by numerous aging dancers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, who are about
to retire from their careers as performers and teachers, are
now beginning to trickle into magazines and books. As I read
about their careers, I am both delighted and amazed how similar
their experiences were to some of my own and how some of them
became disillusioned while others would not have traded the
adventure of it all for any other. However, I'm beginning to
think that it's odd how much emphasis many of them have placed
on some mysterious, self-perceived value of having been the
first one to do something or other. I don't mean to diminish
the value of innovation in any field of endeavor; in fact, I
believe that an innovative person is a treasure.
sometimes our so-called inventions and great ideas are quite
embarrassingly laughable in their infancy when they analyzed
through the eyes of experience. The memoirists hardly ever tell
their stories about a “first” that went awry!
story I'm about to tell you is about just such a bumbling infant:
top-heavy, slightly unbalanced, naïve, but full of great potential…and
it was a first, of sorts, at least in our part of the west coast.
began in 1973, shortly after I first opened my dance studio
in Albany, California. My own instructor's classes had burgeoned
and so had all of my own; my Belly dance class at the YMCA in
Albany had 85 enrolled and had to be moved to the gymnasium.
I reopened a store front that had formerly been a bookkeeping
office, cleared out a ton of papers, built a dressing room,
painted and mirrored the walls, and confidently opened for business.
In the first year, all the scheduled classes, (including Women's
Exercise, Tap dancing, Ballet, Yoga and Children's Creative
Dance) continued to grow. Especially, the belly dance classes
grew to a point that I couldn't manage alone. I decided to
go out on a limb and risk rebuff by offering to rent Bert
Balladine prime class time in my studio. I was delighted
and honored when he took me up on the offer without hesitation.
was then that we began the first of many career planning sessions
over lunch or coffee in which we brainstormed how to get the
most out of our efforts. Power lunches in the ‘70s!
One of the
first subjects with which we grappled was advertising, and at
the time, it seemed quite a bold and daring move to advertise
the dance studio (and the fact that we had Belly dance lessons
on our schedule) in the Yellow Pages of all the local phone
books. We were located centrally in the San Francisco East
Bay, and we needed presence in all of the area’s books because
our counties are close together and highly populated. At the
time, this meant advertising in approximately 8 books. (Nowadays,
it would be more -- except that Yellow Pages ads are rapidly
becoming a thing of the past due to the influence of the Internet.)
The first year
we were open, I simply ordered a commercial phone line and a
short listing in all eight books since there were no other East
Bay Belly dance classes listed anywhere in any of regional books
at that time. It may seem so ridiculously elemental to all
of us right now, but at the time, it was a big deal, and a "first"
to decide that we should purchase a display ad that covered
all the activities of our dance studio.
and I were hoping to make the studio a center for dance that
would unite the various factions In Belly dance that had already
begun to denigrate each other.
Jules Kliot, of Lacis in Berkeley, who was my business
mentor, photographer, and friend (and the photographer who produced
all of the artistic photographs of this event) was kind enough
to design several potential display ads of the size that we
had chosen to submit to our Yellow Pages representative, and
here is the image that he created for us on which we settled:
Now it is 30
years later; I have begun to specialize in coaching dancers
for special events and occasions, and I still use an updated
version of this same display ad as one of my business card designs.
You will see it appear in its updated version as my display
ad here, in the pages of the Gilded Serpent site.
my dismay, I found out that placing our new display ad in all
eight Yellow Pages books would cost me approximately $2000!
That was an incredible of money in 1975!
Oh! What to
do? What to do?
brain-storming lunch, Bert and I came up with what we considered
a workable, sensible, innovative yet logical plan: we would
organize and stage a big Yellow Pages catered dinner and dance
show fundraiser to finance our expenditure! Logical? Practical?
Fun? Well, one out of three isn't bad; is it?
At that time,
I was working as a House dancer on a regular basis for the Sofios
brothers in the Taverna O Aitos in Berkeley. Ted
Sofios was an extraordinary dance instructor who had fashioned
his Greek restaurant around his love for teaching the Greek
dance and other similar world folk dances. That included the
Belly dance, which he confided in me (later) that he had hated,
because it had been introduced to Greece during the time that
Greece was under the suppression and control of the Turks.
his dislike, Ted had the foresight to include a Belly dance
instructor among his offerings of ethnic dance, and feature
professional Belly dancers at lunchtime, daily, and on weekend
evenings. Towards that end, he had engaged Bert Balladine for
a weekly class in which I had begun taking my first lessons.
He was impressed and delighted with the beauty of the movements
that Bert was teaching even though Bert was teaching us Turkish
style Belly dance and playing the “dreadful” Turkish music.
Ted saw me just as I was then: a gaunt, hippie wanna be who
transformed over a period of six to eight months under Bert's
inspiration and tutelage.
I invited Ted
Sofios and his brother, John Sofios, to be part
of our fundraiser, and they not only agreed, but volunteered
his entire troupe and the assistance of the weekly band called
The Mereklithes. The Mereklithes Band was connected
to the Rekus brothers through John Rekus who played violin
in the band, and Ike Rekus, who had just opened a new club called
the Helmet Club down in the Berkeley Marina. How serendipitous
for me, it appeared! The
facility had been some kind of social hall with a kitchen, an
auditorium, a lobby, and a room with a bar, and Ike Rekus
recognized it as an opportunity to create a Greek community
hall for occasion rentals. Unfortunately for Ike, my dance
studio fundraiser was to be the first, and I regret to admit,
the last event to be held at the Helmet Club in Berkeley!
events would have been laudable, if laughable, if only we Belly
dancers and our guests had not cost a man (Ike) his dream…
How naïve we all were when Belly dancing was relatively new
in the San Francisco Bay region! We had no inkling of what was
about to happen, surrounding our show, nor that our unanticipated
wild success would also prove a downfall for Ike’s Greek social
Two of “The Magnificent Fundraiser” I will continue the
story of how very different things can turn out when you least
a comment? Send us
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
The Key: an Allegory* in
Which a Courtesan Dancer Greets the New Year by Najia Marlyz
dancer, Raven, was lost in thought as she shifted her gaze toward
a novice barefoot dancer whose name she could not remember.
the Certifiers, The Chicken or the Egg? Part Two by
Najia Marlyz ... artists
and stars are born, not schooled. Youve either got
it, or you dont
I'd like dancers to understand how the ideas of color, texture,
tone, shading, etc. can also apply to the art of speaking through
Music to My Ears, How
I Learned to Hear Like a Dancer by
interpretation is the single, most important skill that can elevate
the Oriental dancer from the chorus line to the spotlight.
Zaharr's Memoir, Part 12-Learning
knew I wasn't dancing like one of the pretty dancers I had seen
in 1966, but now it was 1968, and it was time to focus on my own
goal of learning more.
Amani “Around the World”
DVD Report by Katya Faris
has put her dancing on stage and has created numerous theatre
productions in the past 10 years and this show is the first one
1-17-06 Bellydance Superstars, Our
Plans for 2006 by Miles Copeland, 2005 Photos by Monica Berini
is nothing like consistency and constant pressure to deliver at
your best each night to weld a group or troupe together.