Serves Up a Mix of Dance Delights
and photos by Surreyya
bones gets you a great lesson, and the best local talent worth
In the heart
of Berkeley exists the historic community center that is Ashkenaz.
I arrived at 6:30pm to discover an informative dance lesson as
instructed by Amy
Luna Manderino, aka LUNA who teaches regular bellydance
classes at Ashkenaz. Anxious to snap shots of the diverse
audience, my attention was divided between lesson and coverage.
Call me out of the loop, but I’ve never been to or heard of this
event until very recently. With no pre-conceived notion
of Luna, Café Bellie, her skill as an instructor or dancer, I
was instantly impressed with the ease at which Luna guided the
group through traveling drills, eventually layering in other movements,
rolls, etc. Her hand and arm techniques were especially
languorous and women who admitted this was their first lesson
were quickly moving with newfound grace and poise. With
just enough time to browse between lesson and show,
pondered the latest costuming concepts of Tempest
and the gothic/progressive dance arena. Aruna
and Dhyanis had wonderful
wares on display as well as Desert Eyes.
7:30 pm, the room was packed and echoing with conversational ambience.
Luna welcomed the crowd and introduced the first dancer and explained
the nuances of the assuit
fabric used in her costume in an informative and unassuming way
as if you had no idea what assuit is but would not be offended
if you had collected it for years. This dialogue really
enticed a diverse audience and asserted credibility and individuality
to each dancer. As a performer who has been shuffled on
and off stages, rushed, delayed, talked down to, insulted and
had my name mispronounced every way to Sunday, I appreciated Luna’s
demeanor and giving respect, biography and calm to each dancer.
These little things matter a great deal to someone just about
to put their heart and skill on display.
Anar from Sunnyvale, who performed a tasteful
tribal dance in an assuit costume of her own design. Her
costume was lovely, and even though it added mystery I was disappointed
she chose to wear a face covering. I would have liked to at least
know the face with the name…bummer. Given that soloists
have 5 minutes and troupes have 9 minutes, the stage setup did
not allow many intimate options for a one on one connection. Second
was Desert Heat, a colorful troupe of men and women.
was simple yet graceful. It’s always a treat to see men
and women dancing together, like multiple strings on a lute, yet
all playing the same tune.
was full of energy and expression, something all too often lacking
from younger and up and coming dancers. More proof that
you don’t have to shake every last millimeter of your “como se
llama” to entertain.
was Sharifa of Richmond performing a Turkish
Rom piece with a strikingly beautiful and seemingly metallic red,
gold, green striped and vested folkloric ensemble, topped with
two red handkerchiefs which she fluttered and spun making wonderful
fiery patterns. Not that deeply familiar with Rom dancing,
I did come away wanting to know more. Luna explained how this
style of Turkish Rom dance lead to many contemporary forms we
we had Spice Rack, clad in red and black like the lovechild
of Jack White and Dita Von Teese or some disgruntled cheerleader
from a Nirvana video.
While I thought
this troupe was a bit racy for Ashkenaz or a family event, they
could easily secure roost at Benders in the Mission or
one of Madam Marachino’s events. I am curious to see
what they do in coming months once they refine their technique
and choreography a bit.
was Ariellah clad in an vast array of tribal
proper – coins, bangles and wired whatnot, but I must say this
performance instilled me with a new hope for all things tribal.
Ariellah has come a long way since the Gothic Belly dance DVD
(a closet Goth myself, the concept was arresting, but the overall
production fell way short of my expectations). Her costuming seemed
well planned for her body type and she didn’t look as though she
over-accessorized with every last bit of kuchi madness in her
more, her dance was not only arresting, but also fluidly interchanging
with the many different layers of sonic poetry she selected.
as ATS performers can be, I lately find little difference among
troupes, which leads to even less “oomph” in individual dancers,
hence, a lack of true character shining through. Often choreographies
aren’t working with the music, or there’s very little eye contact,
and almost a reliance on clever music to make up for lack of creativity
and ability. This is not the case with Ariellah. Stretching
every last musical note, and maybe even bend a few, her clever
punctuation of beats were subtle and less “pop and lock” than
I remember. She twisted angular moves that were creamy and
gooey, like hot heaps of taffy being stretched to a canvass of
sound. Among all the “Goth” or “tribal” infused dancers,
fans, freaks, purveyors and picketers, I vote Ariellah as the
most clever to date, and one to keep your eyes on.
