Anime Weekend Atlanta 2013

2012 -H. Naoto hosted a fashion show along with Frill Atlanta. It was amazing.

2012 -H. Naoto hosted a fashion show along with Frill Atlanta. It was amazing.

Anime Weekend Atlanta will take place on the 27th -28th of September in Atlanta Georgia (right on the Perimeter/1-285 line). It’s at the Renaissance Waverly and Cobb Galleria, two of the city’s elegant locations for conferences and so much more. The parking is plentiful, valet options are available and there’s a mall across the street (Cumberland) that has lots of restaurants and shopping in case you forget to bring snacks or need a new pair of pantyhose.

Photo from H. Naoto Fashion show at AWA 2012

Photo from H. Naoto Fashion show at AWA 2012

I’m writing this from a Loli fan perspective. Though Anime Weekend has more than just Loli activities I personally attend it strictly for Loli fun. Here’s a list of activities provided to me by Donni S.  and Rebecca P. from the Atl Loli and Japanese Couture Group:

Thurs: Unofficial -Tea Party
*This tea party was created for those who may not get to attend Sunday’s tea. The one on Sunday is sponsored by Putumayo. It is $50 and you must have at least a Putu accessory with you to attend the event. This is an additional fee to the AWA ticket. So, basic fees for this are your AWA pass (ranging anywhere from $35-$50) + $50 Putumayo Tea ticket (click here to purchase) + Putu items (our advice is if you don’t already have a Putu item you can wear, buy one at the event on Thursday night/Friday morning).


Just a few of Atlanta’s amazing Loli Community. They are themselves Kawaii leaders in their own right.

There’s also to be a Harajuku Style Fashion Walk -these are parades of gorgeous fashion that you don’t want to miss.

Schedule of Loli events
Noon – 8pm: Frill Boutique in Artist Alley
6pm – 7pm: Saxony Co’s Putumayo Panel (Renaissance – Kennesaw)
7pm: Lolita BYOF (bring your own food) “Tea Party” (Galleria Food Court; hosted by Chelsea Johnson)
8pm – 10pm: Frill Lolita Friend Finder (The Gallery – In the Mall; hosted by Affrilliation)
9pm – 10pm: How to Taobao (CGC – 103; hosted by Britani Johnson)

10am – 8pm: Frill Boutique in AA
11am – 12:30pm: Frill Fashion Show (CGC – Williams CDF)
12:45pm – 1:30pm: Putumayo Fashion Show (+ special performance by Aoki Misako) (CGC – Williams CDF)
2pm – 3pm: Tea Party Etiquette Workshop (CGC – 105; hosted by Affrilliation)
3:30pm: Quick and Dirty Japanese Street Fashion (CGC – 103; hosted by Brittany Anne, Stephanie Anderson and Chelsea Johnson)
5pm – 6pm: Intro to Lolita Sewing (CGC – 103; hosted by Chelsea + Kevin and Nelson)
7pm: Harajuku Fashion Walk (Galleria Food Court; hosted by Malice Rutledge)
8pm – 10pm: Ribbon Rose Accessory Workshop (CGC – 105; hosted by Affrilliation). Buy kits for $10 at the Frill Boutique!

10am – 12:30pm: Putumayo Fashion Tea (The Gallery – In the Mall)
11am – 4pm: Frill Boutique in AA

For an official Schedule of Events and info on Anime Weekend or if you need a ticket to the event, visit the website. At this point buying a ticket online is not possible. You need to do walk up registration and buy in person. If you plan to go the whole 3 days then you can pick up your ticket on Thursday starting at 6pm. Arrive on time as parking is tough afterwards.

The dealer rooms, etc were open last year around 6pm Thursday too so if you want to buy something you probably can. The Frill Pop up Boutique will return featuring consignment items and other Loli wear. Angelic Pretty, Baby the Stars Shine Bright and of course Putumayo and other Loli Couture brands are said to be at the event this year. So here’s your chance to look at things in person and hopefully make purchases.

Of course, it’s fun just to walk around and see all of the ladies in their cute coords and the cosplay by the AWA attendees. Please know that Loli (Lolita) itself is not cosplay, it is a lifestyle. The coords are gurantee to be amazing this year. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

2012 Highlights Fashion Show

Hungry? Try the food trucks…this news just in from one of the boards…

The first ever Anime Weekend Atlanta Food Festival will run all three days inside the Artist Alley and Friday and Saturday evenings from 9pm-2am outside in the East Lot so you can get your late night NOM on.

When it’s time to take a break from all the awesome happenings at the con itself and you’re tired of living off Pocky and Ramune, head on over to Exhibit Hall B for our amazing Food Trucks open all three days. Cash is always king when buying at show, but some of the trucks will be able to take debt and credit cards.

Location: Artist Alley (Cobb Galleria, Exhibit Hall and the East Lot. (Parking area between the Renaissance Waverly and Cobb Galleria)

Food Trucks participating to-date include:

Hall B, all three days:
– Pup Truck (Hot dogs, every topping you can imagine and a few you didn’t!)
– Tex’s Tacos (Food on the GO in a magical warm corn or flour tortilla.)
– Viet-Nomie (Craving something different?)
– Nutty Bavarian (Check them out for bubble tea and snacks like onigiri and macaroons.)

