If you don't know, "hafla" is the Arabic word for "party," and last night Nazeem Allayl Studio held a hafla to celebrate their eleventh anniversary. When they have a hafla, it's for students and their guests; any student who wants to perform can sign up for a slot or two and do a dance for everyone. 

As soon as I found out about the hafla, I asked my "dance sister" Mary if she wanted to do Haya Gat Alaya with me. Haya is special for both of us — it was the first choreography class we both took, and it's still probably our favorite. We were just finishing up the class for the second time so it was good and solid and fresh in our minds. Then, after the Studio Show last month, Sabeeya and Schadia, our teacher & the studio director respectively, said our show group should do Vele Ya Vele again for the hafla. Well, it turned out that Deb was going out of town, but the rest of the group was game. Unfortunately, Amanda, Deb's "mirror" in the Saturday night group, couldn't make the hafla either, and Lisa came down sick on the day of the party. That left Mary, Trinna, and me, but we all said "what the hell, we're doing it for fun and we can improvise as needed."

So the three of us simplified our show costumes by swapping the coin bras for black camisoles (seeing that coin bras are uncomfortable as hell and a bugger to get into/out of), got minimally fake-tanned and moderately made-up, tossed our caftans on, picked up our pillows and snacks, I grabbed Gary & Mary grabbed her girls, and headed over. We found places on the floor by the side of the stage, got comfortable, and pow-wowed to make sure we were on the same page. 

Since we only found out that Lisa was sick while we were in line to get in the door, we could have panicked. But we didn't, and I am proud of us for not doing so. We knew we would just have to improvise the formations for Vele, but we figured we could carry it off. Besides, if we screwed up, who would know except us, plus Schadia and Sabeeya, and they would understand. 

The three of us were fifth up to do Vele Ya Vele, and after a couple of nervous moments when the CD Mary had burned wouldn't play, we heard the first notes and bounced out onto the floor. About halfway through the joy of dancing just kind of hit me, and even though I was still fiercely concentrating and hoping my shoes wouldn't slip out from under me, I carried on through the dance with a big grin on my face. Yeah, we all had to do a couple of quick shifts here and there to adjust the formations, but I thought we carried it off pretty damn well.

Of course everybody clapped through the dance, and applauded loudly afterward as we slipped off stage and to the back room to retrieve our caftans and congratulate ourselves. On our way back out, we cornered Sabeeya to ask if it had looked okay even with the missing people — she was astonished that we hadn't practiced since the show and had improvised to compensate for missing Lisa and Deb.

Sooner than I expected, Nazeem called Mary and me to get ready for our second dance. In the back room, we ran through it ONE time without music to confirm what we needed to be doing, since we had never had the chance to practice it together. This time I almost forgot to take my glasses off — luckily I remembered at the last minute, yanked them off, and tucked them beside Moira's elbow! This time the music carried both of us away almost immediately. I knew I was a bit sloppy, but I didn't care — I was DANCING!!! We were the second of three groups dancing Haya Gat Alaya, and we were the ones that did the straight choreography, no changes or adaptations since we had had NO time the past few weeks between Mary's new job and my crazy overscheduling. But we were rocking it, and all too soon we strolled off as the music faded.

Once Mary and I got back to the room, we high-fived and then exuberantly hugged and even got a little teary-eyed (bad when you aren't wearing waterproof makeup, mind you). I think Mary felt, and I know that I felt, that this had been one of the best brief moments of our lives, dancing together in our favorite choreography. 

Now we could relax and enjoy the remaining dances. I had never gotten to see Sabeeya perform live, only on tape, so I was in awe as I watched. Her dance to the TransSiberian Orchestra's rendition of Carol of the Bells just made my jaw drop, and her fire dance, well, what can I say besides WOW. Mahtaab doing a crazy energetic performance to Hakim & James Brown together was also amazing. Of course, the two of them are professionals, but still!

Finally Nazeem opened up the floor for everyone to freestyle, and we were the first students out there on the floor. The little girl, maybe four years old, who had been sitting next to us all night with her mother, in her little harem pants & hip scarf, came out onto the dance floor also but didn't seem to know quite what to do. So I took her in hand and danced with her, showed her a couple of moves, and then got Mary and Moira into a little circle dance with her. I think we made her night :-). When it was time to clear the floor & pack up, I told her I hoped to see her out there on the floor with us in ten or twelve years.

So we got a few quick photos of us, cleared up our stuff, thanked Schadia, and headed home. 


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