Dragon Con 2016 – Review & Reflections

So…DragonCon. It was fun. I had a good time. We started working on this year’s Silk Road Track schedule THE DAY after DragonCon ended. I sent out countless email while ideas for improvement and advancement were fresh on my brain. Within about 6 months we had our panel for Genderfluidity in Kawaii Culture. This particular panel was featured in the Daily Dragon. Our Kawaii Fashion show was seen on DragonConTV according to a few and I’m very happy about that. Gargantuan thanks to those who filled their commitment to the Kawaii & JFashion focused panels of the tracks as well as those who attended in the audience.

In detail, designers and brands featured and or mentioned at the show:
Puvithel/Xiao Loli
Cherry Cheezy
Brolitas of the World
Atlanta Lolita Community
Elegy Clothing
NHK World (watch Live on your phone)
DragonCon Silk Road Track
Taobao stores (Dear Celine, + 2 more)
Evah Destruction – Icon in the Drag Community who often features kawaii coords
*All of these links will lead you to the designs, topics and fashion


The track was filled with memorable panels incluing those presented by Jason Lane on Mechs, Mecha Godzilla and so much more. Jason was probably one of the most loved along with Thomas who does the Sunday Godzilla movies and prizes. Both of these presenters get a full house which keeps the volunteers busy making sure everyone has a seat and is comfortable. Their panels were not just interesting but quite enjoyable and have a record of being crowd pleasers.

Origami was as popular as ever and was out the door. Nothing more to be said here. The crowd loved it. Amanda was great and brought the panel a lovely designer from Miami who actually makes haute couture out of origami paper. The video and photos are with Kira Lang. You all must see this treasure. It’s unbelievable. The designer will go far…oh and she’s only 15. Yeah…she’s got this. Many thanks to Malachi for being the best origami presenter on the planet. He does a great job of this every year and again, the crowds love him. The panel rooms and ballroom are always packed.

Yoyo joined us again this year and that was a joy. She taught two classes on Chinese dance as well as performed as did one of her students. It was majestic. I love her work, her expression and her teaching. She’s one of the great treasures of the DragonCon Silk Road.

We also had tons of Korean Kpop videos again this year and the whole panel ran over. We decided that in future we should have a Kpop video dance party. There’s just so much action in the room. People get up and dance, there’s a lot of fan reaction as every hardcore fan at the con seems to be there. It’s really loud and they just go to town. I hope the dance party will be approved so we can give people respectable space to just do what they want. It’s awesome to watch.

Other panels included Kumihimo which is Japanese braiding. That was the last panel of the weekend but shockingly had a full house as well. We almost didn’t have enough Kumihimo braiding supplies. Boy did Kira our track director enjoy seeing those faces in the event. You all made her day.

-Full house for most if not all the panels
-Wonderful team of volunteers
-Great additional friends added to the track
-Crowds were friendly
-Hyatt was accommodating on many levels
-Great food options when you could get to the vendors
-Madja, Yoyo & friends dancing

Attendees on the silk road who wanted to stay for most of the panels felt they needed to leave and line up for the next panel. This meant they didn’t get to enjoy the panel for which they stood in line for the first time. What is up with that? How ridiculous. If you go to a conference to stay on a track  you shouldn’t have to leave the track just to get back in it. We gotta fix that!!

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me online or drop a note to the track @DCSilkRoad. Always looking to feature great speakers for panels.


Open Dance Night at Steve’s Live Music Summer 2015

Ajaz and Nuzrsat

Ajaz and Nuzrsat

This past Friday, World Bellydance Alliance hosted another exciting night at Steve’s Live Music. This was Steve’s anniversary and we’re all grateful for the venue as they’ve been good to our fusion dance communties in Atlanta. Tonight was another fun occasion that featured a number of dancers from various troupes in Atlanta. Several were some of the community’s very strong, legendary troupes and dancers. It’s always a joy to have them in our midst as well as on the stage.

