TIME RUNNING OUT TO SEE BANAT MAZIN GHAWAZI
Could Fred Astaire waltz by himself, without Ginger Rogers?
Most of the semi-choreographed danced like the Jihayni and the Nizzawi which made the five Banat Mazin sisters the most famous Ghawazi in Upper Egypt require two or more dancers. The Jihayni, for example, was inspired by tahtib, the formalized Egyptian duel by two men armed with quarterstaffs. But as time went on, two of the Banat Mazin sisters married, and two died of cancer. By the mid-1990s, only the youngest, Khairiyya, continued to perform, but without her sisters, she could present only fragments of the Mazin dance tradition.
Now there is a brief window of opportunity for dance fans to catch a glimpse of history, a glimpse, if fortunate, of the Mazin heritage dances. Khairiyya's sister Feriyal is ill and bedridden, but her other sister and long-time dance partner Raja' left her husband several years ago and underwent a knee operation so that she could return to the dance field. The operation failed, for Raja' suffers from massive, painful swelling of the legs, probably caused by filariasis, a disease borne by the mosquitos endemic to the villages in which the Ghawazi usually stay overnight after their lengthy shows. Raja' was unable to make a 'comeback.'
But every real dancer knows how to work with pain; in 1985, Egyptian star Nagwa Fu'ad went on-stage for weeks with her lower leg wrapped in bandages. If the occasion is important enough -- say, a dance researcher willing to hire amizmar (shaawm) band to play the proper music for the Mazin Ghawazi dances, which the more common rababa (two-string violin) groups can't duplicate -- Khairiyya will contact Raja' and ask her to accompany her in teaching or performing. This doesn't happen often, so Raja' is usually able to comply.
Does Raja's 'asharat al-'anz, as the Mazin Ghawazi call their signature 'shimmy-stomp' step, still have the floor-shaking power that it used to have? Go to the Mazins' home town of Luxor and judge for yourselves -- but hurry, because knees are delicate mechanisms. The "Banat Mazin" may become history at any time, leaving Khairiyya to dance solo again until she, too, the last dancer of the "Silver Age," joins Nagwa Fu'ad in retirement.
-- Edwina Nearing, March 2012
January 26, 2012
By Nisima of Pacifica
I have attended Pepper Alexandria & Latifa's fabulous "Carnival of
Stars" festival for 9 years, since she began. I brought my daughter and her friends. They just loved the impressive line-up of dancers and troupes, the vendors, the unique "Fantasy Costume Contest" and the scrumptious Middle Eastern cuisine. I had even danced with a troupe at this event when it was held in Hayward. So, in August 2011, I was super thrilled to be dancing solo at Carnival of Stars which was now relocated to the Richmond Auditorium.
However, with the impressive caliber of dancers Pepper always arranges, I was understandably just a teeny tiny bit nervous about performing solo, and on the main stage, no less! I needn't have worried though; Pepper and her staff are friendly and helpful. My solo went off without a hitch and I had a great time on stage and so did my friends in the audience.
So folks, the upcoming "Carnival of Stars 2012" on August 4 -5 at
Richmond Auditorium is not to be missed! Invite all your dance and non-dance friends, family, neighbors, even in-laws to this wonderful two-day event. After all, what's not to like at this family-friendly festival featuring non-stop quality belly dance entertainment, a variety of vendors, workshops, and oh yes, the excellent catered Middle Eastern cuisine all under one roof at the Richmond Auditorium.
October 16, 2011
The Side Show at Carnival of Stars
By Amina Goodyear
When Pepper/Alexandria first asked me to be stage manager of The Side Show at Carnival of Stars, I was honored. But I questioned my ability to do a good job as The Side Show was to be an experimental venue in the Carnival of Stars lobby. Her main stage dance line-up was full and she thought it would be fun to be able to offer additional performance opportunities in a more intimate setting for those preferring to dance for smaller yet very appreciative crowds.
The Side Show would also cater to first-time dancers and for those wishing to try out new or unusual acts as appropriate for "Carny" Side Shows. At first I envisioned two headed dancers, bearded ladies, dwarfs, midgets, giants, snake ladies and other "freaks". But then I remembered Elvis (if you too, remember Elvis, pretend you don't or you'll give away your age), so actually "I remember 'hearing about' a singer named Elvis who sang a song about 'Little Egypt', a dancer in a movie he starred in. She was a gorgeous and voluptuous dancer in a Side Show at a Carnival."
OK, then. A Side Show at our Carnival of Stars is Totally appropriate! Indeed - it's totally necessary if we are to be a Carnival of Stars. Little Egypt. of course. was a beautiful, glamorous "belly dancer" and isn't that what we all are? Beautiful and glamorous! Yes, yes, yes!
Therefore, this is what we at The Side Show offered - Beautiful and Glamorous dancers to a very fine appreciative audience cheering us on.
Let me tell you what went on at The Show. First Heather, loyal husband and Janine transformed the sparse, empty space into something purely magical only befitting a Carnival of STARS performer and audience.
