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*please note all of John’s amazing music is not available on spotify – for more music go here*

This playlist is in tribute to the life and music of legendary oud player, John Bilezikjian. I was sad to hear the news of his recent passing and wanted to do something to honor him here on TBB.

John’s music is an inspiration to dancers and musicians around the world. It’s full of beauty, complexities, and depth. His is the kind of music that makes you close your eyes and feel every strum of his oud.

Just a brief bio: John was an Armenian American based in L.A. Aside from being a master of the oud, John also played violin, mandolin, dumbek and bouzouki. He sang in Armenian, Turkish, Assyrian/Syriac and English. His other accomplishments include: starting his own record label – Dantz Records, collaborating with Leonard Cohen, Robert Palmer, Luis Miguel, Placido Domingo, Armen Chakmakian and Brothers of the Baladi, playing in several orchestras- Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, The Los Angeles Mandolin Orchestra, The Pacific Palisades Symphany, Boston Pops Orchestra, and Pasedena Pops Orchestra.

Alright guys, I’m gonna go dance to this playlist, hope you all enjoy. <3

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L to R: Torkom, Kay, Ahmed, Me

 

Wow! I think I lost 5 pounds after Ahmed Hussien‘s Egyptian style workshop last night!

Ahmed started out with some pretty intense warm ups, during which he was cheering us on and making us laugh – his positive energy is completely contagious!

Then he moved into some combinations followed by a choreo which we worked on for the rest of the night. He was warm, encouraging, gave helpful corrections and made us all feel at ease as he interspersed his teaching with funny anecdotes.

I will be totally honest with you guys, there were basically 3 sections of the choreography – even though we did this a billion times I still messed up the second section single every time – but it didn’t matter at all – that’s how much fun I was having. I’m telling you all right now if Ahmed comes to your neck of the woods you don’t want to miss his class!

Here is an older video of him – how can you not smile watching this? 😀

Happy dancing guys!

Xoxo

N

Modeling for Bellydance Photo Shoots

By Ansuya

Backstory

My modeling journey began at the age of 8 years old when I first enrolled in Le Mannequinette modeling school in Ventura, CA. There, I learned to walk the runway. I loved it so much I was given the “Model with The Best Attitude” award at the end of the session. I was then accepted into the LA Belle Modeling Agency in Santa Barbara, Ca where I learned to pose for the camera and then went on to shoot with popular local photography artists. From there I entered my local hometown pageant and won Miss Teen Ojai 1989 using runway, dancing, and interview skills. It was then that my mother decided we should try living in Hawaii, which was rich with local modeling opportunities as well as being a gateway into the Japan Bellydance market, perfect for a model of my petite height. In Hawaii I was accepted into the Amos Kotomori agency, worked a few local print jobs and then went on two spend two months living in Tokyo Japan represented by the Yoshie Modeling Agency. While there I was able to work for Shiseido. Little did I know I would be back to Tokyo almost a dozen more times as a Bellydance artist.

Modeling Meets Bellydance

On my last trip to Japan in 2014, I was able to combine my passion for Bellydance and modeling in a landmark shoot for Japan Bellydance Magazine. It was an honor to shoot with the amazing photographer, “Nam” and to be interviewed by the magazine about my modeling skills specifically relative to Bellydance. It was a full circle moment for sure. Since my early modeling days, I have found myself called upon to model in my Bellydance career for a multitude of fantastically creative reasons. From modeling for press, marketing campaigns, CD and DVD covers, and costuming lines, having these two words meet is the highest experience I feel you can have as a model. With complete freedom to celebrate ones shape, size, and personality, modeling for Bellydance photo shoots can be a wondrous experience of empowerment.

Sharing My Secrets

read more

SO HERE’S THE DEAL:

Samara was born as Tahira in Baghdad, Iraq, 1963. She was born into a traditional Muslim family that wanted her to study engineering in Lebanon. They were not to pleased when she decided to do something more…creative. After moving to Lebanon, Tahira took the stage name, Samara, and became very inspired by Nadia Gamal, whom she asked for lessons. Nadia taught Samara three dances and advised that she develop a unique style.

