Letters to the Editor
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March 2001 - March 2002
Regarding this "lovely article" about my UNCLE Yousef to Aziza----------
Wow----I didn't know my grandmother was Turkish! Thanks for the information. Just because you are BORN in a country, doesn't mean you are no longer of your original heritage, which is ARMENIAN......check the history about Armenians and Turkish people before claiming my entire family's ethnicity. On my uncle's behalf, I think your article contradicts itself of your praise of him on one hand, and condemnation on the other. He probably hasen't seen this article yet, and I hope he never will. It seems like the whole belly dance scene in the 70's stuck to the Bagdad Cabaret like glue, and now regrets ALL the time and experience they received there. Maybe he WAS moody, I was too little to know, perhaps not even born. On a final note......if my uncle DID break his back in Europe, which he didn't, those people who were happy, were probably just one of his ex-girlfriends.........Aziza.
P.S. Learn how to spell the last name of the person you supposedly know SO much about.
------Armenian and Lebanese Pride
Nadia and Faten Elias
Aziza!'s response on 1-10-02
To the Elias girls -
I found your response to my article on your uncle Yousef interesting. I'm sorry it upset you, but what I was doing was giving my own observations - a snapshot of a period and a place. It was at the Bagdad in the 1960s (not the '70s) and it certainly WAS before you were born - in fact, your mother was married to her first husband, rather than your father.
I see no contradiction in admiring parts of Yousef's character and not others -we all have admirable traits as well as deplorable ones. Perhaps Yousef didn't break his back, but everyone said he had, and the point was people's reaction to the story. Incidentally, I was certainly never his girlfriend, though I find it interesting that you think that his girlfriends (who presumably knew him very well) would be the ones who were happy to hear of his injury.
As far as your family's history - yes, I do know about the Turks and Armenians - however, the information I gave was taken from the back of Yousef's first record, "Bagdad" - information that he presumably either provided or approved. And I apologize for the misspelling of his name, which was an uncaught typo. Most dancers from that period that I know do not regret their time working at the Bagdad, nor their experiences there. There are so many as-yet-untold stories of the very early days of bellydancing in the BayArea and of the many interesting characters (besides your uncle) that were around then. I do hope that other dancers from the 1960s will contribute their stories and memories to the Gilded Serpent, too. We all need to participate in creating this valuable archive.
12-31-01 Quickie excerpts--
from Kajira on 11-29-01
"And, BTW, thank you for putting the bio link to me in re: to the IAMED article. I am sorry none of your reviewers attended the classes/workshops at Summer Caravan, however, nor got any photos of my duet with Paulette nor my troupe, United We Dance, since we were teachers there, but oh well! Can't have everything! I do appreciate your hard work."
(ed-more volunteers reviewers needed!)
From Petra on 11-29-01
Thanks for continuing your work, editing your entertaining and informative magazine!
It seems to be a bone of contention that restaurant dancer nights and dancing at haflas may be ruining the 'dancer's economy'. How many professional level dancers are there in proportion to actual paid restaurant and private party opportunities? What is the actual dollar profit margin in dancing professionally part-time if you are not a famous dancer that solely makes her living on teaching, top gigs and videos? One could wait quite awhile (talent and reputation notwithstanding) before finding a meaningful restaurant job or private party in this quasi recession. Does the dance community really expect professional-level dancers to sit around and not dance publicly until they are paid top dollar?? I'm sure we'd all love it if we could get paid as we should everytime we dance; however, there are various reasons that it is out of our hands - such as supply and demand. I certainly don't see well-known dancers refusing an opportunity to showcase their talent at haflas, etc.
I just finished reading Fred Glick's Taxi Ride in Cairo after 9/11. I cannot tell you how moved I was by this piece. I could feel myself transported there---in the cab with Fred---having taken hundreds of Cairo Cab rides myself. Fred's experience was so very very Egyptian. It meant so much to me to have him share this....it echos the conversations I have had with Egyptian business associates and friends since 9/11.
