Is there something you’ve always wanted to ask Habeeba? Email your question (please put “Ask Habeeba” in the subject line), or ask your question on Facebook!
Q. How would you compare the workshops of the 70’sto the workshops of today? Compare in anyway you’d like. – Tamara J Bosley
A. Tamara, thank you for your question. In actuality they weren’t what you know now as seminars. Up until the 70’s no one took lessons. Instructors were created from performers of the 60’s such as myself who took the dance very seriously. What I mean is, it was not a hobby for us. It was our livelihood and still is for me today. The legendary Ibrahim Farrah began some of the first seminars. I sponsored him in Columbus in the mid-70’s. There were over 200 people who came to the show and 100 participants at the seminar. Musicians who were stars in that era such as Eddie Kochak and George Abdo would bring a fantastic Middle Eastern orchestra to these events. Usually only the sponsor and headliner would perform. Therefore to answer your question — very few seminars were in existence in the 70’s. When they were … they were larger with bigger names, bigger audiences and much more serious formats. Today you are all so lucky to have so much more to choose from. Best to you always Tamara, Habeeba.
Q. Habeeba, you are, of course, the person who has influenced my dancing the most. Who was the biggest influence in your dance development and style? -Nataj at Habeebas
A. Nataj, the dancers who may have influenced me unfortunately are no longer with us. My memories of so many wonderful Middle Eastern dancers I shared the stage with are special and a bit sorrowful that the dancers of today’s era never experienced them. Two dancers stand out more than some — one from Algeria named Yasmina and another from Morocco of Nubian descent named Badia. They were both very strong-willed women with very different styles. Yasmina excelled in the romantic rhythms of the purest Middle East music and the perfectly performed stomach undulations. Badia’s style was completely opposite — percussion sounds of Middle East music and her amazing hip techniques were incredible. Today my inspiration comes from my students which have crossed my path throughout the 40 years that I have taught this captivating dance. This, of course, includes you my dear Nataj. I hope this answers your question. Thanks, Habeeba.
Q. Habeeba — I would like to know who your favorite actor to work with was? What was your favorite performance/movie you worked on? How did you start bellydancing and why? — Lynne Hileman Leibrand
A. Lynn, thank you for your 3-part question. I will answer them one at a time. During my travels of 14 years as a professional dancer. I performed with a lot of celebrities, especially in Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra, Jr., Kris Kristofferson,Phyllis Diller, and so many more. In our bellydancing world Eddie Kochak and Geroge Abdo were the best. Locally you may remember Bob Braun, Phil Donahue, Nick Clooney (George’s dad!), Bob Marvin (who at times played Flippo the Clown). These individuals were all interesting and talented. I actually did do one of the 007 movies but my scenes were cut.
My favorite performances would be difficult to answer since I traveled so much (Hawaii, San Juan, Canada, etc.). Perhaps the casino hotel in Toronto, Canada where I worked with several other bellydancers, including Aset from Turkey. We were all treated like royalty — daily massages, rooftop sunbathing, etc. It was great fun!
The beginning was so long ago. It all began when I started thinking of saving money for college. Using my ethnic background in Middle East music and dance, as well as studying ballet and creative dance, I met a drummer, whom I later married. I struggled through teaching myself to perform. We then signed with an entertainment agency and went on the road. Looking back it was such a learning experience, some good and some bad. Thank you Lynne for the opportunity to respond, Habeeba. ♥
Q. Who inspired Habeeba to learn and then teach Oriental Dance? Who are some of her favorite dancers? – Amy Huffman McIntosh
A. Amy, thank you for the question. As I told Nataj, two dancers stand out more than some — one from Algeria named Yasmina and another from Morocco of Nubian descent named Badia. They were both very strong-willed women with very different styles. Yasmina excelled in the romantic rhythms of the purest Middle East music and the perfectly performed stomach undulations. Badia’s style was completely opposite — percussion sounds of Middle East music and her amazing hip techniques were incredible. Today, my inspiration comes from my students which have crossed my path throughout the 40 years that I have taught this captivating dance.