Act I
Ajaz and Nuzrsat
Olivia and BJ
Salimpour Collective

Act II
Roulette featuring Jendayi
Roulette featuring Heidi
Zeina Dance
Majda Anwar
Heidi, Jendayi and Jenny

Bellydance & Raqs Sharqi Highlights – Open Dance Night allows dancers to perform a variety of dances. Whenever there is someone performing dances from the Middle East and the African continent I enjoy highlighting them. Below are several I enjoyed seeing…

Ajaz and Nuzrsat , orignally from Peru and Colombia, were very pretty in their full MissBellydance.com ensembles. These two ladies are students in the dance community and they were very supportive of everyone throughout the night. We need more people like this. It didn’t matter what level or what type of dance was being presented, these two were clapping and cheering on their fellow dancers. They themselves are strong students who have understood the basic techniques of raqs sharqi. It was a joy to have them and their family in the audience.

Sabia was another show stopper tonight despite her music being distorted. Those of us who know her could see her full intent and purpose on that dance floor. Her gorgeous red dress made her stand out from others as she aimed to represent the glamorous side of Al Msr. Bravo, we “got it.” If I had to change anything it would be the computer that played the music and I would have covered her in more diamonds and bling. Shine Sabia, lay it on thick…that’s the way. 😉

The Salimpour Collective was another memorable set. They performed that outstanding zill piece that they did at Amani’s extraordinary show some weeks ago. They also segued into a duet featuring Jamie and Majda and damn it was good! I tell you, they brought the Salimour spirit to life in this town. Be sure to look out for this piece (reinforced by Jenni on the side).

The Roulettes…
This concept is made up of songs being put on shuffle and Jenny has to pick whatever shows up. A dancer agrees to dance to the song without knowing what the shuffle landed on. Jenny said there was classic Egyptian, Sha’abi music by Hakim and a ton of other middle eastern music but for some reason it landed on “other things.” Jendayi was the first person to volunteer for the roulette. She got up, the song came on and she showed out, mind, body and soul. I felt she did a great job and I hope future performances will feature this earthy, relaxed raqs style that matches that which you will see at parties and haflas abroad. Heidi blew us away when it was her turn, if anyone has that on video you need to see it. She proved that she is a natural dancer and beyond talented. Again, someone find the video!

Tamar stood out with the music she chose. She did a choreography that was “her very first” from her early dancing years ago with Chandani. It was a routine that included a straight edged tahtib. Hearing that song again was a joy! Always nice when people use exciting music from the region that even the most far-removed from fusion dance would recognize and seat-shimmy to from start to finish.

Zeina Dance again…another one for a video… They really master fusion so well. This time it was with a Raqs-Tango fusion with a spanish verbal intro that excited people like myself as well as other international community members in the crowd. Let the video speak for itself. Pieces like this are worthy of a large stage…it deserves “big lights!!” Bravo y Brava!

Mina’s set was also memorable because of her great music. Another great pop song that was extremely popular right out of the studio by Nancy Ajram. Oul Tani Keda is just one of those “now old school” club classics that would send dancers running to the dance floor, shimmying til it hurt. That’s the exact energy Mina brought…a rush of raqs hot pepper enthusiasm…and that you can never forget as it’s the heart and soul of the pop raqs community! She followed it with a drum solo and the crowd went wild! She’s always fun!

Let’s just be real here, Majda stole the show…she stole it. There. I said it. She started off with a melody of taqsims that meshed into Turkish 9/8 rhythms and blended that on with others. It was brilliant when you stop and realise what she did. She honouored not just movement but also music in that set. It was a perfect Raqs Star’s ritual. You only see that at galas and for to her give that to us was quite generous. Shukran jazillan…I “got it.” Had I still had a voice after being on that Tears for Fears tour for nearly a week I’d have made a proper zaghareet. Masha’Allah ya helowa Majda! Masha’Allah!

Earlier in the evening someone played some music from my region of Africa. I was up dancing around in the dark with Sabia’s fiance (my brother in raqs) and telling him about what parts of Africa and the East have those rhythms. When I heard parts of the music in the next set featuring Heidi, Jendayi and Jenny I was floored at the inclusion of it for the show. Turns out, it was a section in the SEEDS fundraiser that took place earlier this month. What a spectacular piece it was. It was filled with several moves from the cultures that the African continent has influenced. There is no way to describe it, it is again something you have to see for yourself.. this, too, stole the show that evening. Just a full on perfect fusion of cultural dance…we need more of this in our shows. It’s as much a part of Raqs Sharqi as Egypt is realistically and physically to Africa.

