TribalCon 10 Highlights

Impromptu ATS by Ziah and friends

Impromptu ATS by Ziah and friends

Mabrook to TribalCon on their 10th Conference! It was another impressive and warm weekend for the mind, body and spirit. Lots of new faces and stellar salutes to the Mommas and the Poppas – founders of what the culture (or as I learned today (Morocco)) refers to as American Tribal Style. Lady Carolena mentioned that she felt one could have called it “Modern” Tribal Style and I agree with her. That also makes sense for so many reasons…but we’ll save that cultural conversation for another day.

Friday’s Show – My Favourites
Banat Almeh…really cool to see some MBD items on one of their young ladies. Their performances were not that of students but highly skilled professionals. The balancing of the swords on chins, backs of one’s shoulders and countless other body parts…yeah, that’s not “student” material.  Mabrook to these ladies…they were an amazing show opener – hands down spectacular…loved it!!

Bazi – stunning!

Sasha – sensual and superb!

Rafiah Dance Company… dear G-d… can that even be repeated? I’m still speechless at what I saw. The use of the song Roxanne (Moulin Rouge version) , the emotion, spectacular costuming, very clean, professional and gorgeous.

Shakra was completely moving… my soul was lifted.  They were impressive and inspiring…

Seeing Carolena, founder of Fat Chance Bellydance perform was…a religious experience, need I say more? I fought back tears… During their performance I was overwhelmed watching Ziah dance and go completely majnoona next to me in the most spirit shifting way. It was like seeing myself at a Nigerian wedding…just being me, enjoying my culture. I feel she was in her element. What a full circle moment to see the ATS troupe that I have admired for 15 years as I stand next to one of the people for which I moved to Atlanta so I could enjoy as much raqs sharqi as I wanted from she and her team… yeah, it was another PERFECT evening and I felt EXTREMELY blessed.

Got to see so many of my favourite people from Jendayi and her cool peeps to those I only get to see two times a year… (i.e. Assim, the first male ATS dancer I’d ever seen (1998)- loved his supportive comments during Bazi’s set)

The famous Hamer sisters!

The famous Hamer sisters!

Saturday’s Show – Live Music

For  me, there were 5-6 performances that really stood out. Jahara Phoenix, Banat Almeh, Teejei/ChristySmith/Majda’s violin solo combo (sorry I don’t know the name of the other dancer and I can’t find my program), The Hamer Sisters (both sets) and the ATS group impromptu set…not to mention the LIVE music was more than outstanding. It was a huge treat that paid such respect to the great classic tunes of African, Middle Eastern art and global dance. It’s very hard to revert away from this LIVE format because it is just too powerful to ignore. I want to say hats off to Majda who played the violin brilliantly and was a force up there not only with her gorgeous ensemble but with her spirit. While I miss her on stage as a dancer I think I feel more of her spirit through her music. I’m grateful she is doing both. Mabrook wa helowa antee!

Let’s  talk about JP – my word, everyone I spoke with (and I do mean EVERYONE)  was like, “ummm, what don’t they do?!” I was shocked to high heaven to see JP and fellow dancers from other groups and bands so to speak singing, playing instruments and more with great skill as though they’ve been doing this for decades. Heidi is on the zills, there’s singing, the playing of frame drums and the whole nine yards as Sherar perform. Then as they leave the stage Nikki Jamilah, Heidi and another gorgeous girl in their troupe that I have a girl crush on start dancing with some of Jaki’s henna art instruments looking like various goddesses. Where’s the video for this…omg, whaaaat?! Let me declare, they won me over and many others. JP is a tough act to follow and excel way beyond their call each and every year with extraordinary cultural salutes that leave their fans and new audience members talking about them with respect for months and months. They even incorporated moves I’ve seen on legends like Donna Mejia…there were so many cultural salutes there that I was speechless and my soul fled. This was a moment I will not ever forget… I was so smitten I had a dream about the performance and have been “shaking” ever since…yeah, that happened.

