til ya Drop" The San Francisco Chapter of MECDA Gala Concert
December 3, 2006
Review, and Report by Renee of
It is a blessing
to have cousins, uncles and aunts scattered around the world.
The period after the Second World War saw many of my relatives
(and hubby's) uproot to seek adventure and a new life in many
parts of the world.
My home is
Australia, the land down under, where I have been learning
and teaching belly dance for nearly 15 years. I am at
the age where all 4 children have left home. Fighting fit from
belly dancing and rearing to go. We are "empty nesters",
looking for new horizons.
a business trip to Monterey CA. "Do we have family in
America" I casually remarked. To my utter surprise I discovered
that he had a cousin in California – his mother's brother's
daughter of about the same age. And a further bonus is that
she resided with her own family, not far from Santa Clara.
We made hasty contacts by e-mail to arrange a reunion. Hubby
had not seen her for 30 years.
discovered cousin turned out to be a remarkable person. We
had so much in common it was spooky. At times, it felt as if
I had a twin who lived the same life as I, on the other side
of the globe. We share the same womanly instincts and
spirituality. Our views on most subjects where uncanny similar.
We immediately became (long lost) dancing sisters. Three years
ago my new 'sister', studied belly dance but gave it up because
the teacher left the district. However she has been, and still
is, teaching Circle Dance. Naturally she taught me her dance
and I exchanged belly dancing techniques.
glad to discover that the winter climate (early December) was
similar to my home town of Gosford which is situated on the
Central Coast of New South Wales, or for easy reference, one
and a half hour drive north of Sydney. The 2000 Summer Olympics
was hosted in Sydney. I believe that Monterey is also referred
to as part of the Californian Central Coast. So automatically
I felt right at home.
After a wonderful
Monterey family outing, my cousin's hubby hastily transported
us, my cousin, her 12 year old daughter and I to Santa Clara
to attend the evening Gala, which was presented by San Francisco
Bay Area Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association. The
show was befittingly named "Prop til ya Drop". Money
raised would benefit Solutions to Domestic Violence which happened
to be located next door. As
the theatre doors opened, we unobtrusively rushed to obtained
seats. To get a better photo shoot, we chose seats a little
off centre stage. As the lights started to dim, with nervous
anticipation, I fumbled and rummaged to retrieve my digital
camera, paper and pen from my bottomless bag. I was ready
to make notes of my first impressions of each act and take
some photos, to help jog my memory.
we agreed unanimously that as a whole, it was a wonderful event.
7th Annual "Gala Show" was all about dancing with
props on Stage. The acts where a good mix of classical, traditional
and folkloric to modern, cutting edge fusion.
acts where all enjoyable and it was a pleasure to have been
there as an audience member. Some acts I liked more than
others. Some where performed at a very high standard while
others where not. There where also many firsts, for me, that
evening. I was particularly enchanted and "gob smacked" with
some acts, as they where so different, to anything I have seen
15 acts; I have listed them in no particular order.
unusual act was performed by TEMPEST.
in an interesting black costume and make up pranced about with
a black parasol. She was elegant and posy, sensual and enticing.
I did not quite get her theme at first, but never the less
was fascinated by her performance.
a while it dawned on me that she was representing the American
1920's, black and white silent movie era. I loved the way
she moved and acted out her roll.
From my own
historical knowledge, I thought this was a clever way of highlighting
a belly dance concept with insight and imagination. This
was a first for me, yet it did not seem out of place. The 1920's
was part of an era where the western world was fascinated with
anything Egyptian. And Egypt was in turn learning to please
the western world. Belly dance and music was also being manipulated
to suit foreign eyes and ears...
other act was a cutting edge fusion by INDIGENOUS as
For the first
time I witnessed a theatrical indigenous dance. American Indian
meets belly dance, in boots was my reaction.
observation was that they told a story in traditional indigenous
dance but added some belly dance movements such as hip circles
wings where like Isis wings but smaller, constructed of stretched
silk and decorated with feathers. However I do hope that American
Indian dancing will not become a diluted mish mash of belly
dance ideology as they are totally different cultural dances.
was totally out of place, but I must say, that I enjoyed the
experience. The dancing in parts was not always up to scratch.
dance act that captured my maternal instinct and imagination
was a very big bellied, 6 months pregnant SHOSHANNA ,
who was accompanied with two Ya Habibi Dance Company members.
They started with a 4 yard veil dance and moved into a drum
dancing was so beautifully and skillfully presented that
I got teary eyed.
I was in
awe of her being able to accomplish so much in a pregnant state.
I could see that she was a master of adjusting and adapting
movements to suit her pregnant condition and the two helpers
filled in perfectly. It was a fantastic performance mix.
