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Dahlena

Dahlena: An American Classic

By Farida Gamal

Long before raks sharqi introduced me to Nagwa Fouad, Sohair Zeki, and Fifi Abdo, I learned about the American artist, Dahlena. When I began classes in Middle Eastern dance in 1976, her book, The Art of Belly Dancing, was my first instructor’s sole resource item. Dahlena was then, and is now, one of the first and foremost exponents of Middle Eastern dance in America. While her initial raks sharqi encounter was in Boston, not Cairo, and though she did not bring the dance to our shores, she was one of the artists instrumental in making it an American phenomenon. There were no Middle Eastern dance teachers or classes when Dahlena’s career started. The story of her life’s work, with its characteristic high standard of excellence, is intertwined with the story of the development of the dance itself in our country.

Dahlena, 1960. Photo: Justin Kerr

Dahlena studied classical ballet as a teenager in La Grande, Oregon. After high school graduation she moved to Boston to be near an older sister. Her first professional dance job was a Vegas-style production in 1959 in a plush Boston nightclub, where she first saw raks sharqi, then called Oriental dance.

Featured at the club was a Lebanese-Canadian dancer, Wanda, who had been tutored by “first generation dancers,” or native Middle Easterners. Fascinated by Wanda’s dancing, Dahlena studied closely and practiced the way she moved. “Wanda looked the part and was a powerful dancer…great to watch,” says Dahlena. This new dance’s perks impressed her, too. “The featured dancers were Middle Eastern dancers. They came to work late, left early, and made more money than those of us in the production show,” Dahlena remembers, “and we (production dancers) had to practice afternoons to change our numbers every two weeks.”

Responding to Dahlena’s obvious interest and numerous requests, coworkers volunteered to take her to an ethnic nightclub. During those visits, she observed Mediterranean patrons doing “home-style” dancing, including line dances. The ethnic community invited her to join in. “I would watch the native performers, and then went home and practiced for hours to mirror what I had seen.” It wasn’t long before she was hired for her first Middle Eastern dance job at Boston’s Club El Morocco in 1959, “only because I was young and cute,” according to Dahlena.

Ethnic clubs at that time usually hired four or five dancers and four or five musicians. The band sat on a tiered platform, and dancers sat with the drummers on the first level of the stage in cocktail dresses playing cymbals or tambourine. When it was their turn to perform, dancers would go off to change into bedlah sharkien (Oriental dance costume). She credits Armenian drummer Gary Alexander for teaching her Mediterranean music. But the ethnic community’s family dancing was Dahlena’s greatest training tool. Because there were no raks sharqi classes or schools at that time, she learned by watching and analyzing. Of course, her strong dance background was an asset. Although she has supplemented her training with more ballet, flamenco, Persian dance, Asian dance (with Kim Wong), and jazz, since that first nightclub job the focus of Dahlena’s career and study has been on Oriental dance.

In the early sixties performance venues for the “career” Middle Eastern dancer quickly broadened. Some of the Americans who knew about the Middle Eastern ethnic club scene were wealthy or had celebrity status, and the word spread. New York City was especially active, with most of the dancers of the time working through the same agencies. Oriental dancers were being featured in shows in the Latin Quarter in New York. A Turkish dancer, Najla Autes, headlined in the Broadway Show, Fanny. In New England, Oriental dancers were booked on a nightclub circuit with variety acts, and in Chicago tourists began frequenting Greek Town. Dahlena became a member of the American Guild of Variety Artists, and through several strong theatrical and nightclub agents began touring and honing her new craft, learning from each performance. Dance jobs took her across the United States, and she performed at variety clubs, large hotels, private parties, and production shows, as well as the ethnic clubs. Ethnic night clubs were prospering at that time, and Dahlena was hired in Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Chicago, Hollywood, and San Francisco. Sometimes she worked on smoky, “in-your-face” nightclub stages; at other times, she danced on elegant concert stages.

While on the variety club circuit, Dahlena performed almost nightly for about fifteen years. As difficult as it was, she now recognizes those times as her proving ground. With few Middle Eastern recordings, shows usually featured live music. The musicians were from an array of Middle Eastern countries, and the music was equally varied. She became familiar with songs, melodies and rhythms from around the world; learned about the customs, histories and spirit of the cultures the music represented; and built lasting friendships across the country.

“In many cities,” she adds, “the musicians and dancers would live in the same area. Night club people had their own culture. We worked together six to seven nights a week, and our families would visit during the day. After I had children, the musicians’ wives would often baby-sit for me.”

During her first year dancing professionally Dahlena met Eddie Kochak, beginning a friendship that continues today. Of Syrian descent, Eddie has strong ties to the Middle Eastern community, and has been a positive force for many dancers and musicians through the years. She performed with him at many ethnic events, the most memorable being a benefit sponsored by Danny Thomas at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn, New York with Egypt’s Jamal twins, Lyn and Lys.

Through her dance jobs she met many “first generation” dancers who greatly influenced her dance style. She worked closely with Princess Yasmena from Algeria and the Jamal twins in Chicago. She also watched and studied Syria’s Samia Nasser, Emar Gamil from Greece, and many Turkish dancers. “They were the only dancers who offered to show me dance movements,” says Dahlena. “Maybe three or four times at most, but whatever we learned back then, we made sure not to forget. Some dancers learned enough to get on stage and make money, and then didn’t bother to study more. I still study whenever I can, especially within the ethnic communities. I guess the Jamal twins most impressed me. Not only were they wonderful dancers, but they were elegant and well-mannered.” Enamored early on, Dahlena still enjoys learning dances from the people of the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa. “I love watching the women dance ‘home-style’,” she says. “The middle class people are often more expressive than the affluent. They seem to have more fun.”

Dahlena, International Conference on Middle Eastern Dance, Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa, CA, May 1997. Photo: Var Daghdevirian

Those pioneering days of Middle Eastern dance in America were not always smooth, and there were cross-cultural issues to deal with. Some Middle Eastern families would only invite a dancer to their homes if they believed that the dancer was not interested in marrying one of their sons, and did not want to be part of their family. Dahlena had to be very sensitive to this issue, and make sure that she behaved with decorum. For instance, if she worked in a place where there were young people her age around, she was told to stay away from their boys, and she was not allowed to eat with them.

Dahlena sometimes felt shunned by the cultures of both the Middle East and America. Americans did not always know what to make of this foreign dance form. For example, some years later a doctor who was treating her three-year-old son told her that her son was well adjusted, but that she needed help. When she asked why, he said with negative emotion, “What makes you display yourself like that!” When her son was accepted into a special program for deaf children, the director of the program said, “Let’s not tell the other parents what you do.” The first time Dahlena tried to put an ad in an American newspaper for dance classes, the Chicago Tribune refused because they felt that it was indecent.

The night club scene also presented challenges because of the type of clientele the night life attracted, and it was easy for dancers to become involved in destructive life-style if they were not careful. “In some clubs we were not allowed to sit with customers. In other clubs it was a requirement to sit with customers to work there. You learn quickly which clubs to avoid.”

Dahlena has preferred to maintain as much independence as possible in choosing her performance venues. Early in her career, in 1962, she had an opportunity to be successful on the production show circuit, but opted instead to start touring on her own. “I was offered a spot as the featured (Middle Eastern) dancer with Barry Ashton Productions. He had shows in Las Vegas, Reno, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Florida, and different places in the Caribbean Islands. His shows rotated every six months. At the time I was tired and wanted my personal freedom. I had spent time in production shows; there was no flexibility in schedules. I didn’t take the job, but I sometimes wonder how different my life might have been, if I had.” Instead Dahlena went to Hollywood to dance at the Torch Room and the Greek Village.

In the early days Dahlena danced mostly extemporaneously, but in 1963 she had her first opportunity to teach and choreograph for others in a Las Vegas production show at the Flamingo. She later moved over to the Sands in Las Vegas where she performed in the fast-paced and exciting shows of internationally renowned musician Ya Cubian.

It was in Las Vegas in the sixties that she first worked with oud player Dr. Najib Khoury and dancer Antoinette Awayshak (See Habibi, Vol. 13, No. 3). They worked together again in San Francisco at the famous Baghdad. Dahlena also worked with another dancer at the Baghdad, and earlier at 12 Adler, who would later help solidify Middle Eastern dance in America, Jamila Salimpour (See Habibi, Vol. 13, No. 4, and Vol. 17, No. 3). Andre Khoury, the son of Dr. Najib Khoury and Antoinette (Awayshak) Khoury Smit, is now husband to Jamila’s daughter, Suhaila Salimpour-Khoury.

In 1964, while working in a variety production at Sacramento, California’s Club Cleopatra, Dahlena would meet another dance pioneer, Robert Ibrahim Farrah (see Habibi, Vol. 17, No. 1, and Vol. 13, No. 2). “We did a fancy ‘home-style’ dance together, and the owner liked it, so he hired Bobby to dance in the show with me. We would often go down to the club in the daytime and practice our routine, sharing what we had learned,” says Dahlena. “We stayed at Club Cleopatra a couple of months and then went to Oregon and worked a while, later returning to San Francisco.” This first brief collaboration ended when Dahlena stayed in San Francisco to work at GiGi’s while Bobby went to Los Angeles to partner another dancer. The close friendship they had begun endured until Bobby’s passing in February 1998.

Dahlena, who had married in 1962, moved to Chicago and settled down with her two children in 1965. She began a project to carefully break down and document the “first generation” movements she had learned and incorporated into her dancing. Later, in 1975, Bantam Books published the results of her documentation, The Art of Belly Dancing, coauthored with Dona Z. Meilach. The book was dedicated to her proudest accomplishments, her children, Angela and Joseph. Today, many teachers still use Dahlena’s research as the backbone of their Middle Eastern dance classes.

Dahlena began coaching locally using the method of teaching she had developed. At first she was reluctant to teach because like many other career dancers of the time she felt uncomfortable around what they called the “daytime people”. Initially she taught for other dance studio owners, opening her own studio in 1974. Those early classes were on the North Shore and Lake Shore Drive, affluent areas of Chicago. Dahlena believes that it was the influence of these students, women of position and means, that allowed the dance to gain respectability. This also happened concurrently in other cities; in New York Doris Duke had a large influence on the development of the dance there. Dahlena performed for the high society parties of these “legitimate ladies”, and developed deep and long-lasting friendships with many of them. After an article on Middle Eastern dance was featured in the North Shore paper, Dahlena decided it was time to try again to place an ad in the Chicago Tribune for classes. She got the same “indecent” response until she invited them to look at the feature article. The eventual thawing of the social climate was demonstrated years later when she was featured, with large photos, in the women’s section of the Chicago Tribune.

The “bellydance craze” of the late seventies was just beginning when Dahlena’s book was first introduced. Dahlena was one of the first instructors to reap the rewards of the new popularity of the weekend dance seminar format, originally introduced to the Middle Eastern dance scene by Dr. Paul Monty. She was constantly contracted to teach, with one to two hundred dancers attending workshops, and weekly class attendance sometimes exceeding one hundred. She also had several teaching and performing opportunities with onetime partner Ibrahim Farrah. In 1974, Dahlena met Ali Hamidzadeh of Turquoise International, who sponsored many workshops for her and her dance company, including one of the first workshops in Germany on a military base in Weisbaden in 1982, co-sponsored by Roshan.

Ibrahim “Bobby” Farrah and Dahlena after Paul Monty Concert and workshop, New York City, 1977.

It was at one such seminar in Atlanta in 1977 that I first saw this petite dance master. Sponsored by Kalila’s Festival of Oriental Dance, more than one hundred dancers attended the event. Dahlena was, as she is today, an energetic and enthusiastic instructor, constantly leaping from the two-foot teaching stage, and running to some corner of the room to demonstrate or guide the students through the movements. For many, this was very different from the hobbyist instructor they had at home, and their first encounter with a career dancer. While her classroom critiques that day were constructive and kind, several of us who attended that workshop today still laugh at how hard we worked to avoid her spotlight. That Atlanta weekend was the first chance for many southeastern dancers to see a concert performance of Middle Eastern dance. It including wonderful live music and Dahlena’s Chicago troupe, Dahlena and Company.

Since that time, Dahlena has taught in over twenty states, in Canada and Germany. Not only does she teach weekend seminars, but also annually hosts a week long intensive class in Chicago, and recently produced a similar event in San Francisco. She sponsored many events in her Chicago studios. “I don’t know if I was really a workshop sponsor,” says Dahlena, “but I would arrange classes for Bobby when he came to Chicago, or when he came to California when I was living there. I once made the same arrangements when Jamila and Suhaila came through Chicago on their way to New York.” She frequently brought in folk instructors from other genres, such as Russian and Turkish, for her troupe to study.

During the seventies and eighties, she produced two record albums of Middle Eastern music, Dahlena’s Middle Eastern Music for Belly Dancing, Volumes 1 and 2. Her troupe of Chicago-based dancers performed to the praise of audiences across the country. The Field Museum of Natural History hired them to open Chicago’s “Treasures of Tutankamun” exhibit. Many visiting dignitaries, including Egypt’s Ambassador to the United States, attended the gala affair. A thank you letter from Museum Board Directors stated: “Everyone from Ambassador Ghorbal on down exclaimed over the color and excitement of it all. The ambassador recognized and commented on the authenticity of the dances, the beauty of the dancers…and my phone has been ringing all day with people congratulating us on the elegance of our entertainment.”

Dahlena has subsequently directed other Chicago troupes, and one Las Vegas ensemble. “A few Chicago dancers have managed to stay together. When I return for visits, we still perform for the Middle Eastern community,” she said.

Dahlena introduced Oriental dance to several educational institutions, including Chicago’s Urban Gateways Center for Arts, Illinois University campus at Rockford, and Northern Illinois’ DeKalb campus, where she taught an accredited course for the dance department. Sometimes these introductions had to overcome some initial resistance. One performance in a festival setting at the Rockford campus included mostly modern and ballet companies, with only one other ethnic troupe, an African dance group, being invited. Dahlena remembers that their dressing room greeting included “a chill that only ballerinas can give.” However, the audience warmed once Dahlena’s dancers were on stage, standing, waving, and shouting encouragement. “At first I was embarrassed,” said Dahlena. “I thought these people must be family and friends of local dancers, but they weren’t. The crowd loved our show. Afterwards, the other dance companies were all over our troupe with hugs and congratulations.”

Her audiences over the years have included blue collar, blue blood, and many between. When she was working in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, stage and television entertainers and other celebrities would often attend Dahlena’s shows. She remembers visits from the cast of M.A.S.H., George Burns and Danny Thomas. Dahlena herself worked in a few movies, but she modestly downplays the experience: “Oh, some kind of voodoo movie and a couple of others not worth talking about.”

In 1982, Dahlena worked in the Los Angeles area at the Cascades for Lou Shelby, and opened Byblos. Beginning in 1983, Dahlena lived and performed overseas. She was contracted for six months in France, in Paris and Cannes, six months in Syria and six months in Iraq. In Baghdad, Iraq, she was the first dancer hired at the famous Rashid Hotel, and also performed at the Baghdad Casino. Her show at the Rashid was at 10:30, and the Casino show began at midnight, so she had to rush back and forth in a car provided by the Rashid. She was the only dancer at the Rashid, but the Casino show included three dancers, a singer and Egyptian musicians. The Arab show was preceded by variety acts from Europe and Korea called balletos (small Las Vegas-style groups).

In Iraq she performed for many local Iraqi events, including an outdoor performance for Iraqi dignitaries and ambassadors from several foreign countries. “I was always nervous about publicly announcing that I was an American. However, most employers wanted people to know that they had an American working for them. Sometimes I asked them not to introduce me as such, but they did anyway. Surprisingly, during the first part of my dance, audience members sent their children to the stage to give me flowers from their tables. After my performance, as I left the arena, people would stand at their tables, wave and yell ‘Welcome’ to their country.” This kind of warm reception was typical of all of her Iraqi and Syrian engagements, and although she was lonely at times, she says, “It was a happy, most inspiring experience.”

In the Middle East Dahlena experienced many of the same challenges she had faced in American clubs, but they differed in how they dealt with the relationship between the dancer and the public. There were family clubs where men could not come without female family members accompanying them. However, the “cabaret” was for men only. Some clubs did not allow the dancers to sit with customers, and the dancer was called the “attraction” artist. In Iraq, there was the attraction artist, as well as those dancers who were expected to sit with the customers, a practice the establishment called “consummation.”

In Syria, there were also strong codes of decency. An English singer at the Aleppo Omaiyad Hotel who had been there for some time warned Dahlena not to hang her “knickers” on the clothesline, as it was against the law. At the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, dancers were not allowed to be seen in the show room, only on the stage. Club owners in Syria were vigilant about the activities of dancers. Employees in the hotel coffee shop and music shop would report what the dancers did during the day to the maitre de of the family club where Dahlena worked, and he would report to the owner. The dancers affectionately nicknamed the maitre de 007.

After dancing in Irag, and before returning to the States, Dahlena stopped in Egypt for a month to observe and study the dance there. She returned to Egypt later leading group tours.