Open Dance Night continues in September! Get signed up now! Contact World Bellydance Alliance for more info!

Thanks for reading!

*MissBellydance.com would like to extend a huge thank you and hug to those who wore costumes, jewelry and other items from the shop. It was noted! Shukran wa T’shukrle!

Celebrating Suhaila Salimpour & Loving Her Legacy

This set looked lovely!

This set looked lovely!

There is no room for error… that was the sentiment that I picked up from dancers for several weeks before this show. The amount of work and at home practice for this program (as well as meetups to perfect Suhaila’s stylings) was intense. It made me nervous to the point I just decided not to think about it til show time…

I won’t rehash my 17 year history of watching Suhaila when I was a teenager fresh out of highschool and sitting around with cousins my age looking at her videos on repeat. I was thrilled when MissBellydance got her DVDs so I could dance along with her Jazz/Yoga exercise series. I still keep a picture of she and I on my phone from several years ago when Tezra first brought her. I remember it all like it was yesterday. So, it’s needless to say we revere her work and I do appreciate it; mainly because at the end of the day, she’s one of us. She is a first generationer with at least one parent from “abroad” just like so many of us in the international community. We are expats’ kids and we have that common bond of growing up different. Watching her rise to the top in this industry (and hopefully being shielded in her childhood from “expected shame” for being different) has been encouraging.

Fangirling aside, this tribute show was a real testament to the dedication, appreciation and recognition of the Salimpour legacy. The entire first half of the show featured dances from her repertoire if I’m not mistaken. To be able to execute the subtle movements, arm formations and so much more that are known to “Suhaila” is not something that happens over night. For years I’ve tried this technique, dancing around in the studio mimicking these moves; looking crazy because I’m feeling her energy through the DVD, my eyes close and I miss a step! Though many come close to perfecting her way, at the end of the day, only Suhaila can dance like she does. It’s so strong and just something you can’t help but enjoy savouring and staring at for hours. I mean, I really enjoyed her Atlanta 2014 show for the simple reason we got 90 minutes of HER spirit, of HER energy and of HER dance! All of the things we like to watch on her DVDs, fans’ YouTube pages or hear about in other reviews and recaps were LIVE in our faces. And she did them effortlessly. When trying to mimic her it takes a whole other kind of energy, I feel like I have to reach down into areas I wasn’t sure existed to bring it forth. She is so unique and such a force that I thought it was impossible to replicate her work and do it justice. I was wrong… I saw a lot of performers in this show, in every dance scene in fact, bring forth some aspect of her awesomeness with full focus. They did not just get up there raqsin’ along like robots. So KUDOS to all the performers who presented her family’s work. I’m with you on the “there is no room for error,” not on the part of anything Suhaila has decreed but simply because you have that much respect for the legacy she and her family built. That speaks volumes and should be applauded.

The Pot Dance

The Pot Dance

Highlights from Acts I and II
There were about 20 sets, these are the ones that really stood out for me. They are the ones that made it hard for me to stay seated.

The Pot Dance
Practicing restraint is so difficult when it comes to discussing these shows. Suhaila is in the other room right now and eventhough I’m decked out in Gothic Japanese Lolita fashion I still want to run in there and just “try” to get her technique down while she’s still around this weekend. I can blame “The Pot Dance” and a few others for this burning desire that I cannot quench. I’m all bruised up with swollen ankles from this gluten allergy, but I still want to do it. It’s such a beautiful way to dance. I remember seeing the pots in their metamorph from plain white papier mache looking objects to these fantastic cream colour creations with traditional designs. OMG, it was awesome! This was the Bal Anat staple that the troupe did at Ren Faires past… I feel this Atlanta team, accompanied by some very talented and stunningly beautiful out of towners, did a fine job! I hope that will be performed again at future programs.

Phoenix with Sword

Phoenix with Sword

Standing Sword
This performance featured Phoenix and was very refreshing for, again, a number of reason. Yes, I’m a sucker for men in raqs sharqi, they were my first real teachers (Tarik Sultan, my cousins/extended family from Palestine in the parking lot on the side of the market, I could go on). It was just a really great image and energy for the stage. He took command of this set and really shined. I’d like to see his other work and hope he won’t be a stranger to ATL.

Dirty Funky Gawazi (Ghawazi)
Jenny killed it…she just poured her glory all over that stage like a sister drenching honey on a fresh baked pan of baklawa (hot from the oven) til it’s just soaked and then added some more with a wink. It was saawweeet! The whole performance was unreal. While she showed mega respect to the Salimpour method, she didn’t lose sight of herself. You could see and feel “Jenny” and it was hella good! Mabrook!!

This was performed by Yvonne. Both Jacques Al Asmar (a friend of Suhaila who moved here to Atlanta last year) and I were both completely moved. This was just…everything!! Clearly she’s a raqs star, no question about it. I wanted to stand up and throw roses and money and honey…mercy! It was another “drink your bath water” moment. We were overwhelmed. The music was composed by the beloved Abdel Halim Hafez, so you know this was not easy to dance to, most don’t even try it. This wasn’t one of those let’s turn on Shakira and wiggle around events, this was a tribute show, so having the honour of seeing this performed live was legendary in itself. Mabrook wa Shukran ya Yvonne. Does she really dance 7 times a night? That was the rumour rolling around the audience.

Jenny owned that set! Funky Gawazi/Ghawazee

Jenny owned that set! Funky Gawazi/Ghawazee

*Another great set from this act was “Hard Rock Fusion (Dark Veil)” performed by Jamie, Sabia, Scarlet and Whitney. Alima and I were just eating that up! We could barely stay still.

Intermission was full of hugs galore and Suhaila was happy to see Jacques. I got to show her the old photo I keep in my phone. You know how superfanitis can get the best of me. I took a lot of B12 so I wouldn’t hug her to death and tried to remain seated so I didn’t pass out with excitement. With the lights up we could see there was a full house and most seats were filled the “serious of the serious” in the Raqs community…Atlanta legend Diane Adams included.

King Issam went to town and back, some serious tabla here, folks!

King Issam went to town and back, some serious tabla here, folks!

The second half was filled with Drum Solos and solo sets featuring some of the best music that is out there today. I was so enraptured I couldn’t even write a thing. I have no notes, no pictures, no archives for what could easily be one of the best things we see all year. I know that’s saying a lot and there will be tons of shows that will prove this statement wrong. But for now, we got another legendary “set of sets” on the record via videos and photos that happened here in Atlanta. All of this was in front of the beloved Suhaila and accompanied by King Issam on stage plus Jacques Al Asmar in the audience (next to me for the record, that was a joy, I’ll have a separate post about that on my FB for my friends).

I do remember how much I enjoyed Samora and Aziza’s duet. They danced to one of my favourite songs on the planet and again Jacques and I both were just wiggling around, walaaa, that song!! Those two raissat!! Aiewaaa yani, perfect!!!

King Issam
Don’t fight me on this title, that is his name among my friends and we’re not changing it. The King interacted with the audience as he is known to do. He went to both sides of the stage and at one point was right in front of me. I was totally impressed (oh my gahd, he just walked by as I was typing this, I felt my stomach lurch into my throat). Anyway, as I was saying, I was totally impressed with the warmth and down to earth nature he displayed with us. It’s amazing that after 1000s of shows, touring the world, he’s still absolutely gorgeous and has a great spirit. He is just as loving and kind as the first day we met him. I have a picture of us on my phone as well. To say I love this man is a ridiculous understatement. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for him…he’s just great! His performance was nothing shy of totally amazing to infinity!



I won’t go on and on about her but my goodness, she was really great. I see why she is on tour with Suhaila, she’s mastered so much of that technique that you’d think she was a Salimpour! Wow, incredible! Loved the crowd interaction! She’s really goooooood! Masha’Allah!

*Other great sets included Path to Goa and Negsem al Amar! Really, really nice pieces. If there’s a DVD, buy it and see those sets.

Overall, I’m really at a loss for words, it’s crazy that Suhaila is in the studio teaching, these are full circle moments for me. I’ve waited for this since I was 19 years old. I can still picture the moment I saw her while browsing “yahoo search” back in 2000. I mean, this is…wild! I’m in my 30s now and it was well worth the wait to be able to sit in a gorgeous, comfortable theatre on the same row and watch other superfans perform for her. We are an ambitious bunch aren’t we? My goodness, I just don’t know what else to say. I’m stunned and excited.

