From Good to Great to Gold – AFBD, Raqs Royalty of Atlanta

This is dedicated to the late Queen Harish for whom we owe for promoting dance in a way that celebrated all of us. He will be missed and may the Universe guide us and keep his spirit near.

Atlanta Fusion Bellydance’s 10th-anniversary show was a production that embodied the art community of Atlanta. Hosted by one of the newest members of the ATL International Community, Mr. Cortez, it began on time and was VERY organized. The venue was easy to reach by GPS. The Yelp reviews note that there is no parking but there was valet and it was managed by some of the most polite young men with which I ever left my car. Big shout out to Byron on that team.

The community showed up in support of AFBD, lots of families, grandparents and international community members. The dining hall for the dinner that followed was quite lovely and well decorated. There was fruit and cheese for guests and the staff was really nice at the location. The seats were cushioned and comfortable for the most part. Myself and the young man beside me were a bit wider in the waist and therefore the seat, while soft and enjoyable, did pack us in like sardines. I’ll be glad when I’m well and things like that are no longer an issue. Other than that I’d consider having an event there because it was just so well done. Not too informal and not OTT Black Tie, heels only. Locations like these should be the STANDARD for all shows and only go up from there.


From the front entrance to the flowers on the table, the place was decked with decor.

Check-in was smooth as well. I lost my VIP wristband within minutes of receiving it and the AFBD team were able to get another for me within seconds. While I do not suggest one be as careless and aloof as I was this evening when getting myself through the door, it’s nice to know that they weren’t horrified and I didn’t have to pay another VIP fee to replace it. Thank you, Deonce!

Great Show Open
One of the highlights of the show was the video that was produced (impeccable editing – I should know. I worked at CNN for over a decade and editors are gods and goddesses, you gotta get it right, it’s an art). This video featured the core members of AFBD and a few guests speaking about the beginnings of the company including the former studio prior to their move to the current space. As a long time volunteer with, I feel having them so close is another reason MBD is still in Atlanta. They have been a huge inspiration and very encouraging. The video commentary was quite touching and focused primarily on their relationships with each other and the sisterhood they have formed. The entire visual was reminiscent of the early Bellydance Superstars productions with chimed openings and middle east charmer rhythms. I feel it should be a documentary and submitted to the library of congress or at least submitted for a PromaxBDA award. Really great material there!


Excellent Video!


Show Highlights

Fatin and Aziza lead the first performance along with familiar faces that I see at all the shows. The highlight of their performance was the Isis wings whose significance was explained in the video shown prior to this show opener. While Aziza and Fatin were dominant and prominently featured in this piece with amazing stage presence and their famous, pristine raqs presentations, the other dancers presented strong skill. I remember when several of them started dancing and they have grown to be confident and an asset to the community. Well done!


Heidi was also a wonderful addition to the show. She combined several styles and danced to music that saluted her Cuban ethnicity/heritage/roots. I was happy to see her mother there who is also SUPER supportive and another strong asset to Atlanta’s dance comm. She was like a swan, graceful and beautiful. I could have watched a few more pieces with her as a solo. I kept thinking members of Balkan Beat Box would also appreciate her performance. Very Nice! Que pasa contigo? Usted, habibti! Usted! Oh yeahhhh!

Mina was in the show this evening. She’s been a strong supporter of AFBD for several years. She’s often at their shows and I know she appreciates their work. This set was one of my favourites of the evening. I loved her ensemble, a dazzling body stocking with a matching full panel skirt that swayed with every move. The ambiance hue was violet and lavender. It was gorgeous and she danced well. Really enjoyed this set from her. The music was perfect and fit the essence of the event. This was “well fused” and, again, I enjoyed every bit! More of this!!