Again, I have not seen a large pregnant lady dance on stage
4. ANEENA took
me to a place of dreams and romance. Between the song "Over
the Rainbow" and her veil performance, she made my eyes
well with tears of joy.
was serene and elegant.
techniques where simple, yet complex as she did many spins
and turns while manipulating her props.
with one rainbow coloured silk veil and then delicately and
artfully proceeded to unpeel and divide, to reveal two magical,
floating veils. The veils sculptured the air into exquisite
forms and shapes, filling the dance space with colour and emotional
energy. Aneema is a very graceful mature dancer. Her beautiful
performance just simply melted my heart, and I still see her
image in my head. Even though the music was not of Middle Eastern
origin, it somehow did not matter. We loved it, because of
our western exposure to this popular piece made famous by Judy
Garland. Who in the universe does not love this song ?
dance group MO MENIEN also left a memorable impression. This
act involved 12 sword dancers, (so the program said but I thought
I counted 15).
could see that some of them where beginners as they could
not execute the torso (hips, belly, ribs) techniques adequately
in contrast to the more advanced dancers.
beginners focused on the steps, staying in rhythm and concentrated
on keeping the swords skillfully balanced, no matter what.
Usually, I do not like gala performances by beginner students
but they were unique. The clever interweaving, splitting lines,
floor descending, floor work and ascending where performed
very calmingly and gracefully. It was very intriguing
to watch them from the front row. One could read some of their
thoughts behind their brave smiles. However we held our breath
at times, expecting to see a sword slither, but no such luck. We
where amazed, to read in the program that the dancers create
their own choreography.
interesting act came from MALIA . The scene is an Oasis
– a traditional gathering place of women who take the time
to playfully show off their dancing, while balancing their
is an advanced dancer and it shows through her wonderful
dancing skills, passion and stage presentation.
ensemble were also delightful. One movement in particular caught
my eye. A cheeky knee high, foot kick movement, which was presented
intermittently by the troupe, while balancing their pots. This
single movement gave the troupe a distinctive lift to match
Malia's energetic interaction.
In my opinion
Malia looked and danced like Belyssa, who is a very notable
teacher in Australia.
I was disappointed
that I could not capture the knee/ foot kick technique on camera
as it lagged behind in real time, while adjusting its focus
and flash. I hope that someone else photographed it and can
send me a copy.
group of dancers that impressed me where SAHARA MASCARA.
They performed an interesting fan dance, but with a humorous
were a group of mainly larger goddess to cuddly sized dancers
who discovered their niche in comedy.
very amusing, delightful and had a wonderful sense of the ridiculous.
I and my new found family enjoyed them tremendously even though
they could improve their general dancing skills. In time this
would happen. However their comedy, intention and attitude
saved the day.
honour of the last performance was reserved for MESMERA .
I can say is that she danced as her name suggested, she was
I have taken
the programs description of her act, as I am lost for adequate
words. Mesmera blends her Arabesque sensuality and precision
with Spanish, Moorish and Turkish essences to ignite a fiery
declaration in dance "Freedom of movement is our birthright".
My humble notes added, loved her emotional involvement and
interpretation of the music. I loved the way she danced with
her whole face, in particular with her eyes and brows. One
could clearly see and feel her emotional involvement in each
musical phrasing. On stage she melts away the years and
looks timeless. A deserving belly dance artist. Bravo.
9. MA*SHUQA performed
an interesting Egyptian Raqs Sharqi with Isis Wings. The dance
represented Isis, the winged goddess.
The wings where manipulated in varied waving shapes that
gave a dramatic and spectacular effect. After Ma*Shuqa
discarded her golden wings, she kept on a small pair of silver
which I though was quite clever. One could see that
she was a well established and a beautiful dancer.
continued her performance with subtle well executed Egyptian
style techniques with elegance, femininity and charm, held
together with a lovely smile.
From my own
observation, Isis Wings present a dilemma for the dancer, because
once they are discarded, the performer needs to continue her
dance in the same spectacular standard that she has set
for herself. The small silver wings added lustre but did not
uphold the drama that she had started, which ultimately left
the watcher wanting something more.
before visiting California, I too, purchased a pair of Isis
an audience point of view, I learned a valuable lesson that
Isis wings followed by subtle techniques do not mix well.
The contrast is too great.
To keep its
spectacular momentum, I would rather see the wings presented
as a separate identity altogether, creating its own spectacular
exhibition. If a dance was to follow on, after discarded the
wings, then the dancing required would need to be more open,
larger in movements, strong shimmy highlights and spins to
compliment the drama of the wings.
