Statue of Daniel and the Lion, St. Petersburg, Russia.
© Sharif
Photography 2009

Belly Dance Blog 2010

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 2011.

- o O o -


December 19: Performance at Santa Cruz Raks.

Our small group of four dancers has now named itself "Arba'a" (Arabic for "4") and we perform Crystal's choreography to "Pheadra Pharonica" now for an audience of mainly local dancers. It's very short, so we warn the audience not to blink lest they'll miss it... It goes off very well and our friends are impressed with our tight group dance.


October 3: Crystal's Student Night.

Nakisa and I have signed up to each do a solo at Crystal's student night, and we also perform her choreography to "Pheadra Pharonica" in a small group of four dancers total. My solo dance is the choreography that I put together in Sese's Soloist Showcase class, a slow piece with veil with some nice highlights. I manage to avoid my nemesis in this venue - the arabic lamp that hangs from the ceiling dead center over the stage (it's low enough that I can reach it without going on toe...).


September 24-27: Arabian Nights at Sea.

We have again signed up for a long weekend of dance classes, opting as usual to stay on board of the cruise ship for more classes. We have a good time meeting friends from previous cruises, taking workshops, dancing, watching the performances and taking pictures.


September 19: Santa Cruz Raks.

Tonight we go out to watch the dance show that our friend Aruba puts on every month - now in a new more classy venue, and closer by for us as well - Michael's on Main in Soquel. We enjoy the food, take lots of pictures and have a great time with old and new friends! See the picture album on my Facebook website.


August 21: Sese's Rak Stars show.

We have worked on a more theatrical piece in one of Sese's classes, so we can perform it at her yearly show. The theme of the show this year is "Rak Stars", which is a belly dance version of rock stars ("raks" means "dance" in Arabic). Our piece is set to the song "All Star" by Smashmouth. Sese creates the choreography as we go during class, and this year it came together really quickly, following the lyrics pretty much. There are some rather fast hip-hop style parts in it and due to a vactaion we missed a few classes, so we had some work getting it together. We all got to choose a rock star to emulate for this' dance, and I chose David Bowie. On the day of the show we go to the mall to ask the ladies at the make-up counter to do our face - they were very nice, they spend almost two hours on mine! I brought a picture of the album cover of Bowie's "Alladin Sane" and she did a very good job with it.

The dance goes off very well, but also quickly, and it's a one-off, so that's too bad. Fortunately we have a video of the performance to look forward to! We have a great time at the show and come home with lots of pictures, and so do the members of photography Meetup group.


August 7/8: Carnival of Stars festival.

This weekend we visit the local dance/comic book festival Carnival of Stars. We take loads of pictures and see some accomplished and well-known dancers perform at this really underrated festival. Come out next year you all! You can find an album with highlights of the festival photos on my Facebook page.


June 6: Performance at the Dance Synergy showcase.

Today we do the same routine as yesterday for Crystal's class as part of the Dance Synergy showcase. This one is at the Aptos High School, and they have a surprisingly modern and well-equipped theatre. We are impressed with the sound quality and especially the quality of the stage lighting - awesome for us photographers! Our routine goes over without a hitch and we now have a nice video of our dance - we look quite in sync!


June 5: Performance at the Motion Pacific showcase.

It's the season of dance studio recitals, and today it's the Motion Pacific showcase. It's located at the Henry J. Mello Center in Watsonville, a full-fledged theatre with a very nice stage. They even have a special dressing room for men - only when you open the door you find that it's been annexed for the kids by removing a folding wall! So it's back to the men's room again for the major changing operations, and wading through masses of hyper kids to get to the mirrors... It's quite fun, actually, but don't get any illusions about the glamorous life of a dancer!

Our teacher Crystal has taught us a beautiful flowing Egyptian style choreography to the song "Pheadra Pharonica" in a workshop in spring. She has asked us to perform it here. We have been practicing it for an hour each week after class and also put in hours at home studying it together - it must be 20 hours total or so on this 2.5 minute song! We have a great time getting ready to go on stage and practice a bit together outside in the back of the theatre. We do very well and get a nice reception from an audience that of course is mainly their to see their kids shine.


April 17: Performance at Sese's Soloist Showcase.

Our teacher Sese has a class each year to work on a solo piece and to eventually perform it in a show. For three months we work individually on our pieces and every couple of weeks show our progress to our fellow students. Often dancers come up with very different ideas and themes for their piece, so it turns into a eclectic show that is very entertaining for those making the effort to come watch. The show is again at the Pacific Cultural Center, a place that has a nice small stage. I choose to challenge myself to work with a long veil and try to be elegant with it, imitating what seems to come natural to so many female dancers. Of course I also want to keep looking masculine enough to not cause any confusion. I have practiced some moves with a four yard veil that I dyed myself with a DVD from Shoshanna, an expert in this field. The dance only comes together in the last few weeks of class, and I spend a lot of time in the last week drilling the routine to iron out the rough spots. It's easy enough to trip over such a long piece of fabric!

My dance comes out quite nicely, and when I flip the veil to the short end (a difficult move to pull off) I can see Sese relax a bit (she's on the stage between the curtains at the side). The audience likes it a lot, and we have again invited some friend photographers from our photography Meetup group to take pictures of the show.


March 28: Dancing at Cypress Raks.

Another episode in the continuing saga of belly dance performances at the Cypress Restaurant in Santa Cruz. We see a lot of great performances by local dancers and certainly by one of our favorites, Natalia. Thanks to improved stage lighting we are able to capture some nice shots - you can find highlights in the For highlights see local album, or visit the web album for a much larger collection (94 pictures).


March 20: Now Roos celebration.

Tonight we have a small gathering with our teacher Sese to celebrate the Persian New Year. We see a performance by the Belly Dance Basics dancers and individual pieces by our fellow dancers that are often of a personal nature. It's a moment to reflect on life and the passing of time.


March 13: Performance at Rakkasah.

Rakkasah is our yearly indulgence in all things belly dance - a 2 1/2 day long weekend of dance performances and shopping. The show is back at the Civic Auditorium in Richmond after a hiatus due to reconstruction of the building. This year Nakisa and I have procured dance slots on the (smaller) Cabaret stage on Saturday afternoon. I am on first, and Nakisa an hour later. We arrive well in advance of our show time and have a quick look around the shopping areas and greet our friends. Then it's on to get changed (the men's room... again...) and preparing for the performance. I am doing my veil poi routine that I have used in different dance spots already, and it's always dicey whether the props will behave. I am particularly anxious that the veils will fall out of my sleeves before I want them to, so I re-tuck them in my costume only a minute before I'm on.

It works because my veils stay in during the intro of the song where I'm on the floor doing chest circles and so on. I have practiced a lot, but with the veil poi you have to take it as it comes. The dance comes out reasonably well, although I've done it better, so I'm pretty satisfied. After I've seen the video I am even happier with my performance, it looks very cool and the spots where things don't go as planned don't stand out.

Of course we watch a lot of performances and take pictures. For highlights see selected pictures (~32 pictures), or for hardcore fans, browse the web album (~120 pictures).


February 20: Cypress Raks with Cory Zamora.

We go to the monthly Cypress Raks dance event, this time featuring Cory Zamora, a well-known dancer from Fresno. It's a good occasion to meet our friends, get some open floor dancing in and practice our belly dance picture taking. It's becoming a bit of a tradition for us, and it's always enjoyable. We have a good time with all of the above activities, and enjoy the dancers! See the web album for my best shots of the evening (23 pictures).


February 6: Dancing to Live Music Show.

Tonight Nakisa and I are signed up to perform in a show with live music by Orient'al. Last year we have taken a class in dancing to live music with our teacher Sese, and this show is the final performance for students of this class. We have a nice line-up with some nine dancers with different styles and each gets to choose the music they want to dance to. That's of course all relative, because there is no telling as to how the musicians are going to play it, so you can't choreograph anything. You'll just have to play it by ear, or rather dance it. In addition we have invited members of our photography group to come on out and take pictures of the performances.

Although I have done this before, I am always more nervous for these live music performances because I like to prepare well, and there is really not much you can do for this. I did some improvisational dancing to the practice music we received from our band beforehand, but that's all. But it all comes out quite nicely, Armando is a bit taken aback by my early appearance on stage because he wanted to give me an elaborate introduction, but off we go to "Hana", the song I picked. I have a good time playing out to the audience and even do a layback in front of a couple of children, something I hadn't planned to do. Being on stage makes that kind of thing just happen! You can find the photo results from our photography group on the Meetup website.


January 2: Rakkasah West 2010 call in.

As mentioned before, I've danced a short solo at the Rakkasah festival for the last three years now - and I want to keep that tradition going if I can. So once again we submit ourselves to the ordeal that is the telephone call in, and manage to procure a dance spot at the festival. From the remaining options I picked a slot on Saturday at 3:48pm on the Cabaret stage. This is the small stage that we never even found the first time we attended Rakkasah... but it's much nicer for a solo performance - it's really hard to fill a large theatre stage! Please come on out to watch me and cheer me on!

Nakisa will be dancing at 4:48pm on the same stage, and could use a friendly audience too. So don't come just the Sunday!


Previous events are described in Belly Dance Blog 2009.