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Belly Dance Party in Atlanta!

Ladies, have you ever wanted to know if your hips don’t lie or if you could swing your hips like nunchucks? (Gentlemen, have you ever wanted to see your girlfriend or wife shake it like Shakira?) Well ladies, taking a class the Nazeem Allayl Belly Dance Studios is your first step to finding out these answers. After the first course or workshop, I bet you will find that you can move your hips, chest, and shoulders in new feminine and strong ways. You’ll probably even notice that you are using some different muscles than you would if you were weight training or doing aerobics at the gym. Aside from these benefits, the instructors will actually teach you how to belly dance and move to the beat! You may even catch the belly dancing bug – as noted on Nazeem Allayl’s website, “We create Belly Dancers!” – and now you’ve been warned. So, with many belly dancing classes under my belt, I was ecstatic to attend Nazeem Allayl Studio’s Haflanta II.

During the weekend of August 20-21, Nazeem Allayl Belly Dance Studios hosted Haflanta II, named for the combination of the Arabic word Hafla meaning “Dance Party” and Atlanta = Haflanta. After sponsoring out-of-town guest teachers in the past, Nazeem Allayl Belly Dance Studio owners Schadia and her husband Nazeem, felt that their studio had some of the best belly dancers and dance teachers in the United States, so they opted to create and host an event where students could really connect with their fabulous teachers – learn from them, meet them, and see them perform. Last year’s Haflanta received such great response and success that they decided to host a second one this year.

Ladies, if you weren’t able to attend this one, then you missed out on a positive environment which nurtured dance skills, physical strength and cardio, fabulousness, friendships, and the ability to work with dance props! One thing that I really like about the studios is that if you are self-conscious (like me), then they have strict rules to help you feel more comfortable in your own skin and in their studios. Every workshop at Nazeem Allayl is female-only and no one is allowed to watch or hang out – if you are in the classroom, then you are dancing. For every woman’s peace of mind, security, and to minimize distractions, the windows were covered with big curtains so that no one could stare inside while each workshop was being taught. This allowed women to feel more at ease throughout the weekend, during which some opted to wear belly revealing clothing. Belly dancing clothing was encouraged, but not necessary. If you preferred, you could wear work out clothes to class. After having taken several classes at the different Nazeem Allayl studios, I would recommend wearing a midriff shirt, choli top, or halter top with harem pants, yoga pants, or a large gypsy skirt – outfits like this help you to learn and monitor your technique in the mirror. (But don’t feel pressured; I’m still very slowly working my way towards wearing belly revealing clothing.) The same rules apply to their regular belly dance classes as well. The only time men and children are allowed in the studio is when Nazeem Allayl is hosting a show or open house.

A big reason Schadia and Nazeem started the studio is – not only is Schadia passionate about music and dancing –it helps women with their self-esteem and body issues. She said, “We change women’s lives at our studios by changing the way that they see themselves; by getting them to look in the mirror and love what they see. Belly dance is empowering for women. It has given me, many of my students and my dancers’ strength, a love of self and fabulous-ness!” Having attended different classes with different instructors, I can attest that this is true. Several instructors will openly tell you about why they got into belly dancing, how they have lost weight and gained confidence through this art form. Aside from that, one of the most beautiful things I find in taking classes and workshops is that you will meet women from all different walks of life – different ages, sizes, ethnicities, styles, backgrounds and personalities – all their for one common purpose – to learn how to become fabulous dancers. (If you’re having trouble believing this, then go take a look at Nazeem Allayl’s online photo galleries.) Each of the instructors has even built up a dedicated following of students. For instance, the ladies who religiously take Sabeeya’s Intermediate Thursday night class at Windy Hill started their own blog. The belly dancing bug has stung again! Another charming observation about Nazeem Allayl’s classes and workshops is that all the women attendees and instructors typically dress in beautiful, brightly colored clothing and coin sashes. What woman doesn’t want to dress brilliantly and celebrate her femininity and strength with dancing when you’re surrounded by such positive energy? Some women even accessorized magnificently, adorning their hair with flowers, wearing multiple bangles on their wrists and bindis on their foreheads.

All Haflanta II workshops and the show took place at Nazeem Allayl’s Perimeter location (off the Chamblee Dunwoody exit on 285). (Nazeem Allayl also has a studio closer to downtown Atlanta in the Little Five Points area and another off of Windy Hill in Marietta.) The workshops were held in two rooms with concurrent classes going on all day. Both Saturday and Sunday workshops started out with a 45 minute “Wake Up and Warm Up” workout with Maliqa, where she combined yoga and body conditioning to get the ladies blood pumping and ready for a full day of shimmying! Both days’ class schedules included several technique or combination workshops and one choreograph class. Workshops were sold individually or as day or weekend passes, so that women could choose which classes would best fit their schedule and dancing needs. For some attendees, it was a good introduction to different belly dance fundamentals and yet for others it was a great way to expand their dance foundation and techniques. Whether you wanted to work on your abs, learn a new dance choreography, play with props, or learn a different type of dance, Haflanta II had a workshop for you! Throughout the weekend, the studio had a super sale on hip scarves, swords, veils, and other belly dancing items and also allowed select vendors to exhibit and sell their wares during the class breaks. Schadia, She’nez, Sabeeya, Marwa, Maliqa, and Marjaan taught the workshops.

