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A couple of weeks ago, on September 11th actually, I got the chance to head over to Queens and interview the fabulous Ranya Renee. Ranya invited me into the apartment she shares with her two adorable cats appropriately named Samia and Mona. We sat down in her living room decorated with a wall of very cool masks, mirrors, and beautiful/funky pieces of furniture like a sea shell encrusted table. We started chatting and before I knew it over an hour passed! So I’m sorry for the delay in posting this interview, I had to figure out my iMovie situation – I’m not the most technologically savvy. Before we get started, here is some background on Ranya: Ranya moved to NYC in 1992 to work as a theater director. She ended up spending more and more time belly dancing and eventually it became her number one focus. Ranya specializes in Egyptian style and is known for teaching theatrical performance skills and for her “Breathwork for Performance” method. Ranya has taught and danced all around the world and come out with several instructional dvds. I feel very lucky to have gotten the chance to pick Ranya’s brain and learn more about her. Without further ado…here is my interview with Ranya Renee…

TBB: How did you get started in belly dance?

RR:

Check out some of the dancers/choreographers Ranya studied with! Serena Studios Gamila El Masri Ghassan Fadlallah – this link just has a tiny bit of info, and you can watch one of his choreographies here. Ramzi El Edlibi and read more about him here.  Bobby a.k.a. Ibrahim Farrah Yousry Sharif Shareen El Safy Sahra Saeeda Shoshana

TBB:  What was your experience gigging?

RR:

TBB: When did you decide that Egyptian style was the way you wanted to go?

RR:

Check out some of the greatest NYC dancers that Ranya was able to study with: Dalia Carella Aszmara Elena Lentini Serena 

Ranya discusses learning Arabic and how it affected her dancing.

  [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnxWfOm4WmM] Simon Shaheen

I love the look of body chains under a costume. Especially if they’re very delicate. It can be a really cool touch. I found these images on pinterest (follow me!) and thought you guys could take some inspiration from them! Three of the images are the work of jewelry designer Bliss Lau who I’ve been a fan of for years. Definitely check out her site. Get inspired and let me know what you think!

xoxo

TBB

I don’t know much about Ensemble Huseyin Turkmenler except I like their music, and since Aszmara mentioned them in her interview, I thought they would be perfect for this weeks Belly Beats playlist 🙂

Enjoy + Have a great weekend!!!

xo

TBB

“Nadia Gamal is the greatest cabaret oriental dancer in the Middle East…she expresses pure spirituality with her arm movements but then those hips begin to move and she pulls you right into the earth!” ~Ibrahim Farrah

This weeks #TBT post is inspired by my interview with Aszmara! When I asked Aszmara ” if you could meet any dancer from the past, who would it be and why?” Her answer was, Nadia Gamal, although she actually had met her before- lucky duck!

I know it’s super late, but I had to really go into detective mode to get some info on our girl Nadia. I even searched for old Arabesque articles on EBay and I found one! Hehehe….ANYWAY… here’s the deal with Nadia:

Nadia Gamal was born Maria Carydias in Alexandria, Egypt, 1937. Her mother was Italian and her father, Greek. Nadia first began dancing in her mother’s cabaret act which performed at the Casino Opera in Cairo (opened by Badia Masabni), she performed European folk dances. Being part of her mother’s act allowed Nadia to study many different types of dance; ballet,modern,jazz, tap and acrobatics. However, her passion was for oriental dance ( Nadia didn’t like to call it “belly dance”). At the age of 14, she got her big break. While on tour with her mom’s act in Lebanon, one of the oriental dancers in the group became ill, and after proving that she could fill the role, she was allowed to do so. And the rest is history! …but I’ll tell you more anyway :p

Nadia’s career took off and she was featured in numerous Egyptian and Indian films. In 1968, she was the first oriental dancer to perform at The Baalbeck Festival in Lebanon. It’s a festival that celebrates world music and dance – both classical and modern. It’s held in an ancient Roman acropolis, which is pretty cool. She also danced at the Cairo Opera House, for King Hussein, and the Shah of Iran. She toured the world – Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Latin and North America.

read more

Nisreen

Attention NYC dancers! Nisreen will be teaching a Saidi series at the Ripley- Grier Studios ( 520 8th Ave. 16th floor), Mondays from 7:30- 9:00 p.m. October- November.
Info from Nisreen:
This eight-week course will introduce Saidi dance and cane work from the ground up. Classes will include an Egyptian technique warmup, cane technique and drills, and Mahmoud Reda-inspired combinations. We’ll discuss the cultural and performance contexts for the dance and typical characteristics of Saidi music. We’ll also work on movement techniques to capture the Saidi flavor. Finally, you’ll learn the mechanics and philosophy of twirling with confidence, ways to use the cane to frame your movements, and also a few nifty cane tricks. 😉

The series is $200 if paid in advance by Friday, Sept. 26. You can pay via Paypal to nisreendance@gmail.com or contact me to make other payment arrangements. We need a minimum number of people for the series to run, so please sign up by Sept. 26, and encourage your friends to join in. If you’re interested in the series but have a schedule conflict with any of the Mondays, please let me know. Please note that payments are nonrefundable.