Dear Gilded Serpent:
Thank you for your coverage of the Belly Dancer of the Year Pageant held on Fri. May 19th and Sat. May 20th 2001. I was however sad to see that you didn't review the events of Sat. May 20th. There were so many dancers who worked hard to prepare and the events were competitive and entertaining. I am sorry that your readers didn't get at least a run down of that day's entrants, even though they might not have been reviewed.
I must admit it is personal to me, I won Grand Dancer of the Year and my troupe Sirens In Sanity, won Trio of the Year. Although, if I had not won those prizes, which by the way, I am very proud of, I would still see a problem in not covering the entire event. Perhaps next year someone will feel it worthwhile to cover the event from start to finish...it is a well
known and important step for many dancers and each one was worth at the very
least a mention.
For the purpose of information, here is the website which will hopefully, one day, be updated so your readers can view the entrants and winners.
Belly Dancer of the Year Pageant
An avid Gilded Serpent reader,
(ed- anyone willing to help review this years event please contact us!)
Dear GS staff,
Just wanted to send a note of appreciation. The write up on the Pageant was thoughtful and expressive. You brought back the excitement of the whole event. Also, thank you Susie Poulelis for the pictures, yours were the only ones I got back that weren't a big blur. Thank you all for the time and efforts.
Hey, just a quick note to say THANKS for the great North Beach pages, with histories on the clubs. I pretty much grew up down on Broadway, and it was great to see all the pics. I was especially pleased with the photo updates on the Casbah page...all the renovations down there had me worried that the bastards at Deja Vu had gobbled up more of the local history.
Anyway, thanks again!
I saw the review the Belly Dancer of the Year Pageant 2001. Thank you very much. I loved all the pictures and comments on the solo division. Did you or are you going to do reviews on the 2nd day of dancers? The troupes/duo-trios/grand dancers. If so, please let me know, I'd love to read those as well. These are very helpful tools for us all and lots of fun.
Sirens In Sanity
[Ed- So sorry we couldn't cover the whole event! We are always looking for honest, objective and brave reviewers!]
Hello: I was heartbroken to learn that Jamie had passed away. I took bellydancing classes from her on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley for a couple of years in the mid 70-es. She was an incredible person as well as dancer. Is it possible to buy tapes with her dancing or any other memento?
Branka Whisnant, Boston, MA
I liked the article by Rhea in the Gilded Serpent very much. Rhea and I were in Jamila's class together. I remember those student nights at the Bagdad. It was fun reading Rhea's reminisinces. Last time I saw her was in Vegas, probably 1975-6 at a Belly Dancer Seminar at the Rivera, I think. She was performing one night and I stopped by to say hello.
Love, Colleen (Khalifa)
I have just reviewed the magazine for the first time in a while and just want to echo the thoughts of Noora and Sara. I stay in the closet regarding my avocation as a mideastern dancer out of fear I will be laughed at by people I know in the business and professional community, as many consider a belly dancer equivalent to a stripper. Our art form has an ancient and sacred tradition, and it is tragic to see it degraded by those who really should be working in sex clubs. There is a difference between a sex worker and a mideastern dancer, and I think most of know clearly where the line is. Innovation and creativity need not negate elegance and class. Some may be happier leaving Rakkasah behind and looking for a more appropriate venue in the classifieds...there is always Las Vegas!
Santa Barbara CA
6/30/01Have been sitting here for hours transfixed by the articles and comments by those remembering North Beach "back in the day". Will our dance ever be the same? This is serious history for all of today's students of American "belly dancing" as it was called at the time.
For all of the women enraptured with "American Tribal" I would suggest that they read these articles, and in particular, those on the Casbah and the Baghdad.
Thank you for putting it all out there and for interviewing Fadil, Vince Delgado, Amina and all the other dancers and musicians who inspired me.
The education continues.
With best regards,
New Orleans, Louisiana
P.S. I might add that it really is all about the music and always has been.
How is Reda Darwish doing with his Multikulti store on Velencia Street in San Francisco?
I met him at Rakkasah East, October 2000, talked with him a bit and Mary Ellen Donald when she came by his table where he was selling CDs. I enjoyed reading the interview about him, and the review of Halwah. Now can you do a review of Drum Talk? It is so different from Halwah and is just fabulous! The movements and moods he goes through on the various drums and percussive toys are inspiring. Where and when does he give
(ed-review of Drum Talk is coming soon!)
