The Gilded Serpent presents...
The 1999 Giza Video Awards!
by Erin

This is like ... a party!

Once again, I find it hard to break my habit of arriving too early for Middle Eastern events. My friend and I arrived promptly at 7:25 to the 3rd Annual 1999 Giza Academy Awards of Middle Eastern Dance after finding a prime parking place just two blocks away.
Amina Goodyear, founder of the Giza Academy, greeted us personally and graciously pointed out that it wasn't 7:30 quite yet, all the while her stage crew scurried around in the upper floor of the Noe Valley Ministry, transforming the simple Presbyterian sanctuary into a venue for Middle Eastern dance.

When we returned after a quick bite at a great Mediterranean cafe (more news on this later), the room was full, Nadia Hamdi of Egypt was dancing (on the big screen television) and the full house was waiting patiently to be entertained.

Although our Mistress of Ceremonies, Linda Grondahl, struggled with a sore throat and a fading voice, she managed to lead us expeditiously through the evening's presentation of Middle Eastern dance videos as well as live dance performances. Other presenters included local dance celebrities Tina O'Neill,
Baraka, Ma'Shuqa, and Gilded Serpent's own Lynette. Gregory Burke delivered an introductory speech on the virtues of video.

Unlike many academy award events, we did not suffer through too many long-winded speeches. However, we also had no chance to view clips from all the nominated videos. A context of candidates for these awards might have made the final winners shine a bit brighter.

And, the winner is... (so, you don't have to wait any longer, here's the lineup of winners...)

Documentary, two winners
1. "Paul Bowles in Morocco" - Paul Bowles, musicologist and writer, tells tales of Moroccan music and dance with interspersed footage of dancers and live music. Paul Bowles is the author of "Sheltering Sky". Available at your local video store, this video definitely merits watching.

2. Selections from a work in progress by Cara Currie - Be sure to watch for this local videographer's name in the future. Although her video is currently unfinished, perhaps we can convince Amina to arrange a more lengthy preview of this promising travelogue? Contact Amina at 415-282-7910.

Outstanding Choreography
Madame Raqia Hassan - Cane dance performed by the lovely Katya, a Russian dancer living in Egypt. Madame Raqia Hassan, renowned dance coach and instructor, included this outstanding choreography in one of her instructional videos.

Instructional Video, two winners
1. "Classical Persian One" by Shahrzad Khorsandi (teacher in Richmond, CA) - This video's sound and picture quality rank at the top of all videos presented. The teacher instructs through a voiceover, while a dancer flawlessly demonstrates the moves against a plain (non-distracting!) background. For more info, see

2. Belly Dance Basics Beg.-Int. I by Cheri Berens (teacher in Cape Cod, MA) - Although I generally trusted the Giza Academy's opinion of the winning videos, please be aware that the sound quality of this video was very poor. Ms. Berens does not use the voiceover technique, which may improve the recorded sound (it's hard to wear a mike on a bellydance costume). On the other hand, the distortion of her instructions may have been due to the over-amplification required for such a large room. For more info, see

Best Troupe
"Caravan Trails" by Gypsy Caravan (Portland, OR) - A delightful video presentation of the troupe's performances along with more casual footage of backstage antics. Again, the sound quality of this video may have suffered from over-amplication combined with simple recording techniques.

Live Performance, Solo Dance, "Interpretive Dance" category
Delilah, performing to live music in Suzy Evans' International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance's Second Annual Awards of Belly Dance. Delilah wins for the second year in a row. Her dance style strikes me as intensely personal, and I had to admire her for this open and expressive performance.

Live Performance, Solo Dance, "Raks Sharki" category
Jillina, also performing in the same show, to taped music. My only comment, you've got to see this dancer's costume to believe it. Think of faux pink snakes twined around arms and legs and merge that image with a Star Trek belly dancer's costume. Of course, Jillina executed her dance moves with confidence and accuracy.

The evening provided much more than moving pictures on a flat silver screen. A crowd of dancers and their supporters yearns for live dance and even more for dance accompanied by live music. Amina's Aswan Dancers performed two lively pieces in short skirts, perhaps not traditional, but certainly delightful. After the formal presentations of awards, many of our celebrity presenters transformed themselves into dancing beauties. Tina O'Neill heated up the room with a spirited dance of Spanish inspiration. The crowd met Baraka with a loving applause and she rewarded us with an enthusiastic dance. Ma'Shuqa balanced a candelabra on her head in the middle of her cabaret performance. Amina entranced the crowd with her seductive glances and mysterious smile. A chorus in back of the room actually broke into singing and chanting. Jacques Al-Asmar, who made us wait a few measures before his entrance, whirled onto the floor as the back-row chorus intensified their applause. By the
end of his performance, which included one encore, flowers, thrown by loving supporters, covered the dance floor.

Finally, Jacques selected audience members to join him on the dance floor, until the stage had turned into a dance floor for all of us. I thought I would have a moment to step away from the dancing for a much-needed drink of water. However, by the time I returned, the stage crew had already begun dismantling our oasis of dance. Someone whispered, "They're kicking us out, and it's only eleven p.m." A church official wandered past me, collecting empty cups and mumbled as she shook her head, "Why... this is like ... a party!"

Unfortunately, her words rang true for only the next few minutes, before the dance crowd departed until the next Giza Academy Awards of Middle Eastern Dance.

See Amina's comments on this review in the Letters to the Editor

Ready for more?
12-15-00 Mee'sha falls in love and moves to Cairo!

12-13-00 DeAnn Adams of Light Rain dies after long illness.

12-12-00 Sirens In Sanity's 2nd Annual Halloween Belly Dance Bash by Saiedeh and Yasmin The evening was filled with belly dance routines in a variety of themes; some Halloween, some traditional, and some alternative.

9-18-00 Photos of Beata and Horacio Cifuentes on Tour!
Beata and Horacio Cifuentes have recently concluded a whirlwind World Tour, which included Japan, Europe, Canada, and the USA.


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