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 ( 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!