The Gilded Serpent presents...
& Krista Gettle
On a cold, sunny day
in January we headed to the farm near Petaluma, California,
with Drambuie and tape recorder in hand. We wanted to
interview the "Legendary Bert
Balladine", a title the real man's modesty would detest.
But Bert is legendary and has been at the heart of bellydancing
in our time. Now semi-retired, Bert spends most of his
time on the farm. He is at once a private and an open-hearted
man with eyes that sparkle with enough stories and insights
to write ten books. But those who know, don't tell - at
least not very much very often. So when Bert agreed to
be interviewed, we came prepared to catch the stories that he
A celebration prompted the occasion. A group of good friends
and dancers were invited to a birthday party for Glenn,
an ex-dancer, Bert's cousin and housemate. Bert and Glenn
opened their house in their usual fashion of informal formality.
Around the fireplace, in a living room decorated with antique
tapestries, lamps and caged zebra finches, the group chatted
as Glenn finished making the coffee and added the final touches
to his homemade hazelnut-marzipan torte (which, if it were more
widely known would also be legendary). Bert took us on
a tour of his small farm, which is home to many a happy and
well-loved goat, sheep, rabbit, chicken, pigeon, dove, pheasant,
goose, duck, wolf-dog and even barn owl. Bert led us around
in a heavy jacket, worn jeans and cowboy boots, looking as ruggedly
handsome and stylish as ever.
Back in the house, ready to sit down to the European-style "tea",
I noticed that most of Bert's and Glenn's photographs on the
walls are not of people, but of animals they have or have had.
Dogs, cats, horses, mules and fowl are lovingly framed in pictures
revealing individual personalities. I realized how special
my hosts are as anyone who arrives at the farm is welcomed as
the unique and dignified being that they are.
At this small, cozy birthday celebration, Bert shared some of
his stories, perspectives and insights on life and cultures
developed during a fascinating career as a dancer and entertainer.
Hopefully, in a series of articles, we will be writing of our
time in the home of Bert Balladine and sharing with you the
stories he shared with us, from his friendships with the bellydancing
greats of Egypt, such as Samia Gamal,Tahia Carioca and others, to the birth of belly dancing in San Francisco,
Germany and Australia, to the many priceless tales of
a lifelong international traveler and performing artist.
We hope you will enjoy conversation with Bert Balladine as much
as we did
a comment? Send us
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
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