East Lot, Friday-Saturday night 9pm-2am:
– Fry Guy (Delicious Fried Spuds with ALL the SAUCES!)
– Pho Sho (Warm bowls of soup, pastries and sandwiches, perfect for a long day after the show.)
– Yum Yum Cupcakes (Cupcakes named after fabulous Stars of the Silver Screen.)
– Nana G’s Chicken and Waffles (I think we all know what kind of magic is happening here!)
I don’t know you guys but I am definitely going to take advantage of these if not after the walk at some point during the weekend.

Behind the Scenes at Essence of Bellydance 2013!

Review: Essence of Bellydance Gala and Fashion Show
(As always this is just my perspective as an international community member who has been involved in Raqs Art for 15+ years. My views are my own.)

Update: Please see the pictures of the event created by Studio Jaki:
(she does make photos available for purchase, please contact her directly to inquire)

*All of my pictures are from a side stage view. While I would have preferred to be on the front row because I was so fearful I’d be the worst MC ever, I was very happy to be even closer, able to see fine details on costumes and expressions. Because that was once me out on stage with Debke and Eastern line dances, I quickly regained that energy and appreciation for what it takes to get out there and present one’s passion, and in my case culture close to home, to fans and friends.

For about 3 years the very poised and gorgeous Faaridah asked me to be the Master of Ceremonies for her event. I had no idea I’d be paired with the stunning and talented Amani Jabril of whom I’ve come to lean on many times in personal meltdowns (i.e. 2005-2006). The idea of once again being front and center seemed fun but I was rarely in town around that time or was just getting back from the Tears for Fears Tours. So I could never commit to Faaridah’s event. Also, the last time I tried to MC a show I wasn’t pleased with the outcome. I’m a low talker and no microphone can change that. So, I declined Essence of Bellydance for fear I wasn’t cut out as a good show host. This year Faaridah was having none of that. She said, “you’re the MC.” I figured, okay, fine. I’ll do it. She’s a lovely person and I enjoy her work so the least I can do to repay her is to get on stage and announce these hard working dancers.

Again, in order not to spoil the DVDs and publications that will follow for a fee I will not give extreme detailed an accounts of every act and will be fairly short in response (at least that’s the goal) to the pieces. Most important, I do want to say that there wasn’t one bad performance that night.
It was absolutely stunning from start to finish. Each performer (as well as audience members, loved everyone’s outfit and so much all around, Tamar picked a very cute tribal fusion set) was well dressed, polished, well-rehearsed and did an outstanding job on that stage. I can’t stress that enough. It was all as close to perfect as perfect can get.

Technical issues:
A few dancers decided to dance twice because they said they couldn’t hear their music during their initial performance. I was sitting next to the sound board so it looked and sounded great from my area. I have no idea what happened out in the audience but everyone was attentive and full of praise at the end of each set.

The Audience:
Several performers mentioned to me that they felt the crowd wasn’t as responsive as they had expected. Again, I disagree, at least on my end I heard lots of supportive cheers along side my zaghareets. I am very sad that any performer would feel dejected or disappointed from lack of audience reaction as again, I heard lots of it. The pieces were so absolutely amazing, one did expect continuous roars of applause. I’m not sure how to change that other than making sure the audience knows they have the right to go nuts if they want to in the middle of a set. It is tradition to go with friends to a show and sit on the front row and just go crazy… and perhaps the American audiences are just too shy to do that in a cultural show featuring dances that are very different to them. In America, one sits quietly through a performance and then waits until the end to applaude and show appreciation. That has certainly changed as the dance culture evolved but that habit still remains…you wait until the end. So, we have to really get our audiences prepped for this. That may have been our job as Masters of Ceremonies and we just didn’t remind people enough? Again, I heard applause and reactions throughout the night except the few times the performances were so serene that people were literally watching with ther chins dropped and heads leaning to one side in amazement.

I also think there should be an audience cheer section at big shows like these where we have a mixed audience. Have about 5 people on each side who are responsible for leading the praise and love for the dancers. We all know when one group gets up and goes nuts, it’s contagious.

Dances of the Night

sidestage view -Rafiah Dance Company and AFBD

sidestage view -Rafiah Dance Company and AFBD

Rafiah Dance and AFBD were stunning in their costumes. Their choice of transitions and raqs formations were absolutely beautiful. I loved this! It was a truly aesthetically pleasing piece of dance art. This style is of course done by Bellydance Superstars and other professional troupes. It’s what is entertaining and gives the crowd an idea of what “modern bellydance” looks like in it’s professional form.

Their ensembles were gorgeous! Layers of ethnic clothing, it was lovely.

Their ensembles were gorgeous! Layers of ethnic clothing, it was lovely.

Ziah and Banat Almeh look dif…in an extremely positive and beautiful way. They literally looked like a group of international community women in their element. There’s one lady (from Iran if I’m not mistaken) who kept a very genuine and happy face the entire time she was on stage. You could just see she was thrilled to be up there. To her I say, keep it up. You have certainly found something that works for you and we support you in this decision. Glad that your family was on the front row to partake in your joy!

