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Gilded Serpent presents...
Field Report from
the Dance Gig Front

by Surreyya Hada
June 22, 2006-An actual letter from a dance student,
received and submitted to Gilded Serpent by Najia Marlyz.

So, Najia, I am writing this letter to tell you that work we did together on drum solo and communication between Murat, my Turkish drummer, and me really has worked out! 

We received an invitation to perform at the Santa Cruz Art & Wine festival. We had two hours of material to perform, but the day before the event, I came down with the flu.  As sometimes happens, we had to cut short three or four songs because my respiratory ailment kept me from playing my clarinet properly.

Previously, we had kicked around the idea of opening our show with some drum and dance material, but not knowing what kind of crowd we would get, we weren't sure if we should do it. 

Also, the entertainment organizer gave us a "heads up" there would be children around, and she felt that I should be tame with my dancing because some festival attendees might find Belly dance a bit too much for young eyes. 

Naturally, I got a spurt of anxiety upon receiving this information—already being sick with the flu.  All of these concerns caused me to wear conservative threads, and I decided that, even though the gig was outside, and my sinuses were stuffy, (which is not good for balance) I would attempt my sword routine, just do simple things, and bring my new snake along for fun, too. A performance more oriented toward the use of “props” seemed to fill the playbill.

We decided we would take a break about halfway through the gig to make two shorter sets.  

We started with music, me singing a couple of songs, which I was able to do in spite of my infirmity, and then I tried the clarinet but began coughing terribly.

Consequently, I ditched that right away and picked up my cymbals instead, playing to the music and doing some light dancing to test out the audience.  Once the festivalgoers heard my finger cymbals, they stopped in their tracks and collected around the stage.

That boosted my confidence; so, I just danced with cymbals playfully and did some fun/simple veil work.  The outdoor breezes calmed down and I announced to our audience to “stick around—and see me become a human weather vein.”  After a few chuckles, the boys played, and I did my sword routine. 

Luckily, the wind stayed relatively calm; the audience was in suspense, and with every trick that I accomplished, I received major applause! I wondered, “Is this real?”  I am used to apathetic San Franciscans.  These people in Santa Cruz loved whatever we did!

Confidence crept in and harder tricks came into my mind: I got the courage to balance the sword on my chin (Sorry, coach, I know you hate the red mark that it leaves on one’s chin, but the audiences usually think the trick is cool—and dangerous, too.) I lowered myself to the ground and did a backbend/fold. 

“This sword routine is going too well,” I thought!  Sure enough, the wind blew, and my sword started to slip.

A big gasp came from the audience! (My sword did not totally fall to the ground; thank Goodness!)  Granted, I had folded myself backwards in two.  Rather than falter, I quickly put my arm up and gestured to everyone: "Wait!"  The boys in the band quieted down the music, and Murat did a drum roll on the darbuka (drum).   

I re-balanced the sword on my chin once again and slowly came back up to a kneeling position, made Snake arms, then bounced the sword from my chin into my hands and curtsied. We heard the roar of applause!

"Thanks so much, folks!  We are Mastyka, and we are available for your parties.  Won't you stick around for act two?  We'll be back in 10 minutes," I announced (literally) breathlessly. I ran to get food and beverage, my body shaking, and slammed down two glasses of Gewürztraminer.  “I must chill out!” I thought. I walked back to backstage area, and saw that our e-mail list was filling up. How nice!  I checked on my snake’s welfare, rested a minute, and looked at my watch.  “Oh, My Gosh! We have another hour left—and only two more songs we can all play together!” I began to panic.

Murat said, "Let’s begin the set with the drum solo thing we worked on with Najia. We can start the set that way.  I will come out by myself and play 9/8; then, I'll change to a Chiftetelli rhythm, and you can do some slow hypnotic moves. We can agree on a place to end; then, do a call/answer pattern between cymbals and drum."  Well, after a couple of white wines and decongestants, I was game for trying anything!  I set my cymbals by Murat on the stage and let him begin the set solo as the guitarist and I were backstage listening.  The crowd quieted and gathered around to listen.  Little kids came closer and sat near the stage.  No longer worried about offending the conservative masses of Santa Cruz, I remembered the veil techniques you showed me and came out slowly to the Chiftetelli rhythm.  After some standing poses and pretty arm movements with dramatic fluctuations between turns, I felt playful letting the veil fly and float.  The kids were mesmerized absolutely, and that was a fun sight to witness

I danced closer to them, making some Pyramid arms and Snake arms (with the veil around my neck and floating behind me). Then, I let the veil fly.  The children tried to touch it.  It lifted my spirit so much!  After that, I ditched my veil on the side of the stage and returned to a spot near Murat.  I picked up my cymbals to begin our “Call & Answer” scenario. Murat began with simple Turkish rhythms, and I tried to match his beat with cymbals and various shimmies and accents. 

Murat’s riffs became progressively more complicated and the audience looked exactly as if they were watching a tennis match.

   Encouraged, I got closer to him to minimize my neck strain, and started to make fun with his rhythms by making up some campy moves.  He did not seem to like that very much and consequently, made them even more difficult!  It got to one point where I did not play anything on my finger cymbals in response… and gestured for a repeat.  I could not memorize it that time, either!  

After a pause, and a little embarrassment, I threw my hands up at him in disgust and walked away.  The audience laughed loudly. 

I had not realized they were into our game of challenge!  With my back to him, I started playing simple rhythms from my side of the stage, and then he followed me—as if to call me back to his side of the stage.  The more our challenge went on, I turned a bit and looked in his direction a little with each give and take.  I got more complicated and faster with my rhythms.  Then, he had a little trouble following me—or pretended to have trouble.  I slowed down my rhythm to allow him to absorb it, but apparently, still he could not respond

I slowed even more drastically and pretended that I would help him by playing the drum with my hair! The audience went nuts with laughter. 

Finally, at the end of our scenario, we both got our riffs correct, and we played together with smiles and brought the story to an abrupt stop.  Then, Murat changed the rhythm into a very loud “Doom doom tek-a-tek, doom tek-a-tek!” and the audience began clapping along with our drum and cymbals.  I remembered some of the more folkloric steps you taught me and whipped out some angst and passionate arms/hands to the sounds of “Woo-who!” from the audience. Again, we heard the roar of their applause!  “Could this be real?” I thought. “How different from San Francisco this is!” We calmed our performance down a notch with a Turkish folk song, then an Uzun Hava (vocal solo sung to droning notes).  The vocal solo became a jam on the sitar that Marty was playing with an electric bow, which gave it a very eerie violin quality in tone.

 I announced that this was our last song and went and got Murjana, my new snake.  The kids all collected close to the stage to see my snake...but that's another story!

We closed our show with fantasy and the crowd milled around to say nice things and shake hands with us.  We booked three new gigs from our success with this one gig!  The Chairperson of the festival came to congratulate us after our gig, bought several of our CDs, and insisted we return next year as their grand finale, once again! I think I can credit about 90% of that performance to the wisdom, confidence and ability to handle improvisation that you provided to us as our performance coach. We could not have achieved that kind of feedback without the dance arsenal you supplied us.  Much love to you—and a cup—soon? Your pupil, Surreyya

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