Gilded Serpent presents...
How I became a Dance Pioneer
In a small 1970s California Community Festival
traveling back in a time machine to approximately 1974 or ‘75:
The first Solano Stroll Festival ever held in Albany, California,
had begun to take form. The biggest and most festive events
at that time were the Grateful Dead concerts held in
Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and a raucous gatherings at
what became known as “People’s Park” in Berkeley or artisan sales
on Telegraph Avenue. I had located my dance studio, which was
named at that time, “The Dancing Girl,” on Solano Avenue in Albany
near the University town of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay.
dancers, even representing a licensed and bona fide local
business on Solano Avenue, were denied permission to dance in
the very first Solano Stroll Festival as official participants
because Belly dancing was considered by the Stroll organizers
to be too risqué for family entertainment!
have known this would be their attitude because on the day that
I first moved my belongings into the studio I overheard two locate
Albany citizens making the observation that this was to become
a Belly dance studio and it meant that their property values would
soon begin to plummet downward…
of citizens’ fears, I was sorely offended at the attitude of the
organizers and their apparent lack of foresight! I decided to
perform in the large storefront windows of my dance studio in
defiance of their ban on my participation, reasoning that they
could not limit the activities that were held within my own place
of business. My students, also, became enraged and demanded to
become part of the plan to participate from within the dance studio.
photo shown above was at the start of the day, and I was not a
happy camper! It is difficult for me, even now, to look back
and remember how stultifying the atmosphere was in those days.
I was justly angry about the denial of permission to participate
in the festival with my students thereby gaining much needed publicity
within the community to show that the belly dance could be a fun
and beneficial activity for the local women.
attitude turned from community spirit to outright defiance.
the middle of the day, we had completely stopped traffic in the
street with people gawking at our window, standing on the sidewalk,
and overflowing onto the street, and cars slowing to a crawl to
get a peek at us. (The first year of the Solano Stroll, automobile
traffic on the street was not prohibited like it is now.)
The Albany police
were called get traffic moving again. The policemen stood
outside and watched our display with their arms crossed over their
chests for an extended period; then they politely asked us if we
would wrap it up so traffic could get moving again.
believe they had been watching us to see if we were doing anything
lewd so they could cite me and close my studio.
I had made my point with the producers of the Stroll. I had become
an inadvertent Belly dance pioneer of sorts and something of a
local folk hero!
year, I was allowed to hire the band Sirocco from Santa
Cruz, California, (at my own expense) to come and play for our
group, and we were assigned a special location at the beginning
of Key Route Boulevard because there was more open space for
onlookers to gather without blocking automobile traffic. It was
away from my actual dance studio, where both Bert Balladine
and I normally held our dance classes during the day and evenings.
this same dance studio, Vince
Delgado taught Middle Eastern drum classes, and Maryellen
Donald taught finger cymbal rhythms, and I met many
dancers and musicians all of whom were well known, at least locally
and some nationally, at the time.
that the Stroll organizers were forced to recognize that Belly
dance was a popular spectacle in the event. It remains a popular
and “sanctioned” attraction today and employs dancers for some
of the Solano businesses, such as Oriental carpet sales. Groups
of Belly dancers are actually hired and paid (however paltry a
sum) to enhance the festive and diversified atmosphere.
a passer-by snapped the photos of me actually performing in the
window and sent them to my studio. This one shows the reflection
in the glass window of the street with parked cars and people
before the day had barely begun to form an audience on the sidewalk.
this photo, I was drumming for a student dancer. How I wish I
had had the foresight to have my own photographer on hand so that
my students’ photos could be shown here also! However, I hope
you can appreciate how delighted I was just to run across these
few photos of me in my self-appointed role as the defiant dancer.
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Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
2-16-05 Lace and My Muses, Part 4
of 5:Tarnished StarDust
until very recent times, could I admit, even to myself, that I
had lost a large part of my creative thrust along with many of
my treasured friendships because I had perceived wrongly that
I needed to become more like the Egyptian and Lebanese dancers
of the day.
Dancing Inside Out
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.
Who Died and Made
You Queen of Dance?
lack of background basic performing experience would be unheard
of and un-tolerated in any other dance form.
“My Aim in Organizing a World-inclusive
Oriental Dance Festival” by Amani
Amani of Lebanon Comments, "Oriental dancing has become a
widespread art; it is now found all over the world, and among
all levels of society in all the five continents! "
Happy To Be Me: Dancing Without Shame--
Recognizing Beauty & Potential Within by Nisaa Elon
don’t worry about comparing myself to others. Instead, I
spend my energy educating myself about the different styles and
techniques of Belly dance, and I stretch my boundaries to derive
unique performances through innovative presentations.
Democracy Skips First Amendment! Report
by Lynette, Editor
second call, a few minutes later, warned me not to come to Rakkasah