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  • Writer's pictureThais

Review: Raqs Curve Festival

First post of 2021! My apologies for not keeping up with things on this blog--the pandemic has been rough over the past year and 2021 started with a bang and a local IcePocalypse in our area. I'm starting to feel more like myself just in time to attend Raqs Curve, a first of its kind, body positive virtual bellydance event bellydance festival celebrating those with curvy, plus size, or otherwise bigger bodies.

The festival was organized by dancers Chudney Raks, Christine Yaven, Katie Sahar, and Yalia. It featured workshops by each of the four dancers, an opportunity for performance feedback, a panel discussion and gala. I attended Chudney and Christine's workshops live and will be watching a recording of Katie and Yalia's workshops later this week. I would have liked to attend all workshops live, but had some issues with my schedule. I also attended the panel and gala show live.

I started Saturday morning with Christine Yaven's workshop on Neo-Golden Era Style choreography. She gave attendees an overview of Golden Era Style and what is adaptable for dancers today from a style originally developed for film. She taught a short choreography to the song Raqset Kahramana by Farid el Atrache that focused more on stylizing simpler movements with beautiful arm shapes and footwork. Christine offered many opportunities for folks who were on camera to try out the choreography on their own, and it was great to see dancers of so many shapes and sizes dancing at the same time, even if over Zoom.

Yalia taught a workshop on Baladi Style, while Katie's workshop covered taking up more space with movement. The last workshop on Saturday was Chudney's Romantic Pop Combos. She started with a quick warmup to 3 Daqat by Abu and Yousra (one of my favorite Arabic pop songs--so beachy!), then quickly got to work. Her main choreography was to the song Enaia Bethebak by Tamer Hosny, a slow pop ballad. It was different than a lot of pop choreography I've been exposed to that tends to focus on catchier, faster pop songs than can sometimes feel a bit repetitive. She had some great technical tips and a looser choreography style that's more focused on musicality and flow. Loved her advice on keeping the chest open for expressiveness, turning out for more flexible big hip circles, and to keep movement flowing through slower sections to maintain momentum and increase personal expression.

On Sunday morning, we opened with a panel discussion on various issues around being a larger-bodied bellydancer. The discussion covered topics like costuming, competitions, professionalism, inclusivity, and more. The organizers requested that the details of the discussion remain private. In the afternoon, they hosted a virtual gala show. The show was composed of pre-recorded videos submitted by performers and edited together professionally. They broke it up into 4 segments, with each organizer introducing a segment in which they were not performing. Five of the performers were selected from the video feedback opportunity, and the rest were invited by the organizers. It was beautiful to see bellydance performed by such a wide range of body shapes and sizes. Highlights for me included Yalia's music video-quality performance of Baeed Annak, Monali's saidi, Christine Yaven's golden era style, Chudney's performance of Awedt Aini, Nawarra's Moroccan Chaabi, and Roxxane's performance of Alf Leyla Wa Leyla. Across the board, very high-quality performances, with top-notch musical choices, and excellent videography and editing. I ended the weekend feeling invigorated and inspired.

Instead of my typical playlist of the month, I've included a selection of songs I heard over the weekend below.

I couldn't find the Golden Era song that Christine taught on Spotify, so here's the clip of Samia Gamal in the movie Afrita Hanem featuring the song:

Are you interested in getting performance feedback and a future spot in an ABA show? We hope to fully launch our Shimmy Show Grow opportunity soon where you can get both! Stay tuned!

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