The Photography of Ken Keep
has been photographing Oriental Dance on and off for over 30 years.
He recently relocated from Pacifica to San Francisco, California and
has generously shared with us a few of his favorite photos. He also
took the time to tell us why these photos and the dance have meant so
much to him.
Click on each
photo to enlarge.
is Suhaila at age 3 or 4 at the Northern California Renaissance
Faire. Here was this group of exotically dressed women traveling
together from stage to stage. They were pushing a little cart
in which she was riding. They were wearing very covered up robes
and head wraps in something of a tribal manner, and even before
I saw them dance I was fascinated. Later I would learn that dancers
always wear a coverup of some sort, so as not to show themselves
in costume until they perform. Imagine my reaction when I saw
them on stage later that day; even little Suhaila turned out to
bean accomplished dancer. This was in about 1969 or 70.
I was in my
mid 20's with the hormones raging. (I was also terminally shy
at the time. Not a very happy combination.) They lit me up! It
was a life-changing event. I had just decided to become a professional
photographer. I showed them my prints the next week. They were
very excited (dancers are always looking for good pictures) and,
after a while, Jamila put me on the pass list at the gate
to get in free. I began taking pictures every weekend.
How was it
life-changing? In my generation it was not appropriate to socialize
with your clients, so though I really really wanted to, I never
asked any of these ladies out. I think that because I never hit
on them they felt safe and after a long while let me into their
circle. Through this experience I learned how to be friends with
women. Im not sure that I would ever have learned this otherwise.
Some of those friendships are still with me, after all these years.
I am a very different man today than I would have been without
these wonderful experiences."
shot was taken somewhere between 1975 and 80, at a show of Asia's
in Stockton. She was a student of Asia's".
Asia has this
to add: "What a treat to see this beautiful photo. This is
Leila Feinstein, a member of Chimera Dance Troupe. (circa
1976) The costume is North African."
photo is of Sharifa
at a concert at Basta Pasta in Walnut Creek."
this to add:
"This is a photo of me dancing with Muhara, one of
my first snakes.
The show lineup included my troupe, Troupe Tangiers, Sadira
and her troupe, and Asia and her troupe. I can't remember
who else danced, but I hired Paul Ohanesian and Robaire Bozeman
to accompany the solo dancers. Ken may have photos to show who
else was there. I'm thinking it was 1981 or 82. We have some other
photos from the event. It was a great show with my favorite troupes
at the time."
Ken adds more,
"Among Sharifas dancers for that performance were identical
red-headed twins Karen and Sharon in their world
debut. They later started their own troupe, among other belly
at one of Leea's Belly Dancer of the Year contests."
danced at the second Rakkasah Festival in Piedmont in 1981. This
woman projected such an exuberance for life. I am very proud of
this photo, as I was able to show this wonderful spirit. She died
not long after".
On the Costumers
by Dawn 'Davina' Devine Brown,
The Splendor of Ethnic Jewelry. For the reader or researcher
interested in ethnic jewelry, this sumptuous coffee table book is worth
every penny of its rather steep price. This is the first in a regular
series by Davina!
Mustafa, Master of Percussion by Jawahare
When the musicians came from Egypt we promoted this type of music
for the shows here too. So, now it has become more popular.