Q & A with Seyyide Sultan: Preparing for "Dreaming of Arabia"

You are funding this show partially through a cultural grant. You clearly presented the program to the funding organization in a way that made the content accessible. In brief, what did you tell them?

The Arlington Cultural Council (ACC) exists to support public programs in our community that promote access, education, diversity, and excellence in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences. The Council is committed to funding a diverse cross-section of activities supporting a broad variety of art forms, ongoing work of individual artists, projects serving specific local populations, and local cultural organizations. I had to show them that I had enough experience and knowledge in my discipline, and also point out how representing music and dance from a culture outside of the mainstream local culture supports their goal of promoting diversity and education of the public.

Poster Dreaming of Arabia.jpg

How does this year's show differ from last year's?

For last year’s show, I worked with dancers local to the Boston area and met regularly 1-3 times per week throughout several months to work on the show. These dancers were among my intermediate and advanced students; none of them was dancing professionally. For this year, I asked for a full commitment for a week of time and commitment to work remotely in putting the show together. I was inspired to do this after spending some time doing the Artist Development Program with Jillina’s Bellydance Evolution last year. While this system failed to convince many local dancers to join, I was able to gather a small but very enthusiastic, talented, and experienced group of dancers, most of whom will be traveling from out of state to work intensively for about a week and present the show in November. Given the experience level and dedication of these dancers, on top of them being a vehicle to present my work, I’m giving them the spotlight to share one piece of their own work with us, as they’re eager to do. One thing that we will repeat this year is having live music; however, we are going to have a different band. The Baladi Ensemble is composed of young artists currently affiliated with Berklee, who will add value to our show by presenting us with live music, on top of the recorded music for other pieces of the show.

As a show producer, can you share what helps you make the show successful? 

You have to be on fire and really have a strong wish to make it happen. After that, the most important thing is to have people who are loyal, appreciative, and share your vision supporting you at all different levels, from performers and technicians, to audience members, sponsoring businesses, and individuals to advertisers and fans who just help you somehow promote.

What would you like the "civilian" (non-dancer) audience members to take away from the performance?

I’d love for everybody to learn there is a beautiful music and dance vocabulary that comes from outside the Western culture, but can be appreciated by all, whether they were familiar with it or not. I’d also like people to be entertained; one of the pieces we’re showing is a story that hopefully will engage all ages.


“Dreaming of Arabia” takes place on Sunday, Nov. 18 from 2:00 to 3:30 pm at the Regent Theater in Arlington, MA. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Regent Theater box office.