The Habibi Dancers will present a weekend of workshops and performance next Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23, 2017, at the Hannah Community Center. The weekend is an annual event that provides opportunities to learn about and appreciate Middle Eastern culture, learn indigenous dance, and observe traditional costuming and performances.
This year’s event will feature internationally recognized Oriental and belly dance duo, Beata and Horacio Cifuentes. The couple will conduct workshops on Saturday and Sunday and will perform in “Tarab: A Dancer’s Journey” on Saturday evening. According to Habibi artistic director, Yasmina Amal, “women and men of all ages and dance background from across the Midwest will travel to Lansing for the opportunity to study with Beata and Horacio. The Habibi Dancers are proud to continue our tradition of hosting internationally recognized artists to expand the technique and education of Michigan’s belly dance community.” The workshops are open to all interested persons regardless of skill level. Information is available at www.habibidancers.org.
Mid-Michigan’s Habibi Dancers company was formed in 1982, says Amal, herself having joined in 1986. The group is dedicated to the study and performance of Middle Eastern dance. It brings women of all ages and backgrounds together, largely through informal study. Amal teaches beginning, intermediate, and master belly dance classes at the Foster Community Center in Lansing. Other members of the troupe also teach classes in different communities. Dancers who want to dance in the Habibi troupe typically take at least four years of classes or have strong dance background and some belly dance classes before auditioning for the apprentice troupe or the Habibi troupe.
Nismah, one of the Habibi Dancers, describes the experience and benefits of belly dance for her: “Dance has always been a part of me. It's my ‘me’ self-care time. I love that it challenges me physically and mentally in a completely different way than my day job….More specifically to belly dance, it has empowered me as a woman more than I would have ever imagined 10 years ago when I took my first class. I danced through two pregnancies (and labor!), I even danced through a miscarriage. Belly dance brought me physical and emotional strength for my pregnancies. And I've met women from our community that I may not have ever had the privilege to meet if it wasn't for the troupe bringing us together. I consider them my sisters. We're all so different and came to the troupe for a variety of reasons, but we have this common love for dancing and we're truly a family.”
The Saturday evening performance will feature Beata and Horacio Cifuentes, along with the Habibi Dancers and sister Habibi dance troupes from Michigan and across the Midwest. It will present traditional dances and indigenous costumes from Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Modern interpretations of traditional dances from Lebanon and Egypt will also be featured. Nismah shares that the dance that she and the troupe are most excited by is a piece titled “Day at the Library.” It is about a young girl who spends an afternoon in a library “reading her way across the Middle East, the Eurasian border, and North Africa—each stop offering unique dance style.”
The performance will be Saturday, April 22 at 8:00 p.m. at the Hannah Community Center (819 Abbot Rd., East Lansing). Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $15 each in advance or $20 at the door. Purchase tickets at www.habibidancers.org.