Samara took that advice to heart and man did she come up with some unique stuff! She incorporated Polynesian, Greek and Indian and Spanish dance inspiration into her routines. She was also influenced by nature, for her NYE show in 1995, her concept was – the sea. “Her show opened with a huge clam shell on stage. As the music started, the lid was raised, and Samara slowly emerged, representing a pearl. Her costume was of the elaborate Lebanese variety, all in pearls,” (Samara: Sayyida Raks Sharqi, Best of Habibi). Even beyond incorporating different forms of dance, Samara had music written just for her (she also had her own band), and even used some American New Age fusion in her sets.

Samara’s distinct style gained her popularity and the name “Sayyida Raks Sharqi”(*) from the Lebanese press meaning, “Mistress of Oriental Dance.” After her first three years dancing in Lebanon (1981-1984), she began traveling and dancing around the world, ushering in her golden age from the mid 80’s-early 2000’s. She started out traveling to the cities of  Kano and Lagos in Nigeria and Abidjan in the Cote d’Ivoire. She later traveled to Europe and Arab countries as well.

Being so popular Samara had to regularly switch up her show, she would do this every 4-6 months, adding in new inspirations and music. She wanted to keep her fans on their toes and felt it was necessary for her to keep growing as an artist. She always wanted to out do herself, which in my opinion, is the best form of competition.

Learn more about Samara here.

Why I <3 HER:

You’ll see when you watch the videos! She is completely mesmerizing, I couldn’t stop watching video after video and I tried really hard to not make the longest youtube playlist of all time lol 😛 She’s very lively, incredibly creative and on top of that she has amazing technique. I’m also fascinated by her fusion of different styles, especially with all this talk I’ve been seeing recently about styles/categories of belly dance.

I hope you all enjoy the playlist!

xoxo

N

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrrLz1h329-zpqReULnJZZd7m61raLOc]

*I don’t know why Raks has a K and Sharqi has a Q…anybody?

As a follow up to my latest post ” The Art Of The Drum Solo,” I thought it would be fun if this weeks #bellybeatz playlist was all drum solos – yiiiiiiip! Listen below + tell me what you’re favorite drum solos are – I will add them to the playlist! 🙂


Also, just as a side note check out Isreali pop star Sarit Hadad kill it on the darbuka  – bad.ass.

 

So…. what does it take to make a great drum solo???

I asked 16 amazing dancers and 2 drummers, and here’s what they had to say! 

Yasmine“Leave room for playfulness when there are pauses. Add rhythm changes for variety.”~ Yasmine
@Yasminedance

Uza Mitra “The drummer has to be good and work with the dancer. It has to be musical, not just for show. Both the drummer and dancer need to be emotionally connected to the music.” ~ Uza Mitra (read my interview with Uza here!)
@uzanyc

Tava Naiyin“I want to see that a dancer is breathing, relaxed and having a good time; showcasing technique is fine but not at the expense of those three qualities.” ~ Tava Naiyin
@DancingTava

Tatianna“Dynamic presence, sharp accents & a fluidity in emotion.” ~ Tatianna

Sadie Marquardt“Charisma it ultimately what makes a great drum solo!  If the dancer is playful and engages her audience into the fun and excitement of the music then they have succeeded. Clean, sharp isolations and combos are also important but don’t forget to add movement around the stage, and fluid soft movements as well” ~ Sadie Marquardt

Buy Sadie’s drum solo instructional dvd – “Drum Solo Secrets” here!
@SadieMarquardt

Sira“Fire. Really hitting accents with a punch but having dynamics in movement for greater effect. I get drawn in more by someone who’s soul is driven by a drum solo than someone who is just technically solid.” ~ Sira
@Bellydancer_NYC

Ranya Renee“I like a good mix of spontaneity and control, freedom and containment. And, the dancer cannot be the victim of the drummer—she must remain calm and take her time, even if she feels the drummer is pushing her. So, she has to listen well…but push back if necessary—by choosing not to hit everything thrown at her—to retain her power onstage. She has to be the leader and control the chaos. In a nice way, of course.” ~Ranya Renée
(check out my interview with Ranya here!)
@ranyarenee