As for some of my favorite dancers this is not easy. The dancers I performed with years ago will always be my favorites. I learned so much from them and because they were primarily from Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, etc. they were pure in their ethnic styles of bellydancing. Today the American dancers have expanded out of this box of pure bellydancing and Middle East music. I say this not in judgement, but as a fact of evolution. Through my instruction of 40 years I’ve seen performers and instructors come and go. I’ve met lovely and highly professional dancers with positive attitudes with respect for one another and the beginnings of bellydance. These dancers would be included in my favorites. I have also met the complete opposite which are not among my favorites. Respect for the dance and it’s evolution remains very important to me. I feel some of today’s dancers are more involved in development of their personal fame rather than considering themselves sisters of the dance.
I hope this answers your question. If I haven’t please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thank you, Habeeba.
Q. What is your first memory of dancing? And imagine you could go back in time and talk to “1971 Habeeba,” just before you started the studio. Now that you’ve had 40 years of experience teaching and running a business, what advice would you give yourself? – Pam Frost Gorder
A: My first memory of dancing professionally was in 1960 in Detroit, Michigan at a very popular Mid East restaurant called Cedars of Lebanon. All the musicians and dancers were from the middle east and couldn’t speak much English. I worked with the greatest dancers that ever performed in this country and learned so much from them. However, they were not impressed with any American born person who tried to be part of their show, whether middle eastern heritage
or not. It was really tough and took a long time, humility and appreciation for them to accept me. But, they did and I will never forget their kindness and this experience. As for the second part of your question my advice to myself would probably be not to retire from performing so soon. However, I decided to sacrifice the performing career in order to make my studio and staff my priority and build my legacy. Thank you for your question.
Q. I have two questions for Habeeba. One day, I was blasting my ME music. My neighbor said she used to work in a hotel on Sinclair Rd off Morse & there would be a bellydancer there. Do you know of her, or was that you? Also, she said there was a woman teaching in the Town & Country Shopping Center on East Broad Street in Whitehall. Do you know her? I’m so into Columbus’s dance history. Thanks, Tamara
A. Yes, I remember the hotel and it was me. There are many photos in some of my personal albums of this time in the hotel. She is probably talking about what was then called the Carousel Inn. This was the hotel I sponsored the first seminar in Ohio with Ibrahim Farrah, myself and Eddie Kochek. In the same area, directly off I-71 there was a Ramada Inn where I performed with some of my students. As for the Town & Country instructor, I cannot answer who that may have been. Perhaps she is getting it mixed up with one of my studios which was located off I-70 East and Hamilton. Could she be talking about this location? It was close to Eastland. I also danced a demo at the lower level at Kahiki Restaurant across from Town & Country as well as the Playboy Club across from the Kahiki. Perhaps this is what your friend might be talking about. Hope this answers your question.
Q. I would love to know, during the height of your fame and Professional Career, what was a typical day like for you as a Professional dancer? I know it takes much work and dedication, but I want to know what a typical day was like, from when you got up to the end of the day. And, I wouldn’t mind hearing about some of your favorite performances! Thanks! – Elianae
A. Thank you for your question. Being a performer on the road for so many years was a difficult life. But, it kept me so busy I didn’t think about it. My agent was responsible to book me in appropriate clubs and restaurants. Most venues ran 6-7 days a week with 3 or 4 shows a night. Most bookings were minimum of 2 weeks with 1 week options. Rehearsals were usually during the day around 3 or 4pm and shows would start approximately 7 or 8pm. Entertainers would be expected to arrive an hour in advance of show time. After each night of performances everyone connected with the shows, musicians included, would go to breakfast about 2 to 3am. We finally would go to sleep around 5 or 6am.
By the time I woke up, 6 to 8 hours later, it was time to repair costumes, hair, grab dinner and go back to the club for rehearsal. If, perhaps a rehearsal was cancelled, there might have been time to take a walk. If I was lucky enough to be in a downtown hotel I could window shop. The clubs which ran 6 nights a week – club owners, local musicians and even patrons would invite me to their homes for dinner on this one day off. Or, if my contract was up I would use the day to drive to my next gig. As for some of my favorite performances, this is a tough question. I traveled so much I often could not remember which city I was in. Hawaii was a great place to perform, Toronto Canada was great and in St. Louis working with Phyllis Diller was unforgettable. And, of course, Las Vegas was one of the best, working with many celebrities. At a Holiday Inn Polynesian venue, I worked with Nataj when she was very young and another one of my students. I can’t remember where this was but what I do remember most is the restaurant had a huge stage and a very large artificial volcano which would erupt every half hour. Our dressing room was inside the volcano. What a hoot that was. Hope this answers your questions.