Sounds like it’s going to be a great workshop!

For more on Nisreen visit her website here!

The first time I saw Aszmara dance was at Je Bon in NYC. I had never seen a dancer like her before. She came out, super high energy, playing her zills so fast that my mind was blown. She completely owned the stage, and it’s so hard to describe, but she made watching her an experience. Nothing she did was expected, it was so incredible. With over 35 years of experience under her belt, Aszmara brings grace, strength, confidence, power and passion to the stage. If you haven’t seen her dance yet you’re definitely missing out!

Lucky for you, she has a workshop coming up in just a couple of days, so please check out the info here! 😀

Take class with Aszmara!

And now for the interview….

TBB: How did you get started in belly dance?

AS: It all started on a dare from a friend who had a free pass from General Foods for a 10 week Belly Dance class at the local White Plains YMCA. She asked if I wanted to come with her and when I declined she countered, “Are you afraid?” “Of course not!” I exclaimed!  So on that dare I went to class and immediately fell in love with the music.  Then I saw the movements and I fell head over heels.  Over 35 years later, I am still falling head over heels, learning more, experiencing more and sharing the love and joy of this most beautiful art form.

 

TBB: Who were your most influential teachers and why?

AS: There are so many influential teachers throughout my dance life. Elena Lentini has to be top of my list – throughout her career she has pushed the boundaries of typical Belly Dance to extraordinary areas of expression.  She constantly inspires by her looking at things in a different way and has inspired me to go beyond the typical trappings of Belly Dance.

There is the late Alan Danielson, a modern teacher of the Limon style, whose courage, technique, lyricism and musical expression are carried with me.  The lyric nature and odd time signatures of his teaching fit so well to the music and expressions I strived to convey; his technique has kept my body dancing strongly and safely.  Alan’s courage was shown when one year after his heart transplant he returned to teaching and performing in concerts. Sadly, we lost him this year but we had so many extra years because of his transplant.

Souren Baronian and Haig Manoukian.  These two musicians I toured with for so many years taught me more about music than a Doctorate Degree ever could!

And finally, Roberta Koch, my dance partner in SaZ Dance Theatre from 1900 – 2010.  Together, we created visions that used Oriental Dance movements as a base and expanded to so many new horizons.  She taught me to be braver than I thought I could ever be in dance.

read more

I always loved the ethnic dot make- up look. I want to experiment with it, and I found these great images for inspiration! I hope you guys like them and get inspired!!!

xoxo

TBB

Anahid Sofian….where should I start????? Anahid has been a HUGE INSPIRATION in my life. Not only is she an incredible dancer, but she is the symbol of perseverance and strength.

You guys might have seen the What’s Coming Up posts promoting Anahid’s 35th anniversary show, well, Crain’s NY Business wrote an article about it and about Anahid’s studio. They also shot an absolutely beautiful 4 min. documentary of Anahid. You can really get a sense of her passion and love for oriental dance. She never gives up and she makes things happen for herself. Take a look below and read the article here!

 

 

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This morning I took a great yoga class. In the beginning of class the teacher spoke a bit about Patañjali, who compiled the yoga sutras around 400 CE. She specifically talked about sutra 2.1. This sutra states that the practice of yoga consists of three components. When she was telling us about them, I immediately thought they applied to bellydance as well.

1. tapas or austerity/discipline, dedication and studentship.

2. svadhyaya or self-study. Our teacher explained that this means being willing to see all the facets that make up you – all of your weakness, but also all of your assets for growth.

3.Ishvara pranidhana or surrender to pure awareness or a greater energy. It means being aware of a greater energy that is contributing to us and that we are contributing to. Conspiring to our awakening, as our teacher put it.

She said we awaken through these three paths, we become fully alive and engaged.

Inspiring right?

If you want to read more about it go here.

Xoxo

TBB

p.s. #FBF/#TBT post to come!!!!!