Egyptian goddess (Louvre, Paris). 
© Sharif Photography 2006

Belly Dance Blog 2006

Here's an ongoing description of events in my belly dance journey, in reverse chronological order. Performances, workshops, festivals...
Enjoy, and check back regularly!

More recent events are described in Belly Dance Blog 2007.

- o O o -


December 18: My 32nd performance, at Helené's students' recital.

Tonight Helené organizes a dance recital for her students in Felton. As an additional attraction she has invited the Dancers of the Crescent Moon and yours truly to perform as well. It was very generous and flattering of her to invite me months in advance when I danced at the Masala Imports hafla. And I hear that she's been giving me lots of praise in her class as well! Now I just have to live up to that...
It's a nice almost new community hall in Felton, and the main room has a stage that is just right for a solo performer: plenty large to move around, not so large to drown in it. I time my arrival so I am there almost at the beginning of the show - I have the tenth slot, so I have enough time to change into my new costume and get ready. My turn comes up a bit quicker than I thought, but I am ready anyway. Because I had too little time to practice for anything else, I do "Farscape" and "Il Alem Allah" again. The dances go pretty smoothly, although I have some trouble with the cape coming loose too soon. The audience is very receptive and I get a nice applause. I'm happy!
We watch the other dancers and our friends from Dancers of the Crescent Moon, and take lots of pictures. We enjoy talking with other dancers and the audience. It's a nice community!

Starting pose Side hip circles Starting pose second song Hip pushes Hip circles Basic Egyptian
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


December 2: My 31st performance, at the Holiday Marrakesh Express.

One of the classes I am taking with SeSe has prepared a candle dance for the Holiday version of the Marrakesh Express (a quarterly event in our local dance studio, Dancenter). Tonight is the performance that we have working towards for three months or so, and we are the opening act. During the dance we balance trays with lit candles on our heads, and hold a candle in a cup in each hand. The group choreography is really nice, to a slow and mysterious song. To increase the suspense we have asked two dancers to stand to the side of the stage with wet towels, and Imzadi has made quite an act of coming in as the fire brigade with buckets and a fire hose.
We pull off our dance pretty well, those 2 1/2 minutes are over before you know it! No trays or candles are dropped, and this time nobody's hair is set on fire, so we can still enjoy Dancenter in the future. It's a good thing I put six candles on my tray instead of four, because half of them get blown out by the heating system when we enter the room. The room is packed and the audience really enjoys the performance.
Of course there are several more dance performances, and we enjoy watching the other dancers and taking pictures.

Imzadi acts as fire brigade Walking in Front down, back up Back down, front up Laybacks Spiral Freaky stuff Group formation Blowing out the candles
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


November 17: My 30th performance, at Kalisa's.

Tonight we follow our friends Aruba and Zurah Malikah to Kalisa's for Jamaica's performance night. Special guest tonight is Alexandra King, who is in town to give some workshops. Just yesterday I have just received my brandnew cabaret costume, a birthday present from Nakisa, hand made by Siwa. It's fantastic, I can't wait to show it off! Of course I try to keep it a surprise to the other dancers until it's my turn to dance.
The place is packed and there are a lot of dancers ready to go on stage. I have no new dances ready, so I do "Farscape" and "Il Alem Allah" again. I have added my copper-and-black cape to the royal blue and silver costume, it's not a perfect match but better than my red one. I'm the sixth dancer in line, and once I'm on my dances go pretty smooth. I am getting more of the nuances of the songs, and it becomes easier to hit the accents just right. And the costume really makes a difference, it's very inspiring! Every now and then I improvise a bit and get some nice reactions from the audience.
Nakisa is on a bit later, and does her impression of house cleaning with a shaloofa (duster) again. She has improved her choreography nicely, it really follows the music quite well. The dancing goes on until well past midnight (that is, the open floor part). We talk with some of the other dancers and with our friends and take a lot of pictures with the new camera.

Veil wrap isolations Veil pose isolations Dancing away Chest circles More dancing Final pose
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


October 28: My 29th performance, at the Halloween Marrakesh Express.

The Marrakesh Express is an event that SeSe and Siwa organize a couple of times each year, and there is always Halloween version. I volunteered to perform because my new dance "Farscape" works well in this theme (see the TV recording earlier), and because I wanted to finally do my teacher-appreciation/fun dance for SeSe. This time I dress up as a devil, with my red-and-black cape, red top and black pants, and some glittery devil horns to boot. We have only six performances, so it's a short show. At first there are very few people in the audience, so we wait a bit and are rewarded with a nice group of fans after all.
Nakisa is on before me, and does her impression of house cleaning with a shaloofa (duster), on music by our own Orient'al. Siwa does the introductions, and makes up a nice story on the spot for every dancer. After a couple more dancers she introduces me and my special second dance, and I start out on a darkened stage. The first song goes really well, I am really getting the hang of it after performing it several times. The butterfly turns I can angle a bit for good effect, and the windmill turns come out well. I do some different hip isolations (hip circles) this time, and get some nice compliments on them afterwards. The second song gets a really nice reception from SeSe (and the rest of the audience), I am glad she gets it and thinks it's a nice thing to do. Afterwards we talk with our friends in the audience and then go home to prepare for more Halloween celebration. Unfortunately my camera is broken (after only 10,000 pictures or so, it's a shame!), and a replacement camera is delayed, so we can only hope to get some pictures from our friends.


October 7: My 28th performance, Bellydance Odyssey Productions' Trunk Show.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to dance at the start of a new venture of Bellydance Odyssey Productions: selling belly dance costumes. So tonight I am one of ten dancers/groups scheduled to perform in a nice local dance studio in Aptos, Dance Synergy. The studio has a disco ball-style light, multi-colored lights, the whole nine yards - and a large dance floor with a mirror wall. I do my current routine again, "Farscape" and "Il Alem Allah", and I am wearing my copper-and-black costume and cape for the occasion. Both dances go relatively smoothly - too bad there is not a bigger audience! The butterfly turns come out nice (it's always hard to get the cape to stay in place for those), and the windmill turns as well. This is the first time that SeSe gets to see the result of our brainstorm session a couple of months ago! Unfortunately it's hard to take good pictures because of low lighting and all the mirrors. We meet a lot of our friends, enjoy the food and drinks and have a good time!

Veil wrap Butterfly turn Pose Hip push
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa).


September 24: My 27th performance, SeSe's Students Night at Il Pirata.

Tonight Nakisa and I are scheduled to perform at SeSe's student night, in Il Pirata. We have been there once before for Siwa's "dancing in restaurants" class, so we know a little bit what to expect. It's obvious that my large and heavy veil is not going to work there, so I decide to just do "Il Alem Allah". We have a very friendly audience, almost all fellow dancers and friends. Nakisa is up first, and dances very beautifully. I am on a bit later, and improvise a bit more than usual. I do the start with the back to the audience, like I practiced it earlier on, and move up and down the narrow aisles a bit. The things we learned with Siwa come in very handy - we spend more time accepting tips than dancing, it seems! SeSe and Imzadi playfully entice our friend Afifa to do her first solo performance. After the dancing we enjoy a nice dinner and talk with our friends.

Nakisa Elizabeth Sharif Jessica Darwhana Afifa
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Sharif and Nakisa).


September 23: TV recording session for Monterey channel 24.

This afternoon we go to Monterey for a TV recording of my "Farscape" dance for the local TV show (channel 24) "World of Dance Theatre". The director of this series saw me at Kalisa's two weeks ago and thought it would make a nice item for the Halloween special. So I get to dress up like Count Dracula a bit for the part, with my black and red veil/cape! This is all a volunteer operation, and they are working with three cameras to capture different angles. It's nice that they have a TV monitor in the front (where the audience supposedly is) so you can get an idea of how things look - very reassuring! I have practiced a short new song item for after the veil dance, but that is quickly dropped because there is already plenty of belly dance in these shows. We do the veil song a couple of times with different backdrops, and decide that grey instead of black is better with my dark costume - it also brings out really interesting shadows with the veil and the lighting from the floor! I think I do pretty well, keeping my face straight and looking aloof (hey, I'm supposed to be scary, not nice...). I can't wait to see the results!


September 15-18: Arabian Nights at Sea belly dance cruise.

This is our second year of the Arabian Nights at Sea belly dance cruise, so we already know pretty much what to expect. We drive to Long Beach by car, and arrive on the boat at 2:30pm. Most classes have already filled up quite a bit, but we manage to enroll in all classes that we want to. On Friday evening we have our first class, with John Compton; it's tough, complicated zill patterns combined with some unfamiliar dance moves. I think I am getting only 30% of it, I am glad I can at least move in the right direction with the group and keep the zills going... I'd better prepare myself a bit for next year's workshop in Santa Cruz! He is a great teacher and, being a slender male, a very good model for me. At dinner we have fun with our group of friends from Santa Cruz, dressing up in over-the-top tacky formal clothing.
On Saturday we go to a workshop by Aradia featuring dance styles from different countries. She is a very beautiful and energetic teacher, and her choreographies of the different styles are very informative. We also take a class with Nadia (Rai choreography); a very interesting mix of dance styles, but we are getting tired and want to save our energy for the next class, so in a break we quietly drop out. After some rest on the deck we go to the last class of the day with Fahtiem. Her classes are always a treat, and luckily she has toned down the strenuousness a bit from the last cruise. It's formal night at dinner, and we have a nice dance party on the deck in the night with live music!
On Sunday we have our first class, with Paulina. She's very fun and upbeat, and her class is very accessible. We learn some fun moves and combinations, and nice stylizations. We have lunch together, and then the next class is American Tribal Style with Kajira Djoumahna. This is fun to learn, and it is interesting to see that a whole group can improvise to music this way, with the lead rotating between members. Finally, we have another class with Fahtiem, "Beautiful hands and arms". In the evening we enjoy the performances by our fellow dancers, and we win a nice berber cloth in the raffle. Nakisa models a beautiful costume in the fashion show like a pro. We had a great time, and hope to be back next year!

Tacky formals Nakisa models Aradia models Fahtiem presents Laverne and Rosanna Golden Wings of Isis
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Sharif).


September 8: My 26th performance, at Kalisa's.

Tonight we make the trek to Kalisa's again to perform, together with our friends who are visiting from the Netherlands. I do my set of "Farscape" and "Il Alem Allah" again, and Nakisa performs to the Pink Panther theme in here lovely pink getup. There are only a few dancers tonight, and a bit more audience, so it's a good thing we show up! Nakisa is on first, and she is lovely as always. My performance goes much smoother than last time, and our friends videotape it. I am even more satisfied when I see the video result, it's better than I thought it was when I was doing it. Still, the stage is small and going on and off it is often a bit awkward. Next time I will prepare to keep everything on the stage, and just make my steps really small!
We celebrate the start of the TV commercial broadcast with our friends in style: with a glass of the Hero ActiFruit product! After the show we stay on to dance a bit more, and I have a real good time dancing with one of the guests. I feel much more at ease now dancing without a choreography and just responding to the music and to what other people are doing.
At the end of the evening a lady from the audience asks me if I want to participate in a local TV program she produces ("World of Dance Theatre"). Of course - although I will be scrambling to get something together now! My TV career continues!

Intro veil open Hip push Basic Egyptian Final pose Hero ActiFruit toast
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nico and guest).


September 4: Hero ActiFruit TV commercial is ready to go on the air!

Today I receive the final cut of the Hero ActiFruit TV commercial I was invited to participate in in late August. It is going to be aired in the Netherlands from September 8 on! I hope all my family and friends there will get a chance to see it live on TV... As this fine product is not (yet?!) available in large parts of the globe, I have now uploaded the ready-to-go-on-air version to YouTube (with gracious permission of the company, of course!). So here it is, my first 15 seconds of fame (guess that leaves me with 14:45 minutes to go...). Let the viral marketing begin! Smile Apparently Hero will air it several hundred times (on the six major TV stations) in September alone, so it will be hard to miss over there. I may soon not be able to walk around in Amsterdam anymore without being recognized!

To play a full-screen version of the video, click on the YouTube logo in the video player above to find it on the YouTube website.
Obviously, TV viewers will see a much higher definition version of this clip.
You are encouraged to share this clip with your friends - just click on the "Share" button to forward it!

The translation of the voice-over is: "90% of dutch people do not take in their daily amount of fibres.
But now there is Hero ActiFruit - a shot full of fruit fibres.
And that has its consequences: for your digestion, for your whole inner well-being.
New - Hero ActiFruit, a great-tasting shot of pure fruit fibres!"


August 27: My 25th performance, Crystal's Students Night at Lil' India.