Mina, spinning cane... #AlMsr

Mina, spinning cane… #AlMsr

Mina did a hardcore Masri piece complete with spinning cane. Loved it! Love when she does that routine. I feel she really brings forth the expressions and energy of the region and it’s always a crowd pleaser. I wish more Egyptians were there to enjoy it. We really need to work on that. I have some ideas and we’ll go over those as we plan for 2014.

Jahara Phoenix stayed true to that for which they are known. Heidi was so stunning and so hot even her hipscarf couldn’t take the heat and slipped off. It was a very serene set that led into some very strong spins and formations that JP is known to do perfectly. Again, beautiful as always!

JP in action

JP in action

Samora, stunning stunning stunning…I mean she looked amazing in those gorgeous colours. She did that for which she is known best as well. Stellar entrance and a professional presentation filled with ta’arab in just the right places. It’s no wonder that she has had so many years in Atlanta’s dance scene with high praise from many. Mabrook!

Wayward Tribal

Wayward Tribal

Wayward Tribal looked diverse in their tribal and costumes. That’s what stood out to me. It was unique and creative.

Talita and Kalinka were gorgeous in their white and red costumes doing a more classic duet with an Egyptian and Lebanese feel. Their beauty really shined in this presentation and is perhaps what we will remember most, how absolutely fantastic and picture perfect they looked on stage in addition to their routine which was in sync. Very nice example of what we have in Atlanta…in the future I think they should both just go wild up there and make the audience go crazy with their talented moves and ability to cross cultures in this field. They are too cool! 🙂

Talita and Kalinka

Talita and Kalinka

Amoorat -again, this group is just stunning and pristine. Loved it from start to finish. It’s the way in which they present the dance, the transformations, their ability to dance in sync and the professional approach. It’s just gorgeous. I’d like to see them do a short tour along the east coast, showcasing their talent in New York, DC and Miami… a fan can dream.

Joy Pinchback -just beautiful. Very nice choice of moves and a gorgeous presentation with large veil fans. It was aesthetically pleasing…just really beautiful.

Mira betz -Beautiful presentation. Unique choice of costuming. It worked!! Meshed into something so bold and phenonmenal. We knew it would be good, but we didn’t see THAT coming. I wondered if the presentation was her history of dance as she went through a number of styles in just a few short minutes. Completely modern with a brilliant costume switch in the magical “quick change” format. She wins!! If you missed it, I’m Sorry!! That was one of those “break the plate moments” because the suspense and way she held that audience are one of a kind dance sets that you can only hope you’ll get to see again.
She then moved into her stunning signature material. What she’s known for…sensual modern raqs with classic elements. Brilliant!

Amar Gamal – in my eyes she can do no wrong, so my thoughts are completely biased. I simply stared in awe, wishing I was getting married so I could have a reason to pay her to dance for my friends and relatives. I’ve been following her since 1999 and have blogged my story about my admiration for her time and time again. I finally met her in Nashville (for her surprise birthday party at the Iranian Chaihanna) with her friend Monica and we had a blast! I can still feel myself whirling in a bandari spin and the happy look on her face. This time I was much more subdued and distant… I was thrilled to know she was coming and I simply kept my distance out of resepct for those who may have yet to have enjoyed such a professional and helpful global raqs star.

"Nawar Bellydance" and Amar Gamal, two impressive entities. We love Amar Gamal 15 years and counting!

“Nawar Bellydance” and Amar Gamal, two impressive entities. We love Amar Gamal 15 years and counting!

I hope the audience truly understood how fortunate they were to see her on that stage. I was overjoyed with the awestruck faces and the interest that so many had as she kept their gaze from the time she walked out to the sharp pose at the end. She owned that stage with an impeccable routine filled with hafla raqs and joyous crowd interactions while wearing a stunning blue bedluh. If you missed it I feel sorry for ya…everyone needs Amar Gamal in their lives. Glad Atlanta got to see her in all her glory. Mabrook wa Masha’Allah.

Beautiful BJ wearing one of MissBellydance's 2013 performance ensembles.

Beautiful BJ wearing one of MissBellydance’s 2013 performance ensembles.

Between the two acts was the ever popular Raqs Fashion show. This is the moment that major designers, wholesalers and raqs sharqi stores show their latest and greatest ensembles for dancers to wear on and off stage. There were some truly beautiful pieces of clothing from, Moonlight Diva, Magical Fashions and many others. I beg of you to get a program and support these vendors because they too help make these events possible.

What I loved was seeing all of the cool outfits on many dancers in the audience. The awesome part about being immersed in this art is that you can wear a lot of what is onstage as everyday wear. So much of it has been modified to work for hanging out with friends and attending shows. It’s intricate, elegant, some full of evening lace and others studded with rhinestones and pearls; you name it, the culture has it and it’s raqin’ to wear. Makes one want to do a zaghareet as your decked out friends walk into the ballroom.

At this point I was even more entrenched backstage and unable to take a lot of pictures of the outfits so we’ll have to wait for Studio Jaki to enjoy some of the perfect prints.

Act II

Jenday Dance Company (JDC) did an urban fusion set to start the second half of the evening. They wore pinstriped bottoms with suspenders, neat black hats an white shirts. It was a crowd pleasing choreography and very stylish. It’s great to have such diversity in shows, it’s essential and adds so much.