There was a perfect sized stage and Heather, husband and Janine did their magic. Within minutes, maybe about 60+ minutes, there was a colorful tent and backdrop and priceless fabrics galore. This Side Show venue looked better than any Orientalist painting, better than any Macy's or Gumps holiday window display, better than yours or my imagination. It was beautiful and it was ours. And I'm proud to say, it was a more a fun and beautiful space to dance in than the "prestigious" main stage.
Also we had comfortable chairs and little tables to make our intimate venue inviting to those who wanted to hang out and eat or drink while enjoying the show. Thank you Heather, husband and Janine for all your artistic talents! And, thank you Pepper/Alexandria for envisioning this and making this all happen.
After that, my work was easy. All I had to do was sit back and enjoy the show and just press "play"
on the CD player. The dancers - mostly women, but a couple of men also - all showed up on time and did what they do best. Dance up a storm!
I heard so many positive comments such as "I never had so much fun." "The dancers were all so great."
"This was more fun than the 'big' stage." "I loved the setting and atmosphere." AND "Let's do it again next year!"
Yes! Let's do it again next year. Now that we've set a precedent, we can go on to make it even bigger and better. Soon the dancers from the "big" stage will be BEGGING us to dance in our special place.
July 1, 2011
Carnival of Stars
Article by Mahsati Janan
I look forward each year to dancing and teaching at Carnival of Stars. This amazing event occurs once a year and involves dancers from around the US…and the world! These dancers come to California each year for two days of non-stop dancing, shopping, and learning. Sponsored by Pepper Alexandria and Latifa, this event is even more unique than other belly dance conventions: it includes a comic book convention and costume contest that are always huge crowd-pleasers. You never know who you will meet while you are there. From world famous belly dancers and musicians to former Creature Features host, John Stanley, you may find yourself standing right next to some of the biggest names in the business while you shop and watch the fabulous dancing.
Speaking of the dancing, as one of the performers, I can tell you that it is a great show. There are more than 100 performance spots, so you will always see a huge variety in styles. I love performing each year on the CoS stage. The audience is amazing and my fellow dancers are all top-notch. This is definitely a don’t miss event! Hope to see you all there!
June 25, 2011
Carnival of Stars Costume Contest
Article by Monifa
Laughter and cheers and “Let’s do the Time Warp again”—oh, my! It’s Costume Contest time! Because that’s how we do it every year at Carnival of Stars, now in its 10th year running. Prizes include cash and trophies, and, yes, dancing the “Time Warp,” because that’s just how us cool folks do it. But forget the cheddar and glitz and Jazz hands for a bit… there’s more to such a time-honored tradition. Hard work and dedication are also involved.
I’m forever surprised by the magnitude of creativity contestants bring to the metaphorical table, investing HUNDREDS of hours hemming a multi-multi-tiered ruffled train, for instance, or building a true-to-life astronaut space suit. And there are aliens, too. Remember “Galaxy Quest,” and Alan Rickman’s awesome mountain range head? Yes, Dr.. Lazarus aliens we did have, although Alan Rickman we did not. (If I’m getting too geeked out for you, there’s always IMDb). The point is: the Carnival of Stars costume contest brings out the best in us along with the fun. So, come and join in.
And, “Let’s… do… the Time Warp… AGAIN!”
New YouTube post. Pepper Alexandria's ghawazee, Banat Mazin style, performing one of the oldest recorded forms of Near Eastern dance, from Luxor, Egypt.
Vendors Welcome at CARNIVAL OF STARS... Enter the COSTUME CONTEST for Big Money......... Aug 6 & 7, 2011. A World Class Belly Dance Festival. Carnivalofstars.com Check out our web site for a list of All Dancers and Free dance Classes on Sat & Sunday. All Specialty Dance Classes on thur and fri., Aug 4 & 5. 2011.
Ghawazee... is the Oldest Tribal Belly Dance. Dating back 350 years with documents....... We Love Belly Dancing! Please read the artle on bottom left, "About the Ghawazee Dance Tradition."
Hello: To all you Underground People & Carnival of Stars Nation.
This is just for those of you that are interested in the underground, Jokes, & Fun Stuff.
First and foremost here is the News from Belly Dance Comics. Alexandria is going to come out with the 2nd Belly Dance Comic. The famous MARK BODE is doing the COVER.....WOW.. are we happy. Look for His New Movie "COBALT 60" Directed by Zack Snyder in about 2 years. This is a big scoop..
Also we will be featuring HAL ROBINS again, one of the most famous UnderGround Cartoonist in the World.
WOODROW PHOENIX very famous Cartoonist from London, England will show you his unique & dry wit.
We are going to feature some New Up Coming Artist as well. And the continued adventures of our friendly Space Alien CloneNo.
CRAZY CARD CLUB...Trish StJohn & Pepper have started a new card club. We are playing all sorts of card games once a Month. It is a blast ! Drinking Champagne and eating Chocolate Cake.
Pepper Alexandria is Lucky enough to be in JOHN STANLEY New Movie " I was a Horror Show Host". JOHN was the Horror Show Host on channel 2 for many years Most of you recall CREATURE FEATURES.
Pepper got her picture taken with Cheech Wizard & MARK HAMILL from STAR WARS at WonderCon. It turns out Luke is a fan of CHEECH WIZARD and I am a big fan of Mark Hamill, (we loves him we do) we ran into him on the side walk and he knew Cheech Wizard.