My teacher Crystal is a regular performer at Lil' India, and she organizes a performance opportunity for her students there twice a year. After I only had taken a few classes with her she invited me to perform at the next student night - how could I refuse? So tonight I am the 7th performer in a line-up of twelve or so, and the only male dancer. The restaurant is packed - center tables mostly with dancers and friends, side tables with a very engaged audience. I will do my latest set of "Farscape" and "Il Alem Allah" again. The restaurant has a very particular layout, with a wide pathway in the middle going front to back that serves as the stage. My veil is rather big and I really don't want to slap the food from people's hands, so I am a bit concerned about that... The ladies before me have beautiful costumes and dance very well, so they put the bar pretty high.
I enter the stage with my cape/veil around me, and get a nice introduction by Crystal who of course mentions my stint in the TV commercial (by now there are few dancers who I have not told the story, I am milking it for all it's worth!). The music starts briefly and stops, and I wait and smile at the audience. Then it starts again and I stride up and down the path with my cape, and do some isolations. I change things on the fly to serve both sides of the aisle, and that works out pretty well. The butterfly spins and windmill turns work out OK and there is no real danger for people or property. The cape does not want to let go at the end, but apart from that the first song worked out pretty well! By the time of the second song I am really getting into the dancing, and the audience enjoys it as well. They are so receptive, this is the best audience I have ever had! It is just great when audience and performer feed off each other's energy. At some point I am supposed to invite them to clap, but they are doing that already... I give it my all with a big smile, and get a loud applause when I finish my dance. My girlfriend Nakisa says this is my best performance ever, so I am led to believe I am still making progress! I get some really nice compliments and have a very enjoyable evening. All performances are of very high quality, and very diverse, so it's a great deal for the audience, and all tips and part of the proceeds go to a good cause as well.

Veil pose cross over Veil pose Basic Egyptian Hip over
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


August 21: TV commercial filmshoot in the Netherlands!

Today is the filmshoot for the Hero ActiFruit TV commercial in the Netherlands! I have arrived in the country two days earlier, and spent most of the weekend relaxing with my family. Yesterday I was introduced to the director of the movie, and we went over the choreography a bit and he filled me in on some details of the shoot. We are in a very modern single-level mansion in the centre of the country with a state-of-the-art kitchen. Now I meet the rest of the crew, 15 people total (and that's excluding miscellaneous guests). These people mean business, they have really pulled all stops! They shoot the whole thing on 35mm real film, the same high-quality stuff that's used for movies, and they also have hired a renowned photographer for stills.

The story is a bit changed in details: from the inside we see the fridge getting opened and the guy (me!) takes the fruitdrink out. He looks guiltily over his shoulder to his wife (it's her drink!), and takes a few sips. His belly starts to roll spontaneously, and after an initial surprised look he drinks the rest of it. That gives his belly total control for a moment and he is pulled around the fridge door and starts moving and later on dancing towards his wife, who's reading a magazine. He turns around in the corner and dances back, and that's where his wife notices with surprise, and he looks a bit helplessly back at her. The dancing ends when he bumps the fridge door closed and poses with a big smile, product bottle still in hand.

It is a real pleasure working with these people, and I am in total awe of their professionalism. Everybody is efficient and cooperative, not an angry word is heard, options are weighed and a decision is quickly reached. First I get a fresh haircut, then I am asked to try on some different clothes. We decide on a subdued look to make the contrast with the dancing bigger: darker hair, dark gray pants and tie, and an off-white dress shirt. The director already warned me yesterday, and yes, I get to do a lot of dancing, even if the whole routine is only 20 seconds or so. During the whole day I do the routine perhaps 50 times or so, for rehearsing and for shooting film from different positions. Most of the dancing I do is camels, horizontal hip figure eights and chest circles, with arms kept low in second position to avoid a feminine look. Fortunately outside temperatures are cool and it's not hot on the set at all, but dancing can warm you up quickly. We use a hair dryer to dry the shirt and my body when necessary to make sure it does not cling to me. They shoot the dance action from four directions and then some, and from several distances. They also make the camera move around a lot (on rails at times). This gives an awesome dynamic quality to the picture (like you are dancing around each other). They shoot every angle and camera motion at least twice - I think there are perhaps 10 reels of film of my dance. All footage is also recorded on video for checking on the spot.

As a rooky actor I get things mixed up quite a few times, but the director is very good at correcting and giving positive feedback and encouragement. Fortunately, we do not record the final sound at all, so he can shout instructions as much as needed. After some initial insecurity about how this is going to work I really get to enjoy doing this and get into the dance as well. And it's quite nice to have two pretty ladies fuss over your clothing and makeup between takes Smile. In general everybody is really courteous towards the actors and tries to make it work for them. As soon as I complain jokingly that I am getting a bruise on my hip from bumping the fridge door closed, they decide to have someone lie on the floor to operate the door so I can do a pretend bump. When I am finally done with my parts (working 9am to 9pm with only short breaks and minimal food!) I get a standing ovation from the crew. That is so nice - I could get used to that! At that point the crew still has some shots to do of the product for the final animation. It's a long day...
In between takes we do some stills, in a room that has a totally white background. They ask me to repeat several positions in my part, and then ask me to dance to some music they brought to take some more shots. I have a really good time dancing to it and get some nice compliments about that. The stills I have seen look pretty good - not your average belly dance pictures, as I am still in shirt and tie and dress pants, of course.
I am really curious how this is going to look when all the footage is combined into the final TV commercial! I will post the final result when I receive my copy (with gracious permission from the company).

Make-up station 'Husband and wife' Stage area Lighting equipment Camera on dolly Prepared fridge Product Hero ActiFruit
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Sharif and Carla).


August 18: Preparing for filmshoot for a TV commercial.

I am so excited! Less than two weeks ago I received an inquiry through this website to see if I would be willing to perform belly dance for a TV commercial in the Netherlands! The company that wrote me did not know I used to live there, so they were surprised when I wrote them back in their own language. They sent me the storyboard for the commercial, and more information about the whole process. The product is a fruit drink (Hero ActiFruit) that is high in fibers and good for your digestion, so that's where the link to belly dance is.
The script is: A guy (me) comes home from the office and takes the product from the fridge. When he puts it down he spontaneously starts bellydancing, and his wife looks on a bit puzzled. Meanwhile the voice over talks about the health benefits of this drink.
It's a 30-second commercial, so there's maybe 10-20 seconds of dancing in it. They asked me to make a demo video, because my current video is more about the veil than about hip and belly movements, so Nakisa and I worked on that in the evening. They really liked this demo, but asked me to brush it up a bit (add a tie, less arm movements) to better convince their customer. We did that last Saturday, and uploaded it to YouTube (sorry, it's gone now). On Tuesday the customer gave the go-ahead, so it's all going to happen! SeSe graciously made room in her schedule to go over some moves in a private session last Wednesday, which was really helpful. I am practicing these combos now, so I can be more effective on the set. Today I am flying out to Amsterdam, and this Monday we will be filming. Yay!


