I was a member of Awalim Dance Company from 2009-2013 and helped found the Awalim Apprenticeship program (Banat Almeh) with Director Ziah Ali. Once I amicably left the company for personal reasons, I still intended to teach classes and perform with my students. I planned to continue producing shows with Ziah, host my own shows and take part in various other performances in Metro Atlanta.
From Banat Nawal to Almeh to Nawal
Just before founding the Apprenticeship program, my student troupe was called Banat Nawal – which translates to “daughters of Nawal”. They were absorbed into Banat Almeh for any co-produced shows featuring students of Ziah’s and mine.
Now that I have separated from Awalim, I will resurrect Banat Nawal as the name of my student troupe. Students are still encouraged to continue their participation with the Banat Almeh Apprentices. This troupe will consist of any current student who regularly attends class, rehearsals and performs in a show with their classmates. This troupe is intended to promote camaraderie in a supportive environment.
Taking it to the “HNL”
I am ever inspired to improve my performance skills, by taking workshops, exploring new styles, and researching the legends. I have a philosophy that’s based on the recurring skit from Mad TV performed by comedian Keegan-Michael Key who portrays an enthusiastic delivery man who subjects celebrities to an unscheduled interview and frequently uses the term “taking it to the HNL” an acronym for his catchphrase “whole ‘nuther level” that expresses admiration for his guest’s accomplishments.
I wanted to find ways to reward my students with a job well done, provide more performance opportunities and creative outlets. Just having a student troupe did not seem sufficient to achieve this so I decided to form a troupe for advanced students to take them to a “whole ‘nuther level”.
What’s in a name?
My former official advanced troupe was Sawwah Dance Ensemble – members included talented dancer Gina Weatherman, Amira (KC Nelson), Yasmina (Ginny King) and special guest Amani Jabril. But I didn’t feel very empowered to use the name again – it meant something different to me at the time and I feel some things need to remain a memory. I tried to come up with another ‘original’ name. I got some suggestions from students. Still not inspired. Then I remembered a troupe of cute girls taught by someone I really admire and how she would proudly introduce them at shows.
Alima, who “has established a reputation for vivacious solo performances in workshops, ethnic festivals, civic and charity events since 1978”, was the director of that troupe. I met her years ago when I was just a budding performer and immediately fell in love with her genuinely warm southern charm. She is an impeccable performer and I was always enthralled by her confidence, passion and sense of humor onstage. She had a small group of lovely students at that time who performed under the name “Mumtaz” which translates to “the distinguished” or “excellent” in Arabic. I loved that name!
Now years later, finding myself without a name for this fresh new troupe, I contacted her on Facebook – I knew it had been a while since she had the troupe named Mumtaz so I thought – “maybe she wouldn’t mind if…”.
Thanks to Alima my new advanced troupe has a name! Troupe Mumtaz!
Please look for upcoming shows featuring Banat Nawal and Troupe Mumtaz! I am very excited about going on a new adventure with my students, taking them to the “HNL” all while growing strong bonds of friendship in dance.