10. LUNA was
featuring an Indian presentation of the Kalbeliya Gypsies of
balanced a tower of pots on her head while holding yoga poses
and also walked on top of cups and plates.
a very interesting act. One I have not seen before but enjoyed
because of its unusualness. The only critique is that the different
prop sequences could have been cemented together with smoother
Gala initially opened with HALA DANCE Troupe who re-enacted
a typical urban Egyptian wedding procession, known as "zaffa" in
Arabic. The musicians and dancers lead the wedding procession,
followed by the bride and groom.
lead the procession, balanced a candelabra on her head and
performed charmingly. Her troupe however needed more polish
even though they attempted some delightful moments in story
telling sketches, which added interest.
I know it
was presented as a traditional piece. But for stage presentation,
I personally felt that it needed more animation, action and
imagination. My mind wondered intermittently, for lack of engagement.
Even though Hala's dancing style was faultless, I thought that
she could have set the scene with more action, even with a
candelabra. I felt that she was skilled enough to accomplish
interesting dance was a fiery Latin influence mixed with the
delicate grace of Raks Sharqi and the dramatic creativity of
American Cabaret by FLOR DE LUNA . She wore a yellow
and red flowered Spanish type long frilled, flowing costume
with harem pants.
performance was very elegant, very playful, and delightful
to watch as she emotionally expressed a romantic love story...
using a fan, a basket and playfully tossing and swirling her
Spanish skirt. Very impressive and entertaining.
Flor De Luna
have seen spoons used before. However AMANDA performed
an interesting Turkish dance with the wooden variety, while
dressed in traditional costuming. My notes referred to her
as being flighty, quick in dancing movement while clicking
in rhythm, dramatic, lively and jolly. Yes I liked her too
as her personality stood out. The only draw back was that the
music overpowered the clicking of the spoons. Only near the
end as the music lowered in volumne could one hear the wooden
AHLAM came across as a well seasoned performer in the
Egyptian Cane dance style. She was very proficient in her
craft. My notes jotted down, while watching her act, said
that she danced joyously, had clean neat subtle feminine
technique, shimmies and layering with typical cane movements
and a most delightful sassy personality. And yet, I found
my concentration drifting every now and then. Each time I
was snapped back by one of Nashwa's fetching personality
think what I missed was imagination and passion. Perhaps
she had a bad day?, which happens to the best of us.
Lanty was the surprise guest teacher and dancer who appeared towards
the end of Nahwa's performance.
dancers are a bunch from Mars. And JIM BOZ was no exception.
Tough and male like, he happily showed off his skills balancing
on top of a tabla. Flexing his breast plates, as males do so
well, and playfully mobilizing his hips.
was delightful, amusing, bold and demanded your attention.
At one point,
I realized that he created the Statue of Liberty. We liked
his brash male energy a lot.
has to remember that Middle Eastern, Raqs Sharqi, Oriental or
Belly Dance is an ART form of its own. The stage, for belly dance,
is a place to shine, show off, try something different, surprising,
the unexpected, sometimes the outrageous and sometimes a spice
of nice naughtiness but never crude and rude.
stage presentation is totally different from dancing at a
restaurant, party entertainment, school concerts, haflas
venues you do not necessarily expect all of the above. The
stage gives dancers the opportunity to strut their stuff in
an entirely different light.
I also understand
that all belly dance students and teachers develop dancing
skills as the years pass, from training and performing. I do
believe that no matter at what level of development you are
at, one can produce a memorable performance by daring to have
imagination, inspiration, expressive enthusiasm, passion, emotional
engagement and love for the art.
my keen observation, one technical fault stood out during
the evening: most dancers executed the chest lift (or rib
lift) awkwardly thus appearing momentarily ungraceful.
My only conclusion
is that this particular technique is taught differently between
the two continents. That said, I totally enjoyed the event.
There was lots of variation in styles, topics and music.
SF Bay Area Chapter or MECDA
will be having their next event
on February 9 & 10, 2008
Profile of a Costume Designer by Michelle Joyce
When I asked her if she would soon retire, she just frowned and said that there
are too many mothers who need her to stay in business for the good of their families.
Belly by Tatseena
example: a promoter is thinking about planning an event and is
talking to a friend and says, “I can’t help it if
some other teacher has planned a show on the same day or night;
they are different styles anyway.”
Report on the First International Bellydance
Conference of Canada Part 2 - Sunday Club
by Denise Marino and Lynette
orchestra, Randa, Amir, a packed house and very festive mood.
How could it be any better?
Part 1 A Brand New Idea for Belly Dance: The Festival
Idea in its Formative Years by Amina Goodyear
speaking of a festival and its promoters that promised more than
they were able to deliver.
Devil's Details, Show
Ethics for Professionals Part
4 - What
NOT To Do by
Show up drunk or stoned. No more needs to be said.