I’m known for saying who stole the show and tonight it was Aziza Nawal and her team. I see you, Carole Ann and you look AMAZING dancing to my all time favourite Iranian singer, Moein! Together they danced to a mix of top cultural favorites from the region including Iran. They started off with a nice Saidi piece spinning canes like pros. Then they segued into one of Moein’s most known songs that is often classified as “classic bandari” – yes gawd! Boloooo!! Boloooo! Boloooo Masha’Allah! This was my absolute favourite set of the night (and there were many who nearly took its place but this remained the best set for keeping true to the root of rhythm in the region and doing a segue …as fusion is often presented in the region…a clear segue). Beautiful!! Yani, helowa!!


This was especially amazing for me because I can remember dancing around with Aziza and Amani at Taverna Plaka during my raqs superfan years. The rare occasion this song came on I’d go nuts on the dance floor spinning and leaping in the air as if it were a wedding. That was 10 years ago and it was a joy to see her carrying that spirit and skill well into the future. She did this song justice and I pray we get to see more and more of her in the coming years doing sets like this with great dancers like that!

*Aziza did a second set this afternoon – a solo – and it was just as powerful as the group piece. She danced to a classic as if it was second nature. Those close to me know I moved to Atlanta for two reasons. My dream job called and I wanted to be in an international community a lot bigger than the tight-knit but tiny (10,000 vs. 100,000) one I was in. I saw one photo of Aziza on the cover of a magazine and I literally packed a bag and waited for an offer. When it came, I moved the same day and threw a stone over my shoulder. I thought being in ATL was going to be even bigger and better and it was for a very long time because of artists like Aziza who kept our culture alive and kept it real. She is a big reason I stayed happy and sane. I owe her!

Next Steps in Presentations

With that said, I feel it’s time we start celebrating our top artists to the fullest. We need singers. That song and many others featured tonight are famous because of the greats who sang along with the dancers. Some of you may know them as the “man in the suit” and Fatme who continued her fame right alongside great raissat like Dina. We gotta get some men in suits on stage singing with these local legends. I guess I better get my abbayah dusted off and the sheet music. Where’s Christy? Let’s. do. this.

Karma Karmelita was also in the show and danced to what I believe was one of Nagwa Karem’s hits. Karma was as powerful as expected and a roaring success with the audience. To not have her featured in a show is equal to risking failure. She is a must!


Jenny – my goodness. She is just supreme. I love her style. It’s all JENNY and the nods to various cultures is just the icing on the cake. I ADORE Jenny Nichols! Her husband knows it and heaven bless her mother, I feel her spirit knows it too. I love that lady. I even have a doll that I found in the American Girl Store that I was drawn to because she reminds me of Jenny. It’s sitting in the front room right now in a pretty dress. I might bring her to class but I don’t want Jenny to freak out. There was a running joke that Jenny lived inside one of my Hello Kitty bags and if you opened it Jenny would pop out and dance for you. Well, with my doll, we’re close enough. Okay, enough Jenny fanning…

Her video was excellent and I feel if you’re a true fan of this community you gotta get a copy. I know I want to put a digital version on my website and several other places including celebrating it on Her performance, from costume to choreography along with Haliesha and team was OUT OF THIS WORLD. I LOVED IT. So fusion and so professional! Much like Karma, Jenny is ESSENTIAL FOR SHOWS. She has it all! Nice job! More please…more Jenny and team! Also, I want the jackets they were wearing…like seriously. I need that STAT!

Kalinka was also featured in tonight’s celebration and she brought the house down in a very spiritual way. KALINKA was EVERYTHING! While watching her and enjoying her energy, I was able to see where we lack support for great artists like this. This performance was perfect. The costume, the song, her stage presence…all of it. Yet, we were a little quiet. I know part of it was because we were mesmerized. It was very hard to pick one’s chin off the floor but the music was there to get us up. Had she been performing for an Egyptian or Lebanese audience, jackets would have been thrown on the stage and people would have been up in the aisles. She was THAT good! I had the hardest time watching her because I WAS FORCED TO SIT STILL THROUGH SOMETHING SO MAJESTIC I FORGOT WHERE I WAS!


