Dancing all the way from RI to NH

by Amy Smith

I retired from the day job earlier this month. You may have heard that retired people are some of the busiest people ever. I'm coming to understand this firsthand. But believe me - it's busy in a good way. A very good way. There's time to focus on what's important and fun.

Take yesterday, for example. The day started with a workshop in Warren, RI. Lola (Laura Matta) of World Music and Dance Studio, hosted Karim Nagi for his final workshop here in New England as a resident. (Don't worry - Karim is only moving to Chicago, one time zone away! As he told us, this is the last workshop in New England that he got to by driving there.) Titled "Music Raqs!", the four-hour workshop focused on music literacy for dancers. Topics included vocabulary, rhythms, and maqams. The afternoon sped by as Karim had us clapping, singing (!), and moving. I never had a formal music education, so I was doubtful when Karim said he would have us reading music at a rudimentary level. But he did! And I did! Karim is an excellent teacher and made all of these topics accessible for us, regardless of our music education (or lack thereof). And the knowledge is extremely valuable for dancers who perform with Arabic musicians. Not only do we have a better understanding of what we are performing to - we are better able to communicate with musicians, as well. 

L-R: Lola, Karim, and me. Thanks to Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin for the photo!

L-R: Lola, Karim, and me. Thanks to Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin for the photo!

The class was full (congrats, Lola!) and it was great to see friends like Aurel, Shadia, Royah, Kanina, Soumaya, and Panayiota. Which just goes to show that one of the great things about this community is our commitment to learning.  

And, based on the class' excellent performance (and pitch) in the song section, there may be a Karim Nagi Tribute Choir forming. 

Then it was on to Dover, NH, for Zabel's Winter Hafla. I left Rhode Island in a fog - literally. It was one of the few times I'd ever experienced "pea soup" fog. I had clear sailing through Massachusetts, but arrived in New Hampshire to discover that it was socked in, too.

L-R: Zabel and me. Thanks to Maria O'Connor for the photobomb :-) and Erica Jolly MacKenzie for the photo!

L-R: Zabel and me. Thanks to Maria O'Connor for the photobomb :-) and Erica Jolly MacKenzie for the photo!

But I had no problems finding Zabel's Nya Studio. Located on the second floor of a small commercial building with easy parking, the studio is cozy and nicely decorated. It was packed last night with dancers, musicians, and food for Zabel's Winter Hafla. This was a hafla in the original sense - a get-together or party. Zapion Middle-East Ensemble (Portland, ME) played all night for a full house. Those who weren't dancing accompanied the music with zills and spoons. Spotted getting their shimmy on: Maria O'Connor, Nancy Griffin, Sara Feldman, Heather Emerson, Erica Jolly MacKenzie, and Michelle Pineau. It was a great event that we all hope will be repeated soon!