Andrea Makris, Melusina, Trisnasari of Underbelly
Gilded Serpent presents...
From the Land Down-under, Part I:
The Festival

by Trisnasari
of Melbourne, Australia

“All 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.

In the wings, before we hit the festival stage, Andrea whispered to Mel and I, “Well, this is our first international performance!”

It 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.

I 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.

On Sunday 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.

Part 2 coming soon!

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

Ready for more?
7-25-06 Freedom From Choreography: A Lucy Report by Nisima
Lucy certainly did “Free me”! ...

7-20-06 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.

7-5-06 Sheikka Rimitti, Queen of the Rai by Linda Grondahl
Unlike most of the music that we are familiar with from the Middle East that are usually unrequited love songs or patriotic love of country songs, the rai songs are about drinking, suicide, suffering, colonialism, poverty, exile, homesickness, corruption and the passion and pain of actual love making.

6-29-06 “Gypsy” Dance in America, by Caitlyn, photos of author by Rachel Ong
Roma dance usually brings to mind tambourines and skirt-swirling, but these images are mainly a fantasy.

6-27-06 Om Kalthoum, The Voice of Egypt by Yasmin
She was without contest the most well-known singer of the Arab world. She was also the most influential woman of her time in the Middle East.

ad 4
ad 4 Artemis

ad 4 Suzanna Del Vecchio

ad 4 oasis dance company



 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines