Gilded Serpent Presents..
Lace and My Muses:
In Search of A Personal Style
by Najia Marlyz
from Part 2)
the inspiration of Kaethe and Jules Kliot,
I built my dance image under
the name "Najia." Moreover, along with my adventures in dance,
a new life-style began to evolve for me that included many things
retro. Over a decade, my mentors became my muses, encouraging,
inspiring, and enabling me to do more than follow current trends,
but instead, to instigate new styles through renewed uses, and
imagination in all I undertook.
learned that there is true beauty in honoring works from the
past by incorporating them into current day uses rather than
invalidating them by discarding or setting them aside labeled:
you wonder how this idea pertains to the field of dance, but I
have been a part of the dance scene long enough now to have seen
the dance itself (and costuming for it) change in subtle, but
sometimes, radical ways due to influence from whatever competing
performance arts exist at the time. Therefore, I would suggest
to those of you who are now performing to look more closely at
that which has been and why it is now undergoing change, sometimes
for the better, but more often (in my opinion) for the worse.
If we dancers want to compete for entertainment dollars from the
public, then we cannot do it by altering our dance to be similar
to all other dancing. I suggest that "elevating Belly dance"
to the standards of western dance would be counter-productive
in the long-term rather than a valid goal for us to desire. It
is, must be, and must remain, different! Vive la difference!
crosses one's life path can become a canvas for artistic insight.
My husband ) taught me during the '60s
and '70s, (before our tidy little dissolution of our twenty-year
marriage), not to fear changes in technology. On the other hand,
my muses taught me to create by renewing and re-using the old
forms of almost anything: dance, art, lace,
tapestry weaving, or cooking. Kaethe Kliot's homemaking tips
proved to be as useful as they were homespun and funny such as:
one should not clean house before entertaining, but should, instead,
quickly simulate order, then do a thorough cleaning after guests
leave, reinforcing the notion that one's family deserves your
best efforts rather than one's guests! I applied this idea to
my dance career by doing major cleaning and repairing of each
dance costume, show tape, or choreography immediately after each
use rather than just before performing or just before planning
to sell it at a dancers' flea market. I don't have any photos
of Kaethe or me cleaning anything, but here is one of her teaching
me how to build a better sandcastle her style on the beach at
Fort Chronkite, CA.
budding knowledge about handcraft skills, accompanied by a heightened
awareness of artistry, age and history of artistic objects, caused
me to become a collector. "A collector of what?" one might ask.
You name it; if some (probably long-deceased) person had made
it by hand, and I could afford it, then I collected it! In the
future, I envision a personal Internet art gallery, in which I
hope to share with you some of my odd little collections of antique
laces, Assiut cloths, coins, beaded bags, hand embroidered fringe
shawls, paintings, etchings, lithographs, and sculptures.
many of the items comprising my collections have usually needed
some repair. Generally, their state of disrepair was why they
were affordable in the first place.
has to be mindful about making repairs or changes to collectables,
however. Collectors should not alter many their finds willy-nilly,
because the repair that is meant to elongate the life of the
objects may lessen their perceived value to other collectors.
the most part, Kaethe was the person who taught me how to repair
and maintain many different types of objects. Some of them I
managed quite well, and some not so well, but always, after assessing
whether making a repair to the object would enhance it visually
and decrease its value, or conversely, elongate its life and prolong
its value to a collector. For instance, if you find a rare coin
that would be of interest to numismatists, you should never clean
it, but just preserve it from further degradation. I knowingly
sacrificed and risked loss of many valuable coins on my dancer's
coin belt and on my body jewelry, but I cannot say that I regret
having made those sacrifices!
I first began to study Belly dance, I read that when the ethnic
dancers of the old times in Egypt performed, they purchased and
collected gold coins, wrist and ankle bracelets, and rings with
the money they earned while dancing in entertainment troupes.
When I first began to dance professionally, I wanted to emulate
them in my own way, and so, with the currency that I had received
as "tips" from audiences, I habitually purchased gold coins to
add to my dance costumes. At the time, purchasing gold coins
with one's tips was not a feat as incredible as it would be today
because the price of gold then was only thirty-two dollars per
ounce and sometimes even less. Nowadays, it would require a lot
of dancing just to purchase one mediocre large gold coin.
fastened my gold coins into special holders rather than drill
holes in them. It proved difficult, and sometimes impossible,
to find one that fit some foreign coins, but since so many foreign
coins were odd sizes, commercially made holders to fit them were
not available generally. At least I knew enough about coin collecting,
not to ruin them with a drill if I wanted them to retain any of
their numismatic value. I purchased commercial holders and altered
them to fit the foreign coin sizes, and Jules designed and made
holders for a few of them that were odd sizes. As a result, I
never lost any of my coins and still have all of them, safe and
sound in my safety deposit box at the bank.
replaced the lining of beaded antique purses that contained nothing
but shredded silk and repaired other parts of them. It was necessary
to re-bead some that had been damaged by removing and utilizing
small sections of their own beaded fringes, thereby gaining enough
antique beads of the right size and color to complete the project.
