ad 4 Najia

Rakkasah West 2002 Looms Ahead
By Najia El-Mouzayen
Originally published in Caravan Magazine
revised for Gilded Serpent
August 29,2001 and again November 29, 2001

Rakkasah West Call-in:
Outside the U.S.--January 5 After 9 a.m. pst Call: 510-724-0214 for live or taped music
U.S. Dancers --January 6 After 9 a.m. pst Solo, Duo, Trio 7 minutes Troupes of 4 or more 15 minutes
Your Live Band or tape  (510) 724-0214
Our Live Bands (510) 724-436

What started out over two decades ago as a simple opportunity for local dancers and dance troupes to try their new wings with live music has matured and as with all things which mature, Rakkasah has somewhat changed its nature.

Although Rakkasah still is an attempt to give all dance performers an equal opportunity, results of the phone-in to book a dance time is often very chancy because of high demand. Shukriya, the producer of Rakkasah, as well as one of its originators, still believes that the phone-in procedure is a necessity, and is the most expedience procedure.  It is my own observation that it is also what keeps the show a constant surprise in regard to the levels of competence and presentation.   Many lovely dancers are shut out by the sheer volume of dancers who wish to participate.  The age groups represented are as widespread as the levels of technique shown.  The whole process, as Shukriya says, "each year has reflected the one before it.  The general level of competence has vastly improved over the years."

I have noticed that the troupes, which sometimes have been a pathetic conglomeration of dancers with extreme fear of solo work, have finally begun to treat troupe work as the tough, demanding choreographic discipline it really must be in order to be good.

Seldom are incompetent beginners banded together as "doo-op" girls while the teacher or leader solos in the forefront anymore. Oh, well, I do have to admit that it does still happen occasionally!

While I am in favor of the attempt to include everyone when possible, I do not think it is satisfying to any audience to have a bunch of warm bodies to dress up as background fluff or to hold each other's hands when stage work seems fearful to them

I congratulate the many troupes that have grown in concept of dance, costuming, and choreography over the years.

Similarly, Rakkasah soloists are, on the whole, more sophisticated in both technique and costuming than they were even a decade ago

Gone are the torn curtains, "raggle-taggle", gypsy-esque costumes of the seventies and early eighties.  They are not missed!

  This is not to say that all soloists are now great dancers, but at least all were worth looking at for a couple of minutes. (Seven minutes of a dull performer can seem an eternity, while seven minutes of someone with charisma or drama or stage-craft can seem over in a flash.)  Above all, what seems to be emerging is that spirit of individualism and glamour, of not wanting to be just like everyone else, but to stand out from the crowd, even if only by force of glitter alone.  Many of these soloists do tend to over-dance, mistaking quantity of movement for meaningful movement, but we can hope that the calming influence of an increasing Arabic contingency in the audience will eventually take hold.

Surely, this much money and effort invested in Middle Eastern dance will go a long way toward creative excellence and maturation of our dance form.

Rakkasah rightfully boasts having participants from international sources, such as Germany, Sweden, Japan, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, North Africa, France, and Central America, as well as all of the parts of the United States. It will be fun to watch and participate in this ever maturing festival, "Rakkasah", as she spins into her next few years and also to watch her expansion now into Rakkasah East as well as West.

Ready for more?

11-29-01 Nomads of the Spirit by Sierra Suraci
Know what are you contributing - either to their dilution as a people or the strengthening of their true image.

11-19-01 "A Star Remembered, The Maturation of a Career in Performing"
last thing in the world that I wanted for myself and my own dance career was to be a "forty year old belly dancer".

11-11-01 SUMMER CARAVAN 2001 Lumbers Through the Bay Area with Heavy Feet by Lilly
Born and raised in Lebanon, Lilly puzzles over an American bellydance festival in Oakland, CA

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