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In the ‘70s, no dance set was complete without “floor-work!”
Gilded Serpent presents...
The Magnificent Fundraiser Part Three: 
Acts I and II
by Najia Marlyz

part one
part two

I should take this moment to explain why I think you might be interested in a show that took place in Berkeley, California, twenty-six years ago! 

First of all, I want to mention that this series I’ve been submitting about our Helmet Club Show in 1975 is, for me, a memorial for many of the people who were closely involved in the production but who are now no longer living. 

There may be others but those of whose passing I am aware of are:

  • Four musicians, Mimi Spenser, Devi Ja Croll, Tim Stackpole, and John Rekus
  • Venue owner: Ike Rekus
  • Dancer: Ted Sofios
  • The audience also held my mother, Evelyn Gerhart, Kaethe Kliot, “Sabah” Jamie Miller, and also my students, Habibi and Eva Glasky.

I miss them all.

Secondly, it becomes evident (in letters to the editor and small comments in articles here and there) that today’s dancers and producers sometimes write that they believe that large stage shows with good sound and lighting, a Master of Ceremonies, and live music are only now starting production. Recently, promoters and dancers alike seem to intimate in their personal publicity a conviction that only now are dancers striving to place Oriental dance on the level of other forms of ethnic dance by staging, lighting, research, authentic techniques, and promotion.  However, the fact is, that that was exactly what we believed we were doing thirty years ago! Nowadays, my assumption is that dancers before my era may have also been thinking that they were bringing knowledge of Middle Eastern dance into legitimacy. It seems to be quite a long haul.

As far as I know, I was the first dancer in the East Bay (Berkeley) to stage a large dinner show with a three-hour show of variety Ethnic dances and Belly dance among them—emphasized and high-lighted—that attempted to bring various factions of Oriental dance together on the same stage.  We presented Thai dance, Greek folkdance, and Fantasy Oriental dances (featuring such specialties as snake, sword, dancing on drinking glasses). Rhea and her troupe represented the American Tribal style Belly dance, which was in its infancy. Additionally, we staged several standard Cabaret dance routines (A standard routine was, at that time, a sort of American fusion of Turkish, Lebanese styles.) as well as “Act III”: a duet featuring my dance partner, Bert Balladine and me, Najia Marlyz.

(I will present the photos of Act III soon as the final installment of this series that I have titled “The Magnificent Fundraiser.”)

My students often ask me to show them early videos of my performances, and I have to explain to them, regretfully, that there was no such thing as a camcorder for personal use at that time.  My earliest recorded black and white videos were from a box that one had to thread like a sewing machine, with tape snaking from one reel to another!  I only obtained that pathetic technology after this show was past history.  I gave performances on local television channels, but the tapes were commercial sized reels (not cassettes), and I eventually dumped them because I could not play them on anything available to me.

Jules Kliot of Lacis in Berkeley took all of these previously black and white still photos, but he did not print a majority of them beyond the contact sheet phase.  I re-discovered the contact sheets in my file recently and undertook their cleaning, enlargement, and colorization, via my computer, in an attempt to preserve another little piece of our dance history in Northern California.  Many thanks from all of the show performers to Mr. Kliot.  I hope readers of Gilded Serpent will look at his never-before-published photographs as a historical contribution to West Coast Oriental dance. 

Here are photos of “Act I and Act II”. Act III to follow.

Dancer Nakish of San Francisco shares a pre-show laugh.

Bert Balladine and San Francisco Dancer, Hoda, confer before our show.

Aziz drove all the way from Salt Lake City to Berkeley with a huge snake just to perform at our show!

Aziz of Salt Lake City, Utah, clowns for the photographer.

Helwah seems to levitate for her enthusiastic audience.

Helwah swings into a zar movement.

Helwah’s backbend; musicians Devi Ja and Mimi in background.

Gitana of Redwood City begins to connect with the music.

Encouraged by small white flower that were thrown on the stage, Gitana, becomes exotic.

Khadija’s blue taxim mood.

Khadija, who later became the most highly tattooed dancer, modeling her early tattoos.

Musicians: MaryEllen Donald, Devi Ja, Mimi, and Vince Delgado, plus another musician who is not shown in photo.

MaryEllen Donald amazes audience with her solo zils.

MaryEllen breaks into a dance accompanied by her own cymbals.

Fran Hannah extraordinary ethnic dance specialist.

Eleanor Weigand and Fran Hannah perform a Thai ritual dance. The Thai dance was "Fon-Leb" and the two dancers billed themselves "La Desiree Danse Ensemble."

Naila (Bert Balladine’s current teaching assistant) begins her dance with Mimi and Devi Ja’s music.

Naila steps carefully onto her drinking glass.

Rhea and Jan Turner "Jenina" begin their sword duet facing one another.

Rhea reaches out to throw a flower into the audience during her routine.

Natica Rashiba (Angilly) opens her routine.

Natica Ra-sheba Angilly

Zina (right) and Brenda open set for Bert Balladine.

Bert Balladine, Zina (right) and Brenda (left) spin.

Najia (far right) giving autographs in the lobby.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
4-7-06 The Magnificent Fundraiser, Part Two- Police Barriers Surround Event by Najia Marlyz
Over 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.

2-17-06 This is Not a Review: Bellydance Superstars Commentary by Najia Marlyz
Herein lies one major flaw concerning the concept of superstardom in Bellydance: choreography. While choreography is a form of quality assurance, it is also assurance that the quality attained will be less than stellar in Bellydance!

1-30-06The Magnificent Fundraiser by Najia Marlyz
That included the Belly dance, which he confided in me (later) that he had hated, because it had been introduced to Greece during the time that Greece was under the suppression and control of the Turks.

6-12-06 Belly Dancer of the Year 2006 Photos by Susie Poulelis
Danville, Ca, Sunday May 28, 2006 BD of the Year - Finals, more photos coming!

6-9-06 Weird Rituals and Beyond: Exploring Current Controversies in Middle Eastern Dance by Barbara Grant
If you are like me, (I know that many are not) you first responded viscerally and negatively to both situations. Then, as the shock wore off, perhaps you tried to make sense of it all.

6-6-06 The Bellydance Scene in Taiwan Toss Hair Dance by Eugenia
The women were much more skillful than I expected: just 3 years ago, nobody in Taiwan really knew anything about Bellydance.

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