Thanks to all who make events like these possible. Faaridah and her team are some of the HARDEST working people I know. This is not to discredit or demote any of ATL’s fine dancers, teachers and students. In fact, let that be a compliment to them as well because Faaridah collaborates with everyone and they are a part of her magic. She is good for creating a huge sense of community and that is exactly what Raqs Sharqi is about…being together, dancing forever.

Thanks for reading!

*Dedicate the joy I had to Jamie’s husband who went out of his way to get a pen and paper for me!

Review: UNMATA in Atlanta

imageLocation: Red Light Cafe
Sponsored by: Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance
Featuring: Amy Sigil of UNMATA

*Review are always my sole opinion and views (AA).

This was a difficult week, Cheb-i-Sabbah had passed on and I was in no mood for trying to fake a smiling face and pretend I was okay to cheer on anyone for anything. But if I’m not mistaken, UNMATA had performed in front of sweet Chebiji so I felt this would be a part of the mourning, a way to keep going and do what I know he would want us to do…which is keep dancing, steep ourselves in good energy and take a piece of his inspirition with us. So, when Faaridah sent me a text about the show I made every effort to be there.

Waking up at the crack of dawn I headed out to the gym to start the day’s waking. While the supporters of the event were drilling and working with UNMATA, perfecting their technique and getting certified, I was thinking of the long history between dancers and musicians and how hard everyone trains and prepares for nights like these. So much goes on behind the scenes, well in advance of anything we see. That 1 hour of absolute amazement was made up of perhaps 2+ years of planning, scheduling and so much more. I salute everyone involved and gargantuan thanks from me as it’s nice not having to travel too far to see legends. Though I miss travelling like we used to, a 30-minute ride in heavy Atlanta traffic is tolerable compared to 3000mile round plane-trip, hotel, etc to feed a raqs obsession not to mention the constant sacrifices and $avings that go into the extra expense of “getting there.”

Speaking of getting anywhere, I got there very early, perhaps 6:20pm sharp. I expected a long and difficult line in the cold. However, everyone was friendly and tame, speaking to each other and sharing what body part was more sore than the other after the days’ workshops. The doors opened promplty at 7pm and I found a seat in the front along the side directly in front of the stage. Just before showtime, I, wearing an Alice Bunny Loli coord, drifted to the back of what looks to be a sort of mildly rennovated Red Light Cafe to clean my hands. “We’ll start as soon as Andye comes out of the ladies room,” Faaridah said. “I’ll be quick!” I laughed.

As I made my way back to the front, Ziah and Banat Almeh follwed behind me as they were opening the show. They looked beautiful in their mix of truly ethnic tribal style costumes including two members in bits and pieces from MissBellyDance.com, how awesome! That’s one thing that stood out in this show, the visuals…the elaborate and intricate details of costumes, hair, makeup and more. Very impressive.

Show Highlights:
I won’t go into detail on every single dance but I’ll touch on the highlights…
Line-up/Who performed:
Banat Almeh
Sabeeyah Sun
Luma Medha
Ana Karina and Kameece
Khayal al Amar
Oleandra and Lacy Perry
Jendayi Dance Company
Ziah (opening act II)
Barbara Smith
Jahara Phoenix
Dana, Leena (AFBD), Lesyle, & Pamela (Leena danced with the AFBD Students)
UNMATA (closing both the acts of the show)

imageHere’s a short summary of some of the performances:
Ana Karina & Kameece

These two ladies walked out wearing gas masks that sort of matched their black and red ensembles of mesh, lace and a corset. They wore fitted outfits and really nice hair styles. It was a dynamic set that was strong and in sync. It was said that they performed this piece at an earlier show that had a Halloween theme but it fit right in tonight as well. I look forward to seeing what else these two do. image

Khayal al Amar
Again, their costumes stood out. They were wearibng a new set from MissBellydance.com and they wore them very well. I also liked their passion and though there were some tech issues they jumped right back in there and kept going. Very nice job! This looked like modern fusion to me, a sort of standard fusion troupe set. Again, very nice.