troupe, Troupe Maya. I am not sure how long this
group has been together, but they adorned smiles and a hint of
nervousness that made them all the more endearing. Their
silver/pewter colored costumes were tastefully coordinated to
body style and modesty, and the shimmies and undulations that
came from beneath them abounded with energy. This may or
may not have been their first performance, but the fact that I’m
not really sure gives kudos to Nanna for bringing out the performers
in all of them. Then we have Nanna…what can one really say
about Nanna that hasn’t been said? Beauty, grace, poise,
charm, attitude and a body that won’t quit - only spirits move
with such speed and grace. Nanna simply must be seen live
to be believed. She is a delight to the senses and one can
only be so lucky to capture her fountain of youth, inside as well
Stretch…rest in a room after waiting in a line 20 people deep,
search for wacky people to capture on film, talk to the hostess,
and meander about. A gracious yet busy Luna took time to
pose for pics and insisted on including the ladies that helped
her organize the event - genuinely a gracious professional. Time
to begin the second act, a luscious pink hip scarf was auctioned
off, and won by a woman who had her first lesson that very day.
I couldn’t stay long past the intermission, but held on for Aruna’s
Troupe, Shift-a Belly. After recently becoming a fan
of Aruna’s “Dancers Arms” instructional video, I was anxious to
see her live. Shamelessly clad in a colorful spectrum of
tribal tramp meets vaudeville frill, entered a group of lovelies
in every shape and size.
wasn’t sure if I was in an east meets spaghetti western, or a
campy burlesque show in seedy underground NYC.
music was exciting and the dancers were simply clever. There
was a certain attitude of “I am having a blast, and I don’t care
if you like it or not” which made their show all the more enjoyable.
Their eastern dance technique was top-notch amidst flirtatious
fun and REAL burlesque comedy (please visit your dictionary for
true definition of burlesque);
group had the audience in stitches, clapping and laughing uncontrollably.
innuendo was obvious on a cerebral level, their performance was
appropriate for all ages (sorry, no pasties popping out).
Aruna’s physique is amazing and while her dancers are fantastic,
she truly stole the show. This troupe was the highlight
of the evening, and by far the most entertaining. Cheers
to you ladies!
Café Belly is the best dance event I have been to in some time.
a great alternative to the typical $25-$60 plate restaurants hosting
open stage or student teacher nights. Beginners and pros
will love it, and the diverse crowd and warm establishment make
it a comfortable introduction for newcomers and friends new to
eastern and fusion dance. $10 includes a lesson and performances,
and a portion of proceeds benefit the Women’s
Daytime Drop-in Center of Berkeley. I would recommend this
event to anyone looking for a gumbo of the best local talent.
This event lacked the drama and immaturity that often comes with
beginning dancers, student nights and hobbyists, and more than
tipped the scale with solid entertainment, education, good vibes
and good karma…especially at this price.
STUDENT NIGHT OPEN STAGE HOSTS – Please think carefully about
what nights, what venues, what prices and what dancers are involved
with your events. Setting the price too high or requiring
an expensive dinner out of your dancers and guests makes it hard
to promote community and turns people away. It also puts
professional dancers out of work, and gives restaurants the wrong
set of principals in booking quality professionals and reduces
the standard of working conditions. It takes a long time
to improve standards and raise awareness in any community – are
you doing your part?
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
8-4-06 Field Report
from the Dance Gig Front by Surreyya Hada
a pause, and a little embarrassment, I threw my hands up at him
in disgust and walked away. The audience laughed loudly.
From the Land Down-under, Part
2: Northest and Canada by Trisnasari
What is happening in Australia, is also happening in
"The Spirit of Egyptian Dance"
Shareen El Safy- with the George Lammam Ensemble Workshop &
Show, Photos by Carl Sermon, Sponsored
and produced by Debbie Lammam July 22 & 23, 2006, Dance Mission
Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Amani's Oriental Festival 2006: June 20-25, 2006 by Beverley
Delving into Oriental Culture, Dance and Surviving Israeli