Amazing Anniversary – AFBD’s 7th Anniversary Show

aFBD

*These comments are my own. Very grateful to be a member of Atlanta’s Intl Community happily supporting dancers throughout the city. This Nigerian-American is eager for all the shows!

AFBD hosted an outstanding event to commemorate their 7th anniversary. It was a joyous and very emotional event because the evolution of the dancers that took the stage was overwhelming. Being a member of this community for just over a decade I have watched dancers start as students and blossom into teachers and studio owners. I have to say the efforts and hard work are paying off for several. Some of the highlights and most notable performances pertaining to my experience are below.

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Shoutout to Sig Sawyer who was very entertaining and one of my favourite hosts for any show. He’s always dressed well and is very polite no matter who you are or what your status may be in whatever circle. He’s all kinds of equal opportunity kindness and doesn’t do that clique-ish tomfoolery. I appreciate that. *pardon but my program was ruined so I don’t have everyone’s names and forgot to grab an extra at the studio last week to try and edit this to respectfully give these great artists their proper titles… So bare with me.

 

RafiahRafi’ah
Their opening was very modern and had an air of mystery to it. The whole set was just really beautiful to watch. They certainly have a theatrical feel and are worthy of a stage. The lighting and entire presentation was stellar! The costumes were a really nice touch.

 

Hadil

Hadil
Again, another amazing costume in this show. She’s a great dancer and in this particular performance put a lot of effort into the entire presentation. Not only did she execute moves very well she looked polished and complete. Nothing was half-assed. For me this is a model performance for professionals. It can be taught and mastered. Hadil made it look very natural, non-manufactured. This is American raqs sharqi.

Heidi
It’s awesome when we have extra cultures represented in the shows. This was a celebration of not just bellydance but the real global dance, things you’re going to see if you’re out and about in the world spending time “with the people.” Heidi gave us a very raw yet delicate cultural glimpse of salsa? from Cuba. It was quite lovely. I saw someone do a similar style in a beautiful yellow dress once and this brought me back to those cherished moments of sitting down in the square watching the grown ups as a kid in the international community. What a joy to see it as an adult. Great work and what a gift to share.

Majda Anwar
Here’s another stellar example of a cultural moment come to life. Whether she likes it or not or wishes/doesn’t wish to be considered this, Majda is one of few cultured kids we’ve got in the Atlanta “Bellydance” community doing raqs on the real. I’m talking straight up, non-fusion, raw raqs sharqi. While she is a wiz at music and dance, making her one of our most highly educated teachers in the Atlanta raqs realm, she is also one of few to truly do a solid cultural set to truly perfect music. Sidi Mansour with zills in that dress? Oh heck yes! That right there is what I grew up seeing and just as I was getting worried that I’d never see it again from someone in my own age group stateside., there it was! I hope others will follow suit and keep that style alive. That’s what you’re going to see when you hang out “with the people.” I could watch Majda for hours and not grow tired. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning. THAT. THAT right there!

Majda

Majda performs to Sidi Mansour

MOKSHA
Really enjoyed their set. I had been wanting to see them for quite some time and was glad to finally experience their energy. I hope they will be regulars on the Atlanta scene and join the dance teams, teach workshops and more in the area. They are very important.

 

Karma was stellar as expected! Great performance!

Nahari was another gorgeous spirit that floated out on stage. I was really impressed with her presentation, her whole look was just captivating. Even with the costume malfunction it was gorgeous. I shamefully wanted her to just keep going despite it all. It was so damn pretty and she handled it so well, so graceful that you’d have thought it was part of the show. I actually liked it. Is that wrong? It probably is. She is just sooo gorgeous. I’ll stop there. But not before saying yes, I noticed her outstanding work on that skirt! OMG!

Nahari

Aziza Nawal was praised heavily. I, too, lost my voice making zaghareets for her. I mean what else can one say? How many times can we say, she was awesome? That goes without saying. Her stamina, energy and joy have covered this city and others. We are simply blessed to have her in this town, hands down. She is one of the best raqs artists in the nation.

 

Sabeeya’s salute to Bhangra superstar Lavesh was gorgeous and energetic. I just lose myself in his work and so it’s nice to see it well replicated! Very nice!

Fantastic Groups

There was a group of latin dancers there that just floored us! They were outstanding and I really hope they come and dance at future events even if the theme is something else entirely!

Mimis

One must mention Awalim as they have such an impact in the area of Tribal Fusion Bellydance. I’ve always enjoyed watching them. They are mesmerizing and their music is always perfect. This is one of my favourite pieces in their repertoire and many in the audience were humming along and participating. They’re an Atlanta favourite. It was great!

