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Hey Guys! So I’m late to the game with this one – but tomorrow  Ahmed Hussien is having a workshop in NYC  –   FACEBOOK PAGE !!!!!

ALSO his 3rd annual Spring Immersion is coming up in March! If you want to take class with a fantastic teacher and hang out in Southern California (like I do btw) then you should definitely mark your calendar!

Want to learn more about Ahmed? Read this short interview he did with The Belly Blog! 🙂

TBB: Being that you started dancing so young, what is your first dance memory?

AH: My first memory is dancing on the old Opera House in Cairo Egypt that was built in 1886. And I danced as the only child in the Don Juan ballet representing the Cairo National Ballet.

TBB: When did you know that dance was something you wanted to pursue as a career?

AH: Being that young, you don’t make a decision. I started the academy when I was 8 years old.  So it’s not a decision that I made but was a decision was put in front of me. I was guided and encouraged by an older cousin. He saw something in me. He noticed that I was very talented and active. He suggested that I needed to be placed in a program with either in music or dance, something. So I went and applied to the Higher Institute of Ballet and was accepted.

TBB: How has your ballet background influenced your classical oriental style? From where else do you draw inspiration?

AH: All formal dances relates to each other. And they all also have the basic form from ballet. It gives you grace, lines, flexibility and provides you with musical interpretation. Grace is the most important quality that ballet training can provide dancers. Music gives me the inspiration. There is nothing to draw inspiration from without the music.

TBB: What is the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome as a dancer? How did you grow from it?

AH: Maybe not finding the right music, the right venue, the right stage, poor lighting and/or sound. You learn by adapting to different situations. The show must go on. I came from Egypt and I adapted to life in the US. Adaptation is what you do in dance.

TBB: What has been your favorite moment in your dance career?

AH: Being on Broadway. I learned a lot about how things work. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity  to experience the processes of auditioning, planning, creating choreography, costuming. It’s amazing to see your final work on stage.

TBB: What is your favorite song right now?

I don’t have a favorite song. There is so many pieces of beautiful music and I like them all. I feel like it’s not fair to select one over the other.

 

Fair enough Ahmed! 

 

Learn more about this great dancer on his website!

 

 

Today I got super inspired by The Nutcracker. Why – you ask?

1. Because I’m the nanny to a 3 year old and she’s obsessed! I was reading her the book today and that’s when I remembered… there’s an Arabian inspired dance – in the story, the ballerina represents Arabian coffee lol. I feel like my obsession is starting to make sense now – I loved this ballet when I was little.

2. The beautiful images are great for costume inspiration alone if nothing else.

3. I love anything that has to do with holiday spirit!

I have also made a youtube playlist of some incredible versions of this dance. They’re each different and incredibly beautiful  – I would say the third one in the list is the most unique. Anyway…take a look!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrrLz1h3298DpbDRU5wXbqX3-3BJ-2rQ]

Let me know what you think + Happy Holidays!

xoxo

N

 

Yesterday my friend Raissa and I performed a duet at a Halloween belly dance event called Spooktacular hosted by legendary dancer Layla Mary. It was so much fun!  Raissa and I decided to be elves – Lord of the Rings style. We wore elf ears and capes and danced with candles to Ocean Depth from the album Music from Intro to Bellydance with Dolphina.

After yesterday I started thinking about what it takes to make a really good duet. When we first began choreographing our dance Raissa sent me a video of a hip hop duet : Alex and Twitch. This video has all of the elements needed to pull off a duet (watch below!). The duo move together and in opposition. At some points they are doing different things, but those different things work perfectly together and create a dance thats completely in sync and on beat. Then they come back together and move simultaneously. All these different dynamics make for a very entertaining dance that holds the audiences interest.

Dancing in a duet can be nerve racking, well at least for me. I hate the idea of messing up and it effecting the other person. That’s why it’s so important to dance with someone you really trust. Especially when dancing with fire lol. Seriously though, trust is key!

Communication is also a must. When choreographing, it’s important to really hear each others ideas and test them out. When I was in design school, one of my teachers said the most important element of design is play. Never be afraid to play around, experiment, etc. I think about that all the time with dance.

Of course there are so many elements that make a great duet, and I’ve put together a video playlist of some very inspirational duos. There are, hip hop, modern, ballet  and belly dance duets.