August 13: My 24th performance, at Masala Imports' Summer Hafla.

For this Masala Imports event I do "Farscape" and "Il Alem Allah" again. The red liquid lamé veil/cape will work a lot better outside than the silk double veils I used last time! I have practiced a little on better facial expression at home, and there is plenty of space for my choreography here. The crowd is very pleasant and my dance comes out really well - I feel much more at ease than last time and have fun with the music and the dance. There is still enough wind to mess with the cape and make it misbehave, so I tone down the veilwork a bit. This time I manage to release the cord in time to toss the cape away before the second song. On the second song I move back and forth in front of the audience, and I have plenty of space to finish the phrase traveling in each direction. My performance is well received, and there are many more great performances; we take lots of pictures. I talk with a lot of dancers afterwards. the food is good, the weather is great and this is such a fun event in Santa Cruz!

Veil pose Veil pose up Slow taqsim Arabian horse Sign off
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Holly). More pictures


August 11: My 23rd performance, at Kalisa's.

Aruba invites us to come along to Kalisa's to perform this evening, and we gladly accept. It's always more fun to go with a group, and I have some new material to try out. Despite our efforts (Aruba zilling out of the window!) there is a only small crowd at Kalisa's, and not much energy; fortunately more dancers show up in the course of the evening. I do a whole new set: "Farscape" with a red liquid lamé half-circle veil changed into a cape, and "Il Alem Allah", a song I had choreographed a long time ago but never performed publicly. The performance goes OK but not as good as I would like. I still feel a bit shy, guess it's the new choreographies, and the small stage does not help either. There is a large plant on the left side and people drumming on the right side, and it kind of blocked me in the choreography I prepared. I guess I will have to change it around a bit to be prepared next time! We get to see some really nice young dancers and talk with the audience, and have a good time.

Intro veil open Windmill turn Hip over Pose in slow part Final pose
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Michael).


July 22: Private lesson with SeSe, and monthly hafla.

Today I have my long postponed one hour private lesson with SeSe, that she promised us at the end of the performance class we did last year(!) I am finally in a place where I think I can use some input, and I also have a couple of questions to go over. It is a very productive and fun experience; we go over a new piece of music that I want to dance to, and SeSe has some good ways of brainstorming for moves that will fit to it. She is patient and upbeat as always, and we agree on a lot of the approach to make a male belly dance performance work. The hour is past sooner than I wanted, and we have lots of material to go over at a later time. Well, the new piece is coming soon to a theatre near you!
This evening we have our monthly hafla again, this time at Azar's house. We have a nice turnout of about twelve dancers. It has been a really hot day, and nobody seems to have a lot of energy left for dancing. Still, we get some dancing going after a slow start; I have a good time dancing with a couple of the ladies, copying moves and reacting to their movements. That's always a good exercise!


July 8: My 22nd performance, at Hafla Santa Cruz.

Tonight I am performing at a larger local festival, the Hafla Santa Cruz; obviously this event takes place in Santa Cruz, where I live. In the past two weeks I have been practicing my old standby "Shine" with my A'kai silk veils, and can work reasonably well with them now. I have ironed out some of the dead moments and smoothed the transitions. Still, there are the occasional veil disasters, and putting them together again after the windmill turn does not work out well every time. For this event all dancers are asked to supply their music both on CD and on cassette tape. So I have to revive my cassette player; I don't think I have made a cassette recording in five years or so! Surprisingly, this does not take a lot of time, perhaps I paid my dues in the eighties.
After all the preparations I arrive at the venue close to seven, and there is still a long list of dancers before me. I have the questionable honor of closing the show (at 22:25), probably because I did not call in for a slot on time and was on the waitlist. But I am glad to be in it! Nakisa has taken a free workshop with SeSe earlier in the afternoon, and has been watching the show since. There are some very good performances, and good opportunities to take pictures. I really liked the veil performance of Shoshanna - very powerful, attractive and well executed, I wish I could dance like that! The stage is smaller than I thought, actually a good thing because it will not drown a solo performer so much. I am a bit more nervous than usual, but everyone is very nice; I just wait and hope that my performance does not get cancelled because the show is running over time... When my time is up the hall is already a bit empty, but not as bad as I had thought. Some of our dance friends stayed expressly to see my performance (thank you!), and wished me luck too.
After waiting for the previous dancers to finish, I finally get announced. I enter the stage and do my spiral walk in an unusual direction because of where the stage entrance is. The first few moments I get a strong sense from the crowd that they did not expect a GUY to enter the stage! All afternoon and evening not a single male has danced on stage, and I have seen only two on stage at all... But they adjust quickly, and are very appreciative. My routine works out quite well, I put on some attitude to challenge the audience during the veil twists and have fun with that. The veils unfold well and the windmill turns get a nice reaction from the crowd. The veils come together again nicely, and I manage to walk forward with them and put in some chests pops before the butterfly spins. At the end of the routine I have some trouble getting the veils separated for the final spin, and so that part does not come out as nice as it could, but I think I covered it up OK. Veils are always tricky! I take a bow, and exit the stage with the music I added to my CD for that purpose. I think some people were disappointed that I did not dance to that song as well... Well, it's good to leave them wanting more!
Nakisa says this was my best performance yet, and she's the expert (she's seen them all - my biggest fan!). I am not totally convinced, especially because of the mishap at the end. Still, I get many good reactions from various people, compliments about my chest isolations and inquiries about my veils. And I was having fun most of the time, which is the most important thing!

Intro veil up Chest circles Kick steps veil up In the back of the windmill turns Butterfly turn
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


July 1: My 21st performance, at Casbah Cabaret.

I have been practicing with my new A'kai half-circle silk double veils for a week now, and it's time to put them to the test! After checking with Janette, we decide to go to the Casbah Cabaret tonight, in favor of the already crowded Kalisa's students night the day before. We arrive early and prepare our costumes, and listen to the live music.
Nakisa is performing first, she does her dance to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in a pretty panther-patterned outfit. She's as elegant as ever, and gains confidence every time she performs! I do "Shine" (with the two veils), and a two-minute song dedicated to my teachers (title under wraps until they all have seen it!). The CD player seems pretty picky tonight, but fortunately my music plays just fine. The first song runs relatively smooth, with just a few hiccups. That stage is small, and I really have to finish the intro in the back next time to take those four steps forward! The windmill turn takes a bit of fiddling to get started, it takes me some time to get the veils together again, and at one point I step on a veil... But it's good practice to recover from these errors, and I don't think many people have noticed. The second song comes out nicely, and I see at least one teacher (Hassan) 'getting it'!
Afterwards I get complimented on my veil handling from the very experienced Zorba, and other people also mention having enjoyed the show. Zorba does his Shemadan dance, with some very impressive isolations, and Hassan performs his trademark double veils and does a great drum solo piece too. And both play zills to their dancing like they were born with them! Of course there were even more female performers, with highlights Janette and Lana.