I don’t know what venue or place we can have these shows and still have a substantial stage plus the ability to stand up and SUPPORT great dancers in regional fashion (literally and figuratively). I wanted to get up and slap the stage, take off my tie and swirl it around. But if I had I would have been a show within a show. I should have got up and sat next to Nicolas so I could sing and clap culturally. Instead, I was sitting with the new guy from Turkey and neither of us were “ourselves.” Kalinka’s performance was a wake-up call that we need to reevaluate the opportunity to praise a dancer the right way. She deserved a few jackets at her feet and flowers too. TAO BONITA!!! Now THAT right there…that’s raqs sharqi! Muito obrigada, Kalinka! You did that!

The show close was AFBD’s teachers dancing to a great classic that I used to play on raqs cocktail repeat. I found it in the stack of music at my cousin’s market in my teens. I loved it. It was a great way to end the night! Another winner!


Many thanks to Leena and her girls for wearing’s Soraiah Star couture!

Honourable Mentions
Mad Hatter Dance Company’s sword piece was beautiful and showcased the technical artistry of our community.

Maddie was a delight with a full Maghreb tea tray filled with flames. She not only danced but did floor work and intricate isolations showcasing her skill. She’s a great showman! Has been for years! Much appreciated!

Magnolia – her costume was incredible. She wore a bedluh that was embellished with what looked like broken mirrors strategically covering the bra and belt. That costume could have come out and danced on its own and we’d have been amazed. It was super nice!

Lessons Learned:
Always bring cash! In future, when there is valet, we need to know so we can tip them accordingly. I gave him a dollar because that was the only change I had on me. Not cool. They were as wonderful as the performers and deserved to be tipped. So, lesson learned, when at raqs shows, bring cash because there’s usually a cash bar and lots of other things where credit cards are not accepted. This is the first venue I’ve been to without an ATM.

Turn the pre-show music down! There is no reason for pre-show music to be that loud. It was so loud I missed my opportunity to bond with the new Turkish guy and his BFF. We tried to speak but ended up in silence because yelling over each other was just crazy. When having shows with pre-show music, it would be best to have two people come down front and test the volume. If you can’t have a decent conversation without your throat hurting, then it’s too loud.


It was more than respectful of the occasion and paid homage not just to the work they’ve done but also to the region where raqs sharqi originated. It was not overrun with one style, the performances were inclusive and the whole event was the epitome of what many artists aim to achieve in this town. Big thanks to Faaridah for pushing through. There’s nothing easy about being a show producer. It’s far from cheap, it takes a good solid year to plan and even when you have support one can sometimes feel very alone. Faaridah found a way to bypass those obstacles completely with an incredible team in tow.

When you see AFBD’s name on a production you IMMEDIATELY clear your calendar because you know it’s going to be worth your time. She has given Atlanta’s dance comm (and the southeast’s) something to look forward to for over a decade! We are truly grateful!! I wish AFBD several more decades to come! We’ll be 86 years old making zaghareets in the lobby of the TWELVE and local parades! Insha’Allah!

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 , Atlanta Fusion Bellydance and voila, the idea is approved. The first note about Fashion week went out on’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.


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.


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 😉


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. built the stage from scratch with his bare hands…his bare hands! Teşekkür ederim for that!


I was so happy to see all of the designs from 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 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’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. fans came and danced in their bellydance costume sets and Scarlet opened the performances using 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 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!

Review – Gulf Dance Weekend 6 & 7 February Atlanta


Kay Hardy Campbell’s Khaleegi Course hosted by Amani Jabril Middle Eastern and World Dance – 7 Feb 2015

All comments are my opinion only. They are not the final word or general opinion of any group. These are just my observations. I wrote the below, raw, unedited thoughts from my perspective as a first generationer with relatives and friends who are from and remain in the region. While I saw and participated in Middle Eastern Dance as a child/teen/Univ years residing in various international communities I do not declare myself an authority…just a mega fan who works hard to promote our culture in the best light.

