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!

That's entertainment!

by Amy Smith

When I was a little girl (back in the Pleistocene Age), in the days of black-and-white TV and only four TV channels, there was something called the variety show. Hosted by such luminaries as Ed Sullivan, Sonny and Cher, or David Steinberg, it featured special guest talent performing music, dance, and comedy.

So I was delighted to find, when I attended Aurel’s "OPA! Mediterranean Dinner Show" on May 14, that it was really a variety show with a Middle-Eastern flavor. It had it all - music, dance, and comedy! Held at the Paris Cabaret in Stoughton (MA), where Aurel’s singing career got started (also her waitressing career, but it sounded like it ended there, as well), it was genuinely excellent entertainment from start to finish. Backstopped by the Kokoras Brothers with Mike Gregian, as well as two jazz musicians (sorry, I didn’t get their names), Aurel sang (in Arabic, English, Greek, and Turkish), performed both Oriental dance and Greek folk dance, and MC’d the whole evening, engaging the audience and making us feel like we were part of the show. And the secret sauce - Aurel's excellent comedic sensibility and timing.

Show tickets included a full Greek repast that, based on the comments of my table mates, was absolutely delicious (I’m vegetarian, so I can’t comment on the main menu. However, the Paris Cabaret graciously accommodated me with an equally full and yummy meal). The cabaret itself was cozy without feeling cramped – it looked like everyone in the room had a good view of the stage.

Congratulations to Aurel and her Ancient Art Studio team on a terrific evening! 

Aurel and OPA! return to the Paris Cabaret on November 19th. The May show sold out, so to reserve your seats call 781.297.7469. See you there!


A Time to Dance, a Time to Mourn

"This love of life makes me weak at my knees." - from the Kinks song Strangers, by Dave Davies.

Of all the contributors to BDNE's "Sequins of Events", Larry Carradini was one of the best. Not only could I count on him to provide tight, well-crafted copy in a timely fashion, Larry often found one small detail or moment that set the tone for the whole event. And he was the best fashion reporter ever. His detailed costume descriptions (down to fringe length and accessories) were masterful.

I met Larry through his wife, Meg. You know her as Morgana Mirage, dancer and BDNE associate editor. It was always a pleasure to attend or participate in the events that they sponsored. Skillfully interweaving their passions for poetry and dance, these events paid homage to Rumi, Poe, Bram Stoker...even the Brides of Frankenstein. While Larry was definitely a member of that rarified fraternity of belly dance husbands, his support of and participation in belly dance events went above and beyond - not only because it was important to his beloved, but because he appreciated the passion, effort, and artistry of it all.

Larry died this past Thursday, after a long illness. It seemed to me that he always tried not to let it get the better of him, not because he was courageous (which he was, in spades), but because he loved his life and what filled it - Meg, their cats, fly fishing, family and friends, poetry, jazz, science - and his priority was living it. It was his superhero power, and now it is part of his legacy. With apologies to the Book of Common Prayer, in the midst of illness and death, we are, in fact, in life. Thank you, Larry, for reminding us of that. 

As I have mentioned before in this space, I'm not sure yet of my personal beliefs about the afterlife. But gosh - wouldn't I love to hear from Larry about what Samia Gamal is wearing today. 

Services for Larry take place on Friday, May 9 at the Morse-Bayliss Funeral Home in Lowell, MA. There will be calling hours from 4:00 - 7:00 pm,  followed by a memorial service at the funeral home. 

Middle-Eastern Night at the Grog

 There’s a definite feeling of spring in the air. Temps and precipitation to the contrary, the air is softer, there’s more mud than snow, and the trees are starting to bud. I no longer feel like hibernating under a fleece blanket...in fact, I feel like getting out and doing things! And what better way to ease out of hibernation than with "Middle-Eastern Night at the Grog"? This afternoon’s show was just the ticket for me to start feeling like I’m part of society again.

Organized by Maria O’Connor, of Ancient Fire Henna, this is a twice-yearly fundraiser held at the Grog Restaurant in Newburyport, MA (today’s proceeds benefit Greenpeace). The show takes place in the downstairs bar, which has a nice tile floor and wide stage, and draws dancers from as far away as Rhode Island.

Many of New England’s finest dancers donated their time, energy, and talent for the cause, and all styles were represented today - from American cabaret and American Tribal Style to fusion to folklore. I truly enjoyed them all. But I have to say that the highlights for me personally were Laura Blake and Kaylin, respectively tribal fusion and American Cabaret dancers - vastly different styles, yet their performances had so much in common. Both interpreted their music flawlessly (respectively, “I Could Have Danced All Night” and an Egyptian song whose name escapes me*) with emotion and presence. Both wore simple elegant costumes, with no props. It was fascinating to watch. Perhaps the two will collaborate one day.

Kudos and zaghareets to Maria O’Connor for pulling this together, and thanks to all the performers for their great shows. If you missed today’s event, it sounds like you will have another opportunity in the fall. Watch the BDNE calendar for details.

*One minor gripe - I would have loved a program. Several dancers used music I would have liked to have, or at least tracked down on iTunes. And then I would have Kaylin's music choice. While Maria did an excellent job MC'ing, providing the audience with great information about the dancers, including web sites, it would have been nice to have that info on a piece of paper I could take home, because I have a mind like a sieve and, in the words of the great Nora Ephron, I remember nothing.

A Doumbek, Upside Down

Photo by Michael BaxterLeon Manoogian was a drummer and former member of George Abdo's "Flames of Araby". He and our Phaedra were a couple for a long time. You often saw them together at shows and events. In addition to being a talented musician, Leon liked to cook and eat. His favorite animal was the pig, and it is said that he never met a potato he didn't like. Leon was kind and generous...of his time, his talent, and his resources. He treated all dancers, including baby beginners, with respect.

He died last week, way before his time, from cancer.

It was old home week at the wake. Many musicians and dancers stopped in to pay their respects and ended up staying to catch up with old friends and colleagues. Someone remarked to me that the atmosphere was a little strange - festive, yet sad. Tears and laughter, happiness at seeing old friends and sadness at saying goodbye. Leon wanted a party (and there will be one)...but I think he would have been pleased with this impromptu one. 
What touched me most was the drum. His doumbek was set on a stool at the head of the casket - upside down. Another musician, John Mitaras (also a former Flame), told me that it was a symbol of respect for the departed musician. Had he played a stringed instrument - a bouzouki or oud - it would have been set there with its strings cut. 
I'm not sure how I feel or think about the afterlife. But it's nice to think of Leon sitting in somewhere with the likes of George Abdo, Mike and Buddy Sarkissian, Udi Hrant, and Roger Krikorian. In that place, I imagine, the drum skins are always warm, the strings are always in tune, and your voice is always in perfect form.
And best of all... the music never stops. 

Kudos and milestones

Congratulations and kudos to Zeharah Nachash and Zabel on their successful fundraising event yesterday for the late Lizzi Marriott, of Portsmouth, NH. "Shimmies for Lizzie" raised $500. Local supporters were treated to performances by Shazaraya, BDNE associate editor Morgana Mirage, Seya, Jaylee, Sisters of the Sun Tribal Belly Dance, Zabel, Heather Powers, OmBelly Co. , Zehara Nachash, Alizah Afet, Zia, Samara, and Baseema. It was a great show for a great cause. A special tip of the hat to the producers for running an extremely well-organized event, which is always appreciated by performers and attendees alike. 


Congratulations also go out to Bright Star World Dance Studio in Portland, ME, on the occasion of their 2nd anniversary as a studio. The event was celebrated on Jan. 19 with workshops by Whitley-Nabintu Newman and studio co-owner Rosa Noreen, followed by an amazing show that celebrated all kinds of dance - from belly dance to African to stepping to Middle-Eastern folkloric. The show sold out long before the actual day - truly a tribute to the special place the studio occupies in the Portland area dance community. 


We were sad to hear of the passing of Tricia LeVangie, and would like to express our condolences to her family and friends. Trish passed away earlier this month after a battle with cancer. She began studying belly dance seven years ago with Sumora Morgaine Stanley and appeared in student performances and graduated to performing solos in area shows. In a few years' time she expanded her dance study to include burlesque, and alsostudied with Aurel at Ancient Arts Studios.

Trish was a founding member of the Shimmy Sisters, and additionally part of a drum and bugle corps that traveled to competitions annually. She worked as an award-winning designer at California Closets. 

Her teacher and longtime friend Sumora said, "She loved the showmanship, the costumes, the bling, the performing...she was a beautiful person, inside and out, with a smile that could light up the room whenever she entered. The local belly dance community has lost one of their shining lights and she will be very much missed."

Tricia was the wife of Richard E. LeVangie and daughter of the late Walter and Emma Cook and sister of the late Christine Cook. 

Go to church for the best ME music

Summer is in full swing, and along with parades, fairs, concerts, and sporting events, local Orthodox churches have their big seasonal events - picnics, cultural events, festivals. If it's a Lebanese church, these are often called "maharajans". Armenian churches have big picnics. Whatever they are called, they are great fun. And if you're smart, you'll get yourself to one of these parties, because they have, by far, the best music ever.

Now why is this? Maybe it's because the musicians get to wear shorts. Maybe it's because they can play whatever they want. Who knows? All I know is that the music at these events is always hot, and the dance floor is packed. Not with belly dancers, mind you - it's all line dancing, all the time - church ladies and little kids and older gentlemen. But this is what it's all about, and why you should care - it's the folk music and dance of a community, a culture, from whence our dance comes. For these events, it's not about the dancer - it's the whole gang getting up to dance. 

And maybe that's why those parties have the best music - because the musicians are playing for their friends, family, and community. 

So keep an eye out for these events. I post them to the BDNE calendar when I can, but check your local papers, too. 

This weekend, the Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church Ladies Guild and Armenian Relief Society "Ani" Chapter is hosting "A Hye Summer Night VI" in Cranston, RI. They are featuring legendary Udi Richard Hagopian, he of "Kef Time" and "Kef Time Detroit". (Son Harold heads up music label Traditional Crossroads.) Amina Delal* and I have our tix and are ready to kef the night away. You'll get a full report once we recover. 

This year's Boston Kermesse is July 20 - 22. I attended this last year for the first time and had a wonderful time. It's an Armenian street fair and festival, and features more musical legends: John Berberian, Onnik Dinkjian, and Mal Barsamian. I just bought my tickets - hope to see you there!


If you are interested in participating in an ancient Egyptian ceremony, check out Northeastern University's "The Egyptian Oracle". Avatars, live actors, and the audience re-enact an authentic Egyptian ceremony through the modern magic of virtual reality. The show will be per­formed in the Raytheon Amphithe­ater on Friday, July 13 at 7 p.m. It is free to the public. 


Kudos and congrats to our own Nadira Jamal, who will be teaching at this year's MECDA Professional Dance Conference & Retreat.

Inside the Raq-On Clubhouse

I *finally* made the trek up to Amity Alize’s studio, Raq-On Dance, on April 21 when she hosted Aszmara of New York. I’m embarrassed that it took so long. And I’m so glad I finally did.

Raq-On Dance is a wonderful little studio set deep in the heart of a street mall in Lebanon, NH. It’s very easy to get to, really. You just point your car north, more or less, and take some combination of Routes 93 and 89 til you reach Lebanon. The trick is finding the studio - it’s tucked away amongst Lebanon College, Upper Valley Radio, and several restaurants.

The studio feels like a fabulous clubhouse, the kind you’d see on kids’ shows. Each room is painted a different color. The main studio room is brilliant coral with inspirational dance quotes on the walls. There’s a smaller studio that serves as a private study room and the green room for performances; the store, a dressing area, and lobby/entryway.

Aszmara is one of Amity’s favorite teachers, dancers, and inspirations. I’ve admired Aszmara since first taking a workshop with her at the annual belly dance event in Keene (NH) hosted by Catherine Skove. (Dancers of my generation will remember that annual event fondly). From the beginning of any of her workshops or classes, it’s easy to see why Aszmara is so beloved and admired. She creates a warm, safe container for learning, filled with humor, funny accents, and bad puns. You work hard, but you don’t realize it because you are having so much fun. And before you know it, you’ve mastered - or can at least get through - a choreography, combination, or new concept.

What really sets Aszmara apart from other teachers -  for me, at least - is how she teaches you to think about, and work with, music. I still tell people about that first workshop I took with her, in which she taught us how we could perform the same movements and steps to a beledi and a 9/8 (the secret is counting the first 4 “ones” of the 9/8 only). Magic! The move repertoire is doubled for each rhythm!

At Raq-On Dance, Aszmara taught a fan veil workshop that, once again, turned what you think you can do with fan veils inside out (Think fan veils used to accent hip shimmies!). She also taught a great class in stage and music dynamics that got all of us thinking about how to move (or not) onstage in performance.

Of course the day concluded with a show. The studio was transformed into a cozy cabaret, where a small but dancer-friendly audience provided enthusiastic support for the performers. The show lineup was nicely varied and included classical Oriental, veil work, troupe choreography, fan veils, and cabaret style dance.

Thank you, Amity, for a great day!

Amity is hosting the Fred Elias Ensemble for the Raq-On Dance Student Recital this Saturday. Live music, performances, open dancing, food, cash bar, and vendors - now that's how to throw a party! Details on the Raq-On Dance web site

Fun (and educational) finds at Boston's MFA


Part of the fun of being involved with belly dance is learning about the cultures from which it originates - the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey and Asia Minor. Besides dance, there the costumes and jewelry, food, music, history, and so much more. I wanted to share with you a gem of a source for highly consumable cultural nuggets - Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. It is quite the treasure trove when it comes to Middle-Eastern dance and culture related activities (other ethnic dance, too!).

For example, this Sunday, April 22, just for the price of admission, you can catch a lecture titled “The First Egyptian Revolution: The Rise of Kingship and Monumentality in Early Egypt”. Upcoming events include:

  • Mal Barsamian, one of our legendary local musicians, will be giving a talk and demo on that most Middle-Eastern of instruments, the oud (or ‘ud) on Wednesday, June 6. Barsamian is a master oudist, among many other things. Again, just for the price of admission!

  • There will be a classical Indian dance talk and demonstration on Sunday, June 10.

In addition to special programs and lectures, there are, of course, the collections - ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, and Nubian art and artifacts, to name a few.

Boston not easy to get to for you? Check out the MFA’s  Giza Archives, an online comprehensive resource for research on the area surrounding the Giza Pyramids, which contains thousands of ancient tombs, temples, settlements, and artifacts. The archives contain photographs and other documentation from the original Harvard University - Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition (1904 to 1947), from recent MFA fieldwork, and from other expeditions, museums, and universities around the world.

We'll post interesting events (like the ones listed above) on the BDNE events calendar, but do check in on the MFA site from time to time. You'll never know what you'll find!

P.S. Not an MFA member? Check with your local library - they often have museum passes you can check out for free.


Temples and Oases

I have, all my life, been an early riser. Early morning is my favorite time of the day. I do my best thinking and writing then. When I started belly dancing, and going out to see belly dance performances and live music with my teachers and classmates, I had to learn how to be a night owl. It was heavy sledding, but I've managed to strike a balance between my inner lark and owl.

So, when I decided to check out Vadalna Tribal Dance Company's inaugural "Temple" on March 23, I went into owl training. "Temple" is a monthly celebration of fusion and innovation. Created and hosted by Valdana Tribal Dance, it is equal parts performance and dance party. Performances include belly dance, burlesque, and circus arts, accompanied by music provided by some of Boston's finest world electronica, ambient, and down tempo DJs.

Lolli Hoops. Photo by Steve Wollkind, courtesy of Vadalna Tribal Dance Co.

Lolli Hoops kicked off this particular evening's performance lineup. She was incredible. Her hoops (lit from within) seemed alive and organic, constantly moving around and over her body. I've seen lots of great hooping, but Lolli has taken it to an art form. Aepril Schaile mesmerized the crowd with her boldly gorgeous and slightly sinister performance. The Vadalna tribe outdid themselves with a performance that had company members dancing on three separate stages - anywhere you looked, they were totally in sync. Sara Jezebel Wood was simply lovely to watch - so fluid and musical.

Aepril Schaile. Photo by Steve Wollkind, courtesy of Vadalna Tribal Dance Co.

Between and around the "official" performances, I enjoyed watching other Temple guests dance, as well as "ambient" performances by the Boston Circus Guild, such as the man on stilts who could really cut a swath in the crowd when he needed to. I have to confess that I didn't last til the bitter end (it was a "school night"), but the crowd was going full bore when I left.

Temple goers partied til the wee hours. Photo by Steve Wollkind, courtesy of Vadalna Tribal Dance Co.

You, too, can visit "Temple" every fourth Wednesday of the month at the Underbar at 279 Tremont St. in Boston. The party starts at 10:00 pm and goes to 2:00 am. The cover is not big money - in fact, give the level and scope of the entertainment, it's pretty remarkable. $8.00 and a 21+ ID gets you in. It's definitely worth the visit -  top-notch local and guest performers are featured each month, and you can dance til you drop. The next Temple on June 22 features belly dance performer and teacher Mardi Love, of Le Serpent Rouge, who is in town to teach a few workshops (see the Vadalna Web site for details).

"A Dancers' Oasis", on the other hand, is definitely more suited for early birds. It runs on the last Sunday of the month, from 6:00 - 7:30 pm. It is held at the Theodore Parker Unitarian Universalist Church at 1859 Centre St. in West Roxbury (NB: ample lot and street parking).  "Oasis" is hosted by Sabrina and Zehara Nachash, and its goal is to provide a safe space for all levels of dancer, but especially new and beginner dancers. The evening features refreshments, vending, and the occasional belly dance flea market.

The performance space is great. A small room off the main part of the church, it has a big stage and is light and airy. Performers have the use of a very large room next to this one in which to get ready. On the night I was there, I had the opportunity to pop my head in, and I could see that there was lots of room to spread out...always a good thing for dancers.

A typical "Oasis" program features between six and ten acts. On the evening I attended, the program was bookended by the Oasis hostesses, and the acts in-between ranged from someone performing for the first time, to polished professionals (solos and troupes), to student groups. I thoroughly enjoyed the show; all of the dancers did a terrific job. The audience, while sparse, was supportive and encouraging. I wonder if Sunday evenings are tough for many people, especially parents, who need to prep themselves and their offspring for the upcoming week. On the other hand, the time slot is very manageable for those who have to get up and go to work and school the next day.

The next"Oasis" takes place on June 26th, and then it takes a break for the summer. I definitely encourage you to check this out for yourself - it's so important to support venues like this for newer dancers. And you may be inspired to sign up to perform yourself in the fall.





The Maine Events

The first and only time I have ever seen the aurora borealis (aka the Northern Lights) was in Maine. I've also had some of my best night sky viewings of constellations, the Milky Way, and meteorites up there. So it's not surprising to me that there are also some star-studded happenings in the Maine belly dance community. Your editor has been making the trek Down East on a number of occasions to see what's going on up there.

Most recently (April 8), I ventured to the Bayside Bowl, in Portland. Yes, it's a bowling alley. Yes, there was a belly dance event there - Raqs Borealis, sponsored by Rosa Noreen. Raqs Borealis is a quarterly event, featuring Rosa, special guest dancers, and live music by Okbari.

The space really works, believe it or not. The Bayside Bowl is easy to find and has ample parking - two home runs right there. The dance event space is buffered from the lanes by the bar. Seating is casual (picnic benches) and limited (first-come, first-served). Food and beverages are available. The floor is a dancer's happiest dream - well-maintained wood flooring, not highly polished.

The April 8th show's guest dancer, Jeni, recently relocated to Maine from Los Angeles. (Before you question her sanity or familiarity with New England, you should know that she is originally from Lowell.) Jeni's impeccable dance credentials include a stint with Jillina's Sahlala Dancers.

The Raqs Borealis program was concise and perfect for a Friday evening. Okbari played a set, and then Jeni and Rosa each did a show with recorded music. The band came back on and Rosa led the audience in a folk dance lesson. I was happy to see that most of the audience participated. Jeni and Rosa then each did a show with the band. While this is not a review, I want to say that if you have not seen Jeni and Rosa perform, you should make the effort to do so at your earliest opportunity.

The cost for all this fabulousness? $8.00. The experience? Priceless. Get yourselves to the next Raqs B.

By the way, we were out of there by 10:00 pm. Event producers take note: the audience was primarily civilians. Rosa told me this was the typical crowd for Raqs B., which is very cool.  I think a short program like this works really well for civilian audiences. Just sayin'.

In other Maine news, Rosa and her business partner, Jan Hanseth (aka Jaiyana), opened their dance studio, Bright Star World Dance, this past January. I attended the grand opening on January 23rd. The studio is a bright and pleasant space, with smooth wooden flooring, lots of mirrors, a small powder room, and a curtained off changing area. It is located in downtown Portland, easily accessible from the highway. It's on the 4th floor of the building, and there are no elevators. Let me just say that getting there was a good warm-up for the day's workshops.

What is most cool about this professional partnership is that Rosa is an Oriental dancer and Jan is an American Tribal Style dancer. Allow me to trot out some fun (and impressive!) credentials: Rosa has been invited to teach at the Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive in September. Jaiyana and her tribe, Magnolia Devi, is the first and only certified Fat Chance Belly Dance Sister Studio in Maine.

Rosa Noreen and Jaiyana, proprieters of Bright Star World Dance Studio in Portland, ME. Photo by Jon Reece.

Rosa and Jan each taught a workshop on grand opening day. Rosa taught "Delicious Pauses" and Jaiyana taught "The Balancing Act", a class on sword dancing. The evening's event was a hafli featuring dance performances and live music by a new group, Spoonmaker's Diamond. The turnout was excellent, the show equally so. Great to see Lindsey Feeney, Anabee, Samira Nour, Naya's Trance, and so many more!

I don't know what's in the water up there in Portland, but that city sure does turn out great musicians. Okbari is on the fast track to "legend" status, thanks to their impeccable music lineage, dedication to tradition, and impressive scholarship. I have no doubt Spoonmaker's Diamond will be following in their footsteps. This group does not have a CD or even a Web site, but you can like their Facebook page. You will also like their repertoire - a good mix of traditional and kef-style music.

And I recently learned of an Iraqi duo, Al Sayab, who has started playing out in Portland. No details yet about this team...stay tuned! (Portland peeps - if you've seen/heard them, write something up for "Tasseltown"!).

The next big event for Bright Star World Dance is a weekend with Tamalyn Dallal, June 10 - 12. BDNE is looking for someone to review the show. If you are interested, please email us at sequins@bellydancenewengland.com. - Amy Smith




Sunset Sahara Show, Yousy Sharif Weekend - Lakeville, MA 3/26/11

This was my second time going to an event sponsored by Katia of Boston, and I was not disappointed. Her ability to coordinate dancers in order to turn out a well-timed, well-run program is astounding.

Especially since getting dancers to follow timelines is often akin to herding cats.

The show started on time, the dancers were stunning, and the Katia maintained an air of serenity throughout. Drugs? Probably not. Just Katia’s enviable ability to create a mood and an event.

Devotees of the art of solo Middle Eastern dance were treated to an array of lovely, talented women in stunning costumes who worked hard while making it appear effortless. While I would love to review each dancer's contribution to the evening, time prohibits, therefore I will touch only upon those standouts (for me!):

  • Jaida, of NYC, a beautiful dancer whose grace is astounding and marks the hours that she spends in classes and performance. Her performance in a stunningly beautiful classic bedlah to a Yousry Sharif choreography was flawless.

  • Polina, whose smile could light up the night sky.

  • Chantal, in a Shadia Tohme gown, was dynamic and perfect in her performance.

Congratulations to all on this wonderful evening. It was a privilege to watch you dance. - Jemileh Nour

BellyQueen: Journeys Along the Silk Road - Arlington, MA 3/18/11

Sequestered in the colorful rats-nest that is the Regent Theatre/Theater (the venue has both stage and screen), this show didn’t have a very large reception.  However, with a bit more length and a good booking agent, this production could tour itself right into “Smash-Hit” land.  As the name suggests, Journeys Along The Silk Road wound itself around the tale of the advent of silk, from the first thread all the way to the marketplace, where it literally changed the face of international trading forever.  Replete with narration, unbelievably luscious costumes, and superb music, this rendition of the story of silk was utterly stunning.  Each dance was more bewitching than the last. Even more impressive was that every style of dance that appeared in the story (from Flamenco to Egyptian to Germanic) was executed with authenticity, alacrity, and grace.  While Bellyqueen is known for their highly original choreography, this is my favorite of their creations thus far.

A quick and highly opinionated commentary: The Silk Road had opening dance acts. Why? While I’m all for the community showcasing and supporting fellow dancers, this work was meant as an actual theatrical story through dance and not a variety show. - Cat Waltzer

Have you heard the latest?

Recently, I had coffee with BDNE associate editor Cat Waltzer, she of "Sequins of Events". As we reviewed the New England belly dance community's rather abundant events calendar for events for which to schedule reviews, we felt a little overwhelmed. New England belly dancers are busy bees. There is at least one event scheduled for almost every weekend. We here at BDNE like to cover events as much as possible for our readers in "Sequins of Events".

But "Sequins" is a place for in-depth critiques of dance events, to help event producers know what they did right (and what can be improved), and to help readers determine whether a given event or hosted teacher is something they would want to attend or learn from. Not all events warrant such close scrutiny. Benefits, student events, and recurring showcase events really just need a shout-out and rundown.

And sometimes we here at BDNE just like to go out and have a good time, hear good music, and see and support fellow dancers, all without being on the clock. And maybe report back on it. For example, I attended an event a few weeks ago and ran into a friend. M. was surprised to see me there, as she knew there was someone else reviewing the event. She thought I only came out to work!

So we created "Out and About in Tasseltown", a place where we could share community news. A gossip column, if you will.

I'm not talking about the sort of gossip that is negative or harmful. There's far too much of that already. I mean community news...like, who recently had a studio opening? Did L. ever have her baby? Did you know A. got engaged? Did you hear - T. was runner-up in the Miss Belly Dance USA contest? That sort of thing. The kind of news you pick up at community events. As well as info about the events. Sometimes you just want to know how an event went.

So, welcome to "Tasseltown". We hope you find it informative and fun. And the news stream is not one-way - we want to hear from you, too! Add your comments here, or email us with your news. And if you see us at an upcoming event, be sure to say hi!