Dahlena is now based in Berkeley, California, and continues to dance, choreograph, teach, research, write, produce audio and video recordings, and mentor. Her recent projects have included Sohair Zaki Live, a recording of music used during Sohair Zaki’s 1981 Versailles Nightclub show. She has produced at least six instructional videos, including Dahlena’s Video Class, Volumes 1 and 2; Dahlena’s Choreography (dances used in one of her Las Vegas shows); and Dahlena’s Choreography to Habibi Ya Nour el Ain (Amr Diab’s recent hit). She is the featured instructor on musician Var Daghdevirian’s video class, Dahlena’s “Turkish Cabaret Style Karshilama”, and Turquoise International’s new American Dancer series, Dahlena, Volume I – Stylings for an Opening Number, which also features Dahlena’s daughter, Angelina. Angelina, a Chicago artist, does ensemble dancing. “She is good enough to solo,” Dahlena adds, “but (up until now) she prefers the group dances.”

In 1982, the American Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (AAMED) recognized Dahlena’s pioneering accomplishments and named her as one of the first inductees to their Hall of Fame. Yet, Dahlena has many goals for the future. “Before I retire, I want to place on videotape as much material as possible: ensemble choreographies, regional dances, debkes, Khaleegy dance, traditional Oriental choreographies and fantasy routines.” She would like to describe and document the music and dance world of the 1960’s, when there were many more dance opportunities for the professional dancer. “There is nothing like that today…In the 1960’s, there were many clubs, ethnic clubs and variety clubs, where dancers could work. Most places had four or five dancers. Others had at least two performers, and there were many party performances. And our pay was better then. I made much more dancing than I could have otherwise, and I could be home for my children during the days.”

Another change Dahlena regrets is that with the loss of many ethnic clubs and a large migration of this dance from cabaret to concert stage, many dancers have separated from the ethnic communities, a relationship that she found especially informative and rewarding. “When I choreograph, I have the Middle Eastern people in mind. I want them to be pleased with my interpretations. I want dancers to see that it is possible to have control over movement, and to effectively use that movement to express Middle Eastern music. It is great to watch a work come to life.”

One of Dahlena’s greatest joys has been that ethnic communities and cultural arts people have supported her shows, her ensemble choreographies, and her solo work. I have seen Arabs thank Dahlena for the way she presents their music and dance. During a performance here in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, the audience included not only local Arabs, but also a group of visiting Middle Eastern military exchange personnel. They were especially appreciative and expressive about her show. They cheered, played tempos on tabletops, and saluted her with rhythmic hand clapping during her pauses. The performances she finds most enjoyable are still those for the Middle Eastern community.

Years of training and her sensitivity to the music have made her a favorite among musicians. She is a perfect show person—always poised and professional. A recent California show review noted the band’s “total lack of concern” for most performers, specifically through false starts, apparent willful omissions of musical segments, and obvious miscues. However, the review reported a different reception for Dahlena. The musicians did not want Dahlena’s show to end. “They played the ending of her baladi over at least four or five times…Dahlena took their complement with the finesse of a complete professional, slightly exaggerating her ending pose each time, as if to say, ‘You’re playing this again? I think I’ll swoon.’”1

If you ask Dahlena which music most inspires her, she says, “I like different types of Middle Eastern music, for different reasons. When I hear the old style, the mixed music from the sixties—Turkish, Armenian, Persian, Syrian, Egyptian—it definitely has a powerful effect. There always seems to be a magical feeling to that music. I like vocals and taxim baladis, and some of the modern pop music from Egypt. There have been many excellent musicians I have enjoyed working with. One of them is oud player Walid Habib.” Dahlena worked with Mr. Habibi in nightclubs, and her first album features his work.

She fondly recalls her dance experiences, and when asked about her most memorable ones, finds it hard to pinpoint just one event. “I don’t think of only one outstanding memory. Rather, I have an abstract feeling of lots of things blending. There is a special, magical feeling you get when music, musician, dancer, and audience are in harmony. Sometimes, it just all comes together and it feels great!”

I have attended several of Dahlena’s classes, and have found that she has an excellent ear for rhythm, and evenly stresses technique, character and musicality. She can be an exacting instructor, but at the same time is equally patient and encouraging. She takes her art seriously, and expects that students want to do the same. She regrets that some students today seem reluctant to be corrected, a situation that always surprises her, and an attitude she has rarely seen in her own dance studies.