Long. Overdue.
I could seriously just let those two words be the entire synopsis vs. this novel I just wrote. The Gulf Weekend sponsored by Amani Jabril Middle Eastern and World Dance provided more than a wealth of knowledge and amazing performances that were…wait for it…engaging and interactive with a focus on the social aspect of raqs – in other words, this was the real deal! The aspect of Khaleegi and Iraqi Dance being honoured for the social dances that they are was finally welcomed and instilled not just to the attending Atlanta dancers but also to the international visitors and those from SEVERAL other states. If you were not there, what a tragic pity. Yes, I’m giving you the side eye!

Friday Night Drumming Course with Kay

Friday Night Drumming Course with Kay

~~~ The Workshops ~~~
Friday – Drumming Workshop and Iraqi Dance Party at Babylon Cafe
The place is just gorgeous with traditional decor. There’s track lighting strategically placed, adding to the ambiance. There’s also a really beautiful covered seating area and gorgeous cushioned couch. This is where Kay and Majda sat to teach the Friday night drumming class. Attendees flew in from all over the states to be there. These were dedicated fans of Kay’s as well as fans of the Iraqi genre from New York and other large or iconic cities (i.e. Chicago, Savannah). Kay handed out worksheets with songs, rhythms, music and other useful information. Majda played the violin PERFECTLY alongside Kay, who was on the Oud. Attendees brought their drums, daf and doumbek to play along. Soon the restaurant was filled with their singing and drumming. It was like having a chorus and band. Might not be a bad idea to have such events spotlighted there every month? I certainly would attend to hear some traditional music. The class lasted for two hours (?), correct me if I’m wrong. Everyone seemed more than pleased and I must say Kay was very thorough. She went through song pronunciations and talked about the structure of the music, musical trends in the region and educated us on how to tell if a band or an orchestra are truly skilled. It made me appreciate the songs and music I heard growing up so much more. I’ll certainly be looking out for those gentle nuances, pauses and signs that indicate a really great group of musicians.

Iraqi Dance Party 
Uza’s presentation was a bit delayed by technical difficulties and for a while we were under the impression that she would not be performing. But, if you know the owner of Babylon Cafe, she was not having any of that. She came out of the kitchen and got the tech issues straightened out with lightening speed. Uza was able to continue right on time. Describing Uza’s dancing can be summed up with the phrase, “bada$$”…in every sense of the word. She’s a bada$$. They say there’s one in every family…that person you look forward to seeing just so you can watch the bada$$ery that they are going to bring to the table. In this case, it’s dancing…she dances like the really “cool girls” from back home. One of the highlights of the night was having Majda around. I appreciate that Majda glided right on in with what I call ‘first generation swagger.’ Again, nuances that those who live among those from the region or are related to it (or are there) seem to bring forth. Seeing Uza and Majda (and Ziah who did several very beautiful hair spins/figure eights) out there on the floor made me say, “Full Circle Moment…this is what I’ve been waiting for!” Of course this is not about me and my wishes, but I do have a sincere investment in Atlanta’s ‘Raqs’ Community, wanting this to be the place that visitors say, “these groups know their stuff, this is not a joke.” I want people like Amani el Omr of Lebanon to mention Atlanta’s fine crew when she talks about “Americans taking care of Raqs Sharqi.” If I could have bottled up that moment and used that as a part of an intro to “Atlanta’s Raqs World” I would have. These moments are sadly too few and far between. I hope that events like that will continue for the preservation of the Atlanta’s international heritage. It goes beyond there being a Mexican and Asian community on Buford Highway, it’s in pocket communities all over and alongside the metro borders …and it’s beautiful!

Khaleegi Workshop with Kay
After some stretches, Kay jumped right into some basics and then quickly went into Khaleegi steps…and…say it with me, “how to capture the nuances” …and specific parts of Khaleegi dance that identify the person doing it as someone who “knows” what they’re doing. She noted a student of hers or someone she had mentored (again, correct me if I’m wrong) who had danced ‘Khaleegi’ at a nightclub. She noted that a man from the region had been in the audience and he walked up to her afterwards and asked, “Where did you learn that?!!?” He tipped her $300. Lesson here: we never know who is in the audience so it’s best to give each performance and presentation 100%.

