I have a page with information for new dancers.  One of the videos is the one I'm reposting here.  She's wearing a classic white robe and dancing with live musicians and finger cymbals.  This one of my favorite videos of her dancing. The hip circle is at 1:17 minutes.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.  I never tire of watching this clip!

NYU Choreography: "Talakik: Looking for Excuses"

We just started a new choreography at NYU to Hakim's pop classic: "Talakik."  Here is a link to the song on ITunes.  Additionally, Shira's great website, http://www.shira.net has one version of translated lyrics to the song:  "Talakik: Looking for Excuses."  It's about love, of course, and longing, and the girl who might get away.  Finally, I came across a video on Youtube of the fabulous Amar Gamal dancing to the song.  Amar is an excellent dancer who used to live in NYC before she became one of the Bellydance Superstars.  She also co-founded Bellyqueen with local belly dance favorite Kaeshi Chai (go to Je'Bon on Wednesdays if you haven't already).

Enjoy!  We'll go farther in our routine on Friday!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Winter Storm Make Up Date: March 15

We're thawing out now, but our makeup date for the class cancelled at Coles Gym during the snow storm is Friday, March 15, 3: 30 p.m.
Stay warm. Dance!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spring Belly Dance Classes at Coles Gym!

Belly Dance Classes at Coles Gym begin Feb. 1
3:30-4:25 p.m.
CLS 230- Sec. 1: Fridays, 3:30-4:25 pm    
Photo: Lina Jang

Online and in-person registration at Coles Gym starts now.
Classes begin on Friday, Feb. 1
On-Line Registration
Available now - Wednesday, January 30th 11:59pm*
In-Person Registration
@Coles Sports Center
Tuesday, January 29th 8:00am-1:00pm and 4:00-8:00pm
Wednesday, January 30th 12 noon-8:00pm

Questions?  Please contact me: