Thursday, November 12, 2015

Local Bellydancers Raising Money For Syrian Refugees

On Saturday, November 14, 2015, Eugene, Oregon will come to life with swirling silk veils, jingling finger cymbals, and the hypnotic drum beats of the Near East as our local bellydancers join a global effort to raise money for Syrian refugees. Denise Gilbertson of the band Americanistan is organizing this local event, which will be held at Celebration Studio, 1840 Willamette St., Eugene, and is open to the public. Tickets will be priced at suggested donation of $10 and are available at the door.

The event is part of a global initiative called “Global Hafla for Humanity.” Hafla means “party,” but the international bellydance community has used the word for decades to refer to informal performance events and student recitals. Bellydancers in more than 25 cities around the world will be holding events to raise money for the International Rescue Committee to benefit Syrian refugees.

Lauren “Zehara” Haas, the founder of Hafla for Humanity, says, “We may disagree about the best way to house and care for these refugees, but we can all agree that they need support wherever they are at the moment. The IRC is on the ground in Lesbos and other locations, meeting the refugees as they arrive with medical care, shelter, clean water, and psychological services. I think we’re all well-acquainted with the suffering of the refugees, and most of us feel powerless to help. Individually we may feel lost, but together we are powerful.”

Haas goes on to say, “It’s so difficult to describe what this dance does for those of us who get involved in it. So many women — and men — find self-expression, artistry, connection, emotional healing, and self-esteem through this dance form, and we owe a great debt to the people we’ve borrowed it from. I’ve been involved in the international bellydance community for 15 years, and, contrary to the stereotypes we sometimes face, these are the most intelligent, creative, powerful, compassionate people I’ve ever known. I knew that if we gathered together, we could make a difference. Right now, we have more than 25 events scheduled around the world, and it looks like we’re on track to raise more than the $10,000 I originally set as our goal.”

Local dance instructor and musician Denise Gilbertson agrees. “In the face of this humanitarian crisis, I felt helpless to do something. Global Hafla for Humanity offers a way to do what we love to do - play music and dance - while also raising funds to help refugees who are in terrible straits.”

Bellydance is much more than the naughty wiggling it’s often made out to be in movies and television shows. It is a complex dance form that is intricately tied to the music and portrays the full range of human emotions, from joy to heartbreak, with lots of playful humor mixed in. Culturally-minded bellydancers are also well-versed in the folk dances and musical traditions of Egypt and the Arab world, while tribal bellydancers (a form that developed in the United States) focus on empowerment and connections between dancers or on fusing Middle Eastern dance movements with elements from other world dances, including Western street styles like hip hop.

Some bellydancers are professional entertainers who dance in restaurants and onstage. Others are homemakers, professors, accountants, retail clerks, or veterinarians who love to explore their artistic side in their time off. Tarja Kaarina Halonen, former president of Finland, is a bellydancer. So is comedian and actress Margaret Cho. Come to Celebration Studio at 7-10pm on Saturday, November 14, 2015 to enjoy an evening of vibrant entertainment, get a peek into your local bellydance community, and support the IRC.

Two bands, Americanistan and Black Magdalene will provide the music for the evening. Dancers Mezdulene, Ramziyah, Amani, Meridian, Gwyn, Zahia Izzah, Jasel and Dunyah (Denise Gilbertson) will perform with Americanistan. Dancers Ruby McConnell, Lindy Comrada, and Regina Anne will perform with Black Magdalene.

For more information, contact
Dunyah, aka Denise Gilbertson
Director, Americanistan
Music Inspired by the Middle East

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