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 😉

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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

Anxiously Awaiting Andrus Ramir!

image After an amazing weekend observing Yanis Marshall, I have a double helping of extra appreciation for the men in the global dance community. It’s rare that I am suddenly bragging about anything but I made Mr. Marshall’s arrival very public on my social media pages and the fact that I was going to get to see him. I would have happily paid $100 to just to watch him. He is so worth it. So when Andrus Ramir told me that Mr. Marshall is one of his inspirations I just beamed. Two people I absolutely admire coming through Atlanta is a dream come true. Where Yanis Marshall is a bright and shining light for contemporary, modern and a multitude of dance genres, Andrus Ramir is our Raqs World Diamond! His presence lights up a room in ways I’ve yet to have seen from other dancers. I can’t help but put him on a pedestal.

I first saw Andrus in 2006 or 2007 during the last part of the summer when one of the former Bellydance troupes, The Fates, hosted one of the incredible conferences we have in our gem of a city, ATL. At Paris on Ponce he was walking outside and just his walk alone made me turn my head and I completely froze in my tracks. Surely the heavens laughed saying, “AA’s life is about to change.” Unable to speak for a few moments, I finally asked others around me, “Who is that beautiful person?!” No one from Atlanta seemed to know at the time but as soon as he got on that stage with those veils and tummy flutters that define perfection we all wanted to know who he was…the rest is history. He won us over within seconds!!! He began to get invited to Atlanta annually and in the three years he’s been away learning from the greats and further developing his signature style, his craft has become incredibly seasoned with even more amazing fluidity, class, beauty and the trademark Andrus Ramir awesomeness that we crave uncontrollably. He is …everything! I could easily write a book about this man…and I might!

Whether you’re a long time fan or new to the Andrus Ramir kingdom of crazy shimmies and ta’arab for days, you’ll be pleased with the upcoming workshops taking place next weekend hosted by Atlanta Fusion Bellydance, World Bellydance Alliance and their partner MissBellydance.com. Andrus is teaching three courses and one of them is Sha’abi. There’s also a show on Sunday night at Steve’s Live Music featuring some of the International Raqs Community Members who have moved to the states as well as some of the areas top stars that often work on Saturday nights (i.e. Karma); so it’ll be a treat to see them in show on Sunday where they can give us the gold! 😉

I certainly plan to be in the audience, savouring every second of Andrus’ outstanding work and performances. Go ahead and join in on the fun. You can register here. MissBellydance.com is giving away some cool prizes to troupe leaders who bring in 5 students or more. If anyone even tweets @missbellydance w/any of the blogs, event flyers, links to the event, etc. on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts their store automatically enters the profile to win cool prizes. It’s gonna be awesome!!! Looking forward to seeing everyone!!

Cheers!
AA

Review: Open Mic Night @ Steve’s Live Music hosted by World Bellydance Alliance

Our local raqs fanatic, reflects on a recent show:

Amira Bey, in a salute to Toronto's Legendary Yasmina Ramzy

Amirah Bey, in a salute to Toronto’s Legendary Yasmina Ramzy

This was the 1st “bellydance” focused show of the year in ATL’s Raqs Community (excluding the private events that took place during the New Year celebrations). To start, Allah Yustur warmed up a bit before the first dancer, Christy sang a version of the song my cousin sang for Shab-e-Yalda. It was great to hear it again, one of my favourites.

image “Big Shout Out” to all the performers wearing MissBellydance.com tonight at the show. What an extraordinary thing to see. The first four performers wore one of the popular sets from their Tribal Fusion line. I know the staff will be more than happy to see the pictures. If you’d like to have yours eatured on their social media site, just upload it to their FB page and a discount on your next purchase will follow.

Here is a list of dancers this evening

Qamar (drove in from Athens and included female tabla players (zaghareet to that!))

Qamar (drove in from Athens and included female tabla players (zaghareet to that!))

Oleandra
Northside Tribe
Oliva
Tamar
Sabeeya
Radeyah
Scarlett
Isha
Omega
Jenny
Amirah Bey
Amani Jabril
Majda
Leena
Mina
Aziza Nawal

Steve is very supportive of Atlanta's music scene.

Steve is very supportive of Atlanta’s music scene.

The program started on time with Jenny coming to the microphone as well as the owner of the venue, Steve. He gave us a great welcome to the start of the 2014 Raqs year and later invited World Bellydance Alliance to have more programs there. The crowd went wild with support and joy.

Omega did justice to the region, mabrook wa shukran for that great presentation!

Omega did justice to the region, mabrook wa shukran for that great presentation!

One of the major highlights of the night was seeing Omega perform. She moved to Athens from Gainsville, Florida. Her raqs presentation was one of the top pieces of the night. It was extremely professional, very few hiccups and she looked stunning dressed in her red bedluh embellished with silver workings, beads and other elegant additions. She was the exact image of what you find at top Middle Eastern programs. Dancing to a popular tune on the eastern front, her technique and overall execution of moves was dynamic. You felt every single move, her passion and dedication. I was highly impressed…it was so good I was near tears. Mabrook Omega! wow! Powerful and passionate in a most respectful way.

Amani is one of nation's top experts on cultural dance.

Amani is one of nation’s top experts on cultural dance.

As expected Amani Jabril and Aziza Nawal‘s sets were super stellar. Amani performed her immaculate Classical Persian in full traditional attire. She returned to the stage later in that gorgeous long sleeve mosaic dress with her hair smoothed and long while dancing with a white veil. It was breathtaking and stunning. Amani is also hosting a great event this year, the 3rd Dancers’ Intensive. So be sure to check that out.

Aziza’s big crowd pleaser was a classic modern raqs set accompanied by her award winning drum solo…one of the many I should say. She wore a very well-made bedluh that she later revealed she designed and sewed it herself. Nice job lady!! It’s certainly worth a few hundred to say the least. Absolutely gorgeous print.

Jenny’s set was also sleek and hot. She did what she’s best known for…these passionate fusion routines packed with power and finesse. Fans just lose themselves watching her, it’s a mass of amazement…hard to get enough of it. I dare say the photographer was smitten to say the least…his eyes danced as much as she did. I feel ya brah…I feel ya…she’s good eh? Great scott, stuff like that’ll shake your faith.

Majda was wonderful to do her coveted double veil routine to one of Raquy and the Cavemen’s songs. It is a stunning piece, completely captivating and beautiful, Masha’Allah. I love it even more every time I see it. It’s just dynamite and something extraordinary to behold.

The entire show was extremely diverse and filled with very skilled individuals. From female tabla players to live musicians…this was a perfect way to start the year!

Thank you World Bellydance Alliance, Steve’s Live Music and all of the wonderful stores and dance entities that donated prizes for guests. I’m really looking forward to shows like these which are not only intimate but filled with passionate people who have worked hard to get where they are and are still striving for excellence in this art.

The very talented Allah Yustur Music Ensemble closed the show with cherished  classics from the region.

The very talented Allah Yustur Music Ensemble closed the show with cherished classics from the region.

Thanks for reading…
*Photos courtesy of Stephanie Colletti & Rana Raqs