Zeina Dance Company led by Diane Adams, followed with what was one of the most authentically accurate troupe sets of the night. Wearing stunning beladi dresses and matching headwear, these ladies showed the crowd what Sha’abi Masri is all about. I loved the part where they framed themselves and then wagged their finger to the audience as in “you can look but you can not touch!” It was sizzlin’ and I didn’t hesistate to make a zaghareet from behind the curtain. Awesome performance!



Jenny’s raqs fusion set was hot…times infinity. I was sweating…seriously. It was just so good and so…so Jenny! From her intricate fusion outfit, to those hair tosses, loops and silver embelishments in the form of ringchain fringe…she had me that night when she walked in the door. From the costume to the improv, I repeat, improv (not choreo) she was was good! She really needs her own music video. I see collaboration calling. Let’s take this lady to the next level!

Now, here’s where the show began to blur a little for me. I simply remember seeing a myriad of Tribal Fusion from Mirabai, Zivah Saphirah and Satya…all 3 different dancers/groups showed their approach to raqs fusion in their own unique ways. What stood out were the costumes and their choices of music. Please be sure to check out any video available to savour those sets.

my terrible picture of such amazing dancers, sorry friends! :(

my terrible picture of such amazing dancers, sorry friends! 😦

Umniyah was unique in that it was very clear what they were fusing. There was the earthy feel of Appalachain arts, modern dance, headdresses that looked to be a mix of styles from Indigenous Americans or “Indians” as this blessed people have been named. The skirts were beautiful terracotta, brown, sunset, gold and sky dusk. Their choreography went well with the music…they thought about this piece, it wasn’t just thrown together. It had elements of “their region” and their homeland. I thought they were from Knoxville or Gatilnburg as the way they presented the piece was very much like the modern dance and modern raqs groups from those cities. After re-reading the program I see there was certainly a root of those areas’ cultures. What a great treat for those who appreciate that area’s dedication to regional art. Nice job, send that to the Knoxville Dogwood Arts Festival. They’ll appreciate that.

Nawar was stunning as usual, wrapped up in her element and presenting the art in the way she does best. Her lovely costume was professional and she looked very pretty and polished, like a dancing doll. She’s a great soloist in that she truly lets go and just gives you a piece of her soul as if the stage were twice as large and the city three times as big as it already is with a packed house. Nawar is a true artist and she exudes that with every step.

Les Raissat -Chebba Raqs Sharqi

Les Raissat -Chebba Raqs Sharqi

Les Raissat did a street style Sha’abi duo…this was a style you might see from two good friends or sisters at an Egyptian wedding. It reminds me of my youth (yes, here I go, let’s go back in time)…it’s Autumn 1999 and I’m at a henna hafla for a friend who is getting married. It’s a double henna with one Philistiniya and another is from Pakistan. The venue is packed with women curled up in lavish fabric, all different colours, hair is down and flowing around. There’s no henna on anyone just yet. We’re still opening gifts and eating halwa. Then I pull out a Cd. Everyone knows what time it is…I get up, my cousin gets up and we get down…I’m talking hard core sha’abi (before it was put on the mainstream circuit). Abaya is off, I’m in a fitted tunic and dance pants, barefoot and loaded with bangles. We have a blast…then two others get up in a routine they’ve been practicing for weeks in order to be ready for the event. This is what we did, this is how it was done…these are things people never see. There was no harem of women, no man waiting around in the wings for his many loves…instead a room full of good friends just having a great time.

This is what Les Raissat – Chebba Raqs Sharqi represent…a picture of the East, a moment in time…a culture of raqs and art enjoyed by the people, created for the people and also for oneself. They personified that in this set with a bit of a serene and controlled theatrical feel. I trust the other international community members in the audience understood it and hopefully enjoyed it as much as I did.

Sophistique was a real treat for the audience. They truly did an incredible job of mixing a mosaic of dance including Caribbean, African, bachata, jazz, salsa and more in a passionate piece that just has to be seen. There are no words to describe it. It was just dynamite… I hope others were able to easily recognise the various styles and amount of hard work put into that presentation. From the name, to the ensembles, their chosen aesthetic and more, everything made sense. It was gorgeous!

Jill Parker and Sadie closed out the show with separate pieces that were signature to their fame and glory. I was enraptured watching Jill and intriqued watching Sadie. I can remember watching Jill Parker on FCBD videos (the early years) with relatives from Philistine stopping by and sitting with me on the couch watching for hours as we tried to make heads or tails of American Tribal Style. I was one of few who said, I recognise bits and pieces of the things on their costumes and look, so and so has “raqs/raissa” as a tattoo…surely they know the culture! I’m gonna find them and ask. Oh how we longed to connect to communities all over the globe who loved our culture and art. It was a life’s goal that I’m happy has been realised. It was a full circle moment to see them in person again. Thank you team Essence for making that possible.

The evening concluded with an all call to the stage for both models and dancers. Amani and I were thanked and I have to send a double dose of love to her for that wonderful intro she did of me…very sweet and thoughtful! I want to thank everyone from the International Community who came and certainly the families and friends of dancers. The attendance was great and I saw very few empty seats.

