photos by Nurhan Bayhan
the Dance Gig Front
June 22, 2006-An
actual letter from a dance student,
received and submitted to Gilded Serpent by 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
decided we would take a break about halfway through the gig to
make two shorter sets.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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!
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.
"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.
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.
riffs became progressively more complicated and the audience
looked exactly as if they were watching a tennis match.
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!
a pause, and a little embarrassment, I threw my hands up at
him in disgust and walked away. The audience laughed
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.
even more drastically and pretended that I would help him by
playing the drum with my hair! The audience went nuts with laughter.
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.
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!
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
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Adding Dance to Her Repertoire by Najia Marlyz
choreographies are seldom the “stuff of dreams” but
simply serve as crutches for the dancer who has not developed
a “clean edge”.
The Magnificent Fundraiser,
Part Two- Police Barriers Surround Event by Najia Marlyz
coffee, we decided that our fundraiser would have to be an extraordinary
dance show rather than “just another student night”
or worse yet, a studio recital.
Rhea’s Travel to Syria, Part
5 –Sex and the Single Girl by Rhea of Athens
The Trials and Travails of a Lone Female Traveler
From the Land Down-under, Part
I: The Festival by Trisnasari of Melbourne, Australia
In the wings, before we hit the festival stage, Andrea
whispered to Mel and I, “Well, this is our first international
Freedom From Choreography: A Lucy Report
Lucy certainly did “Free me”! ...
About Cymbals & a Workshop Checklist,
Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 13 by Mary Ellen Donald
Believe it or not, playing cymbals can be a real pleasure.
Playing them well can greatly enhance your dance performance.
Playing apologetic or offbeat cymbals can ruin your dance performance.