From the Land Down-under, Part I:
of Melbourne, Australia
the way from Melbourne, Australia, from the land Down Under, please
welcome ‘Un..der..belly’!” That was our introduction onto
the vast dance festival stage in Richmond, California, this year.
The three of us, Andrea Makris, Melusina,
and I stood, shivering slightly, as we waited for the curtains
to draw back at Rakkasah West.
A joke that
was repeated to us through our whole trip was: “Oh, Underbelly
from Down Under; right? Oh, that is a great name. It is
so easy to remember!” When I named my studio Underbelly, I wanted
to reflect an edgy, underground feel. Suddenly I was feeling more
like Crocodile Dundee.
the wings, before we hit the festival stage, Andrea whispered
to Mel and I, “Well, this is our first international
was a strange and exciting thought for us, but despite being on
the other side of the globe, many things felt familiar, but with
a funny little surreal twist. A beautiful cabaret dancer performed
before us, and some American Tribal stylist performers followed
us (the surreal twist being that they were old school American
Tribal Style performers from Japan). We fostered the familiarity
by carrying out our regular pre performance rituals – which I
cannot speak of here – not because they are too sacred to print,
just too silly and embarrassing.
When the announcement
came, the curtains drew back, and there we were on the vast stage
in front of a sizeable audience, at precisely 7:24 p.m., on Saturday
evening. We presented “Kali”, which is a piece we each had a turn
in choreographing, bringing our respective influences, American
Tribal Style, modern Egyptian, funk, East Asian classical dance
and inspiration from the movie “The Matrix”. The audience received
our dance very warmly. Our modest stall in the middle of the Memorial
Auditorium suddenly became abuzz although it had been previously
a thoroughfare for people trying to get to more well-known stalls!
To speak frankly,
the festival was overwhelming to us! Some say it is the biggest
Middle Eastern Dance Festival in the world, and I believe that
may be true. The classic photos of Rakkasah that show the huge
stage and the hoards of stalls with all things glittering and
shimmering capture it well, but to be there is like having fallen
into Aladdin’s Cave. You’re excited, over stimulated and simultaneously
horrified that you may never emerge back into the real world.
All of Friday night and Saturday, I could not shop because there
was simply too much choice! My companions, Andrea and Mel, expressed
the same sad frustration. Of course, we all overcame this little
block and succumbed to unbearable temptations.
think our purchases amused and puzzled our stall-neighbors. They
had seen us on stage as “Kali”. The easiest classification for
that dance and the costuming is Tribal. However, we used some
Soheir Zaki hip drops mixed in amongst the Rachel
Brice back bends. When we shopped, we came back with
a Madame Abla costume, a modern Egyptian style
red dress, mesh on the leg and a tasteful spattering of beading
here and there, and a teal chiffon skirt and matching veil.
morning, we packed our bags for the last day of the American festival
and for our next week-and-a-half of touring with Solace.
We boarded a train from Oakland, California, to Klamath Falls,
Oregon at 9:30 p.m. Sunday night, curled ourselves into awkward
sleeping positions, resisted the invitations from college students
on Spring break to join them at the bar.
2 coming soon!
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