The Gilded Serpent presents...
Conversation with
Bert Belladine

by Lora Schoen
Krista Gettle

On a cold, sunny day in January we headed to the farm near Petaluma, California, with Drambuie and tape recorder in hand.  We wanted to interview the "Legendary Bert Balladine", a title the real man's modesty would detest.  But Bert is legendary and has been at the heart of bellydancing in our time.  Now semi-retired, Bert spends most of his time on the farm.  He is at once a private and an open-hearted man with eyes that sparkle with enough stories and insights to write ten books.  But those who know, don't tell - at least not very much very often.  So when Bert agreed to be interviewed, we came prepared to catch the stories that he would share.
A celebration prompted the occasion. A group of good friends and dancers were invited to a birthday party for Glenn, an ex-dancer, Bert's cousin and housemate.  Bert and Glenn opened their house in their usual fashion of informal formality.  Around the fireplace, in a living room decorated with antique tapestries, lamps and caged zebra finches, the group chatted as Glenn finished making the coffee and added the final touches to his homemade hazelnut-marzipan torte (which, if it were more widely known would also be legendary).  Bert took us on a tour of his small farm, which is home to many a happy and well-loved goat, sheep, rabbit, chicken, pigeon, dove, pheasant, goose, duck, wolf-dog and even barn owl.  Bert led us around in a heavy jacket, worn jeans and cowboy boots, looking as ruggedly handsome and stylish as ever. 
Back in the house, ready to sit down to the European-style "tea", I noticed that most of Bert's and Glenn's photographs on the walls are not of people, but of animals they have or have had.  Dogs, cats, horses, mules and fowl are lovingly framed in pictures revealing individual personalities.  I realized how special my hosts are as anyone who arrives at the farm is welcomed as the unique and dignified being that they are.
At this small, cozy birthday celebration, Bert shared some of his stories, perspectives and insights on life and cultures developed during a fascinating career as a dancer and entertainer. 
Hopefully, in a series of articles, we will be writing of our time in the home of Bert Balladine and sharing with you the stories he shared with us, from his friendships with the bellydancing greats of Egypt, such as Samia Gamal,Tahia Carioca and others, to the birth of belly dancing in San Francisco, Germany and Australia,  to the many priceless tales of a lifelong international traveler and performing artist.
We hope you will enjoy conversation with Bert Balladine as much as we did

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for More?
More from Zaharr
6-9-03 A New Series! Zaharr's Memoirs, Part 1- Washington D.C. and Part 2- New York to Berkeley by Zaharr Hayatti. I got really excited, and begged to be allowed to sign up. There was only silence from my family.

8-5-03 Kayla’s Travel Journal, The Prince Islands, Istanbul by Kayla Summers
One picture that caught my eye was that of a dark virgin, named Mirtidiotissa

7-27-03 Justine and Her Plant Visit Saqra's Annual Showcase by Justine
Standing in the door, clutching my plants, vendor fever struck.

7-24-03 1001 Nights Oslo Belly Dance Festival, The Show May 2 - 4, 2003 by Lunacia
The festival began with a show at Oslo Concert Hall, and this year's guest star was Lulu Sabongi from Brazil, who opened this year's show.

7-18-03 My Greek Transformation A Conservative Engineer meets the “Instigator of Revolutions” by Barbara Grant
Rhea displayed boundless energy, far beyond my own at the best of times. How would I be able to keep up with her?


 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines