|Volume 1, Issue 3, July-August '07
The big event around here was our first hafla, which happened June 24th at Intuit Dance Studio in
Oak Park. Huge thanks to Stephanie Draus for helping me figure out how to use the meetup site to
get people together for this initial effort. She was a godsend! And the biggest thanks go to all
of you who came to the party, and all of you who danced there... wow, what an array of talent,
and what a range of styles!
We were asked by many of you when we'd be doing it again, which was something I'd left open
depending on how this first hafla went. Based on the response we got, we're planning on doing
haflas quarterly, which means I will be getting the next one together for September. When we've
settled on a date, I will post it here.
Lots of events seem to be traveling under the 'hafla' label these days, from stage performances
to tavern entertainment. Originally, hafla, an Arabic word meaning 'party', was just that... a
party, for dancers to have fun with each other. Some of the features of this kind of hafla:
there is often open dancing at the end, food is likely to be a part of the attraction, and you
never know what might be showing up, stylistically. It's loose, it's informal, there's not a lot
of performance pressure, and it's all about enjoyment.
Those of you who attended Karim Nagi's Tribal Revolution class on zills (sagat, he says, being
Egyptian) will have heard him talking about this very thing. He says that if it's not fun, you
might want to re-examine why you are dancing. I thoroughly agree!
If you check the archives of this newsletter, you will find links to resources that are still
good, so don't rely on any one edition for what's worthwhile!
This time, I have a couple of local good-goods places for your delectation: Bead In Hand on
Harrison Street in Oak Park, and Circle of Stones in La Grange.
Circle of Stones
8 S. Stone Ave.
Both of these shops offer beads and beading supplies of the highest order- if you like making
your own dance belts and other ornaments, they'll have lots of what you need. Circle of Stones
has imported jewelry and textiles that will also tempt your bellydance fancy, so consider
A web resource I have recently discovered: Cottage Emporium. They maintain the linked website as
well as being eBay sellers. I recently bought a skirt from them that was made of featherweight
recycled sari silks, in gorgeous ikat weaves and several patterns that blended in a very pleasing
way. I'd been expecting something pretty nice, but it was considerably better than I thought it
would be, so I'll be back. Their prices are quite reasonable for what you are getting.
And, here's the real goody for this newsletter... Rachel Brice is releasing a new instructional
dvd as of July 17th. This one is about arms, from the Queen of the Pythons herself, so I'm
expecting it to be good. You can pre-order it from Amazon, or just wait until it's out and the
reviews prove me right!
Resources- the good stuff
On Workshop Season
Summer in the Chicago area is a great feast of bellydance workshop opportunities. For me, and I
suspect for many of you as well, the temptation is to jump at all of them- news that someone
whose work we admire, or who seems to be bringing something new to the dance, is going to be
available in person as a teacher... that's just very exciting. We all want to be up to the best
possible standard, and no one wants to feel her act is stale or uninteresting to audiences.
Complicating this picture is the recent development of certification standards by some of the
original generation of tribal teachers and performers, which really is something new to this
uncodified dance, a dance that is not all that far removed from its origins in street
performance and family celebrations. Previously, we relied on lineage for legitimacy; who
trained us, and back through our dance 'begats' to whatever roots we might claim.
Tracing our roots in this country always leads back to someone with a fully-developed artistic
vision, among them the very people who are now offering certification at various levels. The
impulse to protect the integrity of the artistic vision underlying a specific teacher's format
is understandable, in a time when dance steps, costuming, music and other elements seem to be
coming into bellydance from all kinds of unexpected directions. Lots of experimentation is going
on, some more successful artistically, some less.
My own background is in the visual arts, so it's easy for me to draw some parallels. Successful
art that is made by means of a collage of dissimilar elements achieves transformation through
synthesis; the whole has integrity. It becomes more than the sum of its parts.
It is this integrity, rather than 'authenticity', which is key. Authenticity is a problematic
concept for all bellydancers. To what, exactly, are we being faithful? Unless we grew up in a
culture that preserved bellydance as folk dance (and these are very few) we may not be nearly as
authentic as we would like to think; in America, it was a progression through sideshows,
burlesque, the movies and TV, and other 'exotic' displays that has landed us where we are now.
Really, even the originators of the bellydance category worldwide have been impacted by show-biz
models and ideas- why wouldn't they be? Even the Egyptians aren't all that Egyptian sometimes!
So... leaving the troublesome question of authenticity out of the question, it's the search for
integrity of vision, as it has been clearly demonstrated by many of the earlier generation of
greats, that is the critical focus. This should not mean that no new steps or combinations can
ever be added to the received vocabulary. What it means is that any new material will have to
fit the format in a seamless fashion rather than sticking out as an obvious borrowing. This is
where the art comes in.
Back to certification: the good that can come out of it is that it does guarantee that a teacher
has demonstrated a grasp of the concepts underlying the vision belonging to a specific format
within bellydance. This, however, does not guarantee that the teacher has a vision or
inspiration of her own. In fact, some forms of certification require that only that format's
teaching methods and steps may be presented by those certified. That's a lot to ask, especially
of those who are looking to explore their own artistic goals once a firm foundation is in place.
Don't rush to certification, or commit to anyone's format, until you understand it well enough
to make an informed choice. Be aware that bellydance will continue to change and evolve as does
any art, and that that is a good and natural process. Take the workshops that further your own
goals, and take them at your own rate, based on what you know about your own learning style.
There is no obligation to dip into absolutely everything.
Never forget that regular practice will do more for your skills than any workshop!
See the last newsletter for workshops that are well worth your time and money.
July 20: Friday Night Dance Jam and Massage, Intuit Dance Studio, Oak Park (this isn't just
bellydance). As part of the Oak Park Arts District's Third Friday "AVOID BOREDOM ON HARRISON
STREET:", INTUIT Dance is holding a Friday Night Dance Jam. Come move with us. No dance training
required. Live music and massage. Advance registration recommended.
Call (708)524-0500 or (312)505-0186 for more info. Or, email firstname.lastname@example.org
August 10 and 11: we will be performing at the Buzz Cafe in Oak Park with two sets each night,
starting at seven pm.
After the Solstice Hafla, we got a lot of inquiries as to
when we'd be doing it again. Get your pencil: we will be
hosting a Balance Hafla, in honor of change (change of
season, changes in our lives' rhythms) at the autumnal
equinox, aka September 23. Who doesn't wish for more balance
in her life? Share dancing, music, food and pure happiness with
Smoke at Intuit Dance Studio in Oak Park, from 6-8, for a modest $8. If you'd like to dance for
everyone, just e-mail me or go through the meetup site- there's a link to it on the What We Do
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