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Melissa Henige
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Friday, January 26, 2007

Annual Middle Eastern festival showcasing culture and artistic traditions to be Feb. 1-10

Jan. 26, 2007

Middle Eastern Festival image

Cairo native Mohamed Shahin will present the dances such as Tanoura, more commonly known as Whirling Dervish.

Print-Quality Photo

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- This year's Middle Eastern Arts Festival again will feature a vivid array of music and dance from the region, as well as exhibits, lectures by artists and scholars, and foods from the various countries. Most festival events, which run from Feb. 1 to Feb. 10, require no admission fee and all are open to the public .

Mohamed Shahin, an internationally-known performer, instructor and choreographer of Egyptian and Oriental folk dances is one of several artists scheduled to participate. Also, Cornell University scholar Buzz Spector, enthnomusicologist Irene Markoff, and award-winning painter Najjar Abdul Musawwir will give presentations.

The festival is a result of a collaboration by several IU faculty members who focus on the region, community members and the IU Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

"Diverse Faces and Places of Monroe," is the theme for this year's festival, which opens Feb. 1 with a reception at the Monroe County History Center, 202 E. Sixth St. Organizers are asking those who attend to submit photographs of community faces of Monroe County from the past. Photos will be preserved and archived. This free event is scheduled from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m.

An exhibit of books and manuscripts on Middle Eastern arts and culture also opens on Feb. 1 at the IU Fine Arts Library, 1133 E. Seventh St. A selection of artists' books from Spector, an artist and critical writer who also chairs the Department of Art at Cornell, will accompany this exhibition.

Iraqi music group Salaam will join Windfall Dancers, Bloomington's original contemporary dance ensemble, to kick off festival entertainment with Arabian Nights concerts, Feb. 2-3 and 9-10, in the auditorium of the John Waldron Arts Center, 122 S. Walnut St. The show will tell the age-old stories of Arabian Nights. Performances all four nights begin at 8 p.m. Tickets to Arabian Nights are $10 for the general public and $8 for students and seniors. They are available at the Windfall Dancers Studio, 1101 N. Dunn St., online at, by calling (812) 334-0506 or at the door.

Families will enjoy a special children's event Feb. 4 at the Monroe County Public Library, 303 East Kirkwood Ave. Swordsmen and stories from the Middle East will be the entertainment, along with Bloomington's Katya Faris and performer Shahin, who will present the dances of the Middle East.

A typical performance by Faris features various belly dance traditions such as Egyptian Raks Sharki, Turkish Orientale and American cabaret, complete with finger cymbals and veils. Her repertoire also includes folkloric styles such as Ghawazee, and Dunyavi-style gypsy dances, as well as Arabic cane and sword dancing.

Shahin studied with the famous El Kawmia Troup in Egypt and has been a dancer and choreographer for numerous television programs and movies. Highlights of his performances include the Tanoura, commonly known as Whirling Dervish for the spinning motion it emulates. The dance is a Sufi rite used to communicate with the Divine. The Sufis, who represent a spiritual offshoot of Islam, have performed the dance for centuries but generally it remains unheard of outside the Middle East.

Faris and Shahin also will hold a day of workshops Feb. 3 at the Dance Center, 223 S. Pete Ellis Dr., Bloomington. They will demonstrate and teach Melaya Leff, a dance from Alexandria, Egypt, in the morning, and Raqs Sharki, an Oriental belly dance, in the afternoon. Registration by Jan. 28 is recommended. Space is limited to 20 people per class. For more information, contact Faris at

Sulfi music and culture also are the focus of Markoff's appearance. From York University in Canada, she is a scholar of the musical theory, performance and professional baglama, or folk lute, specialists of Turkey. From 7-9 p.m., on Feb. 9, she will give a workshop, "The Challenges of Teaching Turkish Music in an Ensemble/Lecture Setting," at the Mathers Music of World Cultures, 416 N. Indiana Ave.

Markoff also will lecture on Sufi music and ritual in Turkey on Feb. 10 in the Faculty Room of the University Club, located in the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St. Performance will be integrated into the persentation, which will be from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. Her visit is sponsored by the American Turkish Society. Of Bulgarian heritage, Markoff directs York University's Balkan Ensemble. She has written and published various research about Bulgarian and Turkish traditional and popular music, and mystical Islam in Turkey.

Other festival events will include:

  • A screening of the Iranian film The Twilight at 7 p.m., Feb. 1, in Swain Hall East, room 140, 727 E. Third St. Directed by Mohammad Rasulof, the film presents an intense and stark portrait of life among the rural underclass and meditates on the meaning of freedom as petty criminal, Reza, is released from prison after serving half of his life there.
  • A Middle Eastern dinner at Café Ragazzi, 212 S. Rogers St., at 7 p.m., Feb. 4. Graduate student Ahmad Almallah and Café Ragazzi owner Tamya Dippolito will present the cuisine and history of Palestine. Reservations are required. Call 812-323-9005 for details.
  • Najjar Abdul Musawwir, assistant professor in the drawing, painting and core curriculum at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, will provide a painting demonstration and talk at Foster International Center, 1000 North Fee Lane. The event is sponsored by the Global Village Living-Learning Center. It will begin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 5.
  • Spector, an artist and critical writer whose art has been shown at museums and galleries such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, will give two lectures. He will speak at 6 p.m., Feb. 6, at the John Waldron Arts Center and at noon, Feb. 7, at the IU Art Museum, 1133 E. Seventh St., in front of the museum's Islamic arts collection.
  • Readings of Persian, Arabic and Hebraic poetry, from 4 to 9 p.m. Feb. 8 in the Faculty Room of the University Club.
  • Christiane Jacqueline Gruber, IU assistant professor of Islamic art; and graduate students Yasmine Gencer and Deborah Justice will present talks about Middle East art and architecture from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Lilly Library, 1200 E. Seventh St.

Information also is available online at