Intro veil up Kick steps Rose 1 Toreador turns Final pose
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


June 23: Hafla at Aruba's place.

Aruba hosts the rotating hafla tonight, that we try to organize each month. We have a good house of dancers and musicians, and enjoy the food, the booze and the company. A nice delegation from Monterey shows up, and even another male dancer from Santa Cruz, Ganapati, who plays the oud in the ensemble that we practice with in SeSe's "dancing to live music" class. I talk with him quite a bit, and also with a male family friend of Aruba's, who is interested in learning belly dance and turns out quite proficient! We dance to the nice selection of music that Aruba has prepared, and again I find it easier than on other occasions to really get into it, enjoy myself while dancing and find some moves that work for me.


June 17: My 20th performance, at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.

This evening is the final performance of the Intermediate Ensemble dancing class I'm in! We have been practicing every week at Dancenter for four months or so on this piece, with SeSe developing the choreography as we went. This is my first group performance, and it's in a large theatre (the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium) to boot! As I am both the only male dancer in the group and the tallest, SeSe has placed me spot in the center - I really appreciate her confidence in me, although it is a bit of an extra responsibility. Yesterday we had a dress rehearsal, and that went quite well for a dress rehearsal (they often are pretty disastrous). All the girls are dressed real nice - our costumes are all different, but we have to use red and purple for colors. One has an all out cabaret costume, another a red gypsy skirt, yet another a fancy custom-made costume... I have a "purple" pair of silk harem pants that I bought at L. Rose (they looked a bit too blue to me, so I dyed them with red to get the purple I really wanted), the red vest that Nakisa had made for me a long time ago, and a red coin belt (that I made narrower for a more masculine look).
Today we all arrive early to get our costumes in order and fret about the upcoming show. We get the before-show peptalk and we have a short session on stage to correct a minor stage position issue that we found out yesterday during the dress rehearsal. We go back to the dressing room, the audience arrives and the show starts, and we wait our turn. We are 14th out of 35 groups, a bit before the break. The timing between groups is very tight, the organizers really have this down.
We dance to the song "Le Rai C'est Chic" (that's French for "'Rai' is great" - 'rai' is a music form originally from Morocco that's popular in France now too), a very upbeat song performed by Cheb Mami. We have eleven dancers total, and our line-up changes all the time during the song: two lines, a "V", switching back to front, circling around... The performance goes quite well, and I am really enjoying it almost the whole time. I remember at some point thinking "Darn, we're already way past half of the song" - time flies when you're having fun! All the practice I had in the theatre earlier this year really helped to make me feel more comfortable with the setting, and of course the dress rehearsal was a great thing to have done. We have practiced a little gag for the end of the song: we all dance off, and I kind of linger on the right side of the stage and show off dancing a bit, and then a couple of the ladies sneak up on me and pull me off stage! That went very well, this time I knew for sure they were coming so I could just really get into it and pretend to be surprised when I felt them pulling. The audience loved it - it's good to be able to make them laugh when you want to!
We return in the finale of the show to take a bow. I feel quite elated about our performance. I think I missed out a bit on the choreography twice - at one point I put my hands in my side once instead of before me (but at least they were in a decent shape!), and I almost missed the final quick hip push turn. Not too bad actually, I think it all looked quite OK - I can't wait to see the video!

Intro turnaround Hip push Hip lift Temple arms Spider step combo Leading the troupe in the finale
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


June 17: Renaissance Festival in Aptos.

Today we go to a benefit Renaissance Festival in Aptos, with a group of dancers of dancers and drummers and a violin player. We dance (improvising to the live music created), play zills, balance swords, use veils, and have a good time together. We also see another group of dancers from the valley perform. There are all kinds of demonstrations as these fairs go - belly dance seems a bit contrived to me in this medieval context, but nobody's complaining, I guess...


June 3: My 19th performance, at my dad's 70th birthday.

This week we travel to the Netherlands to visit our parents and to catch my dad's 70th birthday celebration. Because our siblings all have their own jobs to tend to during the week, we decide to take a train to Paris for a few days. We visit the Louvre and take some pictures of Middle Eastern artifacts they have in that museum - nice for the website! At one point we have some time to kill before we go to a show, and we find a hookah bar across from the theatre and have some tea. We can't resist to show off our dancing skills a bit, of course, and the owner is very pleased!
By now I have directed all of my relatives (forcibly Smile) to my website, so my nephews and nieces (ages 4 to 10) all have seen the pictures and video. I had half decided to do a performance at my dad's birthday party, and because the children are very eager to see it I decide to go through with it. We have our own room in a restaurant, and between the usual birthday trivia games I do my "Shine" (with double veil) and "Low Rider" routines. There is a bit of delay starting the music, but other than that it goes rather smooth. It's a bit different to play to your relatives with the dance, so I concentrate on the kids a bit more. The audience and the birthday boy like it allright and I get some nice compliments afterwards! And one important advantage: I can now honestly call myself an international belly dance performer...

Sharif in Paris Veil walk Veil twists Windmill turn Rose 1
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Richard and Nakisa). More pictures


May 13: Hafla at our place.

It's a busy weekend: after the performance I did earlier, we are hosting the rotating monthly hafla with our belly dance friends. We have a nice crowd visiting our home, including our teacher Moira and her husband Scott and more new guests. We have a great time dancing - it's a very good opportunity to just dance to the music without feeling intimidated, learn from each other and try new things. I find that I often make up new moves that feel natural to me on these occasions - not so much in class, and definitely not during a performance!


May 13: My 18th performance, at Marisa's bridal shower.