Kay taught both men and womens styles of dance, line dances and much more!

Kay taught both men and womens styles of dance, line dances and much more!

Kay spent the entire 3 hours pouring knowledge into thirsty minds and it was absolutely beautiful!! Stunning in fact. I really couldn’t find anything about it that didn’t match the information that I had learned and seen over the years from people directly from the region (i.e. neighbours, classmates, new relatives from marriages, language teachers, etc.) I was surprised that she didn’t discuss the old school hair perfuming. I remember a lot of the girls who were older than me, perfuming their hair with jasmine oil and other scents like rose/rose water. When they did the hair toss, an aroma of a flower garden filled the air. I’ve always liked that. I have no idea if that is regional or what but I do remember it. Neither Kay nor Uza discussed it this weekend.

THE BEST part of this was that she showed everyone the dances of the men as well as the women. Given that I first learned these dances from male members of the family/neighbourhood I wanted to see the steps broken down and understand the history behind why the guys danced like that. I had never questioned it before, it was just always something that was done. That’s the way they danced and we’d mimic them the way they’d mimic us. But it was nice to learn more from a scholar who has taken the time to “get to know us” as Africans and Arabs.
Kay was awesome to bring music for purchase. She also brought thobes for sale, very beautiful ones I must say. There are more on her website. Check them out and if you weren’t at the workshop and be sure to read her site thoroughly and buy a cd. At lunch, Kay said for years she had always hoped to have a regional person in her class but knew that was unlikely. This is because it’s not really common for women to go out dancing in the public (I’ve already relayed my story and personal experience with this). She proved she wasn’t in this for personal gain when she said, “You should be teaching this…” thus recognizing that this needed to be taught by a regional woman. I say to Kay, you ARE that Gulf woman, go forth and educate, make all of us Africans, Arabs and Asians proud with your thorough presentations and respect for the culture. She is definitely “one of us.” SHE should be teaching this, SHE is a perfect person for it!

Summary of Styles and Social Dances Covered:
Al Ardah, Al Samri (includes using the sleeves as a head covering as well hair toss), Al Khatwa (Asir region line dance), Khobeiti and the singer on the music was Balquees. There was also a brief intro to Al Baddawi (cane dance esp seen in Kuwait).

Saturday Afternoon
UZA of New York
I didn’t stay for the whole workshop but I was there to see her presentation on how Iraqi dance has developed. She talked about the use of the knives/daggers and that this was just a regional thing that arguably has no exact reference or meaning. If anything the knives are used to emphasize one’s melodramatic response to the way they are feeling (i.e. your love or lack of love is killing me). I think Mark Balahadia has some really great Hetcha (spelling?) videos where he uses the dagger and truly expresses that sentiment. Speaking of, she talked about this particular rhythm/style’s significance.

Uza's class attendees, photo by KL

Uza’s class attendees, photo by KL

Uza went on to do some warming up followed by basic steps and teaching attendees how to get into the rhythm. That was followed by explanations of rhythms, hair tosses, hair figure eights and later she showed some of the dresses worn to do these dances. It went very well and everyone seemed very pleased. I don’t know if she had music for sale.

Both teachers let us know that the over the top hardcore presentations of both Khaleegi and Qawliya are not necessarily correct. They both showed us how to present this in the traditional subtle fashion. Uza went as far as to say that the Russian presentations that have ‘gone viral’ are not “Iraqi” per se but instead the Russians’ interpretation and something they have made on their own. The excessive head throwing vs. hair tossing is not common in the Iraqi Qawliya community. Speaking of community, Uza also let everyone know that, while it is debatable, the Qawliya people are said to be related to the Roma. Many of us know, especially those of us who are from the region or have family from there/still there, acknowledge there are so many different ethnicities in each country. Cross cultural dances and western influence have touched us all. For now, I think it’s best to just let the Iraqi and Qawliya community dictate who they are. It’s not our place. Let’s just respect their music and dance as “Iraqi” until further studies and notice.