While often reserved and shy offstage, Dahlena is passionate about raks sharqi, and feels that it is her job to convey the technical basics and spirit of this dance. Dahlena’s enthusiasm for, love of, and commitment to this genre are always apparent. During her workshops she becomes totally involved in the music and the students. She often has to be reminded of class breaks and admits she sometimes has to work to “pace her seminars”.

Dahlena’s classroom approach stresses using energy from the floor, pushing it through the body’s center and to the isolated body area expressing the music. It is a concept that adds flow to her dancing. She initiates movement with muscle control, rather than motion from within body joints, and is specific about timing and weight changes—again elements contributing liquidity to her movements. Dahlena is a sensuous dancer without being overtly sexual, and she has some of the most graceful, feminine arm movements and framing I have seen.

Praise for Dahlena from the dance community is effusive. Rhea Likouri of Athens, Greece, another dance pioneer, refers to Dahlena as “the consummate dancer, the perfect-to-the-last-detail princess of poise and mistress of queenly regality…proud and elegant.”2 Alabama dancer Safiye commented on her first experience watching Dahlena dance: “Dahlena’s performance was fantastic and the audience could see why she is considered ‘legendary’. You can tell you’re watching a fabulous dancer when your attention is strictly on the performer. Her transitions are so smooth and seamless that you are left wondering how she got from point A to point B.”3

Kansas performer/instructor Zada al Gaziyeh comments, “Dahlena’s technique is impeccable. What is more amazing is that her movements are precise without being mechanical. There is still the necessary softness that makes the movements feminine.” She also venerates Dahlena’s longevity in the dance. “Given the American propensity for youth, it is wonderful to see her in concert with other dancers and chosen as the best, the hottest,” said Zada. Egypt’s Raqia Hassan said, “She is fantastic. If beginners could see Dahlena dancing, then they would understand Arabic dance.”4

Although one of only a handful of professional dancers who established raks sharqi in America, and one of very few pioneers still performing, Dahlena may not always be the first name dancers hear in their dance study. Unfortunately, artistic contributions are sometimes not as widely recognized as they should be, and Dahlena is modest to a fault, rarely producing or disseminating promotional material. I have seen her scan her show introductions to make sure they were “not too flowery”, requesting “just the facts”. It seems her joy comes not from self-serving promotion, but from research, teaching and dancing. She still maintains a consistent, strict regime of diet, exercise, practice and study, and continually works to uplift this art.

Dahlena’s talent and hard work have helped set the standard and guide this dance form for more than thirty-six years. Raks sharqi has been her constant companion since that first job at Club El Morocco, and although the trail has not always been easy for this pioneer, her talents have weathered the tides of change. Thankfully for us, her role as a pathfinder continues.

Footnotes

1. Betsey Flood, “A Valentine Hafla for Raqia,” Habibi, Vol. 15, No. 2, p. 57.

2. Rhea Likouri, “Dahlena in San Francisco”, Habibi, Vol. 15, No. 3, p. 75.

3. Sallye Elliott, “Dahlena’s Workshop in Memphis”, Beledi Club Newsletter, Huntsville, Alabama, October 1998, p. 4.

4. Ibid, Betsey Flood.

Since her 1976 introduction to Middle Eastern Dance, by Jülena (Dunedin, FL), Farida Gamal has spent 23 years studying the music, dance and peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, with independent travel through Tunisia. She is a staff writer for Caravan Magazine, and has contributed to several other publications, including Washington, D.C.’s journal of Middle Eastern culture and politics, The Return.

Farida is a Charter Member of Huntsville’s Beledi Club and currently serves as Director of Farida Productions, which produces seminars, shows, and other cultural exchanges across North Alabama and Tennessee. Among the many artists Farida has sponsored are Ibrahim Farrah, Dahlena, Elena Lentini, Cassandra, Shahrezad Javaheri, Bert Balladine, Ibrahim Turmen, Mohammed Khalil and members of Egypt’s National Folkloric Troupe.

Farida resides in Huntsville, AL with her six-year-old son, Sami. She spends her time researching Middle Eastern culture and occasionally offering computer software applications instruction. She holds a B.S.B.A. from the University of Alabama, with special emphasis in Journalism and Communications.  faridagamal@aol.com

Copyright © Habibi Publications 1992-2002, Shareen El Safy, Publisher.

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