Kaethe taught me how to repair items, not just beaded purses,
by a process of minor alterations, reworking their beaded fringes
and tassels so that nothing appeared to be missing from the original
design, and to restring necklaces and
bracelets made of semiprecious stones that only appeared
to be on their last legs when I purchased them. I soldered, jump-ringed,
braided, and then, eventually, danced in some of our newly revamped
creations. It would have been an extremely satisfying hobby even
without the pleasure of wearing them for dance!
I first expressed an interest in learning Belly dance, my mentors
gave me the phone number of a mysterious Berkeley woman always
dressed in black, who was known to haunt the local antique stores
as well as the Kliot's shop, "Some Place," searching for Assiut
cloth and other ethnic tidbits to sell to her dance students.
the year I phoned the lady in black, inquiring about taking lessons
with her, she took a fatal, and nearly instantaneous, dislike
to me! She hung up the phone rather than except me as her student,
without offering any politically correct excuses as to why she
would not accept me in her classes.
on, I figured out the reason for her rude behavior for myself.
(It was elemental, my dear Watson.)
do you do with your time now?" she had asked.
teach twelve classes per week in women's exercise at the YMCAs
and Parks and Recreation Departments," I had answered.
I would have definitely become a problem to her!
teacher with the hair trigger did not consider inviting me into
her camp even for a Berkeley moment. Instead, her rapid and firm
receiver click sent me to Bert Balladine (but almost a year later)
when the Berkeley Gazette published an article about his new Berkeley
class opening enrollment at the O Aitos Greek Taverna.
Unannounced to even my mentors and muses, I began attending late
afternoon Belly dancing classes at O Aitos (Greek meaning
three years of Bert's delightfully funny and insightful instruction,
and a couple more years performing, then teaching Belly dance
finally, I also became a dancing partner with my instructor, Bert
Balladine. When we danced together the first time, we were on
stage at a 1975 convention, sponsored by Sula in Walnut Creek,
California. I costumed for that occasion in white silk harem
pants and a white silk long-sleeved blouse tied into a bra with
a white silk veil fastened into my hair with a beaded belt from
a 1920s dress. Around my hips, I wore a half circle variegated
lavender silk shawl with long fringe that I untied during the
dance, and did circular, sculptural movements with it (that I
imagined Loie Fuller might have used) after having danced with
the light weight, rectangular, white veil of fluttering silk for
contrast. It was pure fantasy costuming. Had both of us not
been so feverish with influenza, we would have enjoyed the moment
for the pure magic that it was.
everything in life contains its own sort of magic, but occasionally
the Universe sometimes laughs and throws us a curve ball, and
sometimes, even a spit ball, just to remind us of who we are,
.or aren't. (to be continued in part 4 of Lace and My Muses:
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Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
8-3-04 Lace and My Muses: Everything
Old Becomes New Again Section 1, Part Two
it was the ancient, exotic art of Belly dancing and my fantasies
of the bizarre life of a Belly dancer that smoked incense into
Lace and My Muses Part
1: Egyptian Mummy Lace or “Assiute Cloth”
fastened around my hips a white Assuite cloth encrusted with gold
knots throughout, forming pictographs of falcons, pyramids, crosses,
and diamond shaped designs.
4-9-04 Who Died
and Made You Queen of Dance? by Najia Marlyz
This lack of background basic performing experience would
be unheard of and un-tolerated in any other dance form.
Dancing Inside Out
by Najia Marlyz
state of Oriental Dance in America, as it is most often seen today
in festivals and restaurants, is at a crossroads of change from
which there will be no way to return.
Dancers Belly Up to Beat Bush,
by Grace, Photos by James Dudek & Victoria Seidman
in the politically minded Bay Area, the dance community rarely
seems to take an activist stance.
Fill-'Er Up! by Alyson
so glad you came to help me Theify!", Alexandria's
Belly Dance Comics tm
The First (and definately not the
last!) Tribal Cafe! by Tempest
was the first all tribal belly dance event sponsored by MECDA
IE and took place on August 21st, 2004 in Montclair, California.