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Archive for April 5th, 2009

In the News!

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Good Press, Good Reporter

Habibi Dancers’ Saturday workshop is in momdaughter25.jpgthe Sunday Lansing State Journal (page 1 of section B, for locals). There is a photo showing Amel Tafsout teaching (be advised that her link takes you to a home page with music).

I am in the middle of the line of dancers (short, with glasses and a smile). Check out the article here. Also, six more photos from the workshop can be viewed here.

I am glad that the reporter, Alec Marsy, was able to extract the essence of confidence and self-empowerment which results for so many of us when we learn this type of dance. So often, the press will focus on the stage show and costumes; for troupe members it’s a team of strong women dancing together weekly, and supporting each other in hard times.

Teamwork All Year

The emphasis is on the team, habibirehearse33.jpgif you ask me. I’m so proud to be part of this magnificent group of women.

Our troupe has about 30 women in it. When one woman needs help, it seems that someone else is always available to fill in that need. (Sometimes, for very rough times, a whole team will pitch in.) This sort of community is invisible to those who merely look at photos of us on stage.

Strength and Confidence

Mideastern and North African dances were often originated as a way for women to strengthen their bodies for childbirth. We have had dancers in class up to a week before their child was born, even with the availability of modern medicine. When a woman practices this artform, she strengthens her body and in the process naturally becomes more comfortable with herself.

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(For the record, our troupe has included women from high school age to a decade or so into retirement. Ballet, for a contrasting example, can not be practiced fully for that many years. It breaks down the body rather than strengthening it.)

My Own Experience

I know eudora2007basketsm.jpgthat I first had to make friends with my physical self before I could move to the music as I do now. Just over a dozen years ago, I felt as though I was a good brain and feet, and that perhaps there was nothing connecting the two. I could think very well, and I could get from place to place, but that was where my awareness stopped.

I am not the sort of person who would go to the gym and work out doing any number of repetitions of an exercise. I had spent bits of my life trying this or that sort of dance, none of them to the point of true mastery.

Not long after I married Brian, I again missed dancing. I looked around and found affordable classes at the community center one block from my home. It was mere convenience that started me on this particular journey.

I think when I started these classes, I spent about six months in the front row laughing from how difficult it was for me. For some reason I kept at it, and gained enough mastery to audition into this troupe about 9 years ago.

Now, at the age of 50, I am in better shape than I have ever been, by the discipline of dancing with my women-friends. And I feel beautiful. My inner confidence has never been better, and dancing has been part of that.

World Citizens

As a side note, I have always felt part of the “Human Race” and see our world as a kaleidoscope of wonderful cultural expressions. Learning about many cultures who move with similar but different expressions within the umbrella we call “Mideastern dance” makes me more of a world citizen.

Both as a dancer and as a knitter, I explore and celebrate the entire world’s cultural richness. We are all related, when you come right down to it.

I feel very blessed to live in a time and place where I can learn about people far from my own corner of my world. I can eat foods with roots all over the planet, dance, dress and knit from many inspirational places. Places which have created artforms which resonate inside me, regardless of my recent ancestry.

Yes, we are all related. I feel (and celebrate) this connection every day.

Good Instruction

We have a wonderful teacher here in Lansing. Garnett Kepler (stage name Yasmina Amal) has a background in ballet and other danceforms. She is particular about technique and precision. It is a pleasure and an honor to learn from her. We are very lucky to have her as our instructor and Artistic Director.

If you are in Lansing and are interested in learning, classes are available at Foster Community Center on Lansing’s East Side (just west of Frandor). You can call 517/483-4233 to register. The price depends on whether or not you live within the Lansing city limits. It’s very reasonable even for non-residents, but the classes do fill up quickly.

Rehearsal Photos

I have hundreds of photos from the workshop and concert on Saturday. Unfortunately, they are still on my camera. The group photos here are from Thursday’s dress rehearsal.

The first is a mother/daughter duet. Second is a basket dance (yes, those are real baskets and they are not tied to the head). Third is a solo, she is balancing a sword while doing the splits (yes, it is real and heavy metal but it is not sharpened).

The next two photos are from my archives. The fourth is a photo of me as Eudora, probably age 48, taken at New Aladdin’s Restaurant in Lansing. Fifth is a photo I took of Yasmina Amal in concert in Minnesota a few years ago.

The sixth photo is again from dress rehearsal. It is a blacklight number, which is a modern bit of fun using standard Mideastern dance moves.

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