Star Fest 2017 Performance

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It’s finally here! The long awaited footage of the shows from StarFest 2017 hosted by the wonderful Aalim Bellydance Academy of Oklahoma City. I was to learn from the amazing Karim Nagi, who is a wonderful teacher, an awe-inspiring musician, and really really funny. I greatly enjoyed the experience and I learned a lot from his music and rhythms classes. I’ve recently ordered his Finger Cymbals DVD to go along with my new Turkish Delight Professional zills from Saroyan Mastercrafts by way of Dahlal Internationale. I can’t wait for it to arrive.

I had a wonderful time. I was able to spend a whole week with Evryn and her husband leading up to the event. I spent a fabulous weekend of dancing, and I picked up my second costume, the red Fifi Abdo dress featured in Saidi Sass. I can’t wait to see what happens this year.

So, after months and months of anticipation, I present my piece from the Friday night show of the Star Fest 2017 festivities. It’s baladi, of course, my one true love. The music is Tahtil Shibbak by Fatme Serhan. The costume is a Queen Hanan galabeya from Neenee’s Imports.

“Dance Like You’re 100 Kilos”: Nada and the Baladi Woman

PicsArt_04-19-02.23.12I cannot begin to describe the excitement I felt when I heard Nada el Masriya was coming to Tulsa. She was one of the dancers I had come across in my previous explorations of the baladi style, and I adored her energy and her attitude. I couldn’t wait to learn from an actual Egyptian woman, a native of the culture I have fallen in love with.

The first day was four hours of just baladi, my dance bread and butter. Working with her was an absolute joy and I learned so much about the cultural context of the style and the idea of the character of the baladi woman. I had heard of the concept of characters in Egyptian dance, but I’d not really learned about the idea. As she described it, I began to realize why I connected so strongly with that style.

She said a baladi woman is a strong woman, confident, fully embracing her femininity and her sexiness, but still ready and willing to get her hands dirty to help people and take care of her home and her family. She is beautiful, yet unrefined. Earthy and grounded. She is voluptuous and her movements are deep and gooey.

“Whether you’re 50 kilos or 100 kilos, dance like you’re 100.”

As a large-bodied dancer, I can’t begin to describe how inspiring that one statement was. I mean, I’ve got that 100 kilo thing covered. I’ve always been fairly self-conscious about my body, especially when I first got into the workshop scene, surrounded by all the lovely professional dancers with their shapely, much thinner bodies. But the dance community has always been one of the most accepting and supportive groups of people when it comes to appearance.

But hearing that the goal was to dance like I weighed what I already weighed? Yeah, that felt good.

She still kicked my butt though, and the butt of everyone else in the class. I never thought dancing baladi could be so strenuous. Finding that deep movement was difficult. When I woke up the next morning, muscles were hurting that I didn’t know could hurt. I mean, my hips hurt. Like, how? I always come away from a workshop weekend with sore legs and feet, but we found some muscle groups I didn’t even know existed. PicsArt_04-19-02.25.04

I loved it. I loved everything about it. I learned about the character, the attitude, the movement, the culture, and even the styling. I did Saidi that night at the show, but I did baladi hair per the description Nada gave, and I think it turned out well.

Honestly, I can’t wait to study with Nada again, and I know my dance will be infinitely improved by my experience this past weekend.

Ilalliqa’!

Bint al Balad: Hitting My Stride

When I initially became interested inPicsArt_04-06-12.56.00 belly dance, I was a sophomore in college, roughly seven years ago. At the time, and I suppose throughout subsequent years, I didn’t really have access to classes, so I began my study on YouTube. I found various little videos teaching isolated technique with very little context as to style or origin. I think most of what I found then would be classified as Modern Oriental. Eventually, I stumbled across Tiazza’s Free Bellydance Classes, which were the majority of my early learning materials. I remember her saying in one of her videos that she didn’t teach tribal because her body didn’t move that way. Although she has incorporated tribal style technique videos in subsequent years, that statement stuck with me.

