years of feeling special, of dressing up night after night and
of being “The Sultan’s Favourite Kadin” ended with such a quiet
whisper that even I was surprised. I had expected at least
a standing ovation for all those years of creative choreography,
the imaginative staging and high level of professionalism I had
achieved in every area of my dance performances. Where was
the acknowledgement of the musicians I had worked with who had
applauded my skills with my finger cymbals, my tightly-choreographed
shows that had brought out THEIR best skills as well? Where
were the restaurant owners and the party hosts who came to me,
grateful that I had done an outstanding performance or defused
some tension in the audience created by unruly or drunken guests?
were the tears in the eyes of the old woman in Northern Japan
who came to me and told me she had never seen anything so lovely
in her life?
were the magazine articles written about me, the television interviews
I had done, the newspaper articles, the rave reviews of my shows? Where
were the students I had taught, the other dancers I had trained
and worked and commiserated backstage with? Where WAS everyone
the night I said good-bye for the final bow?
years ago, when there was so very little to read about the dance,
I had found a book about a few famous dancers in history. Not
Oriental Dancers, but other dancers: ballerinas, modern dancers,
innovative dancers of their times - times when there were no video
cameras to record a dancer’s movements.
book’s author lamented that there were famous dancers we would
never be able to appreciate fully, only through the reports
of those who had seen them dance.
could a dance be reconstructed?” asked the writer. “Who knew
the magic of Isadora Duncan as she broke all
known traditions with her innovative concepts and imaginative
costuming?” – or lack of costume! – “Who could know what magnificent
power had been portrayed on the stage by Nijinsky,
or the delicate grace of Anna Pavlova?” Dance
is ephemeral, this writer states, and lives only in the memory
of the witnesses: the audience and the dancers themselves. And
all who were present at a performance would see the same dance
viewed from a different angle, a different perspective, a different
point of view, a different set of standards. So no performance
of The Dance could ever be appreciated in the same way once the
performance was over. “How Zen,” I thought. “How perfect
that such hard-won beauty lived only in the present moment.” I
was so young when I thought those thoughts…
many years - fifteen to be exact (nearly half of my dancing career)
- I was living in Japan and dancing all over the country. There
were, at one time, up to seven agents based in different cities
booking me into fabulous venues where I had total control of the
sound, the stage, the lighting, and even what was brought to my
dressing room for me while I prepared for my performances. Personal
assistants would meet me at train stations and escort me to hotels,
carrying my costumes and treating me like the star that I was
expected to be.
I had to travel long distances on the trains across Japan, a
female escort was dispatched to my home to escort me all the
way to the hotel in the distant city where I would be staying
for several nights: one night to rest up before the performance,
one night to rest on the evening of the performance, and one
night to relax after the performance.
with my photo often greeted me at the door of the venues that
were usually elegant hotel ballrooms or theatres. Sometimes
my dance would be part of an evening of individual performances
given by a variety of different performers, and sometimes the
main event of an evening of cultural events. I was booked
into these venues for celebrations, inaugurations of buildings,
companies, or as the special entertainment for the beginning or
end of a Cultural Festival, a Musical Festival or even a seminar
of doctors, physicists, or class alumni. Many times my performances
were preceded by interviews with television, newspaper, or magazine
reporters who wanted to ask me about everything from what sort
of Japanese foods did I like, to what did I think of American
Foreign Policy? I was especially busy with that last question
during the “First Gulf War” when I was on an extended tour with
a band I had recorded a CD with. One of my agents had found
a musician who needed my finger-cymbal skills and zaghreet for
an album of Rai-flavoured Japanese Music. Each night, before
the performance, it was announced from the stage by the lead singer
of the band that my political views about the current war were
that there should BE no war, that I desired only peace for all
sides involved in the conflict and that I had friends who were
stationed in the Gulf. I had been terrified to do the tour
unless this was done before each evening’s performance. The
emotions of the Japanese were running high about America’s involvement
in that particular war. I truly feared for my life as many
of our audience members strongly opposed the war. It was
well known that I was an American.
often foreign visitors to a country are expected to be well informed
about every aspect of their home country’s cultural, historical
and political events or beliefs. This can be problematic
as many people are caught by surprise by this aspect of their
visit. I had finally learned from experience what was expected
of me and usually found the answers asked of me by
various reporters from the media.
while on tour, I was taken sightseeing to a cultural event which
featured Tibetan sand painting. This technique uses grains
of coloured sand to produce an intricate Mandala of extraordinary
detail. Several of the monks work on a Mandala together and
it can take days to complete.
the Mandala is finished, there is a ritual and then the Mandala
is erased. Not a trace remains except what one remembers.
this concept of ephemeral beauty, I received the answers I had
asked myself on March 19th, 2005, Saturday night, on
the Richmond Festival Stage at 9:50 pm. I achieved the understanding
of my own art as a dancer. The years of spiritual preparation,
physical training and discipline to maintain the best condition
for my body so that the rigours of performing would nor harm it;
the careful nutritional discipline to insure that my body would
be healthy and fully responsive to the physical demands of the
Dance, the costuming, and the make-up: all were like the tiny
grains of coloured sand which had composed my career as a performer. Like
with the Mandala, now that the dancing is complete, my ritual
has been performed. The sands have been erased - scattered,
until no trace remains. All that is left is in the memories
of the witnesses.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
4-9-04 Who Died
and Made You Queen of Dance? by Najia Marlyz
lack of background basic performing experience would be unheard
of and un-tolerated in any other dance form.
Zaharr's Memoir, Part
11- The Minerva
do Greeks know about Belly Dancing anyway?” He just grabbed
my hand and we headed toward the door. Grumbling, I followed him
inside and I was startled to see a big stage with a large wooden
dance floor right in front of it.
"A Star Remembered,
The Maturation of a Career in Performing" by Najia Marlyz
last thing in the world that I wanted for myself and my own dance
career was to be a "forty year old belly dancer".
An Interview with MARLIZA
PONS, by Robyn ("Maya") Hallmark
a tiny bikini, I'd dive into a lighted pool outside the restaurant,
and come up with a pearl in my mouth!
12-27-05 Spokane's First Belly Dance
Festival, text by Nadiyah, the sponsor, photos and captions
First Annual Belly Dance Festival offered instruction for belly
dancers of all levels and a variety of styles.
Comic Book Artists Portray Dancers
addition to the dancing and vending, comic book artists were on
hand to demonstrate their ability to convert photos into works
of art as well as to promote their work.
Dancing with Snakes by Maria
may not need to be walked and played with as do dogs and cats,
but they do like to be handled – in fact – it is essential
that they become accustomed to being handled by you particularly,
in order for the snake to find dancing with you acceptable.
The Zar by Yasmin
do know that today thousands of women in Africa and the Middle
East use this music to cure all kinds of illnesses. They literally
dance until they drop.
Articulating the Collective Dream: The
Giza Awards, and why the legacy-making process is important to
by Amina Goodyear and Gregory Burke. "We
embrace change however roughly it appears. With video we feel
secure in the knowledge that the legacy of the past will never