~~~ The Show ~~~
Shortly after these workshops, the show took place at Steve’s Live Music. Doors opened at 8pm and it didn’t take too long for the attendees of an event prior to vacate. So we were able to get seated pretty quick. The show started at 9:15 and I must say, for two women who didn’t sleep this weekend, Amani and Jenny looked amazing! Myself, not so much. I was exhausted but eager to participate all the same.

The awesome band!

The awesome band!

The live band included Meriwan/Amani’s husband, Samer KK who plays keyboard for a great ME group here in Atlanta and Amine who will be drumming with Amani in an upcoming tour. I am a big fan of Samer KK and consider Meriwan to be a relative. I’m new to Amine but fell head over heels for him as well. Together they were so good I literally jotted down several other events at which I’d like to see them featured. They were just so perfect I truly felt ‘at home.’ There were a few international community members in the audience and a one or two up front. Having the band there and the Arabic speaking comm there really added to the ambiance of the night because they were able to sing along and do the call back songs. Kay did as well. They played live for many of the performers and it was incredible! You can’t go wrong with a live band, it brings the whole regional experience to life. I miss these moments.

Line Up:
Saroya (ATL)
Suzan Healy (FL)
Samira (SC)
Jawhara (Chicago)
Hasna (ATL)
Leela (NYC/FL)
Saliya (Chicago/TX/Savannah)
Leizel (ATL/South Africa -Intl Commty)
Aziza (ATL)
Shoshanna (Augusta)
Amani (ATL Intl Cmmty)
Kay Hardy & Friends


Samira (music: Zay el Helwa) was one of my favourites because her spirit was so bright and visible throughout her performance. She wore a gold bedluh with a bright periwinkle blue skirt, matching bangles and other jewelry. She just beamed like the sun out on that dance floor, I couldn’t stop watching her, totally hooked.

Leela is another favourite of mine. I’ve always enjoyed her performances because they are so stepped in ta’arab goodness. Tonight in a professional black beladi dress she really gave it her all dancing to Daret al Ayam.

Aziza and Amani were their usual show stopper selves. They did their signature work and wowed the audience, one lady in the corner started crying (finally I’m not the only one). They interacted well with the band and were absolutely perfect representations of the region. Can’t go wrong with these two. Their make-up, hair and all was stunning. I would love to see these two partner on some regional raqs shows/presentations and continue to highlight gulf dance.

Uza…was a bada$$…I don’t know what more to say. Her first dress was a long purple textured one with a long fringed hip scarf, gold jewelry (especially bangles, brought back memories) and matching gold zills. The dress had a side slit in it revealing matching lace purple pants with flared legs. She looked like a doll…and she was a bada$$. I can’t think of any other term to sum up all that fantastic work she did. It. was. bada$$. I really enjoyed watching her. We need more of Uza at local shows.

Kay Hardy’s social dance oresentation went very well. I did get up and join them eventually but sat down after 5 or 6 minutes because I could feel the “hot pepper” hardcore, back door madness surfacing in my moves and I didn’t want to anger Kay as we had just gone over how that’s not really the graceful beautiful region specific social dance she just presented that morning. Having a multitude of cultures around me for years I certainly have mixed and fused several regional pieces, much like Uza noted is done these days in my generation, and therefore my gulf dance can look feminine at the start but by the time I’m done I’ll have done men’s dances and thrown in some Iraqi moves from various ethnic groups plus city stuff. That’s what happens when you grow up in an international neighbourhood…oh the stories I’d love to tell.

