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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!!!! 

gawaher

SO HERE’S THE DEAL:

There isn’t much info out there on Gawaher. I actually stumbled upon her when I was trying to find something about another dancer – Kawakeb, who I still haven’t really found anything about :/ Anyway, what I did find about her is from Academia de Danza Arabe Priscilla Adum‘s Facebook page. Gawaher was a golden age dancer born September 15th 1930 in Lebanon. She had a successful decade long career in Egypt where she made about 13 films. She retired from dancing in the 1960s when she married, her husband did not approve of her dancing. However, she came out of her retirement and danced in a few more movies after she and her husband were divorced. Unfortunately, she wasn’t allowed to have contact with her daughter after the divorce.

Academia de Danza Arabe Priscilla Adum posted a photo (seen above) that was from a vintage issue of Al Kawakeb Magazine (Egyptian celebrity/film magazine). The photo was accompanied by this article:

THE SAD GAWAHER

The Atomic Dancer Gawaher visited me at Kawakeb’s offices in Beirut. She was wearing a summery fabric dress made at Carven of Paris, and she asked me “What’s your opinion of me?”
“In regards to what?” I answered
And she said, “About {my} dance, art, beauty and elegance?
I swallowed hard and said, “Great!”
At this point, Gawaher raised her head and said, “Then why haven’t you written about me in Kawakeb Magazine? Am I not good enough or what?”
I swallowed hard again and said, “But today you live the life of a housewife and not of an artist, so can we ask you, what was the reason for your retirement?”
Gawaher stood up and said, “I understand, and you’re right. I’m torn between my love of art and my love for him.”
I disliked asking her who the lucky man was because it’s none of our business.
Gawaher continued talking and said, “He doesn’t want me to appear onstage in a belly dance costume.”
I asked her, “Do you love him that much?”
And Gawaher responded and said “Up to now, I’ve been unable to distinguish and I can’t decide which I love more. Him, or art.
And then the (former) Atomic Dancer left sadly.

WHY I <3 HER:

I love being a detective and going on the hunt to find dancers that I haven’t heard of yet. Although I can’t say Gawaher is one of my absolute favorites, here is what I love about her:

I love the way she holds herself and her facial expressions, she really exudes confidence. I also like the fact that she strips the dance down to it’s essence and focuses on each smooth movement. She is very poised and graceful and I find her story to be an interesting one.

Watch videos of her below and tell me what you think!!!

xoxo

N

Oh – and HAPPY FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/105988835] [vimeo https://vimeo.com/103203102] [vimeo https://vimeo.com/103203309] [vimeo https://vimeo.com/103200839]

 

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAELfyc22Ek]

What do you think of her music???

Asmahanآمال الأطرش‎, the famous Syrian/Egyptian singer, was born Nov. 25, 1912 (the year of her birth is debated). She was born in a time of political turmoil into a very politically active family, the al-Atrash clan. Her father was Fahd al-Atrash of Syrian Druze ancestry from Suwayda. Her mother was Alia Al-Mundhir of a Lebanese Druze family from Hasbaya (wondering who the Druze are? click here). Her father’s family was well known in Syria for it’s role in the resistance against the French mandate. Right before Asmahan was born, her family was in Turkey as her grandfather was a governor in Demirci. Due to danger, her family had to flee the country and took a ship from Izmir to Beirut. Asmahan was born on board and named Amal, meaning hope.

Her family’s new home town of Al-Qrayya, Syria, was bombed circa 1923 and Alia, Asmahan’s mother fled with  her children to Damascus, then to Beirut, and finally to Egypt, where she knew she was allowed to enter the country due to her husbands ties with the prime minister Saad Zaghloul. In Cairo Asmahan attended a French Catholic school that was paid for by a mysterious benefactor.read more

 

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLjrrLz1h3299nfMwnSHatW0sb304ts7yd]

Shaabi music, meaning “music of the people,” came out of Cairo in the 1970’s. Artists that sang Shaabi were often the first of their families to live in the city. They brought with them their knowledge of Beledi music and added a more contemporary feel with lyrics that expressed their political frustrations, sexuality and social commentary.