I love these nostanglic North Beach Memoirs from the musicians and dancers who knew it well in its time. Was 1985 the year it all finally eneded? And I am curious as to how and why it all ended. If somehow knows the full details on the demise of North Beach, could you ask them and publish it? I'd like to know all of "what was and why" in the Bellydance world of San Francisco.
EEK! If those performers aren't embarrassed, I sure am. I agree wholeheartedly with your last writer's appraisal.
P.S. Yours is a great site--thanks so much for bringing interesting
news and tid bits to us here on the east coast..
4-27-01 re: Rakkasah 2001 photo sampler-
WHAT IN THE HELL IS GOING ON? I wish that dancers would stop pushing everyone's buttons with lewd costuming, movements and behavior. I'm certainly no prude, but I'm sick of trying to reassure the public that bellydancers are not whores and strippers, only to turn around to see ultra-famous dancers doing their best to gain notoriety with shock value. If we condone this kind of display, things will get much, much worse as people desperate for attention become more and more scandalous a la Madonna. PLEASE let's stop this trend in it's tracks!
I really enjoyed reading the article by Jalilah on Yemen. It was refreshing to have a first hand view. Thank you for including it.
Its interesting that we dont even realize that 50% of the activity around belly dance seems to be gossip and back biting, rather than enjoying the dance. Sitting back and criticizing other dancers is a big sport for other dancers to raise their sense of self-esteem. In my opinion, who is good or bad is a subjective audience reaction and maybe some of the dancers at festivals really dont care if they have the approval of the (mostly) self-proclaimed top dancers. I find that many of the top dancers really arent great by true eastern dance standards they have attitude, more than talent and people tend to buy in to that belief, people admire self-confidence. I have been a professional dancer and have been through all the hellish aspects of restaurant work, competition, and slanderous gossip and I am certainly not insinuating I am a greater dancer than anyone else. I have done all the bad things and had them done to me, then I learned that we are still dealing with human beings human beings FIRST, dancers second. Some food for thought .
Thanks, Lynette, for this forum.
I am in agreement with the original critique of the festival. But it is not just DDF that has this problem. The whole festival concept where performers are selected only based upon how patiently they redial for hours and hours is not likely to generate excellence of performance. I have recently heard of suggestions where there could be 2 stages at these festivals: one where performers are selected based upon submitted videotapes and the other based on the call-in system. The results might be more acceptable to a paying
Too often at these festivals I leave with a very sour taste in my mouth for the dance form. There are just too few performances which are enjoyable to watch and too many which are embarrassing. I agree with the original author that the lazy, unprepared performance is the one I don't care to watch. But I also feel that the beginner solo or troupe pieces which have beginner value in choreography, staging or technical ability is also out of place on a large
theatrical stage. Effort is all important. Simplicity can be very beautiful. But lack of imagination paired with beginner skills should be showcased in a smaller environment. This of course can be within the festival venue.
I have seen this type of effect happen in other situations. Americans value the systems of democracy to such heights that sometimes the common rules. There are many times where this is appropriate and there are plenty of times when it isn't. The problem with having selection processes is that politics inevitably gets involved. And this is very tough. We have a political community just like many other communities. There are always favorites and people in power who abuse that power. But I believe that responsibility and
power can coexist. Especially if selection boards are themselves chosen on a democratic basis. I would love to see the large festivals experiment with some new process.
Samara El Helena
Najia's article "Put Your Dance on a Pedestal" is a must-read for all dancers, especially those who are just starting out. Najia describes accurately what makes the difference between dancing and "just walking". Thanks, Najia, for writing such a well thought out article about something all dancers must know.
Archives Pg 17- January through December 2007!