Friends of ours present me with an opportunity to perform at a bridal shower that they are hosting today. My first paid gig! A complicating factor is that the bride-to-be and a couple of her guests are blind, so I want to adapt my performance for them. The hostess and I decide to light some candles and burn some incense to create a Middle-Eastern atmosphere, and of course I bring a nice coin belt to make my dance audible. I have about half an hour, and I decide to do two sets and change my costume in between for good measure. For the first set I do "Shine" (with double veil) and "Low Rider"; the second set will be a sword dance on "Misirlou" and a faster song to finish. In the first set I am wearing a headdress, but not in the second because for the sword dance that might be taken as cheating. With some time for explanation and questions and answers I figure that will be enough to fill half an hour. I request that I can come in the house and get changed unseen, to improve the dramatic effect.
There are about twelve people in the audience, and for some of them the performance is a complete (nice) surprise! They are all very enthousiastic and enjoy the show. Of course the first part with the double veil also creates some air movement, and that also helps the blind audience members to appreciate what's going on. Beforehand I asked that someone would do a bit of a play-by-play narration of the show for them, but that does not work out quite as well because the lady narrator is too distracted by the performance! I manage to avoid dangerous collisions of veils and candles, and even pass in front of the coffee table to get closer to the audience. The sword number goes pretty well for a first public performance, but I still have to work on making it stay on my head better, both by practicing and by preparing the sword and my hair. I have to correct it a number of times, and it falls off once - in a safe place, fortunately. But the audience is very impressed, and at least it shows that I am not cheating in any way! The fast song goes well, and is fun to do, and I finish the dances on a high note as planned.
At the end of the show I give a short description of what belly dance is, and where it comes from, and the position of males in the dance. The ladies ask me some questions and make some fun together. Some of them are interested in taking classes, and one of them even asks me where I teach - thanks for the compliment, I am really only an intermediate dancer! I have a great time performing for them, and afterwards have a chance to watch them celebrate this occasion with gift unpacking and games. Marisa, I know you will be a beautiful bride and I wish you a lot of happiness in this new stage of your life!

Basic Egyptian Dropping to the floor... Floorwork
(Photography by Laura).


May 12: My 17th performance, at Pizza Raks.

I enjoyed doing a performance at the Pizza Raks last time, and Hala gracefully invited me back. So tonight we are heading to the San Jose Straw Hat Pizza with our friends Aruba, Brad, and Roni. Because I haven't done the double veil version here yet, I do "Shine" and "Low Rider" again. This time the music plays OK after some hiccups, and I can use the intro to travel through the middle aisle with my veil up to the stage area. After I have overcome some initial uneasiness I have a great time doing my show, that is getting more and more smooth. During my spins I let myself move upstage a bit because the ceiling at the front of the stage is too low for the windmill turns. There is always something that you have to change to adjust to the venue! The butterfly turns come out nicely as well, and I travel through the left aisle towards the other side of the restaurant where I do more spins and "Rose 1". For "Low Rider" I use the aisles again to do some travelling steps, and do the laybacks on the center stage. I really get into it, and must have smiled a lot judging from the sensation in my jaws afterwards! My companions compliment me afterwards on the timing of the windmill turns and on how "Rose 1" came out, so I must have done a few things right...
There are about eight performances, among them Aruba and Hala. I talk with a couple of audience members afterwards and get some nice compliments. The young daughter of the owners (7 years, perhaps) asks me "Are you a boy?" and then insists that "Boys don't dance!", although I keep telling her "Well, you saw one dance just now!". I guess there is still a lot of work to do before male belly dancing is a mainstream activity!

Veil spin More spins Low Rider improv
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Roni). More pictures


May 7: SeSe's Naming Ceremony.

Every year SeSe has a naming ceremony, where new dancers receive their stage name or get their name reaffirmed. It is also a way of expressing the bond between teacher and students. Nakisa and I take part in the ceremony in SeSe's garden, with about a dozen new dancers total. One by one SeSe gives us our dance name and an explanation of its meaning, and an envelope with a personal message. We are then adorned with a crown of flowers by one of her experienced dancers, who have been helping with preparations all afternoon. My name is now officially "Sharif ibn SeSe", meaning "Sharif, son of SeSe", so SeSe is now my "dance mother". The name Sharif means "nobleman", which corresponds with my everyday last name that means "knight".

Flower crown
(Click on picture for a larger version - photography by Sharif).


May 6: SeSe's Spring Soloist Showcase.

Tonight SeSe's monday night "Spring Soloist Showcase" class has their "final exam". A dozen dancers have been working on a solo piece for four months, and this is their official public performance. I have already seen the dress rehearsal, and it is a great set of varied pieces, some traditional, some a bit out of the ordinary. The ladies (no gents this time, I did not take the class) do not disappoint us and do even better then during the rehearsal. Oddyssa is especially cool when her CD stops working and she improvises until the sound technician finds a different way of playing her music. Nakisa performs her dance on the Theme of the Pink Panther, in a very appropriately pink costume.

Jillian Samra Nakisa Kallista Roni Bibi
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Sharif). More pictures


April 30: Double veil workshop.

A well-known belly dance teacher from this area, Alyne, is going to take a sabbatical and today I seize the opportunity to take a workshop with her in double veil technique. Because I have taken some double veil classes in the past, I decide to skip the first course, and do only the second. Actually I had planned on doing the second course and the choreography course, but I have just recovered from a nasty flu and don't want to push the spinning too much today.
The course is instructive (as courses should be...) and I get some good new material to work on, and good tips on my veil fabrics. I *think* I know how to get in and out of the two veils now, but I have to figure out which part goes where before I completely trust it - I'm too much of a hard science guy to just use it, I guess. And I am not sure if I will use that anyway, because being inside the veils looks too much like wearing a skirt. I know some people will disagree, but I personally don't think that looks good on me. But a couple of other moves and the list Alyne gives to all attendees will probably be very useful. It's a great day and we enjoy the sunshine in San Jose a bit before we head home again.


April 15: Arabian Nights movie.

This evening we watch the movie "Arabian Nights" we rented from Netflix. It's a fairly recent version of the story of Scheherazade ("1001 Nights"). It is very well done, great sets and costuming, compelling computer-generated magic, good stories... highly recommended! Any belly dancer will get some costuming ideas from this movie. It was made as a miniseries for TV, so it has never run in theatres I think. The story is obviously quite romantic and not quite historically accurate (I don't think that at any point in the last couple of thousand years men and women mingled as freely in the Middle East), but very entertaining and fun to watch.


April 9: My 16th performance, at Masala Imports.

Today Masala Imports organizes their first hafla of the year, outside in their parking lot. The weather has been dreadfully wet for most of the week, and so we are anxious how this is going to turn out. Fortunately it is dry (at least at the start), but with an overcast sky. I decide to do my old standbys of "Shine" and "Low Rider", as I haven't done them here yet. Veilwork outside can be tricky, and so I prepare to fall back to single veil if there is too much wind (my single veil is much heavier).
The wind looks very mild and I decide to use my double veils. The first part of the dance works out pretty well, but it soon becomes clear that even this amount of wind can break up a lot of the veilwork I am doing! The windmill turns don't come out as well as they could, and the wind takes away quite a lot of the clarity of the other moves as well. Note to self: don't underestimate the amount of wind! I finish the veil dance with some nice bolero spins, and go into Low Rider. In this dance, the sunglasses I am wearing actually look kind of cool (I have really sensitive eyes, and squinting makes you look so tense and nervous!). I can hear that the audience really likes this one, and it is fun to interact and play with them a bit. The layback is well-received as always, and so I can finish on a high note.
Later on we get some free dancing in, and because of a beginning rain we move into the studio. There is quite a line-up of well-known dancers for this event, and we see some really beautiful performances.

Walk forward veil trailing Turns veil in one hand Windmill turn Butterfly turns Layback
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


April 9: SeSe's veil workshop.

The last workshop in a series that SeSe teaches is about veil moves, and because I have done a lot of veilwork already I look forward to learning some new moves. We do a lot of spinning, learn a few moves that I had not done before, and refreshed my memory of a few others. Time well spent!


April 1: My 15th performance, at Casbah Cabaret.

My first double veil performance! Janette invites me to come dance at the next Casbah Cabaret, and after some hesitation I decide to do that. It's a good opportunity to put some of the new double veil moves I learned from Hassan to the test. In the last few weeks I have practiced my favorite "Shine" with double veils and added some of my new moves, as a preparation for his classes. I added a "Windmill Turn" in the first part, a "Rose One" in the second, and some "Boleros" towards the end, and I finish with a nice whirl of the veils.
I make sure I will be way before Hassan in the line-up - it's always better to build up the show in terms of dance skills! So I'm third on, and I have only just finished putting on my costume when I get called. The first part of "Shine" goes pretty well, the windmill turn works out OK, and I manage to get the veils together again in time for the butterfly turns in the slow part. But at some point in the second part one of the veils slips from my left hand, and have to scramble to get it under control again. I keep turning and try to make the veils look pretty, but I don't have the time to do "Rose One" anymore. Too bad, it will work next time! "Low Rider" works out really well, the audience really eats it up - thanks to SeSe for some great ideas for this choreography!
Fortunately, I get a lot of praise for my performance and nobody seems to have noticed the veil problems much. Both Hassan and Zorba compliment me on the recovery ("You pretty much grabbed it from the air! Cool! You should build that into your dance! And you kept your face straight..."), and others also mention that I make good progress in my dance skills. It's nice to be in a steep part of the learning curve.
We see a lot of other dancers, and have a pleasant evening. It does seem to be a poor night for veils, I see a few other dancers struggle as well (not Hassan, of course). Thanks to all the dancers! Pictures didn't come out very well this time (my fault), but just for the record I added some.

Intro Windmill turn Getting them together again Putting the audience in its proper place Layback
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


March 25/26: Rakkasah West.

Nakisa and I go to the Rakkasah belly dance festival again, this time for the whole weekend. We see a lot of performances, and definitely some really good ones. Lotus Niraja and her troupe from Baltimore really stand out with the cane dance - that was a very well-executed, strong and mesmerizing performance! Other highlights are Suhaila's Bal Anat, Fahtiem, DaVid, Jim Boz, Naheda... A couple of local groups also performed and did well, Bibi and the Kashmir Dancers, and Desert Dreams with Janelle. Of course we check out all the male dance performances! And it is always fun to meet our Santa Cruz dance friends again - we meet dozens of them.
We are looking forward to a Saturday evening of dancing at the hotel, as we hear happened last year, but unfortunately it is canceled because of noise complaints last year. But we get some dancing in during the sound check of the bands on Sunday, that is a nice aspect of the festival. I have to leave early because of a commitment to a gig with the jazz band, so Nakisa is the only one to see some really interesting performances at the end of the day...
Our pictures did not come out too well this time, but there are some on the pictures page.


March 19: SeSe's Super Shimmies workshop.

SeSe has started offering a series of workshops on different aspects of dance on Sundays, and the Super Shimmies workshop is one I really like to do. I kind of have a 3/4 shimmy going, but it's very small and unstable so this is a good opportunity to brush up on it. SeSe gives us a lot of exercises and has us shimmying all over the room! At the end of the class she lets us try a backward 3/4 shimmy, and that works surprisingly well for me. A couple of hours after the class I feel a bit sore in the hips - guess the teacher really worked us!


March 9: Hassan's master class.

Hassan starts a series of master classes at Janette's studio in Monterey, and I go there for the first class. It's a Thursday night, but SeSe's class is canceled because she has a performance (she always allows people to make up for the lost time by attending other classes). It's a good opportunity for me to brush up some of the moves I learned earlier from him. I am bummed that I cannot attend all four classes, and the next week I discuss my options with SeSe. She gracefully allows me to attend Hassan's further classes and make up in other classes. So you can expect to see some double veil from me real soon!


March 3: Hafla at Aruba's place.

Today Aruba organizes the rotating hafla for our friends. Her house is warm and inviting, and the decoration is nicely done in belly dance style. We bring our friends Helen and Anita, and meet some new dancers at the party. We dance a lot together - we do the dance circle, and I show off a small Egyptian combo that I stole from the entertainers at the resort in Jamaica where we spent the previous week (those people were amazing, they would top most of our teachers!) I have some fun mirroring moves with Kim at one time, and with Lisa at another time. A fun evening!


February 12: Raks Sharki workshop with DaVid.

Today DaVid teaches two workshops for our benefit. I decide to take the Raks Sharki (Egyptian style belly dance) workshop, mainly because the Saidi Stick workshop seemed a bit steep for someone who's never held a dancing cane in his life. The workshop is good, we learn a lot of moves that are unusual enough to have even our teachers grasping, and it is pretty strenuous. DaVid stresses that it is important to make your moves big enough to see them from the other side of the room - what the audience doesn't see they cannot appreciate... We will probably put some of the information to good use later!


February 11: My 14th performance, at Marrakesh Express.

