Gemini: Reflections

We’ve been a little busy recently – perhaps you heard?  Baba Ghanoush and our dear friends Cypress collaborated to bring you Gemini: A Showcase of Belly Dance Duets.  Featuring a selection of local professional and for-the-occasion duets, Gemini raised $1100 plus two laundry baskets of donation items for House of Ruth Maryland.

Cypress closes the show at Gemini: A Showcase of Belly Dance Duets (Photo courtesy of Pamela Rowlett)

For those of you who don’t know, House of Ruth is a nonprofit organization that supports women and children who’ve suffered from domestic abuse.  They do some amazing work in our area – please check out their website: http://www.hruth.org/.  (You can make online donations!)  To quote some of our promotional materials from Gemini:  “Baba Ghanoush and Cypress feel that the soulful art of belly dance has given each of us a gift of self awareness and autonomy over our bodies. House of Ruth helps women and children who are or have been victims of domestic abuse find or regain the same things.”

One of my greatest pleasures in dancing, besides the dance itself, is using belly dance as a medium to create good energy and positive change in the community.  Last year, BG participated in our mother troupe Aubergine’s show, Muppets & Monsters, benefiting Smiles & Dreams:  The Tohoku Kids Project. (We were “Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Raibows.”) The year before, we debuted as BG in Nina Amaya’s Disco Hafla Competition, benefiting wildlife clean-up from the BP oil spill in Louisiana.  (We danced to “It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls.)  Earlier this year, we were a part of Gypsy Fusion’s Dance Your Heart Out Hafla, benefitting the American Red Cross.  (Cypress was there too!)  We perform at countless other charitable events with Aubergine. In Gemini, we have now, with Cypress, successfully organized and run our very own event!

Baba Ghanoush - Gemini

Baba Ghanoush skirt-swishing at Gemini (Photo courtesy of Pamela Rowlett)

It’s a lot of work.  Quite a bit of stress.  Probably best NOT to schedule it the weekend after another major performance (oops).  But the payoff – the caring support of so many performers, volunteers, and audience members – is totally worth it.

(Photos courtesy of Pamela Rowlett Photography, Gemini’s official event photographer.   You can check out all the photos here.  Videos will be up soon.  If you have photos or video from the event that you’d like to share, please leave us a link in the comments!)

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Baba Ghanoush’s Art of the Belly Highlights

I am never sure how to refer to Art of the Belly when other folks ask me what I’m doing with my Friday off.  A belly dance conference?  Convention?  An amazing weekend full of insightful workshops and inspiring dancing?  That last one captures it best.  Baba Ghanoush filled our second annual Art of the Belly weekend with four workshops and three performances each.

Workshops:

-We descended upon two workshops together: Morocco’s “Oryantal and Sulukule Roman Karsilama”, and Nadirah Nasreen’s “Zills!!!”  Morocco has such a wealth of knowledge to share, and is inspiringly real in how she imparts it.  She clearly delineated the differences between the Sulukule Roman and Oryantal styles of karsilama dances in an accessible and entertaining way.  BG loves the earthy Turkish movements, and we’re looking forward to integrating some “catitude” into future dances.

-Nadirah Nasreen should name her workshop “How to Not Be Afraid of Zills.”  We here at Baba Ghanoush have been wanting to choreograph a dance with zills, but despite some experience with the lovely finger cymbals, we’ve been a bit intimidated to actually incorporate them into a dance.  And then perform it.  In front of an audience.  Nadirah has an incredible knack of putting you at ease with your zills, and giving you the confidence and the tools to integrate them into your dancing.

-We divided and conquered Shems’s two workshops.  Alizarin explored “Stage Worthy Oriental Arms,” learning how the icons of the golden age of belly dance used  their arms to enhance movements and to convey emotion.  Amy Fae attended “Breathtaking Veil,” which left her with some powerful concepts about dancing from the heart and using veil symbolism to the dancer’s advantage.  BG collectively recommends any workshop by Shems that you can shimmy your way into.  She not only teaches beautiful movement, but also focuses on dance concepts that can far outlast learning a single move or combo.

-Finally, Alizarin learned new techniques for mastering layered movements and creatively incorporating them into dances with Shiraz in her “Luscious Layering” workshop, while Amy Fae channeled her inner diva and experimented with melting into extended poses in Naimah’s “Bold and Sassy” workshop.

Expect some upcoming Baba Ghanoush performances with bold attitudes, sassy layers, earthy catitude, veils, and zills!  Okay, okay, maybe not all at once.  (Then again…maybe…)

Personal highlights:

Amy Fae: I loved watching so many talented dancers while snuggled up down in front with fellow Aubergines and friends.  I loved the wide variety of dance and music styles represented throughout the weekend, and am so happy to be part of such a wonderful dance community!  New on the list of dance goals:  learn to dance on top of a drum.

Alizarin: I really enjoyed watching the dancers who chose to perform to live music be inspired by the house band Ishtar (along with guest musician Brett of Maharal) who play rock influenced versions of classic Egyptian and Turkish songs.  I also loved experiencing how diverse our local belly dance community is- I saw performers of every background, gender, age, shape, and style dance to music of all kinds, from classic Middle Eastern to modern electronic and pop music.

You can check out Baba Ghanoush’s set from Saturday afternoon here.  Both of us also appeared with Aubergine (video here) on Friday night, and Lazuli on Sunday afternoon.

Baba Ghanoush extends our sincere thanks to everyone who helped make Art of the Belly a success, most especially event coordinators Naimah and Patti of Troupe Amandari.  We’re already making plans for next year!

Addendum

Alright, folks, we’ve been hearing some of the rumors going ‘round, and we’d like to set the record straight.  Yes, Amy Fae trod upon a broken glass bead during the Lazuli set.  And yes, she did finish dancing the song.  She is totally hardcore (thank you).  She is in fine health now and probably no longer needs the Charlie Brown band-aid on her foot, and she is eagerly anticipating the epic stories of how a rogue piece of glass attacked her in the middle of the dance, slicing her very foot from her body, yet she continued dancing, and when she got backstage she bravely sat making nary a sound while her Lazuli troupe-mate had to sew her foot back on!  What a trooper!  (Actually, she cried like a baby and is kind of embarrassed about the whole thing, so you might not want to bring it up to her.)  A great thanks to Sam of Lazuli for having a first aid kit on hand, and to all the Art of the Belly staff and Amy Fae’s friends, who anxiously attended her in her time of need and extreme exhaustion.  Beware the rogue glass bead!