I’ve been meaning to write this entry since the workshop, but alas, time and forgetfulness got in the way. Oh well.

Meiver taught a fan veil workshop in October. Although I had learned fan veil technique previously from Meiver over the summer and had a brief introduction in Chicago, I learned even more. The workshop was well-designed, with Meiver discussing where to buy fan veils and the difference in quality. It may seem like a minute detail, but the quality of your props makes a HUGE difference, as well as the size. With so many vendors out there and money not being as free flowing for most of us, these discussions are important to help make the best decisions.

Another important aspect in the workshop was Meiver discussing when and how she felt that using fan veils made sense and a brief history of fan veil use. I liked the history bit, because it was interesting. Hearing when and how fan veil use worked well was good, because it helped me envision what I could do with them.

The exercises Meiver had us do were a combination of new and old (well, to people who have experienced the fan veil stuff over the summer) things. One thing I liked that Meiver mentioned at the beginning was that we should try to remember and take away 5 things from the workshop. I’m currently assessing how I want to use workshops in my dance education; this five things method may be the answer I was looking for, because you cannot get everything out of a workshop.

A rather large part of the workshop was doing exercises across the floor or in a circle. This gave Meiver a chance to correct us individually. It also allowed us to travel in the space, something I admittedly don’t do that often (my home space is much too small).

We ended the workshop with a choreography of sorts, to see how the technique we learned fits into a song and becomes a dance.  Although I am not a fan of choreography workshops, I liked having that little bit to really understand how things work together; one of my area of improvement in my dance is to learn how to create really flowing dance and not feel like there are sudden, unintentional stops.

The workshop was packed full of information and remarkably, there is still more. Meiver is considering a Fan Veils Part 2 workshop to build upon what was done. Although I have been a little more reluctant to use fan veil and haven’t been much of a fan (no pun intended), I’m starting to be won over by them.

MassRaqs was an awesome event. My commitment to MassRaqs took more time than I had anticipated, but it was genuinely rewarding to see how much people enjoyed the weekend. I still feel good about whatever part I played in bringing something like this to New England.

Friday night was a history review. It turns out that the Boston-area is ripe with Middle Eastern dance history. From Shadia, a local teacher, discussing her history to the ladies who are creating the Aziza! documentary about Boston’s role in the dance community, we are surrounded by history. The Friday night event ended with a dance show. It was good to see a variety of styles. I was asked to film, so I didn’t exactly see the entire show. I mean, I did, it was just through a small LCD. Filming dance is difficult. I wasn’t sure how everyone was going to dance and use the space, so I hope I did an adequate job. All I remembered about filming dance, from what I heard from others, is that I should have the face in the shot as much as humanly possible and not do some crazy zoom in on the midsection stuff.

Saturday was Meiver and Bozenka teaching; Cassandra unfortunately was injured pretty bad and was unable to teach. Meiver taught “Oriental Combinations.” Some of the combinations or at least parts of them were from the dance we learned; it was cool how things did stick with you. However, it made it challenging to learn the variation of the combo; sometimes my body wanted to autopilot what it thought was next. Bozenka taught Hands and Arms, as well as what would’ve been Cassandra’s beledi workshop. The Hands and Arms was tiring. A lot of the exercises reminded me of the ones my teacher, Danielle of Chicago, had me do. It was a good reminder, because I’ve been negligent with them. The beledi workshop was a good intro to beledi; I was impressed that Bozenka could figure out what to teach so quickly.

I’m going to cut in here and just mention that Bozenka is a great instructor. She is warm, always looks like she is having fun, and is able to communicate what she means clearly. I really like that she attended the Friday panel and appeared to have a great time; it’s nice to see people, especially top caliber people, who are interested in participating as a community member (even temporarily) and not just there to promote themselves, if that makes any sense.

Sunday was Shadia and Bozenka. Shadia is a real hidden gem in this area. I don’t hear much about her, which is a shame. She taught double cane and Bedouin dancing. She is a very encouraging instructor. Double cane is difficult. I think I will, once my life settles down again (schoolwork was put aside for MassRaqs this weekend), practice twirling and doing cane with my left hand. The line dancing was fun. Shadia ended the workshop with her performing; she is so charming and talented as an instructor, dancer, and costumer. I’m really glad that Meiver has made an effort to include and celebrate our local instructors.

Bozenka on the second day taught Oriental technique and drum solo stuff. The Oriental technique was interesting, because I typically have not had the opportunity to practice things across the floor. My favorite part, though, were facial exercises. Bozenka had us practice various emotions expressed on our face while we walked across the floor. I liked her philosophy that it’s good to know the range of expressions you can have, even if you don’t use them all. The drum solo workshop was a highlight of the weekend, because a live drummer was present and we were able to see what it was like to communicate non-verbally with a drummer. There was also a circle dance that was fun at the end.