I did miss being on the front row but I have to say that as an “emcee/MC” I got a persepctive that I never thought I’d see again, one from behind the scenes…reminding me of the endless amounts of work that go into making people’s dreams come true. Team Essence is to be commended for their efforts. This was more than professional, it was one of those legendary shows that will be etched in Raqs History. Mabrook!

Review: DragonCon 2013 -Silk Road Track focus

Kira, track director for the Silk Road

Kira, track director for the Silk Road

First, big hats off to Kira Lang for putting the Silk Road Track together in such an amazing fashion with stellar panels that grab people’s interest. Her leadership, sharp decisions and ability to pick a great team have proved rewarding for all involved. This is a huge event that supports a large charity and those that volunteer their time are certainly doing wonderful things for a greater good.

I’ve been volunteering at DragonCon for about 4 years. My first con was in 2006. Yoyo Campbell (Chinese -American) had led us through a very beautiful sleeve dance choreography and we presented it at DragonCon’s 2006 Silk Road Show -we opened the program. I continued to go because I liked hanging out with Kira, Carole Ann and the crew. Though the Silk Road track panels at the time didn’t seem to have many other Silk Roadians aka Asians and Africans presenting the panels I still enjoyed the concept (and was intrigued by the Japanese traditional and contemporary fashion). So, Kira didn’t have to ask me twice when she requested I be her second for the track back in 2011. I got to work right away with suggestions and ideas. The first two years were tough but this year was perhaps the smoothest yet with large numbers of track attendees, repeat fans and updated information for several panels and classes (i.e. Persian Dance and the Raqs Sharqi courses)

japanese Fashion Panel

Japanese Fashion Panel

There just isn’t enough time and space to go into great detail as I have in the past. We pretty much featured the same tracks as before but with updated info, new presentations and more in-depth conversations. I know next year will be different. There won’t be the exact same classes and in fact there will be totally different approach to many things. We’re looking at a Japanese Street Fashion Show, Brittany-Anne’s incredible knowledge on the fashion as well as more people from Asia and Africa speaking. That’s the plan anyway. We’ve already gotten in touch with several potential panelists, such as Kenneth Lovell, an known expert on Japanese culture, and we can only hope the Con will accept our requests and allow us to bring them all onboard.

Japan's photo team came in to take pictures of the track late Thursday night as we set up.

Japan’s photo team came in to take pictures of the track late Thursday night as we set up.

Popular panels and classes this year were Godzilla, Persian Dance Panel (the lecture and the dance class), Kumihimo panel (the first of the day), The Silk Road Show featuring the band Allah Yustur and the Japanese Fashion Panel. Several of these panels had lines out the door and people had to be turned away due to the fire code that only permitted 100 in the room.

There were movies that ran late into the night and those panels were full. Adult Origami had a long line that resulted in people being turned away as did a ton of other panels. We really need a bigger room or a ballroom for most of what we do but I’m grateful for what we have and that many are interested in the many facets of the track.

Ay-leen the Peacemaker

Ay-leen the Peacemaker

Highlights – Going in-depth on panels (in no particular order)
Orientalism -facts vs fiction
This panel took place on Sunday and was led by Ayleen the peacemaker. It was filled with information on how the world really doesn’t know the eastern cultures through eastern eyes but instead through the fantasy of western male traveller who had very little access to more than the eastern business men they encountered. The idea of harems with women running around naked waiting to service their husbands while being bathed by “black slaves” was just that…an imagined fantasy by those that never even entered the homes of the business men. The presentation gave examples of how the western imagination coloured art with their own idea of inequality, slavery based on colour and so many other (now deemed shameful by the western world) inhumane western idealogies and trends that, again, are now seen is blatent racism and in some cases domestic terrorism. These are the words/summaries of those in the panel, not mine. Sadly a few in the audience held fast to these ideas and made broad sweeping comments about members and certain nations in Middle Eastern society. As an international community member it was very distrubing to hear that mumbled in the audience despite proof that Orientalism was simply a “fantasy.” Some didn’t want to let go of it and preferred the images of the women as “sex objects” vs. active participants and contributors in eastern society.

Ayleen seemed a little nervous during the presentation, drinking several cups of water and saying “um” well over 100 times. Still, I’d sit in on that panel again for an update on her studies. She’s a member of the Steampunks in Orientalism Group? Correct me if I’m wrong. She was certainly an asset to the track and I hope she returns with more information and something interactive.

Godzilla – The panel was packed, people were very interested and commented throughout the film. It was like being a member of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 with commentary coming out of every corner of the room. While I am not a Godzilla enthusiast it was fun to watch the crowd so interactive and enjoying the prize give-aways which included limited edition items around Godzilla films.

Persian Dance Panel -I was impressed with this panel for the very indepth information that Jadi Fatima provided. She presented some very accurate research based on material directly from the region. Her videos, references and more were spot on. I did notice a few Iranians in the audience and one person who was raised in Saudi Arabia, they seemed engaged. I felt, as a person adult-adopted into a Persian family- very proud and, again, impressed with the presentation. There were interactive maps, great questions for the audience and amazing dance examples that span the entire region not just the classical persian dance for which many people have settled. She went deep and I advise any 2014 conners to come on by and see this. The presentation follows with an actual dance class. If you’re feeling a little rusty or a little dejected by the news from the region, you’ll feel pretty darn good after this class; revisiting the best of the region’s art, music and contributions to global dance. Baleh Jadi, Baleh! Yes, this was what we wanted. Mersi Mamnoonam.