The Hamer Sisters  – I learned about these ladies AFTER their performance. I had no idea that these were the ladies I used to watch on Pennsic videos and stare at for hours in the various Pennsic photo albums. I had those video clips saved in an email draft and would literally spend hours watching their every move. Christy Smith, singer with Allah Yustur band, told me about them and their relation to Awalim. Everything they did made sense to me. Their performance/presentation was “culturally familiar.” It recognised so much of the “real” India that I dare say none of what they did was fantasy or something they “made up” because I’ve actually seen this growing up. There were groups that would visit us for holidays and put on music and dance shows…some legit, some underground and I saw ALL of that in the first performance. Their second one, featuring all three sisters, was even more extraordinary because they did moves that I have only seen in North African tribes, “dwellers” and those that travel from South Asia into Iran and North Africa. I don’t know if that was their intention but I know I’ve seen that before. My heart just lit up like a desert flame. I was so happy to see this incredible music being used the way it still is in many eastern (and African) regions. I’m a big fan of these sisters, I had no idea that they were members of Ghawazee. Valizan helped me realise that just today…I’m totally…just so grateful I can’t find a way to put it into words…this was on! Wow, what an honour.

The Grand Trio w/the band -Smith/Anwar/Teejei ++
This was a great salute to the songs used, one Turkish and the other Arabic (Lamma Bada). The costuming, the way in which they interpreted the piece and the segue from one song to the next, just prove, yet again, how well researched, knowledgeable…and CREATIVE Atlanta’s raqs community is. Members of Awalim (past and present + those who come in for conferences and presentations)  have often shown their knowledge through movement. They are not taking their lessons and history then going out in left field doing a hodge podge, instead, they are taking it to heart and really putting forth something that is understandable, cultured and can be presented to not only an “American Tribal Style” crowd but a global one. This set was moving, soul stirring and overall “complete.” Christy added a little more to Lamma Bada than expected and it worked…the band just “flowed” with her… and that spoke volumes about those musicians…more impressive is the fact that they don’t even live in the same town but could pull that off… puleeeezze, you can’t say they don’t express ta’arab… it was flooding the entire auditorium. Standing Ovation!! Mabrook!!! ::throws flowers::

Banat Almeh –
These daughters of Awalim have surpassed the level of “students” in so many ways. I loved their tahtib presentation to classic Arabic music. Their outfits were perfect, long thin ghawazee style sheaths with bra tops. They had slender tahtib/sticks and did a very simple routine featuring the “spinning of the cane.” I loved it from start to finish. Having it accompany live music made “the culture” come alive…reminds me of haflas past and great dinner shows featuring legends visiting the area… I miss this and Banat Almeh gave me (and I’m sure many others) a little trip “home.” Merci, shukran! xoxoxo

The  Lecture – What is ATS?
I went to one lecture this year…and that was Lady Carolena’s talk on “What is ATS?” I don’t want to try and condense it. I think this is something everyone needs to hear for themselves in person. Brief highlights for me were hearing that Morocco (my favourite Aunt so to speak) named this genre “American Tribal Style.” There was also a shoutout  to one of my favourite Tribal Raqs artists, Valizan of the Shades of Araby (Canada).  Those in attendance sure walked away with gold…and memories to last a lifetime. Good stuff!

AND to top it all off…MARGARET CHO SHOWED UP… (~~~shockwaves~~~ ) ::drops mic and pen::

Candid Moment featuring Jahara Phoenix and Sherar

Candid Moment featuring Jahara Phoenix and Sherar

Great Conference!

At the end of the day I’m grateful for those like Jahara Phoenix, Awalim and the Hamer sisters who do as much research as possible followed by an  embrace of ethnic music coupled with salutes to the cultures of which the music originated. I’ve noticed that they admire and are influenced by more than just the American icons of “bellydance.” Most of all, I’ll always be grateful for the kind faces and warm embraces that those troupes have given “different” people like me who have wandered into the world of American Tribal Style. I hope to continue to support them and see them at their best!

Thanks for reading!


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