The champion of the "Little" category, Vanessa,
opened the show with her winning dance.
The Belly Dancer
of the Universe Competition,
Part 1, Sunday Evening:
Power Failure Halts
Troupes & Finals Categories
held February 19-20, 2005
Long Beach, California
report by Amy Bonham
photos by GS staff
annual Belly Dancer of the Universe contest took
place February 19-20, 2005 on one of the rainiest weekends
in Long Beach, California on record for that time of year.
Willow Street outside the Grand Willow Street Center was
a raging river on Saturday morning and the rain continued
through the weekend with intermittent dry spells.
included dance workshops and competitions in seven categories:
normally culminates in a gala show on Sunday evening with
the troupe competition and finals for the Egyptian and
Universal categories, including live music for the Universal
finalists. The preliminaries and other competitions will
be covered in part two of this article. We're reporting
on the Sunday evening show first because as it turns out,
it's a story to be continued. The troupe competition will
be completed this weekend, May 1, 2005.
(in order of appearance)
Flowerbuds of the Desert-
Flowerbuds of the Desert
were a smiling pair of well-synchronized
young sisters. They did some hip-hoppy
moves and tossed their canes. I felt
their sense of humor and fun that they
were having with their dancing. One of
them dropped her cane and even made THAT
look like fun.
Troupe Cirque du Goddess of
They were dressed in jewel
colors and danced to what sounded like
Bhangra music and techno drums. Remember
that group of cute and popular cheerleaders
that you hated in high school? Well,
imagine if they decided to ditch their
pom-poms, grabbed some veils and HULA
HOOPS and formed a belly dance group.
They do leaps and lift one member up
in a split. And you become even more
jealous because they are so cute and
are having so much fun that the audience
adores them and even you have to laugh
and smile with them.
Girls of Alexandria of Southern
All in white, the Girls of Alexandria came out to "El Ain
El Moulatayn". They wore feather masks and some played
drums carried over one shoulder. Others danced with feather
trimmed veils. The effect was of swirling snowflakes and
very pretty, although I thought they didn't need the masks.
They did a little comic bit, with the group trying to contain
the "diva" grabbing for the limelight, and lined up behind
each other to do the "many-armed goddess".
Desert Mirage of Southern California
Desert Mirage literally
stopped the show in the middle of their
Armenian medley when the power went out.
And that was that. End of competition.
Period. The rest of the troupe competition
and the finals of the two solo categories
The dancers were such
troupers! Holding their poses with
their veils in the pitch darkness.
Linda Fedick, their leader said: "let's
just have Harry Saroyan sing the
music for us and we'll finish in
that were not able to perform:
Oriental Beledy Dance Troupe-Southern
Burning Incense-Southern California
Mighty Isis Dance Company-Southern
Pharaoh's Felines-Southern California
Raks Habibi-Washington & Northern
Troupe Bahiya-Southern California
Yasmina's Yems-Southern California
When the lights went out, people turned on their cell phones to light
the darkness. We were told that the storm had caused a transformer
outside the conference center to blow and that no one could go
outside or leave. We were a captive audience in the dark. It was
hard to hear what they were saying without microphones. I used
the time to network a little with the people around me, which I
definitely would not have had the opportunity to do under normal
circumstances at a show like this. When I went out into the hall,
I caught the long face of Monica from Raks
Habibi in the beam of my pen light. Raks Habibi is one of
those dedicated troupes who work long distance with each other.
Two of them live in Northern California, and one of them lives
in the Pacific Northwest. After months of commuting back and forth
to practice and the expense of entering and flying down for the
contest, no wonder she looked so disappointed at not being able
what seemed a long time, we heard a fire engine come
up. The conference center management finally put little
candles on the floor and in the restrooms so people could
see to move around. And the video people put up a spotlight
in the main room. We were lucky that no one was injured
groping around in the dark before then. Charlie
Villalvazo of Basilon d'Babylon, one
of the vendors, started up a little drum jam. Later, Viken
Najarian, who was to have provided the live
music for the Universal category finals, played the oud
acoustically with Carlos Devecioglu on
the kanun for a bit. Atlantis doffed
her caftan and danced a great solo in her boots accompanied
only by handclapping and lit by flashlights. Amina and
I were scheduled to give a Giza award to Tonya and Atlantis
for their contribution to Middle Eastern dance. We decided
to go ahead and do it, thinking that the embattled sponsors
could use some strokes from their community during this
disaster. Amina made me do the presenting and I felt
foolish trying to yell out the speech without a mike.
I don't think many heard me, but I hope they got the
general drift that we think T & A are cool.
approximately an hour, the audience was told that the
power was not coming back on and a center manager shouted
out the safest routes away from the center. The poor
vendors, deprived of their prime selling time, had to
pack up their merchandise in the dark. In response to
a question from an audience member, we were told that
there would be no refunds on admission or contest entrance
fees. The fact that so many people accepted this quietly
is a testament to Tonya and Atlantis' reputation, although
there was quite a bit of dialogue on various dance boards
later. They were also unable to announce the Lifetime
Achievement Award for Bert Balladine.
seemed like the conference center was ill prepared for
such an emergency. I could see that Atlantis was getting
increasingly frustrated with their lack of answers. There
was a wedding party in one of the adjoining ballrooms
that was just sitting down for the reception when they
lost power. No dinner, no nothing. Tonya and Atlantis
are moving their event to a different locale next year.
the organizers decided to award the solo titles based
on the preliminary scores. I'm sure the Universal category
finalists were especially disappointed to miss the chance
to show what they could do to live music. The troupes
were all asked to submit a videotape of their dance.
The tape will be adjudicated at a special
video viewing to be held at the Grand Willow Street Center
May 1, 2005. The center invited Tonya and Atlantis
to complete the competition at their venue and they will
try to arrange to honor the original admission (with
proof of purchase) at that event.
was a bit of a set-back to say the least. But given the
popularity of the event and the fact that the contestant
roster this year was packed with talent, I'm sure they'll
for the Belly Dance Super Stars: Two Personal
Cattle Call by Layla Katrina - "I knew
I was not what they were looking for."
My Experience with the BDSS Audition in Paris by Dazzel - "He
wanted me to believe that his troupe was too good for me."
Evening, Page 2, Rakkasah West Festival 2005,
photos by GS Volunteers including: Jasmine, Lynette, Michelle, Monica,
Sandra, Saroya Ahlaam, Susie, Zaheea
takes Rhythm Diatribes Workshops to Europe by
Ling Shien Bell
musicians will be conducting a series of rhythm/music workshops
in Ireland, Spain and Luxembourg this April.
Francisco Screening of American Bellydancer by
to San Francisco to attend the screening of American Bellydancer
to a largely belly dance community crowd was like jumping
into a hornet’s nest of opposing views!
Rhythm and Reason Series Article
1- Cymbals, Beyond Basics by
Mary Ellen Donald
rhythm has a distinct arrangement of accents. If
you are sure of where these accents come, you
can bring a unique flavor to each section of
London Belly Beat! by Alexandria
have nothing against tribal or fusion styles and seem to
enjoy all belly dance.