Japanese Fashion "Lolita Transformation"  Panel (Lolita is a fashion and has nothing to do with Nabakov's book in this case)

Japanese Fashion “Lolita Transformation” Panel (Lolita is a fashion and has nothing to do with Nabakov’s book in this case)

Japanese Fashion Panels
These were packed as expected. On Friday, members of Frill came out and transformed two young women from the Atlanta Lolis into darling dolls wearing coords from Bodyline and Angelic Pretty. It was all stunning and well done.

Frill Volunteer, Brittany Anne and her friend did two panels on Sunday covering the history and span of Japanese Fashion and then a panel on Japan’s embrace of all things Kawaii. Though we went off tangent at times it was a very good presentation and we look forward to having her back in 2014 as she’s always on time, seems organised and is able to really give us the true scoop on the culture. Brittany-Anne is a joy to have on the panel.

We met Fiona a "Brolita" last year on the track. He's a wonderful, kind person who wears the fashion etremely well. He couldn't be with us this year. We salute you Fiona!

We met Fiona a “Brolita” last year on the track. He’s a wonderful, kind person who wears the fashion etremely well. He couldn’t be with us this year. We salute you Fiona!

We also had a quite a few inquisitive people at the Lolita breakfast that Monday morning at 10am. It was great. Made some new friends and directed the new Lolis to the communities that can help them get started with the culture and fashion.

I’m going to have to stop here and suggest that you contact Kira, myself or the track attendees to find out what happened at the other panels. Again, many were well attended if not overflowing with lines down the hall.

My dear friends at were vendors this year. This was their first con. I went over to see them and found a packed America’s mart filled with everything under the sun. I relunctantly purchased yet another limited edition Hello Kitty “for adults” bag (that I truly wasn’t prepared to purchase). I have to agree with most that it was very hard to find certain vendors and I trust that next year the maps of where all the shoppes are located will be bigger and well publicised. image

The Parade:
Saturday is the most crowded day at DragonCon and nothing stresses that more than the parade on Saturday. It is just difficult to get around with over 60,000 trailing 4 blocks. I stood in the back on an incline, waited for the Lolis, took the pictures and left. I couldn’t hang again this year. I had to get out of that congestion.
My advice, set up at 8:30am. Bring iced drinks, a camping chair and a hand fan to keep cool. Also wear light airy clothing so you don’t sweat. You can change into regular costuming in the hotel. If you’re in the parade, find comfy shoes and train as if you’re in a marathon so you can have the energy to walk the length of the parade. It’s not very long but you need to be there early and if you don’t have a float to sit on it might hurt to strut along in stilettos and man heels.

The Hotel
I’ve only stayed in the Marriott and the Hyatt, both were great for my needs. I have no idea what the other host hotels are like. This year they included some rooms at the Omni. There are roughly 8-9 host hotels and a trolley or bus that takes people from one hotel to the next. Some said they couldn’t find the buses while waiting for them but saw them going down the road as they went walking. Certainly join the official Facebook pages for advice and learn how to make your con the best it can be.

Con Crud:
Yep, I got it. It lasted a week. I ate peppers, garlic and lemons to get rid of it and got some extra sleep. I do not know how to prevent this other than staying warm in the air conditioned rooms and wearing socks at night in the hotel.

Expensive Food/Gluten Free Options/What to eat
I suggest the bistro in the Hyatt…bring about $150 for the week for 3 meals a day.
They don’t have a lot of gluten free options but they have salads and sandwiches, coffee and snacks. Every major item is about $8 and you will get satisfied from it.

AllahYustur the band -Our name roughl translates as "Bless their hearts" -Majda

AllahYustur the band -Our name roughly translates as “Bless their hearts” -Majda

The Silk Road Show -let’s end on a jolly note.
The Silk Road Show was 4pm on Saturday…much earlier than we expected. It was in the ballroom immediately following one of the bellydance classes, featuring several dancers decked out in items. They looked great, such a colourful audience. The band set up and played a number of classics after what we call the “canned” music show. There were modern raqs presentations, a salute to Dr. Who by the featured instructor and several dances to live music with performances by Awalim’s Barbara Smith, Allah Yustur’s Christy Smith, family members of the band and a Persian Piece by Jadi Fatima. Markus O’s tabla solo was unreal, he wailed on that doumbek like a pro. The audience went wild with applause and several, including myself, gave him a standing ovation. Kira Lang, the track director, did a beautiful Chinese Water Sleeve piece as well. Ryanne was the MC and was funny and entertaining though I had to tell her to stop putting herself down just for laughs. She’s such a pretty girl and I hate when she says anything that doesn’t put her in an intelligent light.

