The 1st annual Heart of America Belly Dance Festival, June 27 & 28, 2015, featured Luna of Cairo. Everyone loved her. She taught Egyptian technique, entrance choreography, Shaabi, and Classic song choreography.
Luna wrote an lovely testimonial about our festival that we are proud to share.
They say home is where the heart is. And right now my heart is in Kansas City at the Heart Of America Belly Dance festival. I have plenty to say and many to thank, but first I have to admit that I’m overwhelmed with emotion. I’m filled with gratitude, admiration, respect, and LOVE for the organizers of this beautiful event. So much so that it brought tears to my eyes, and to the eyes of many others who participated in whatever capacity. Theresa Maze, Ed D Dras, Anca Geana, Mugur Geana, I’m so proud of you for creating this festival…for making your first event so huge and flawless, yet so intimate and thoughtful. I’m truly in awe, though I really shouldn’t be because I already know that excellence runs through your veins. Your passion for this art form, and the love you have in your hearts shined through every aspect of this festival, from your meticulous organization, stellar promotional efforts, thoughtful and creative gift bags, honoring the women who have kept belly dance alive in Kansas City, to the way you treated everyone with kindness. I have never been more proud to be part of a dance event–one in which you made everyone feel like family. So thank you for everything you did over the past year to make this dream come true. And thank you for inviting me to be a part of this. You could have chosen anyone else, and I’m honored that it was me.
Big thank you to everyone who contributed their time to make things run smoothly. Especially to Ahmed Hussien who generously agreed to host this event at his first class ballroom studio and theater. This location was critical to making this event prestigious and super classy. As he himself is. It was an honor to meet this man. Ahmed is the definition of suave– classy, refined, funny, talented, and handsome. A true gem in our community. And one heck of an emcee!
Thank you to Simon Sarkis for joining us from Houston to grace us with his presence. He graciously agreed to perform in the gala despite having sustained an injury to his foot the previous day while rehearsing. And his Oriental performance was nothing short of stellar. It’s not too often that I clique with people I just meet, but that’s exactly what happened with Simon. He radiates positivity, and is so much fun to be around. Thanks for all the laughs and the love.
Thank you to Kim Wegner-Cahill for your sponsorship of this festival. And for your enthusiasm. I’m really glad I got to collaborate with such beautiful and inspiring women. Thank you to Dahlal Internationale and Andrea Menning of Nene’s Imports for vending your beautiful costumes and for your support. To Anya for being the best stage manager ever. I was an absolute wreck before going on stage– 3 times!! And each time Anya worked her magic to calm me down. I couldn’t have pulled it off without her talking to me, comforting me, distracting me, and literally pushing me out from behind the curtains when my music started! To Dawn Sutterby Kiu and Terry Kiu, for attending to me throughout the weekend– driving me back and forth from the hotel to the studio, bringing me food, lending me makeup when I temporarily lost my makeup stash, and most of all, making me laugh! The two of you are such a delight to be around. I’m going to miss you. And you know that if you’re ever in my neck of the woods, you have a home.
To the gorgeous dancers who came from all over the country — Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, California, New York, Texas, Illinois, Florida, and from Mexico– thank you. This could not have happened without your support and your believing in us. It was an honor teaching you and watching you dance. Thank you for being eager to learn, and for putting up with me in four workshops that were sheer torture from my end! And thank you for the birthday gifts!! I hope you enjoyed yourselves and came away with a deeper knowledge of Egyptian dance and culture. Congratulations to Nathalie Dance, Bella Choi, and Kenya Calixte for placing in the competition, and to all of the dancers who fearlessly put themselves through such a nerve wracking experience. I admire your bravery, confidence, and willingness to put your egos on the line in exchange for constructive criticism.
And big thanks to my mom for coming along with me on this trip to see ‘what I do.’ She helped me carry my huge bags, sell costumes, get dressed, and all that good stuff that moms do.
Ok, now that I’ve finished my thank yous, I’m going to continue rambling to explain just how amazing this festival was. First of all, the Embassy Suites hotel was the perfect location. The suites were like small apartments, fully equipped with a kitchen, wifi, two plasma TVs, and a king sized bed. And the continental breakfast buffet was great. Ahmed’s Teah Ballroom is tremendous, clean, beautiful, well-lit, and simply glamorous. And it has a kitchen, so the HOA team was able to cater the workshops on both days! Then, the Red Carpet party was truly sensational, of course. It included a catered Mediterranean buffet, drinks, and live musical entertainment. And everyone was dressed to the tee.
Then the gala started, featuring dancers from all over the country and Mexico, and a huge audience of dancers and non-dancers alike. All of the performances were high energy, creative, and well thought-out. That probably explains why I had a huge case of stage fright for the first time in years. YEARS! I’ve danced in front of all types of audiences, including big shots in the dance world, but never had I felt so scared to perform as I did that night, to the point of giving myself a pounding headache backstage. Strangely enough though, it worked out. Between my nerves and the audience that was out of control off the hook, I think I put on one of the best shows of my life. I cannot thank that audience enough for making sure I felt their love. Especially since it was my birthday.
Alright I’m done. It took me a while to find the right words for this, so thanks for reading. I encourage you to attend next year’s Heart of America Belly Dance Festival. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Of Cuban and Italian descent, Luna left her native New York City three years ago to write a book about dance in Egypt. Since then, she has become one of the most sought-after dancers in Cairo. Due to her authentic Egyptian style, technical precision and stage presence, Luna was contracted at the Semiramis Hotel in 2010. She is currently contracted at Le Memphis Nile Cruises, where she has daily performances. Luna also makes regular appearances at other 5-star venues such as the Semiramis, City Stars, the Ramsis Hilton, the Four Seasons, the Movenpick, Stella di Mare, and the Grand Hyatt. Additionally, she has been featured as a teaching assistant in the instructional DVDs of Raqia Hassan and Dalila.
In addition to her dancing, Luna holds a Masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University, where she studied radical Islamist movements in the Arab world. She is fluent in Egyptian Arabic, Spanish, and English, and holds a B.A. in journalism and political science.
Luna is currently the author of her new blog “Kisses from Kairo,” where she writes about her daily experiences as a foreign belly dancer in Cairo. You can keep up with her and her crazy life at at http://kissesfromkairo.blogspot.com