Additional Notable Dance Sets
Leizel did a sha’abi number wearing a party dress much like girls wear back home when the abbayah is off and the curtains and doors secured shut. She looked like a girl at a modern day Egyptian henna hafla, un-veiled, and enjoying herself acting out words to the song. While I’d have loved to see her do some really hard core street moves…as that’s what sha’abi is…it was the best presentation I’ve seen from her yet. I could totally see her at the next international henna hafla. Send her an invitation!

Zaia, Leizel’s mother, danced wearing a crisp white thobe in the style of dancers like Aida Nour. I was very impressed with her choice and I’m a big fan of the music she chose. It was by Fadl Shaker. She captured the regional nuances in her own way and I appreciated that. Had she been dancing with a ton of Masriyat at a party I would have had to take a moment to remember we were still in the states. Very nice!

Jawhara was a great addition to the show in her black Egyptian style beladi dress with assayah. The band sped up the version “Salam Aley” and that seemed to startle her a bit but she survived it and the audience’s zaghareets and singing along was surely an encouragement. Great song, great energy from her. She was very kind the entire weekend and I really like her as a person. I hope she’ll come back for more workshops and become a friend of ATL.

Saliah Noya was also a fun addition to the show. She mentioned to me how she was a big fan of Amani Jabril and Amar Gamal. She wore a white and red professional bedluh and did a very modern pop raqset with her own touches. People like Saliah who travel and have a real respect for the art should be swept up by modern legends like Amar. They usually turn into these amazing ‘next generation’ raissat. Wishing her lots of love and success! Mabrook!

Shoshanna’s costume was sensational and added so much to her performance to Tamra Henna. She tackled a very classic piece with the band’s additional touches. It was a myriad of spins and travelling steps for this raissa, known to do be able to do it all. Very eye catching and full of energy!

Costumes to die for!
Sue H had a blue beladi dress that was decked out in silver beaded fringe and palattes droplets. On the bottom layer just meeting her knees were fringed ruffles. Like a visual artist, she made such good use of it. With every opportunity she spun and that sent the fringe whirling. It looked really beautiful and you could see she was having a blast dancing to live music. I always enjoy Sue coming up from Florida to be a part of shows. It’s really cool.

Hasna’s set was good and her entrance in that fantastic costume made it even better. She takes a very professional and stage-like approach to raqs sharqi. I can’t tell whether this was a choreography or improv. I imagine she already knew the song but within seconds of it playing she just went into it full force with a variety of spins and techniques. She was polished in her stage presence, almost like a costume model. Another dancer said, “I like the choices she’s making in the set.” I agree. It was not the traditional set of moves that I have seen over the years to that particular song and of course everyone dances to it differently. But you could see that she took ownership of her set and did what worked for her. That is admirable.

This show was great but it was very late. I know that works for the industry but given that several had flown in from around the world, I wanted them to have some “time in Atlanta.” Maybe they spent that time in the city on Sunday since there weren’t any workshops on that day. I did like the Friday-Saturday format because it allowed for some recovery time before Monday morning. This permitted people to get back home and not rush on Sunday night. Also, Sunday at the airport isn’t as bad as Monday so, that made me happy (I’m thinking of the guests).

I mentioned before that I wish we had an Iraqi audience to enjoy it. Both Kay and Uza’s presentations could have been done in the back room at Taverna Plaka at some point that weekend. Though I don’t go to TP anymore I still think those dances deserved that “international” space or some place where the DJ can sort of rev up the audience to experience it. I feel like the ladies could have received proper money showers and praise and it would have been an added value to the restaurant and something they, too, could promote and say, “Guess what else we’re having…” It was a missed opportunity though I’m quite sure, knowing Amani and her connections, she perhaps thought about it. I want to see this branch past the workshop audiences and spill into Euro Cafe, TP and beyond. Because Uza should have had a club night. We need to share these ladies with the international community clubbers and not keep them to ourselves.