Check them out!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrrLz1h3299FwymbBT9aoKrip-ugSpyn]

Let me know what you think!

xoxo

TBB

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.

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“Archaic dances still influence our moving center, for they are rooted in the cosmic memory of our planet. They may disappear into past but always find their way back to us through research work and spiritual identification.”

So Here’s The Deal: 

It’s hard to know where to start with Nelly Mazloum. She was an intellectual, an entrepreneur, an actress, a choreographer, a dancer, a teacher of modern, ballet, egyptian folkloric, and traditional oriental dance.

Where was Nelly from?

Nelly-Catherine Mazloum-Calvo was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1929. She was of Greek and Italian descent. Her father was a jeweler from Naples, Italy and her mother was a pianist from Anatolia. Her parents owned a hotel across the street from the Alhambra theatre.

How Nelly began to <3 Dance!

When Mazloum was just 2 years old she suffered from poliomyelitis, or paralysis of the legs. With lots of hard work from her pediatrician and his wife, who was a ballet teacher, Mazloum was able to walk again at age 4. And then there was no stopping her! “Dance became her passion and the very symbol of life.”

How It All Started: 

She officially began her dance career at age 5 and was called a prodigy child by the media. In 1939 she landed her first film role in a greek film, I Prosfygopoula (The Refugee Girl).

Nelly performed modern dance and ballet at the Casino Opera run by Badia Masanabi (click here to read more about Badia!). Although she danced in the early afternoon, she would stay into the evening to watch Samia Gamal (Read up on Samia!) and Tahia Carioca (Learn more about Tahia!).

Nelly’s golden years were the 1940’s. During this time she performed and acted in approximately 17 films. She performed oriental dance in only a few, Shahrazad (1941) and Soliman’s Ring (1946).

In 1947 she established a ballet school in Cairo for girls from elite society. She also trained dancers for the National Opera House in Cairo.

At 19 years old, in 1948, Nelly was named the Prima Ballerina at the Royal Opera House in Cairo.

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SO HERE’S THE DEAL:

In honor of Black History Month we thought we should recognize the wonderful Nakish. Nakish is known as the first African American belly dancer in the US and worldwide. She was also the first and only Black dancer in Bal- Anat in the early 70’s. Her other firsts include being first Black woman to teach at the YWCA (in San Fran) in 1977, and one of the first teachers to ever teach at Rakkasah.

Nakish was born in San Francisco. She was a dancer from a very early age. At 6 she took ballet and later in high school she studied flamenco and modern dance. Although she was studying the Martha Graham technique, she did not want to pursue this in New York after school, where she didn’t know anyone. Instead she went to the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and studied Modern Dance at City College simultaneously.

In 1962, Nakish explored other aspects of her creativity and went to the Louise Slinger Academy of Fashion and graduated in 1966 becoming an assistant to Patricia of London Design in 1967. Nakish also took interest in stone and gem cutting and jewelry design.

Nakish was introduced to belly dance through her boyfriend who worked at a Renaissance Pleasure Faire as a blacksmith. At first she didn’t’ feel right about participating as a belly dancer because it wasn’t part of her ethnic culture. A year later, she went to watch and saw Jamila Salimpour’s troupe Bal-Anat perform. In an interview with Gilded Serpent, Nakish said, “ Rhea (Rhea of Athens) was performing with her sword. She saw me standing there watching the dancers and came up to me and said, ‘You should be in our group!’”

And so it happened. In 1969 Nakish began studying with Jamila and became the next sword dancer in the group when Rhea left to go to Greece.

In 1973 Nakish left Bal-Anat and began teaching. Although she didn’t really like the nightclub scene she would gig about once a month and she was very protective of her students. She demanded that club owners respect her students, saying that if they were disrespected she would not dance at their club. If they were respected she would pack the house.

In 1983 Nakish was invited by Dr. Bousaini Farid, the President of the Women’s Club in Egypt at the time, to go to Egypt and dance for the Friendship Force International program. She said this experience was her pride and joy. She danced at the Nile Hilton for Egypt’s elite. While she was there she also danced on NYE at the Yacht Club for over 50,000 people, but it was cut short because she had pneumonia.

She stopped teaching in 1993 when she injured herself working on “The Phantom of the Opera” where she worked in the wardrobe department. She does teach the occasional workshop.read more