The Belly Dancer Reader makes a perfect gift!

After making us a wonderful meal, Turkish dance legend,
Sema Yeldiz
gave us a special performance in her living room.

Gilded Serpent presents...
Adventures in Turkey 2006
Text by Michelle Joyce
Most photos by Michael Baxter

Istanbul is our Mecca. No, not because of the belly dancing. No, not because of the amazing history. No, not because of the wonderful people. It is because of Bella.

After years of ordering Bella costumes, Michelle and Sandra decided to go to the promised land.... Bella's store! We have long felt that Bella deserved as much credit as those who taught us to dance, and we couldn't wait to thank her in person.

Just to demonstrate how much this pilgrimage meant to us, I want you to understand that I am not exaggerating when I say that Sandra actually threw herself into Bella's arms and wept when she first laid eyes on her.

We made the journey in August of 2006, along with amazing belly dance photographer and good friend, Michael Baxter. The three of us spent a few weeks site seeing and doing small shows in Istanbul.

While in Istanbul 8 years ago, Michelle met Sema Yeldiz, a local dancer and teacher. When the two were reunited, Sema declared our whole group "family" and insisted on making us home-cooked meals, on showing us her home videos from her many workshop tours, and on having us try on her beautiful costumes. Sema generously offered to share the contacts she gained over a lifetime of performing in films, on TV, in clubs, and on international stages.

Nadira joined us for the tail end of the Istanbul trip - she literally went straight from the airport to Bella's store! Poor Nadira could barely keep her eyes open as we danced and partied at Sema's house until 3am that same day.

Next we all traveled to the city of Antalya in the south, where we had arranged a performance contract at Club Med. There we spent our days on the beach and our nights dancing (in our new Bella's of course).

Every moment of the trip was documented by our wonderful photographer, Michael Baxter. We have hundreds of photos from the trip... here are a few of our very favorites!

Sandra & Michelle- standing, sitting- Nadira & Bella
Here we are posing with our favorite costume maker in the world... BELLA!

Bella is extremely secretive about her work and would not allow us to photograph the costumes in her shop. But, here is a photo of one of her 25 cats!

After a long journey, Nadira gets ready to enter Bella's store for the very first time!

We had a wild night performing in the Kumkapi district of Istanbul.
First Sandra and Michelle performed....

...then the local dancer performed. Michael Baxter took the opportunity to show off his shimmy and to give her a big tip. Actually, he was having a great time dancing with her until she shoved him and said "MONEY!" with fire in her eyes. He only had a twenty dollar bill, which he quickly handed over.

Then we danced and drank until dawn with the restaurant owners and musicians.

Here are a few more shots from around the Blue Mosque on our site-seeing adventures.

Below, is Michael Baxter striking a sexy pose!

A few great scenery photos

[ed- check out the Saudi Armaco World virtual walking tour of the Suleymaniye Mosque here]

This is inside Basilica Cistern- info at Wikipedia

After Istanbul, we traveled to the South of Turkey to fulfill our performance contract at Club Med. Here we are after the performance on our first night. Those lights in the background are the city of Antalya across the bay. A cafe in Antalya had actually been bombed a few days before our arrival, which meant that security was very tight. Michelle was detained by the club's Turkish security guards while walking from her room to the performance with a sword in her hand.

Performing on an island in the middle of the swimming pool!
We are happy to report that no one fell in.

Sandra and Nadira kick off the evening festivities by filling glasses with French champagne.
Between them is the Club Med Manager, officially called "The Chief of the Village".

Here we are teaching dance workshops for the Club Med guests. Each of us took turns leading the daily workshops. At the end of our stay, our students did an excellent performance for the entire resort!

Michelle teaches

Sandra teachesSandra teaches

Enjoying the Mediterranean Sea.

Whew, that was a hard day's work!
in the background are the  Bey Mountains.

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

Ready for more?
6-21-06 Photographic Review of the 33rd Annual Bellydancer of the Year Pageant Photos and report by Michael Baxter.
This show has some wonderful traditions.

1-11-06 Return to India – This Time it’s Personal! by Michelle and Sandra
We thought that the misfortunes associated with our previous performance tours of India were simply anomalies in the blissful and glamorous world of dancing overseas.

10-18-06 “The Bellydancers of Cairo” An interview with filmmaker Natasha Senkovich by Betsey Flood
As a maid you can find yourself in compromising positions—not good situations for a woman to be in—but in Egypt, it is considered so much better than being a dancer.

10-17-06 Judging in Germany, The Summer Festival and the International Raks Sharqi Contest 2006 by Dondi S. Dahlin.
photos by Klaus Rabien, Berlin, Germany. "It is also an easy out for judges who need to find a reason to drop a dancer’s score…especially if the competition is tough."

10-12-06The Soltice Festival, Belly Dance in Spain- Part 2, Photos by Lynette
held June 23-26, 2006. Part Two- The Evening Show, Event organized by Maria Cresswell of Tribal Girona at Sanctuari Els Arcs, Girona, Spain. A medieval hostelry with a chapel, set in the beautiful volcanic natural park of La Garrotxa near the picturesque village of Santa Pau.

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