One of the reasons our community still finds success showcasing our art, classes and music to the globe are due to the numerous celebrities that love bellydance, cultural dance and raqs sharqi as a whole. Mayte Garcia has been a wonderful representative of the art and dancing since she was a toddler. This has helped raise interest in our culture to the world. I first learned of her through an after party I attended where the late mega musician, philanthropist and global artist Prince was hanging out after his concert. As millions know, long after Purple Rain, this super human was still touring with incredible hits and has a vault of music that is unmatched. He was married to Mayte Garcia at the time of this party and they both walked into that club looking like shining stars. I had been super calm until they walked into the room. Then as soon as he walked near me I just went nuts, “You tha man! You tha man!” I yelled. My goodness…he was thankfully gracious. It was super hard not to repeat that sentiment yesterday when Mayte came to the Atlanta Fusion Bellydance Studio adjacent to MissBellydance.com where I volunteer. I held the door open as she walked in with her sweet puppies. I held my emotions together and just thanked the Almighty we were about to experience her magic again.
Mayte arrived looking amazing as ever and accompanied by her rescue puppies. All of whom are just adorable. You can learn more about her rescue efforts here. I will save this post for our experience with her in the dance realm. She and her team arrived at 4:35pm and begin to set up immediately. We, the fans including her long time dedicated group that literally travels (much like Tears for Fears’ Travel Fans) to see her whenever she is near them -be it same city or a few states over, gathered together in the front and got to know each other. I was the second fan to arrive. The first was a young lady who was dressed super kawaii and ready to meet Mayte. She had been there since 12pm. We know all about that life – camping out and not wanting to miss a single second of your beloved’s presence. That’s how we were. I had arrived to the studio on Friday because that’s kinda how things go. We go early and get everything prepared. But all was taken care of and we were set for Saturday’s big evening event. Registration was very easy. We only had to show proof of payment. Once validated we were able to go back to the studio and join Mayte for the Question and Answer session.
Fans were seated on yoga mats and Mayte was in a chair. Due to injuries, floor seating is not my friend right now so I grabbed a chair and sat down to listen. Calm and serene, everyone asked her questions about her work, about Prince and about her dance past. Nothing she said was controversial or taboo. It all seemed like honest, sincere responses that let you know her life with Prince was more than pleasant and that he was dedicated to his work as is she. She shared some funny moments and how she believes his energy and spirit are still certainly there in Paisley Park.
The Dance Class
Mayte’s warm up was incredible and energetic. The class begins and ends with Prince and there’s traditional regional music (our region’s – Middle Eastern/African) in between. There was a focus on technique and then there was a short choreo that would work for an intro to an event. You can tell these were designed for large stages. There’s no way in the world our subtle flutters and bashful shoulder shimmies could work for the arenas she’s been in. Her moves are big and pronounced. You can SEE her and it works for what she presents to the world. I would definitely take another course with her.
The After Party
After the educational portion of the evening, she turns the music up just a bit more and dancers were allowed to showcase what they’ve learned. In traditional ME style as if one is at the bride’s henna party, she does a duet with each participant in the course. It’s very touching to see Mayte lead and guide dancers to showcase their best and favourite moves they’ve learned in that session. We of course are a community of professionals, expatriates and raqs veterans. So when those members got out on the dance floor, assayahs and advanced moves appeared making the duet an authentic one. Mayte knows her stuff and she flourished with her students in those magical hours. We were with her from 5pm until around 9pm or 10pm. It was so majestic that the entire atmosphere felt very much like the one I remember during her years with Prince. I will not forget this day and I’m super grateful to Robyn and Robin for encouraging this event to take place. Huge thanks to Faaridah and AFBD for hosting!! Looking forward to another session!
Out of respect I didn’t take a whole bunch of photos. If others donate their photos and videos I will put them here in the archives.