Rachel Kay Brookmire“Drum solos are best when there is dynamic and playful chemistry between the drummer and dancer.  It feels like the audience is invited to be part of their party.  A great drum solo has a range of emotional expressiveness, and excellent timing with exceptional technique.” ~ Rachel Kay Brookmire (read my interview with Rachel here!)
@saharadance

Mariyah“Most importantly, I like to see a dancer genuinely having a good time and also really connecting with the music, interpreting dynamics, subtleties etc., just as you would any piece of music, and of course connecting with the drummer if it is live.” ~ Maryiah
Buy Mariya’s drum solo instructional DVD – “Belly Dance Drum Solos: Concepts for Dancers and Drummers” here!
@Mariyah13

Layla Isis“I would say most importantly it’s all about being in the moment, letting your connection to the music/drummer and your audience dictate the mood of the phrasing, be it powerhouse hips and shimmies, precise intricate flutters, or full, fluid movements. If she’s really in the moment, you will never see her thinking or anticipating – it’s just unfolding to the surprise of everyone, which is true of any good dancing.” ~ Layla Isis

Kay Kizi'ah“To me a great Drum solo has a unique take and something unexpected. Meaning most of us are familiar with 4/4 rhythms and kind of know how we would take the accents. Its great to anticipate a dancers accent and then for them to do something different. For  me that is always very impressive.” ~Kay Kizi’ah (read my interview with Kay here!)

Dorit“Just two words: listen, move. And eye contact with whoever is the percussionist of the moment.” ~Dorit
@DoritMusic

Eva Cernik“Spontaneity!” ~ Eva Cernik

Badaweyah Kareem“To me, if there’s an oud leading the drums. There’s nothing sweeter than watching a dancer layer their shimmies with the sound of an oud and accenting with a drum.”

“Connecting with any instrument is so the key for me. Drummers are displaying great talents with their skills and the language of whatever rhythm they’re playing. A novice dancer connecting to that rhythm and the musician can display far more beauty than an experienced dancer with great shimmy skills and techniques.” ~Badaweyah (check out my interview with Badaweyah here!)

Alia Thabit“A great drum solo focuses on the dancer–the drummer’s job is to make her look fabulous. It has consistency so the dancer can hit the changes with confidence, and wild style so she can get crazy and have fun.” ~ Alia Thabit (read my interview with Alia here!)
@aliathabit

Aszmara Sherry“I love a Drum Solo that has meat on the bones with interesting rhythm changes that create drama in the piece.  But not too many changes!  Too many changes take away from the arc of the piece.

There are drum solos that start off with a few accents and build faster and faster to a climax – love those.  There’s the typical maqsoum walk around beginning that warms the audience to the coming interplay of dancer and musician, goes into beledi, saidi  and/or masmoudi, drops tempo down to a slow trance ayub that increases tempo to a frenetic ending.  Those are fun, too – especially when shared with a musician on stage!

The interplay with a musician is what makes drum solos so exciting – there’s a walking the tightrope feeling of being totally present in the moment, reading each other’s inner music and expressing it outwards to the audience.” ~Aszmara Sherry

DRUMMERS

     Michael Beach“I could and should write a book about this. There are so many different dance styles now so a drum solo is such a personal thing. One dancer may want Folkloric/North African rhythms, some want very basic, some want strictly Egyptian Saidi, some don’t even want a drum solo and others might say, “ Play whatever you want.” I always try to meet and discuss the music and the drum solo with dancers before we go on stage. It only takes a few minutes. We figure out your level and knowledge of the music and rhythms, I take requests and then I have a ‘formula’ I use with dancers that allows us to end together. In my opinion, we can do just about anything in the solo but it’s really about the big ending. If you can really end together —— that’s what brings the house down. “~ Michael Beach, Brothers of the Baladi
@BrothersBaladi

Richard Khuzami “First: both musician and dancer should understand that the dancer is a musician playing the original instrument: their body, and the musician must understand that they need to dance with their drum in order for it to sing. With this they will have a common language they both understand. And if they did not have time to practice or value spontaneity they should work out the signs (or punctuation) beforehand that allows the free flow of ideas questions and answers.”~ Richard Khuzami

