Amid the Tempest:
The Biloxi Fest's Near Brush with Hurricane Katrina
27, 2005, Linda Hasha (a fellow dancer, performer,
and instructor of Middle Eastern Dance) and I attended the Biloxi
Bellydance Festival in Biloxi, Mississippi. I am Sydney
Landry, an instructor of Bellydance, and dancer/musician
with the Sisters of the Phoenix in South Louisiana.
We both continually
seek new opportunities for artistic growth by studying
with world-renowned dancers and musicians.
we did not allow Hurricane Katrina stop us from driving 450
miles to immerse ourselves in and perform with Mark
and Ling Shien
Bell of Helm!
I first attended a private drum lesson with Mark. We both
felt that Mark was patient, thorough, and broke things down in
a way that did not make us feel inferior in our skills when compared
to his many years of playing the instrument.
From the right Mark Bell teaching a class that includes
Linda, Sydney, Woody Prychitko, and one more unknown person.
demeanor and philosophy was so relaxed that we felt as if we
had known him for years!
We both tried
to soak up his charisma, character, and spirit of drumming, knowing
that we only had access to him for a few hours. Additionally,
we attended the two-hour group dumbec class with Mark. Even
though the group possessed a wide variety of skill levels, his
style of teaching was suited for all of them.
method of instruction is not high pressure and the experience
was a breakthrough for me,” said Linda as she spoke about Mark.
Mark and Ling Shien Bell playing live music for the Biloxi
While we were
drumming with Mark, Ling Shien was instructing a group in zils
(finger cymbals) with dance. We combined both groups for
two more hours of drumming, playing the zils, and dancing.
and Ling Shien, in a quiet and unassuming way, have strength
and a powerful presence and are highly intense when they are
played the mizmar and led the dancers in their choreographed dance
steps, and Mark led our group in playing our drums. When
we were in their company, Linda and I felt as if we had been drumming
for years! Ling Shien is an accomplished musician, and she
was able to transmit her positive energy into the lively steps
of her choreographed dance. Mark is a natural leader; so,
transitioning to different rhythms seemed so easy! The music
we created under his leadership matched the designated steps perfectly.
Linda and Sydney dance to Helm
ended with a showcase of different styles of dance and music.
Linda and I had the wonderful opportunity to dance twice with
these talented musicians. The energy and intensity of Ling Shien
playing the mizmar and Mark’s fingers stroking the doumbec is
an experience that we will never forget.
aura of euphoria that surrounded our performances made us forget—even
for just a few hours—of the impending disaster (Hurricane Katrina)
that was about to unfold on the Gulf Coast…
I made our way back home to Lafayette and New Iberia, Louisiana,
after leaving the Biloxi Bellydance Festival Show that ended at
navigating around the contra-flow of residents evacuating New
Orleans, we arrived home in the wee hours of the next morning.
musicians, Mark and Ling Shien Bell, were able to schedule their
trip for an earlier flight back home to California to escape Hurricane
Katrina. Shawn Prychitko, a Bay St. Louis
Bellydance instructor, and her husband Woody,
dropped off Mark and Ling Shien at the Jackson, Mississippi airport
and made their way back home to “ride out the storm,” staying
in their home.
Shawn and Woody were able to survive the storm by riding out
the surge and strong winds in a sailboat tied to a tree in
front of their destroyed house.
This where Woody and Shawn Prychitko rode
out the storm and lived after Katrina for awhile until they
received a FEMA trailer
has heard numerous other stories of evacuation and survival since
then. In spite of Hurricane Katrina’s ravaging winds on
the Gulf Coast, we read reports of Bellydance instructors who
have also survived in the Ocean Springs area near Biloxi, and
onward to Jackson, Mississippi and further to Mobile, Alabama.
home, the New Orleans area is starting to rebuild very slowly,
and we hear that there are a few Bellydance instructors who are
starting to teach and dance in that area again. Recently
our well-known Bellydance shop, Kruz, Morocco to India,
has reopened in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
As Kruz so
poignantly stated “My heart and soul is in New Orleans; so, I
could not stay away for long!”
people realize that Hurricane Rita followed Katrina to Louisiana
only three weeks later! Rita hit hard and came ashore along the
Louisiana and Texas state lines. Hurricane Rita destroyed the
Louisiana coastline between Texas and Central Louisiana.
Lake Charles, which is home to Bellydance instructor, Ladonna,
was without power for weeks and destruction was everywhere.
with Ladonna soon after the storm, and she said she had lost track
of most of her troupe and her students who had evacuated. Nonetheless,
she was anxious to start up classes and begin dancing once again.
of the two storms spared Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Thankfully,
we are still maintaining strength in our Bellydance scene here.
We are grateful for all the words of encouragement, support, and
donations that everyone has sent us from all areas of the United
If I may
speak for the dancers of the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi:
“We will recuperate, and we will be stronger than Ever!”
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Interview with Magdy el-Leisy
gave me freedom to create my own style. I didn't go to folklore
school as a child so I have more freedom to express my own style.
The Bellydance Superstars
Show In Perspective by Miles Copeland
are many factors to balance, and ANY show can be improved. The
point is to also know the limitations that one faces in doing
all the things one would like to do.
Cairo '05, How to Eat,
Drink, Sleep, and Breathe Raqs Sharqi, Part 3 of 4-Current
by Andrea, You
could say that Aleya and I are burning the candle at both ends
and enjoying every moment! Our priorities are three: take lessons,
buy costumes, and watch shows.
Photos of Friday Evening show from
Aida Nour & Magdy El-Leisy Workshop 2006 Photos by Lynette
Harris & staff sponsored
by Little Egypt held on Feb 24, 2006 in Los Angeles, California,
Giza Awards 2005, A Cultural Odyssey,
by Rebecca Firestone
it be that the West has been so involved in learning technique
and choreography that the very soul of the dance has been left
to those in the Middle East who are desperately struggling to
keep their art alive?