Siwa has started a tradition to invite a male belly dancer over for a performance and workshops every year around Valentine's Day. This year DaVid has accepted the invitation. Tonight he is the star of honor of a Marrakesh Express performance night at Dancenter. Nakisa first performs a nice cane dance with the Belly Dance Basics dance troupe of SeSe, where she is the center front dancer! They are very entertaining and do some daring moves, while managing to avoid hitting each other with the canes. Aruba (and Brad on zills) is the next in line, followed by Ann, Jessica and Brendice (they do a new piece that looks really nice!) and Lisa. They all do very well, and are hard acts to follow.
Nakisa and I are the first act after the break. We do the two Kamaal duets again, and this time we have the video camera rolling! (Actually, that almost did not work out because the camera refused to cooperate at first - it took some serious coaxing to get it to work again. I was not amused.) We have practiced some more during the week to get our moves more synchronized, and that works out well. We also added some intro and exit music to it, and we make a dramatic entrance with Nakisa at my arm and making some turns while I bring her to her position on stage. The performance is very well received, and we are very pleased with it too! Of course there are some mistakes, but we manage to keep it all going and I don't think many people noticed.
We walk around the building to sneak in the front again to enjoy the rest of the show. We see Bibi, then her troupe, and of course DaVid. DaVid is a very skillful dancer and a nice person and he puts on a great show! His articulation and choice of moves are very good. Beforehand we talked about costuming a bit in the dressing room, and he gave us some good tips.
After the show we enjoy a well-deserved meal at the Crepe Place with our dancer friends.


February 4: My 13th performance, at Casbah Cabaret.

Both Zorba and Janette invited us to dance at the Casbah Cabaret, and Nakisa and I decide to do the duet that we had practiced for our class last year. To make it long enough, we also practice the accompanying drum solo. Kamaal can be proud of us; we use both of his choreographies that we learned on the Arabian Nights at Sea cruise! We travel with our friend Siwa, and have a not so quick dinner together first, but still arrive on time. Nakisa is wearing the red outfit she ordered online in Turkey, and I am wearing a new black and silver vest with the matching pants I already had.
The performance goes well, we only lose track of the steps once, and we are much more confident in the whole thing. The stage is really small for this, though, but we keep the steps really small and it works. At one point I even step off the stage briefly. A nice point of the music we use is that there are several breaks and turnarounds where the audience thinks it finishes, so we get extra applause a couple of times!
There are quite a few other performers this evening, and with some live music it is a good evening for the audience!
After the show we dance some more on the open floor with live music, and I have a good time dancing with Maria and copying each other's moves. Of course I get to spread my dance cards around a bit too...

A bit lost... Nakisa Sharif Hip push Hip figure eight Final pose
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Lana). More pictures


January 30: My dance cards arrive!


A week ago I ordered some dance cards (business cards with information about a dancer) on it, and today they arrive! So from today on I will give them to whoever wants to have one. I really want to get some more traffic to my website, and this definitely beats writing my website address on napkins and scraps of paper. The "bookings" have to be taken with a grain of salt right now, but I could always refer people to other dancers. The company I ordered them with allows you to design your own card online, and it is not too expensive (about 10c each).

You're welcome to print it of course (right-click on the image), but I'd rather give you one in person!


January 22: Workshop "Entertaining at Restaurants" by Siwa.

Siwa organizes a workshop on skills that can be very useful in restaurant dancing. A small group of dancers is taking it all in at Il Pirata in Capitola: Aruba, Nakisa and I, Roni, and Zurah Malikah. Siwa goes over dance moves and music choice a bit, and the special pitfalls in a restaurant setting. She stresses the psychology of interaction with the audience in such close quarters and dealing with various traits in guests. She also explains some fun things we can do to celebrate a customer's birthday or other occasion. We all get to perform for a choice audience of friends that is instructed to behave in a certain way. It is entertaining and instructional, and I feel reasonably comfortable going through the aisles and connecting with my audience. A nice way to have breakfast on a Sunday morning!


January 21: Hafla at our place.

It is our turn to host the rotating hafla, also because it was my birthday a few days ago. A nice crowd of dancers turns up, and some from quite far away: Isabela, Lana, Anita, Aruba and Brad, Becky, Chery, Nakisa and I, Nicole, Roni, and Zurah Malikah. We spend quite a bit of time trying on costumes that people brought for sale or exchange - the living room started to look like a regular bazaar! We have fun with props (that sword really does not want to stay on my head!), and the music I gathered on my Zen Micro MP3 player in the last few months proved very effective. We danced in a circle taking turns, and also danced with each other copying moves and gestures. It was a fun party, thanks to all for coming!


January 13: My twelfth performance, at Pizza Raks.

Last year I was supposed to perform at the Pizza Raks, but I had to cancel because of flu. This time we make it there all right despite the ominous date of Friday 13th. Well, you just have to ignore that folklore, because as I heard say "Superstition gives you bad luck". We travel with our friend Siwa, and she, Aruba and Roni are also on the list of performers. I will do "Shine" and "Low Rider" again, but I have planned to adapt my choreographies a bit to this venue. But things turn out quite different than expected! There is a long list of performers (eleven total), so there is little time for each, and the organizers ask me to do only one song to limit time. I (grudgingly) agree to do only the first, but hope that there will be time for the second as well. Because the first song requires some space for the veil turns, it is rather static in this venue, with only two spots appropriate for it, whereas I can move around through the aisles much better on the second song. I had hoped to get some practice with moving around in a restaurant venue this time! I am the fifth in the line-up, and before I start there is already some confusion with the sound system.

Our host introduces me to the audience and I wait... then I wait a bit more... I keep smiling... When eventually we hear the music, we are already 30 seconds or so into the song! I had planned to use the intro to walk through the aisle with my veil up (where I normally do a spiral walk on stage), but it's already gone by! So I just wing it and walk to the stage just the same, and start some veil spins. I have a hard time remembering where we are in my choreography, so I improvise most of it. I do a toreador walk through the aisle, keeping the veil really close (my girlfriend says nothing major was swept off the tables Smile), do some veil spins on the other side and walk back the same way. Then we get into the slower part of the song, and I get a grip on the dance choreography again. When I finish, they let the CD go into the second song anyway, and I get to do that too! That song works out pretty well, although I reversed the order of a couple of things. I get to interact with some of the ladies in the audience a bit, and that's always a lot of fun! I even get some tips stuck in my belt... At the end of the song I just improvise a bit with basic Egyptian and even do some turns, and I really get into the dancing - great!

Of course we watch and enjoy the other performers as much as we can. Aruba gets her husband to play zills for her again, and two other dancers invite him to play zills for them - he's the man! Siwa shows off her entertaining skills, especially when she receives tips and moves away at the last moment... Roni does a great show and is very photogenic. I receive an invitation to come back any time I want, which is always the best compliment. Thank you, I will!

Turning in back Turning in front Slow turns Getting tips!
(Click on any picture for a larger version - photography by Nakisa). More pictures


Previous events are described in Belly Dance Blog 2005.