Here’s what some of you had to say:

watch some drum solos! (some of the videos you have to skip to the end)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrrLz1h3298WUFZ233UrYTCSICvFGbcV]

share some of your favorite drum solo videos in the comment section! 😀

hope you all have a great weekend!

xoxo

N

Last month I traveled to D.C. or my aunt’s 60th birthday. My aunt and cousin have both taken/ are taking classes at the famous D.C. belly dance studio, Sahara Dance. My cousin spoke so highly of Sahara’s well known owner Rachel, that I decided to send her a message to see if she would like to meet up for an interview. Lucky for us, she said yes! yay!

We decided to grab coffee at Whole Foods and sit and chat/interview. Let me just tell you – this woman is amazing! Not only is she the founder and director of Sahara Dance, she is also the director of both of Sahara’s dance ensembles, Raqs Sahara and Raqs Caravan East, she created an intensive teacher training program, and…oh yea – she’s an incredible dancer!

The path that led Rachel to creating Sahara dance included learning from some of the best. She studied with both Autumn Leah Ward and Yousry Sharif as well as Sahra Saeeda (whom she also did a dance enthnology tour with in Egypt), Yasmina Ramzy, Haida, Faten Salama, Aida Nour, Jillina and others. All of this training allowed Rachel to cultivate her own vision for belly dance. She focuses on community, mindfulness, celebration of all body types, and developing belly dance as an art form.

I really can’t say enough good things about Rachel. When I was editing her interview I couldn’t stop smiling watching it – she’s just such a warm person, so wise and articulate, warm and sweet, humble, inspirational and incredibly cool. I hope you guys enjoy getting to know her as much as I did.

For more background info on Rachel visit the Sahara Dance site.

*disclaimer – the filming quality is a little low budget, content quality is high ;)*

TBB: How did you get started in belly dance?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrPlZ-K5dgI]

TBB: What type of belly dance/ME music speaks to you the most?

RKB: I love Egyptian dance, I love Egyptian music, I like a lot of different types of music that fall into the belly dance genre or can easily be adaptable to belly dance movement, but  Egyptian is my first love.

TBB: What is your favorite song right now?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIn7FIexx8I]

Listen to White Flag by Gorillaz feat. Syrian National Orchestra :

[spotify id=”spotify:user:1272124796:playlist:5E0SMWQXJWsrhXiXo5tXa5″ width=”300″ height=”80″ /]

TBB: Who were some of your belly dance mentors?

RKB: Autumn Leah Ward  is my first teacher and probably my largest influence and then from there Yousry Sharif is certainly a big part of my dance training, Yasmina Ramzy, Sahra Saeeda, Hadia, and then going to Egypt and studying… there are a lot of influences, but those I think would be primary.read more

Sorry for the delayed #TBT/ #FBF post guys! The inspiration for today’s post was found in a Facebook group called 1970’s Belly Dance! Which is a great page that promotes discussion about the art form and provides images and inspiration of dancers from the past. Anywayyyy…

SO HERE’S THE DEAL:

Lys (sometimes Liz) and Lyn Jamal, also known as Leila and Lamia were from (Cairo?/Alexandria?), Egypt. They were billed as the “Jamal Twins,” which they were not lol, and sometimes, more accurately, as the “Jamal Sisters.” According to 1970’s BD, the sisters lived across the street from Nadia Gamal and her family (jealous!!!!). The sisters were featured dancers in several films in Egypt and India. They came to the U.S. in the 50’s and they became a  “major sensation on the American cabaret scene in the 1950s, and a significant influence on many American dancers of the era (notably Morocco and Dahlena)” (Occidental Dancer). They were also close with Ibrahim Farrah and danced in his show at Fazil’s Dance Center in NYC.

Interesting fact : according to Moroccothe twins who had each been married for a long time, were still accompanied by both parents to their gigs. Their parents would even sit and wait in their dressing room between shows.

WHY I <3 THEM:

See for yourself!

From the film Anisa Hanafi – Skip to 22:45!!!!