What's in a name, self acceptance, Men in Belly dance, Yasmina's new column, MECDA Ellections, Tajikistan, AWS fest, Arabic Idioms, Professional Presence, Suhaila in Phoenix, Music recording, Vegas IBDC, Egyptian Code, Jodette, Journey to Womanhood, New York Dance Scene, Amy Sigil, Tito Seif, Arab Defamation, Gothla, Neon's Keeping your mouth shut, Valizan Ozgen, Toronto IBCC, Burlesque, DVD purchasing, God Bellydanced, North Beach Memories, Princess Farhana fan article, Cabaret to DJ by Nina, Raqia Hassan, Serpentessa, Cover-ups, Criticism, John Bilezikjian, Certificaation, BDSS, East too West?, Vendor's View, Lynn Zalot & Habibi,
Archives Pg 16 -June 2007 through December 2007
Tatseena's Belly Bully piece, Amina's writing, IBCC coverage, Review on Tirbal DVD's, Barbary Coast and Bellyqueen, Cover-ups, Non-Profits, lifting the Veil by Yasmina,
Mona Said's letter, Music Copyrights, Ethics of Fusion, Egyptians being too Western?
Archives Pg 15- December 2006 through June 2007
Interview with Nakish, Sashi-kabob, How to charge what yo'ure worth,Tribute to Rhonda, Marliza Pons, Party booking, George Elias, "I dance you follow". Ethics of Fusion
Archives Pg 14- June 2006 through December 2006
Ethics of Fusion, Queen of the Bay, Territorialism Undermines Event Sponsor's Efforts, Greek Flavor, What ME Audiences Expect , Taxsim, Gothic Dance, Gyspy Dance, Sashi Kabob, Wierd Rituals
Archives Pg 13- November 2005 through May 2006
BDSS, Burlesque, Gig rates, Sashi's piercings, Sex shows on Rakkasah Fest stage, God Bellydanced, Sima Bina, Devi Ja's passing, Jamie Miller's Passing, BDSS reviews and Mile's reponse, Michelle and Sandra's Adventures, Turkish Baths, Muslim Cartoons, Working together, Review of Shareen El Safy's DVD, Spokane's Festival Coverage, Articles by Keti, Michael Baxter, Zar article and racism, WHEW!
Archives Pg 12- May 2005 up through October 2005
BDSS, Burlesque, Gig rates, Competing Cairo Fests, Israel Fest, Untaught Teacher
Archives Pg 11- December 2004 up through April 2005
Copeland, BDSS film and auditions, GS kicked out of Rakkasah, Zaheea's dancing for the blind, Christian dancer, the THONG, Luxor club review, Miles vs Horacio
Archives Pg 10- May 2004 through November 2004
Mena in Iraq, AWSF, Desert Dance Festival 2004, Biblical Accounts of Bellydance in Ancient Near East, Bellydance in Israel, Festival of the Nile review, Suhaila’s Sheherezade review
Archives Pg 9- December 2003 Through April 2004
Myopic view of BD by Sadira, Belly Bus, Queen of Dance Contest, Rakkasah West photo teaser, Comparing and Contrasting, Jillina DVD review, Dancing inside out
Archives Pg 8- May 2003 - November 2003
San Leandro Fest photos, Reflections on North Beach, BD and healing from sexual trauma, Dina in Dallas, Searching for your new dance teacher, BDY pageant
Archives Pg 7- October 2002 - April 2003
Najia’s Real Critic article, Back in the Holy Land, Glass dancing, Casbah and Bagdad Club, Reflections on North Beach
Archives Pg 6- March 2002 to September 2002
Vendors, Dance certification, BD and strippers, Jamila Al Wahid video review
Archives Pg 5- March 2001 - March 2002 you are here
My uncle Yousef, BDY pagent 2001, Dancer attitudes - BD gossip and back biting
Archives Pg 4- November 2000 - March 2001
Criticizing and reviewing events, “Where’s the hook when we need it?” Desert Dance Festival review
Archives Pg 3- March 2000 - October 2000
Entertainment or art? Sicilian bellydancers, Rhea, Review of Giza Academy Awards
Archives Pg 2- November 1999 - Febuary 2000
Living Goddess review, Fred Glick travel, Fanana of Bellydance
Archives Pg 1- Febuary 1999- September 1999
Shira’s advice to “Offended”, North Beach memory, George Elias & Bagdad Cafe
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