Alanna Abir

Alanna Abir

The Gilded Serpent presents...

Alanna Abir

I enrolled in tap dance lessons when I was a kid and adored it: the costumes, the recitals, the make-up, everything!

Unfortunately, my mother had to go back to work, and that was the end of my dance classes until I learned to drive. After high school, I saw an advertisement for Belly dance classes, taught by Adonna, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I took one class and was hooked; so, I went to classes six days a week! Shortly thereafter, I won a contest at the Averof Club, in Cambridge, Mass. At that time, George Abdo was a popular singer there.

I also worked a bit with Mike Sarkissian, who was a real showman and all around nice guy. We did gigs all around the New England area. Back then, in the late seventies, there were plenty of opportunities for dancers and even decent pay. An early highlight for me was doing a show at the Circle Star theatre, where we opened for Joan Rivers.

We had a large Lebanese and Greek community in the Boston area. I wanted to learn more. I saw a film on Belly dancing in the San Francisco area and decided that San Francisco was so “happening” that I must come out to the west coast and study further; so I hopped onto a plane. Whew! In retrospect, I don’t know if that was a good idea!

1981-1983 I did many little gigs in the Bay Area: Khyber Pass, Darvish, etc. until my friend, Aida, suggested that I audition at The Casbah. What an experience that proved to be! The area, Broadway, was unbelievable to me! Broadway presented Belly dance side by side with strippers!

What was fun was though: on the weeknights, 3 dancers were featured, and 4 on the weekends. Each dancer did 3 shows a night, resulting in a great variety. We all did floor work, veil work, zils and a drum solo. It was a crash course on “getting it together” quickly. We were free between sets to do whatever we wanted. I loved to go to the Bagdad Cabaret to see the other dancers but ended up working regularly, 4 nights a week, at the Casbah. I loved it so much that I wish the same format, (3 to 4 dancers a night) were still in place.

Alanna I worked regularly at the Pasha Restaurant when it was Arab-owned, and at the Greek Taverna, too.

I worked ‘til the end of Casbah; actually, they (the owners, Fadil and Kamal) extended the last day by a few dancers. I saw the end, minus a few days. The closing was too sad for me, but I didn’t want to join the mass exodus over to the Bagdad. The Bagdad continued for about another year and then that closed too.

After that, I worked at Scherezade Restaurant and Nightclub in South San Francisco, the Sahara in San Francisco, and Fadil Shahin’s restaurant in Pleasant Hill, the El Morocco.

I have traveled to Egypt four times since the relative demise of the dance scene here, and made it my priority to buy costumes and music for my dance. I was lucky, and I saw Sohair Zaki, Nagwa Fouad, Lucy, Dina, and Fifi Abdo perform when I was in Cairo. I think that I love Belly Dance more than anyone I know!

I went to Los Angeles to study dance in an intensive workshop with the Egyptian dance star, Dina, in April, 2004. I hope to do the same with Raqia Hassan in 2005, also in Los Angeles, and hopefully, will be able to return to Egypt in 2005…

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