Community Enjoys Middle Eastern Dance

A hip-shimmying good time came to British Columbia on April 26 when Ammara Dance Company held their fourth annual Cabaret Orientale gala performance of Middle Eastern dance. The Columbia Theater in New Westminster saw many luminaries of the art form entertain that evening, including locals Maki Natori, Nath Keo and Rahel, while Los Angeles, CA professional Zahra Zuhair saw top billing.

“It was an incredible show,” says organizer Lisa Jordan.  “It’s really hard to pick one memorable moment. There was a stunning double-cane number by Maki Natori, an intense Fusion piece by Nath Keo, Rahel’s glamorous Orientale routine, many special guests and highlights! Of course, the best part of the evening was our guest star Zahra Zuhair.”

The company takes its name, Ammara, from a word spoken in many languages and with many meanings. Shining star, strength, leadership and growth are a few of those definitions, and Jordan believes “the beauty of this is that it is up to each individual to decide what it means for them.” A wide variety of classes are available through the studio, including Middle Eastern, Caribbean and Brazilian dance, drumming and capoeira.

Middle Eastern dance is more commonly known in the West as belly dance. The torso and hip driven style originated in the Middle East and takes on many forms depending on which region or country it’s practiced in. The art is believed to have an ancient history, but reliable documentation on its origins is scarce.

Zuhair began the training that would lead to belly dancing mastery in 1970s Ohio. Being raised with the art form, she studied traditional folk styles and oriental styles like Lebanese, Turkish and Egyptian. Egyptian became her specialty during a study tour of the country in 1979. Known for her “musicality, flawless technique, and elegant style,” she created a certification program, Artistry In Motion, as a “dance intensive for the continuing development of oriental dance excellence.”

Jordan says they used social media, print advertising and word of mouth for promotion, and she has loads of advice for those planning similar events. “This is my fourth year producing this event so I’ve got it pretty much down to a science,” Jordan explains. Be sure to recruit a couple of really solid, reliable volunteers; figure out all your costs, overestimate, and work backwards from there. Choose a good venue that’s comfortable and functional for performers and audience members, and always do a tech rehearsal!”

How do you attract well known guests to your events?