In those early years, I had very little knowledge of Middle Eastern music and a penchant for alternative rock and metal, so I initially classified myself as gothic fusion. I feel a bit silly now for thinking that, but when you’re dancing to Disturbed, you can’t exactly call it traditional. But I was dancing to the music I knew instead of stumbling through the intricate Arabic compositions of which I was largely ignorant. When I tried to actually delve into tribal movement, I quickly realized that, much like Tiazza, my body didn’t move that way. It never felt natural to me. Slinky serpent, I am not.

Things clicked when I first saw baladi for the first time. I don’t know what dancers I initially saw, but everything about it intrigued me. It was just so earthy and beautiful, very natural. I loved the movements, the costuming. It took me a while I find the name of it though, which is frustrating. I wanted to find more of that style, but I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t have anyone to ask. Once I figured out the word, I ended up buying Ranya Renee’s Baladi program from World Dance New York. That was the beginning of my love affair with Egyptian dance.

I loved the music. I loved the beautiful dresses. I loved the big, loose, gooey movements. I loved the way she talked about it being the dance of the people. Something anyone could do. This was what I had been looking for since I started down this path. The sensuality, the joy, passion expressed in the movement of the body. It was a dance I could get lost in, and I took to it like a duck to water.PicsArt_04-06-01.01.34

The inclusive nature of baladi has always called to me. I’ve never been flashy. I’ve never been one to actively draw attention to myself if I could help it. I’ve never felt like I have a “dancer’s body.” I know that any body is a dancer’s body, but we all experience that insecurity sometime in our lives. But belly dance, and baladi in particular, is the first dance form where I really felt that the shape of my body was perfectly fine.

I see videos of homestyle dancers in Egypt, many of which who are shaped like me, and the absolute joy they exude is infectious. I want to be able to share in even the smallest piece of that. Baladi has become my style. It’s the heart of my dance, and I find myself falling more and more in love with it as I expand into the Sha’abi and Saidi styles. I love these dances that embody the spirit of the people of Egypt, the country that has ignited my imagination.

But that’s a story for another day.

Improvising to Ya Omda by Fatme Serhan, hearing the song for the first time. Sorry for the blurry quality.

Nada el Masriya in Tulsa, April 14, 2018!

Come join us in Tulsa, Oklahoma the weekend of April 14, 2018 for some fabulous workshops taught by Nada el Masriya of the Egyptian Dance Academy of Toronto, Canada! Early bird pricing has passed, but come join us for an Egyptian extravaganza!

The option to pay at the door is available, and if you can’t take all of the workshops, just pop in for one or two! It will be worth it.

Midtown Tulsa Belly Dance always puts on wonderful workshops. You won’t be disappointed!

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Can’t make it to the workshops? Come join us for a spectacular show featuring dancers from Oklahoma and the surrounding areas, and, of course, Nada el Masriya herself. Oh, and me! I’ll be there too!

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Yalla!

New Adventures

Assalaamu ‘alaykum, fellow raqstars, I’m Simina from some town in Arkansas, USA you’ve never heard of. I must confess, I’m a bit of a nerd, and that totally applies to my dance life. I sometimes feel the need to share my nerdiness with the world, so I have decided to start this wonderful little project, so I can gush about my love of Egyptian dance, music, culture and language. I’ve even conned my best friend, Evryn, to come toss her two cents in from time to time.

The tagline reads “Stories of the Unconventional Dancer.” Being a self-taught dancer, I think I come at things from a decidedly different point of view. I sometimes lament my lack of access to formal dance classes, but I have always thrived in an independent study environment, so hopefully I can illuminate the various pros and cons of that learning style as well as discuss the challenges of being a delightfully squishy dancer.

Costuming is an absolute chore, I tell you.

My lovely Evryn is also unconventional as a dancer with cerebral palsy who initially came from an Irish dancing background. I’m certain she’ll have some wonderful stories about studio life and troupe dancing that I don’t have as a soloist. Seriously, I can’t even begin to do choreography and I admire those that can.

Welcome to our sparkly corner of the internet, and I hope you enjoy reading our stories and feel inspired to share your own.

Here is one of my favorite performances of mine from the Vanessa of Cairo Dance Weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 2017.