Awalim

Aziza Nawal’s class Banat Nawal also presented a lovely piece and shout out to them for wearing several unique pieces from MissBellydance.com! *Big hug from MissBellydance.com for the students being in so much of the brand’s newest selections. Everyone looked really good. The outfits flowed so nicely. What a gorgeous set that complimented the students and their amazing teacher.

Fatin’s class’ Raqs Masri presentation made me cry. I was absolutely taken aback by their fantastic tahtib/assayah set. It was such a celebration of this wonderful part of Egyptian culture and was performed so well. I just felt myself trembling watching them. So much history in that piece. I’m crying as I type. Sets like these are essential and should always be included by groups who have a passion for it. They let us know that this was deep down in their hearts!

Fatin

There were also two ladies from North Carolina I believe? They were a joy to watch as well. I hope they come back to Atlanta and spend some time with us. They were so lovely and their dance presentation was just beautiful. Bravo!

North Carolina

Ladies of North Carolina

 

 

!!!!Colleen Shakti!!!!– I don’t even know where to begin. I need more of her spirit in this town. I want lots more of that. Being a child who grew up with so many cultures very active and  around me in that we were constantly fasting, feasting and celebrating because between the South Asians, Africans, Greeks, Middle Eastern, the French, the English, Chinese, Japanase, Malay and Taiwanese, there really wasn’t a holiday we didn’t celebrate. Watching her reminded me of the wonderful, traditional dances I saw from South Asians in our community. There were young kids and adults who were trained in this discipline and I loved to watch them for hours and was known to do so. I would sit at the dance stage and go to the studios and just watch til nightfall. Seeing Colleen Shakti in both sets was such an erethreal experience, I sincerely have no other words. I wanted to scoop her up and take her home with me. I wanted to put her in a delicate doll bed and just pray over her and thank G-d I had her. She became magical to me as she performed. I felt like I was in the presence of something really great and bigger than anything I’d ever experienced. It was really something. I was spiritually swept away.

Again, there wasn’t one person in that show that didn’t put forth a great deal of effort. The above are the ones that really stood out to me.  Even when mistakes were made or something went wrong, it didn’t ruin the set or mar the show. Everyone held our attention and deserved the applause they received. Very nice! Praying, trusting and already grateful for year 8 insha’Allah!

Big thanks to all who make AFBD and those they support, so absolutely amazing! Here are a few more video snippets and photos from the night:

 

 

Photo

Lacy Sanchez

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Thanks for reading,
AA

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Bellydance Fashion Week – A 1st & a Success!

Flashback to summer of 2015. I’m looking at tweets from various rock stars about their wives being at Fashion Week – one in particular was doing the marketing and promotions for it. I’m thinking…where is the Bellydance Fashion Week? Why don’t we have that? Eureka – the Bellydance Fashion Week was with me. I decided I wanted to do this. With the help of some amazing people, we did!

A few meetings later with MissBellydance.com , Atlanta Fusion Bellydance and voila, the idea is approved. The first note about Fashion week went out on MissBellydance.com’s Instagram, blog and social accounts in late September and several reminders came after that. By January/February the schedule was set, partnerships in place, Babylon Cafe onboard (thanks Kelly!) and we were set to go.

BDFWA

Panel Discussion At BDFW 2016 – Babylon Cafe ATL

The first night of BDFW took place at Babylon Cafe – let me say the service and venue were perfect. Kelly is very attentive and wants things to go right. I can appreciate that. Anyone can. She’s really good at what she does and it is appreciated. Her staff this particular evening were overly gracious and kind. That’s VERY hard to find these days when it comes to customer service. So given that we had this wonderful pampering and delicious food we were in good spirits to have a lively discussion on fashion, travel and costuming in the raqs world. Of course we talked about other things and that led us to decide we really need to have these discussions quarterly. We covered a variety of topics, we disagreed, we agreed, we questioned things, we all but danced! It was awesome! Huge thanks to Majda, Amani, Jendayi, Alima and Zaia for their contributions. This was a good thing! It must continue!

Highlights From the Week
I loved staying up til midnight with Heidi and friends talking about culture, music, celebs we love and some of the funniest dance stories from various genres. Heidi has such a great personality that we were glued to her great experiences in dance. That along with the class made for an amazing Tuesday of Fusion and Tribal learnings.

Another cool item was Diana’s wardrobe that she brought with her when explaining Flamenco fashion and fusion. She has the most amazing Bata de Cola dress that was custom made for her. She also shared with us various skirts and dresses that can be and are used in both Arab and Spanish (Spain and the diaspora) culture. They were just splendid and this picture does not do them justice. Before class we talked about the state of Flamenco dance in North America. Surprisingly we do not have as many teachers here as I thought. There are even fewer in Canada. That is scary. I think it’s crucial we begin to highlight their work and offerings more so that those like me who adore this dance as much as raqs sharqi can better support the art of Flamenco locally.