Bellydance class with dancers in's Melih Du Chant ensemble

Bellydance class with dancers in’s Melih Du Chant ensemble

If you’re looking for history, culture beyond Europe and the Western World with plenty of modern kawaii fun, then the Silk Road track is certainly a place for you to stop by during the Con. There’s so much to do and get immersed in. You can also be considered for hosting a panel if you wish. Here’s to a great D*Con 2014 with no con crud and plenty of room to breathe easy! 🙂

Look at my new friend... I'm in love! <3 #NewFriendsAtDragonCon

Look at my new friend… I’m in love! ❤ #NewFriendsAtDragonCon

My D*Con pictures (very limited)

Review: Mosaic August 2013

(From Andye) These are solely my opinions, my thoughts and experiences at Mosaic 2013. I state these observations from the point of view of an international community member with 15+years of Raqs Sharqi attendance and former teacher and ethnic line dancer. I trust that those I saw are fully aware of the cultures they choose to represent -under the umbrella of “bellydance.”

Jenny Nichols -from the Raqs Atlanta party 2012

Jenny Nichols -from the Raqs Atlanta party 2012

I have to give thanks to Jenny Nichols of World Bellydance Alliance for encouraging me to attend the show which led to me purchasing a ticket to the entire event as a spectator. Oftentimes I’m unsure if I’ll be in town so I have come to buy tickets closer to the show dates…which is not what I like to do. It’s always best to take advantage of the early bird rates for conferences. I can’t stress that enough. So, one day, while having lunch at Fanoos with Lady J, I pulled out my mobile device and bought a ticket. Later I saw that Valizan would be there and so that prompted a super fan fit. I hadn’t even looked at the line up and I really didn’t care. I just knew it was going to be two days of non stop raqs presentations and panels…and that’s more than any raqs fan could ask. A whole two days of non stop raqs! Aiewa!

Show Day
I skimmed the directions. I barely read the details. Up to the day before I thought the program was at the hotel Mina had chosen previously. I’m a hotel hobbit, anything at at a hotel makes me happy so I was looking forward to camping out in a ballroom (glamping) and enjoying all of the performances and talks. So, I see something like, “It’s at the Wyndham.” I check the map and it’s even closer to me than I thought. I go to the Wyndham across the street…and that’s not the hotel. So I’m standing there, the hotel staff and guests are staring at me in my blue Japanese Loli wear. I quickly call Jenny. She lets me know that I’m not at the right hotel and guides me to one further away, closer to Fanoos. Oops! Next time, I’ll be sure to read the directions and not get caught up in the excitement.


Valizan (Canada), Andye (Nigeria-USA), Ziah Ali (USA) hanging out at Mosaic, 16+years of Global Raqs Magic

Valizan (Canada), Andye (Nigeria-USA), Ziah Ali (USA) hanging out at Mosaic, 16+years of Global Raqs Magic

I got there just in time to see Valizan and Ziah do their awesome performance. I had to give them a standing ovation. It was such a joy to see these friends of 16years, fans and friends of Fat Chance Bellydance (Valizan has a sister studio to FCBD) do a very classic ATS number in colourful ensembles. It was historic to have them open the show and a smart move by the host as these two are more than just leaders in the ATS community, they too, through their work and perserverance are icons.

Naima's improvs also look like choreographies, some people are just that good.

Naima’s improvs also look like choreographies, some people are just that good.

A lot of great performances followed including Mina’s daughter and sister-in-law in a spinning poi routine. There was burlesque included and a variety of performers. I should add here that during the event, there was a random comment about the concern over bellydancers on stage with burlesque. It was marketed as a variety show so…a variety of dance styles were expected.

(update) *Because the type of raqs sharqi (bellydance) that I grew up with was of fully covered ladies doing modest performances that had nothing to do with sex, I can see where some are concerned about the two being next to one another.* I am not comfortable with burlesque being compared to or matched with raqs presentations because raqs is one thing and burlesque is another. I was thankful that descriptions of the event made it clear that there would be a variety of performances so that no one would assume that all of these things are bellydance versus a variety of performance art. If you wish to argue with me about that, fine. We can pull out our facts and debate but again, Burlesque and Bellydance are not the same, I don’t care if the two have shared a stage at past venues and events, it’s not because they were related…it’s because of something else entirely. Just because you see a singer and a piano player in the same venue doesn’t mean they both sing well. They specialise in two distinct forms of entertainment and performance. If only Sol Blume was alive today so we could make a panel. Where are the children of his friends? Maybe they are open to discussing it. We could have an entire symposium.

image Great Panels -One of the panels was the business of dance…and it was very helpful in that everyone talked about what is working and what isn’t in their communities.



Performance Highlights of the weekend
My favourite performances were the same people I always go nuts over. Jenny Nichols, Heidi of Jahara Phoenix, who did a routine to an instrumental version of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop, Fonda of course, because her Burlesque performances are always classy and beautiful and free of “side show.” Valizan’s Egyptian performance (an improv that looked like a well thought out choreo) was welcomed as was Naima’s amazing improv. There were flow artists with amazing light shows and glowing instruments that just took you to another place in time, totally appreciated the fact that they were there and Galina did a fine job that following Sunday morning.

image Memorable Costumes
Karma’s costume was beautiful. It was a blue and gold cascading skirt with gold bra top. She wore her hair down and gave a very dramatic performance. She has a commercial look to her dance persona and I was told she has or is moving to Atlanta. If she’s interested in dancing in the various establishments I think she’s going to get hired fairly quick because she delivered a presentation that was not just “commercial” but also had just enough “ta’arab” and thus it felt rather true to some of the eastern shows and what one would see at international community conferences.

imageAnother awesome was that of the hooper. She looked dynamite and performed so well with her rings. It was beautiful!