For context, Shaabi came out at the same time as Rai in Algeria, Punk in the U.S. and Reggae in Jamaica. It also followed the passing of very influential classical musicians like Oum Kalthoum. It was the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one in Egypt and around the world. It was a time of revolution and music was a way to vocalize the feelings of the youth.

Shaabi was mainly distributed by CD and Cassette  – bootleg style. This way it was easy to self produce and promote and censorship by the Egyptian government could be avoided.

Some of the most famous Shaabi singers were Ahmed Adaweya, also known as the Godfather of Shaabi, Hakim, and Saad Al Soghayar. Ahmed was known for his emotional mawal, or vocal improv, at the beginning of his songs.

Read more about Shaabi here.

BUY “YALLA” – CLASSIC SHAABI CD!

LISTEN TO THE BELLY BEATS PLAYLIST:

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Badaweyah Kareem is an NYC based dancer, choreographer and teacher. Raised in the midwest, Badaweyah spent much of her life performing on the stage in some way shape or form from the time she was just six! Over the years she has been a violinist, stage actress, and night club blues singer. Her love of music and performance brought her to NYC. Here she spent some time researching Bedouin and Berber culture and was re-introduced to classical Egyptian music and then to belly dance. Now she performs frequently in New York and has even performed at Lincoln Center. She has also danced at the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival in Egypt!

The first time I saw Badaweyah dance was last year at an event called Pandemonium hosted by Jerry Bezdikian. Badaweyah mesmerized me with her unique and authentic style and stage presence. There is so much depth to her dance you can sense the history behind it, even in her name, which translates to Bedouin in Arabic. A couple months ago, I got to know her better when we worked together at the Theatrical Belly Conference, she had the best stories to tell (which she will share with you below) and I learned so much just from listening to her. I got to see Badaweyah perform again more recently and knowing more about her, it was even easier to see how much passion and soul she brings to the dance. This past Saturday, I was lucky enough to be able to interview Badaweyah in person, so watch below!!!!

Also take a peek at Badaweyah’s webiste!

 

TBB: HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN BELLY DANCE?

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

 

Learn more about the Tuareg People

 

 

Learn more about Morocco a.k.a. Aunt Rocky 

read more

 

Stumbled upon this really interesting and revealing documentary on beledi dancers in Egypt and wanted to share for those who haven’t yet seen it.. these are women mostly just looking to support themselves and their families etc and are dancing just to get by…It was beautiful to see how dance can get these women independently stable with homes and a way to support their kids… many are divorcees… God bless them.. anyway a really good watch… Enjoy!

 

“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.

read more

Although there isn’t much info out there on Ms. Zizi Mustafa I gathered some tidbits for you, just to give you an idea of how cool she was:

  • Zizi was born in 1943 in Cairo, Egypt.
  • She worked as an actress and a dancer. Some of her famous acting roles were in  “The Pickpocket” (1963), “The Wife of an Important Man” (1987), and “Ragel Wa Sitt Settat” (2007).
  • She performed in many clubs including Cave du Rois in London (Gilded Serpant).
  • Managed by Safaa Farid the last 9 years of her career.
  • Could do up to 18 shows a night. Wowwwwwwww…. tired just thinking about that…
  • Her daughter is Mina Shalabi, a famous Egyptian actress

What the internet is missing in info about this incredible dancer, it definitely makes up for in videos! Watch the below and get inspired!!!! 

Watch Zizi get her groove on! Click here!

and here!

and here!!!!!

Happy Thursday!

xoxo

TBB

 

“Art,” she said, “is not linked with age or nationality; it is linked with creation and presence and if the artist can give and enjoy, she must continue to perform.”

SO HERE’S THE DEAL:

We can’t believe we haven’t done a TBT post on this beauty yet! She’s a legend in the belly dance community and a true artist.

Nagwa, whose birth name is Awatef Mohammed El Agamy, was born in 1943 in Alexandria Egypt. Her father was Egyptian and her mother was Palestinian.

read more