What advice would Schadia give to someone new to belly dancing?

“Find a studio that feels like home and a teacher who can be your mentor. Then, be loyal to both. I think in developing as a good solid dancer, loyalty is one of the most important advantages you can give yourself. If you hop from teacher to teacher, style to style and studio to studio, you end up being a jack-ie of all trades, but a master of none.”

Nazeem Allayl Belly Dance Studios next studio show will be held on Saturday and Sunday, October 22nd and 23rd. There will be feature performances by Nazeem Allayl and Nazeem Alsabah dance troupes, as well as their fabulous professional dancers and talented teachers. This show will also have three groups of students performing, some for the first time and others as seasoned dancers. Schadia said, “We will have more than 60 dancers performing in the shows. You shouldn’t miss it! It is a wonderful way to introduce yourself and others to the amazing world of American Belly Dance, right here in Atlanta!”

For more information about belly dancing, Nazeem Allayl Belly Dance Studios, or for their class and performance schedules, please visit

Haflanta II Workshops:

Saturday’s schedule:
• Abs-olutely Fabulous: Belly Dancer’s Coolest Tummy-Toning Tricks with Sabeeya
• Sword Styles of the Fierce & Fabulous: Technique & Combinations to Make You a Fierce Fusion Sword Dancer with Marwa
• Party in the Gulf: Persian Bandari Dancing with Schadia
• Vamp Like a Vaudeville Starlet: A 1930’s Vaudevillian Belly Dance Fusion Choreography with She’nez
• Cabaret Veil Combinations: From Basic Veil Technique to Awesome Combinations to Satisfy Your Cabaret & Fusion Flare with Marjaan

Sunday’s schedule:
• Fluid & Fierce Liquid Fusion: Hip Hop Belly Dance Combinations with She’nez
• A Star is Born: Creating Your Dance Alter Ego (includes lecture) with Schadia
• The Art of Taksim: How to Capture the Audience When the Music Slows Down with Marwa
• Schadia Cane Dance: Choreography Workshop with Schadia
• Get Serious: Double Isolations (Learn the same wild drills the pros practice in order to perfect advanced layering moves) with Sabeeya

HAFLANTA II Belly Dance Show Program for August 20, 2011:

1. “Djenna Djenna Lebanese Folk & Belly Dance Fusion” – Performed by Nazeem Alsabah members: Hasna, Haifa, Marwa, Maliqa, & Hakima
2. “Mizmar Classical Egyptian Cabaret & Passion Drum Solo” – Performed by Marjaan of Nazeem Alsabah
3. “Haya Gat Alaya Modern American Belly Dance” – Performed by Nazeem Alsabah members: Habiba & Hadiyah
4. “Behabak Raqs al Seniyya Fusion” – Performed by Misham of Nazeem Alsabah
5. “Billie’s Blues Vaudevillian & Belly Dance Fusion” – Performed by Nazeem Allayl member She’nez
6. “Tigi Tigi Modern Egyptian Belly Dance Fusion” – Performed by Nazeem Alsabah members: Marjaan, Misham, Hadiyah, Jaseena, Jenna
7. “Yoam Al-Haz Raqs al Assaya & Sharqi Fusion” – Performed by Nazeem Allayl Member Schadia

– Intermission –

8. “Mabyes’alsh Aalayya Abadan Classical Egyptian Cabaret” – Performed by Nazeem Alsabah members: Marjaan, Misham, Habiba & Haleema
9. “Vele Ya Vele Modern Egyptian Shaabi & Belly Dance Fusion” – Performed by Maliqa of Nazeem Alsabah
10. “Khajre Re Bollywood style Indian Dance” – Performed by Nazeem Alsabah members Haifa & Hasna
11. “Good Bye Alan Tribal Fusion Raqs al Sayf” – Performed by Marwa of Nazeem Alsabah
12. “Egyptian Nights American Cabaret & Tribal Fusion Belly Dance” – Performed by Nazeem Allayl members: Schadia & She’nez
13. “I am Woman American Belly Dance Fusion” – Performed by Nazeem Alsabah members: Maliqa, Habiba, Hakima, Haleema, Jaleelah, Jasena, Javaneh, & Jehaan

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Rain and Fire in Sedona



Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando



Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.


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“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward



Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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