Also, the young woman from Seattle, the one that was the first raissat to perform with Cirque Du Soleil, her costume was very beautiful. The colours of rust and red worked well.

Memorable Moments
This show had two moments that were very “interesting.” One of which was one of the featured teachers giving one of the event hosts what looked to be a sort of a lap dance? What was that? What was she doing?
The second was the woman who moved to the front row stealing someone else’s seat, causing the child that was sitting on the third seat to run away becaue the lady was clearly under the influence of too much alcohol. We thought she was the parent or relative…maybe a neighbour of one of the performers. It wasn’t until she said, “oooh I hope the next one that comes out is real pretty!! Oohhh she is, Yay!!” that we knew something wasn’t right. She continued to carry on yelling and making comments that embarrassed Lady Fonda, her sweet friend Mr. Jim and I to bits. We looked at each other and then looked over at Mina. Mina got security and the woman was escorted out along with her date…who didn’t seem bothered by her behaviour at all.

The vendors were diverse and nothing felt like a repeat. All styles of dance and lifestyle wear from Moonlight Diva were available. I got a new pair of hair sticks and colourful clips from two shoppes. They are quite lovely

image Overall -This event is great for those that are just obsessed with Raqs Sharqi. If you love to watch dance all day long and enjoy a bit of burlesque and flow arts then you’ll really have a blast at Mosaic. It’s worth the ticket price, in fact I think you get a little more than for what you pay. The hotel was immaculate and the staff was very friendly. It was certainly ideal for a conference.

Applause to Mina for a well thought out event, for her quick action regarding the distrubing audience member and the great atmosphere. I hope I get to attend others. The concept is perfect and a great addition to the awesome shows we have here in Atlanta. Mabrook!

Mina did a great job representing raqs sharqi at her event.

Mina did a great job representing raqs sharqi at her event.

Japan Fest 2013 -21 & 22 September (Gwinnett)



I adore Japan Fest. It’s awesome! My favourite thing to do is go early in the morning, I mean, when they open be waiting outside the door just finishing breakfast with Starbucks coffee in hand. After paying my fee, I walk around and grab brochure from all of the culture clubs and tourism tables present. Then I had to the dealer room and get a new purse, last year I got a Hello Kitty pink tartan bag that I wore to AWA the following weekend. Next, Japanese Dining…tons of different things to enjoy from Soba noodles to local specialities from the various prefecturess. Ahhhh, I love it!!! You hear Japanese spoken all through the venue.

My day concludes with watching the traditional and modern dances in the theatre. That’s the best part. 4 hours of non stop dance performances from the Japanese dance groups that are sprinkled all around Atlanta. Most of them are present and sometimes there’s a band flown in from Japan. Ohhh my, I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting it is.

Atlanta's Japanese Street Fashion and Loli crews are a welcomed and exciting group to see in their elaborate coordinates. Here 4 friends pose at DragonCon's Silk Road Track -another event with an in-depth look at Asia.

Atlanta’s Japanese Street Fashion and Loli crews are a welcomed and exciting group to see in their elaborate coordinates. Here 4 friends pose at DragonCon’s Silk Road Track -another event with an in-depth look at Asia.

This year Japan Fest takes place on the 21st and 22nd of September. Same location, Gwinnett Center in Duluth…way up 85 North, which is about 45 minutes from ATL if you go the speed limit. Tickets are on sale now, there are group rates and photos of what to expect.

Several members from the Atlanta Lolis are planning to attend in all their frills so be sure to take a picture with your favourite one. Let me know if you’re going. We usually attend as a small group on both days. This is one of the African Asian Business and Cultural Exchanges promoted events. For more information on the attendee experience, conact me to get a copy of past reviews.

Japan Fest
Gwinnett Center
Duluth GA
All Day Saturday and Sunday
Official Website:




Bienvenue, Welcome, Ahlan!

Valizan (Canada), Andye (Nigeria-USA), Ziah Ali (USA) hanging out at Mosaic, 16+years of Global Raqs Magic

Valizan (Canada), Andye (Nigeria-USA), Ziah Ali (USA) hanging out at Mosaic, 16+years of Global Raqs Magic

Ahlan waSahlan! Salaam wa Merhaba, Marhaba, Salut, Bienvenue et Shukran Jazillan for visiting Raqs Atlanta. We enjoyed 15 years as a private group of international concert, conference and show attendees. We are now ready to go public and share our dedication to the global arts community. Here we will post information about upcoming shows, music programs, visiting celebs and meet & greets. It’s all about having a really good time enjoying our culture, language and being ourselves with no apologies. Our motto remains the same, “All things international like me!”

Moderator and Contributors:

Nagwa, Andye, The Diasporic Team, Atlanta African Asian Business and Cultural Exchange, and our partners in dance.