The show was a good mix of styles. Mirza, Shadia’s troupe; Chantal; and Bozenka all did folkloric pieces. Bozenka’s was particularly interesting to me, because I didn’t know she did meleya leff. I always think of her as this beautiful, refined, classic looking dancing. Hers was excellent and to the live band. Yes, there was a live band with singer. Act 2 was an Oriental act, entirely to the live band. All the dancers were stunning. I like how Nina came through the audience, rather than starting on stage. I didn’t get to see her dance at Meiver’s recital, so this was a particular treat. Meiver looked gorgeous and danced beautifully; Phaedra was impressive with her dancing and zill playing. The standout for me was how Najmat and Hanan really interacted with the band; Najmat’s interaction in particular made it feel like she was a part of the band. It was really an amazing performance from her, and I usually enjoy her performances. Bozenka came out and performed another great piece to top off the evening.

I could go into a lot of detail of how things went logistically with the event, but I don’t feel like that’s the most important thing right now. Of course, there were things that should’ve, could’ve, and will be different; I wrote my list up last night, so I remember when we start planning MassRaqs 2011 next month. We’ll work on improving them for next year. Right now, it’s nice to bask in what went well. The community came together and celebrated dance. With who knows how many things that could’ve gone wrong, we didn’t do too poorly for our first year.

We have one day left for MassRaqs. If you haven’t shown up, I’d recommend it. It has been a lot of fun and educational. I’m quite tired and have schoolwork I must get accomplished tonight, but I wanted to put it out there for the interwebs. On a personal note, it feels good to have been a part of making MassRaqs happen. The experience this past week has been tiring and time consuming, but it feels good to see the event in motion, with people appearing to enjoy themselves and learning more about dance.

I probably mentioned that I’ve registered for MassRaqs, the festival that Meiver is hosting this September. I’m frankly very excited. One of my goals this year was to attend a big festival. I was thinking Rakkasah (either one) or Las Vegas Intensive. Due to scheduling and cost, neither one of those events was in the cards. Luckily, MassRaqs is happening, so goal accomplished.

I only have experience with Meiver, but I’ve heard from my friends that Bozenka, Cassandra, and Shadia are amazing. My dance friends have yet to steer me wrong, so I’m confident that this will be a great weekend. Looking at the schedule, Meiver has done a terrific job of picking topic. She has also done a good job of picking a place that is public transit accessible.

Pre-registration ends September 1st, so make sure you get yours in! It’s a great deal. Six workshosp (2 Bozenka, 2 Cassandra, 1 Shadia, 1 Meiever), a lecture, and 2 performances in one weekend for $275. I believe there is also an ala carte option of days as well as individual workshops. If you haven’t already, go here to register.

I have been quite busy this week, so I apologize for the lateness in the review. The workshop was fantastic. It began similarly to the last shaabi one of his that I attended; he began with cultural information and song info. This time had an especially sweet addition: he handed out the song lyrics with line by line translation. Very nice and helpful. Part of Mohamed’s magic is that he is excellent at coming up with ways to explain his points with Egyptian culture. One of the reasons I decided to to go the workshop, even though money is tight and I had already experienced his teaching, is because I know he has so much to offer with knowledge and is very good with answering questions. Particularly with shaabi, understanding the lyrics and culture is important. I wish someone would have him lecture over a lunch or dinner. He’s also very charming to boot.

The shaabi choreography he taught was good and certainly different from the one last year in Chicago. I’m not sure which one I like better. He is a great choreographer, coming up with things that not only look good but also fit in with the lyrics. One of the things I remember from the choreography is that he did a thumbs up thing when the lyric was “Shobra is the best!” or something like that. Very cute things to emphasize the lyrics.

I respect so much that Mohamed wanted us to learn the choreography and was patient but worked us hard until the end. He had to stop only because another class was coming in. He enjoys teaching, and it’s nice to be around that, especially when you’re so physically tired. He gives more than his all when he teaches; most of us left wishing he were local, so he could teach in the Boston-area regularly. I believe Najmat mentioned that he’ll be back in the Boston-area in May of next year; I will certainly be there! Even if you have taken a shaabi workshop from him in the past, taking another one from him is well-worth your money. I learned new things, both culturally and dance-wise, from the last time.

I’ll write something better tomorrow, but I wanted to share that Mohamed Shahin is truly an amazing instructor, even better than I remembered, and I hope he comes back to Boston soon!

If he is going to be in your area, I really recommend learning from him even if you had learned from him before. He is definitely worth checking out multiple times.

Rhea, who is the mother of Piper and Melina, is teaching at Moody Street Circus on Sept. 11 and 12, from 3-6. The workshop selection looks pretty nice. I don’t know much about Rhea, but she taught Melina and Piper, both who are excellent dancers and dance instructors, so it should be a good sign.

Is anyone else planning on attending?