Oleandra and Lacy Perry

Oleandra and Lacy Perry

Oleandra and Lacy Perry
Though I have no idea what was going on here, I have to say it was one of my favourite pieces in the first half for the sheer fact, they put so much emotion into it. Their costumes were absolutely outstanding. Oleandra was dressed in blue fabric (one skirt looked to be MBD and fit her so nice), she had blue makeup and it was very intricately done). Her chemistry with Lacy (in a red almost…I don’t know, representation of the underworld?) was amazing. Both women were in sync, their music enhanced their movements and they just did a great, visually exciting number with raqs technique flowing through it. I gave them a standing ovation. I really thought it was very powerful.



Jendayi Dance Company
Well, as expected they stole the first half of the show for troupe performances, have mercy they came out in black and silver modern raqs club wear… outfits that bring to mind the phrase, “Like A Boss” if I had to describe how they took the stage. It was 5 minutes long and nothing shy of a something that should be on TV in a music video. Featuring a dynamic mix of music one song seemed to mesh into another, there were scene changes and all kinds of fascinating work. It was impressive, truly entertaining! Wow!

imageUNMATA’s first set…
was indescribable…a sort of cues/ATS routine, with classic tribal (one leading the other in intervals). That’s always fun to see. The music mentioned something about needing weed and a good woman…anyone know that song? It was interesting and tongue-in-cheek for the first part of this piece. After having studied them (not with them, but instead reading about them extensively and going to see them in Toronto when they danced during the IBCC Gala show hosted by Arabesque -the year Tito & Aida were there…yeah that EPIC year that went down as one of the best shows ever) they really could have done just about anything and I would have admired it DESPITE it being rather far from the Middle Eastern and African Dance I grew up with in the expat/international communities. Their second set was a powerful piece and I tell you, if you haven’t seen them and you enjoy fusion and modern dance (can appreciate a variety of visual art in movement) you will fall in love with them. I still think what I saw from them in Toronto helped me appreciate their art and those who attempt to do what they have mastered. Needless tos ay, It was a gift to have both here in ATL.

Ziah -Veil Fans

Ziah -Veil Fans

Act II
Began with Ziah.
..she did a fan veil set in a lovely crimson bedluh and bustled skirt…ohhh it was truly beautiful and strong. Very quick turns with sharp yet flowing fan veil work. It was a perfect opening for a program and further demonstrated the quality and top talent we have in this town. Such leaders we have…she is one of them and she is stunning!

…did a take on Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and wore his signature ruffle neckwear with purple choli tops. It was very cute and well executed.



As expected, she did a set that was fused and flawless.
..such a powerhouse she is… Tonight’s performance was nothing shy of engaging. You could have heard a pindrop as we were fixated on her moves. You just didn’t want to look away. She had us enraptured. Big hugs for her! Always a pleasure to see that woman on stage.

UNMATA’s final piece of the evening was filled with all kinds of visually stimulating imagery and the set took us on a journey through many things. The one part that really took us and added an almost theatrical spin on their presentation was “The Scream” that lasted more than a few seconds…omgah, how captivating! The ladies have always worn a sort of urban, modern and muted fatigue type ensemble since I first saw them. In Toronto I believe they wore short jackets that had hoods on them. Now that was 2008…and many years have passed, these women have not deteriorated from their vision but have instead surpassed it with all sorts of additional items and more. Something about this group just keeps me fixated and I do compare so many troupes who wish to be called urban tribal fusion to UNMATA. Of the techniques I’ve seen from UNMATA, I don’t even know how people wouldn’t want to study with them first before presenting any sort of replica or “creative” inspired piece of one’s own. I do not really know how to sum up anything they do and I don’t think it really can be “summed.” It’s just darn good…or “bada$$’ as some say… again, thrilled to have them with us. May they live long…and next time I’m gettin’ a hug…fear of being called a fangirl be damned.

I know this was not raqs sharqi…there was no khaleegi, no Nigerian salute, no Maghreb anything for the most part. There were hints of this and a hip drop here and there with very few troupes doing anything truly “hard core sharqi” that you see in the international community but it was certainly entertaining and I liked it. I’m pleased to see a mix of genres available to us in the city and I’m looking forward to watching these teams grow and gain fans who are willing to travel near and far to be close to what they love. Big thanks to Faaridah and AFBD, I’m forever indebted to their amazing choice of talent and for the invitation to the show. I’m such a crazy fan… xoxoxoxo

Cheers! Thanks for reading.