Dancing at the International Food Festival!

Last week, I was honored to represent Lebanon with my performance at the McKeesport International Village Festival! For those of you unfamiliar with the event, allow me to quote the festival organizers,

“The City of McKeesport’s Annual Ethnic Food Festival is one of Western Pennsylvania’s most anticipated summer events. The three day festival allows guests to indulge in a variety of cuisine from all over the globe. Food favorites include Polish, Greek, Croatians, English, African-American, Mexican, French German, Hungarian, Chinese, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Slovenia, Slovak, Italian, Serbian and Hawaiian fares. Desserts and other delicious treats include Apple Dumplings, Penn State Ice Cream, and German Kettle Corn.

The International Village festival is also known for its continuous entertainment each day. The festival’s main stage features traditional music as well as singers and dancers. Other favorites include arts and crafts exhibit and live musicians on the smaller stage in the Blue Top Pavilion. There is also a midway with inflatable attractions and games for children.”

I was asked to perform a traditional Lebanese Bellydance Set on Day 2 at 8pm, prime time! With the help of good friend and Bellydance Legend, Kweilin, I selected Habbibi Ya Eini, Nassam Alayna (a favorite of mine), Fares Karam- 3al 3een molayeteen for cane/ stick, Emad Sayad’s drum solo, and Saharni by Najwa Karem. Fun set! The crowd was wonderful and very happy to help me balance my cane or grab the extra and swing along! I had a few of the children in the front row dancing along, and the family who hired me, singing to Fairuz 🙂 All in all, one of my favorite performances!

And afterwards, my husband Federico and our friend Matt were all fed by the Lebanese tent! The wonderful people who hired me, Joe and Jocelyne Chahine and Joe, Jr are the owners of Pita  Land in Brookline. My husband is part Lebanese and a very very particular eater…shall we just say picky?? Yet, he ate everything served to him with more gusto than I ever thought possible! Their food was exquisite and I am looking forward to ordering from them again!


I was thinking about trading these two costumes or perhaps selling them outright! It is time to rotate!

I took measurements and have two Monika Maheen costumes that I am ready to rotate. The first is a leopard (maroon-purple) and the second is one she called the coral reef (blues and whites). Both have amazing twirly skirts and are extremely comfortable to wear and perform in.. The coral reef has a curled hem that is quite lovely. My pictures really dont do them justice!


The Leopard : TRADED!

Coral reef: TRADED!

Continuing your dance education

While I already follow a bellydance practice schedule for myself in addition to teaching my own classes, I have always thought that adding other dance or fitness classes helps to polish and refine my dance. I also find them to be stimulating, creativity-generating, and just plain fun.

But how do you decide what classes to take? Classes can begin to add up especially once you add in your expenses to train with master teachers in workshops and private lessons. I came across this article today taken from The Ballerina Project blog.

If you havent visited the site yes, be ready for breathtakingly gorgeous photos of dancers in the urban realm. You can also find some rather good advice for dancers in general. I particularly enjoyed this article and her tips on navigating the wealth of classes available!

In a quick summation, she states,

1.Know your background. You should know what style of training you’ve had thus far. If you are not sure, talk to your previous coaches, read their biographies; that should at least give you a sense. This has to do with my first suggestion of going to instructors who teach something different from what you’re used to. The nature of experiencing a different approach, phrasing, or philosophy every teacher has is akin to working with a new ballet master or choreographer, and one of the best things you can do when preparing yourself for dancing various types of ballets.

2.In ballet, we always improve. So when you go to a new class, do so with an open mind and embrace everything you can learn and add to the arsenal of your dance vocabulary. Don’t just follow the order of movements, pay attention to details: the musicality of a combination, the amount of attack a teacher might expect in a step, the corrections they give mid-way…

3.Don’t forget what you already know. Just because this teacher does not stress the use of port de bras as much as your old one used to doesn’t mean you should forget it. Keep all that, anything it might be, and add the new layers. Try to identify points of similarities and points of differences. If a movement is taught differently you cannot disregard. Only directors can afford such attitude. You can’t. Master it both ways.

4.Another thing I find very beneficial is going a level up, if there is one, or a level down, of your own (those going down – less often). For younger people the increased challenge, excitement of performing the fancier elements, and often, being in the presence of an admired dancer are but priceless in the development into a professional. For pros and older students going a level down provides an excellent space for re-checking those basics, taking more time with execution, or taking it easy after an injury or a break.

5.Don’t forget to attend your rarer, but all-important class of jazz, hip-hop or whatever. Not only is cross training good for your muscles, it’s good for your coordination, can do no harm to your ballet form (if there is one) and can open up room for movement previously unexplored with the ingrained repetition of ballet.


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