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Diana’s wardrobe!

Thursday Aziza raq’d the studio with her course on performance. We got to meet Cassandra Fox early and Maddie the dancer came as well. Friday was cancelled as it is a busy day for dancers and few could attend. We’ll save our shimmies, kisses for Aya and glasses of Shiraz for another night.

Weekend Workshops
When I wasn’t volunteering up front discussing fashion I sat in on the workshops. I went to Cassandra’s Caribbean Fusion workshop. She incorporated stories about her Jamaican-born family’s background before going into certain moves. What I saw demonstrated by the attendees was not something I was familiar with in the raqs family. I’ve seen Tito do moves that play on some of the poses she does but this looked completely different and more along the lines of what I’ve seen from western artists in their various pop-art and western dances. It was not twerking but a lot of “shaking” and “shimmying” one’s behind vs. hips. I kept trying to place it in different cultures within the raqs world and I came close, even thinking of a few videos of the Houwairat but I’m not sure. The attendees seemed to be having fun doing it and also said this reminded them of many things 😉

BDFWC

Eshta Amar taught a great class on costuming. Some of us sat in the back… the smart kids up front soaking it all in.

I also sat in on the first part of Eshta Amar’s Porportions and Embellishmens for Every Body Type. She did an excellent job of explaining what cuts and designs look best on everyone. I suggest this class to all whether you are looking to dress yourself for bellydance or just going out. This is a practical guide for all occasions especially when it comes to foundations. Thank you Eshta!!

The Fashion Show
This went really well. This took place in what was transformed into the Mehmet Theatre as Mr. Bellydance.com built the stage from scratch with his bare hands…his bare hands! Teşekkür ederim for that!

BDFWB

I was so happy to see all of the designs from MissBellydance.com and Eshta Amar well presented by those who were enthusiastic and in the spirit of modeling. Everyone looked good. Their make-up was done well as was the fit of the costumes. Judith and I picked them out over a span of time and matched them with the models. Our lady Nusrat and her family came to model for us as well and that was a treat. Nusrat is our official MissBellydance.com model as is her troupe. They have been amazing supporters over the years and we’re happy to call her family and an official member of MissBellydance.com’s raqs team.

We also had a slew of local and professional performers who put a lot of time and energy into their presentations. Aziza Nawal and Majda were notable showstoppers and Maddie presented her raqs with flames. We thought maybe she’d dance to Prince’s Little Red Corvette in her cute Eshta Amar ensemble (the really neat red/Alice checker/race car flag one we saw at the Andrus show). Majda noted to us earlier that her purple veil was in honour of Prince. I thought that was really sweet. Heaven knows so many of us in that room have a connection in one way or another. Maybe his beloved Mayte can come join us for something one day. Let’s discuss that after things settle down, bless.

The Du was as energetic as always. She and Josh had quite a lovely number that felt like a salute to France. She wore her Eshta Amar that featured the Fleur-de-lis. Many others had costumes that had a theme to them including “The Tuxedo” worn by Inara. The costume Karma adorned and floored us with in performance had hearts strategically placed throughout the design. It was really impressive. MissBellydance.com fans came and danced in their bellydance costume sets and Scarlet opened the performances using MissBellydance.com veils to one of the musical selections from the Bellydance Superstars. The show ended with all of the stars coming to the stage doing a great bow and the very talented MC Preston closing the program.

This entire week was a little different from what I originally envisioned. Being a stereotype of my age group, I had planned for it to all be online (I know, the horror!!). Each week various things to view and enjoy. But I’m happy that AFBD and MBD decided to make it 3D by bringing it to life with courses and a discussion others can be a part of in person. While the next BDFW may not look the same,it will have the energy and passion of this one if not more. We’ll also do our best to keep things at a time that fits the schedules of the majority – so weekday classes just skirting ATL traffic may disappear. We’ll see.

Huge thanks to all of the models, our great MC Preston, the dancers. Many hugs to our dear Nusrat and a high five to Mehmet for the amazing work and countless hours he put into the show. Big thanks to MissBellydance.com the faithful sponsor and supporter of so many events in this town as well AFBD who produce some of the most engaging an exciting professional events that are right on par with other international conferences I’ve attended. Shukran Jazillan to all of the guests and attendees! I think we all have but one more thing to say to each other, “You betta werrrk that raqs!”

Cheers and thanks for reading!
-AA