I have a ton of things to say about the event. I think Kay and Uza deserve a bigger audience on a large theatre stage. I wanted Uza to have a nightclub filled with Iraqis who could appreciate and understand her natural grasp of the region’s dances. So many thoughts going through my head. We certainly need more of these in ATL and I hope, much like this time, people will show up and embrace it wholeheartedly. It’s a shame that it took so long to take hold. But like Ryanne told me, just be grateful Andye. Be grateful it finally got here!

Overall, I’ll be furious if we don’t start having more regional shows. I mean that. I will be quite upset if something doesn’t take shape in the next 6-8 months. There really is no excuse. For all the shows we have and the fact that this workshop took place, we have the groundwork for taking this to the next level. Please, somebody partner up and make this happen. I’ll do all I can to promote it and help find funding.

Huge thanks to Sister Kay and Cousin Uza! Hats off to Amani and Jenni! Big hugs to all that attended from near and far!!

Thanks for reading!
Full Review is on Raqs Atlanta Facebook & Yahoo



Love this team! Photo bomber wanted to love them too. We see you guy! Come on in, group hug!

Love this team! Photo bomber wanted to love them too. We see you guy! Come on in, group hug!

Shab-e-Yalda Event Atlanta (2013)

imageThe Atlanta International Community is known for hosting some pretty fun events with a strong cultural focus. Shab-e-Yalda 2013, sponsored by and Global Sound Scene is to be another spectacular night filled with salutes to this Persian Holiday.

Amani Jabril of Amani Jabril Middle Eastern and World Dance celebrating Raqs Atlanta's 15+years of service to the International Community with Andye (co-founder of RA & AABCE)

Amani Jabril of Amani Jabril Middle Eastern and World Dance celebrating Raqs Atlanta’s 15+years of service to the International Community with Andye (co-founder of RA & AABCE)

Guests will be treated to an amazing show featuring some of the Atlanta Dance Community’s culture loving crews like Les Raissat, known for their well-loved ethnic dance routines and shows. Beth Mendez “Doniazad“, a friend of the African Asian Business and Cultural Exchange is also performing. She’s known for her 1001 Nights theatrical event some years ago as well as being a top hit at cultural events. She was recently picked by as one of their principal models for videos. Award winning Amani Jabril of Amani Jabril Middle Eastern and World Dance will be presenting her gorgeous Persian repertoire that is always stunning. Tara of the AABCE will read poetry with a special guest from Iran, plus Majda of AllahYustur and Awalim Fame. We may also see Tallita of Brasil. Then the amazing Faaridah of Atlanta Fusion Bellydance will close the show with her team. It’s to be an amazing night, steeped in the warmth and camaraderie known to Shab-e-Yalda worldwide. will be offering gift bags for each VIP guest. will be offering gift bags for each VIP guest.

VIP seating is available for $10 and grants guests a premium front row seat plus a gift from The $15 dollar dinner is separate and you get a free appetizer with your entree when you mention the facebook advertisement. So, our suggestion is you buy the ticket, print out the flyer on the Fanoos facebook page and bring it with you so that you get more for your money and make the most of your evening.

Having more culturally focused events in Atlanta is a great way to keep the traditions alive for all that now reside here from abroad. Fanoos is a perfect location for it given its amazing floor space, vast menu that includes Persian specialties and it’s a hotspot for raqs shows and amazing international singers and guests. What a great way to round out the year. Truly looking forward to it!

Fanoos Atlanta

Fanoos Atlanta

Shab-e-Yalda, a Persian Holiday
December 21st 2013
Fanoos Persian Cusine -6125 Roswell Rd, Sandy Springs
Featuring Atlanta’s Amazing International Community Dancers and Guests
Visit this link to purchase tickets: