Wasn’t About the Trophy:
The North Valley Belly
Dance Competition in Oroville, Ca. 2006
It wasn’t that winning first place wasn’t suh-weeet—it
was! However, for me, it was more about “being” my fantasy
and wanting to become a legitimate part of that special, select
group of artists and entertainers who perform the beautiful, exotic
art of Belly dancing. My coming away with a trophy for first
place made my dance fantasy seem infinitely more incredible!
Before I heard the announcement of the contest winners, I had
already chalked my night up as an experience of total enjoyment.
The event, The North Valley Belly Dance Contest Competition, took
place in Oroville, California on November 11, 2006, and Carolee
Tamori ably and professionally coordinated it. The event
took place at the State Theatre, which is a beautiful old classical
theatre—built in the early 1920s. Restoration appears to have
retained some of the theatre’s original Art Deco decor. The effect
put me in mind of the setting of the hotel in Stephen King’s movie,
“The Shining”. Okay, we will not go there—because, yes—I believe
in the after world and, in my fantasies, surely spirits haunt
all old theatres!
while I realize that winning a first place in the “Novice Category”
in a Belly dance contest is not winning the Academy Award, as
far as I know, it was just as much fun and probably more.
I cannot even begin to imagine the politics
involved in the Academy Awards, but I certainly did not feel anything
like politics happening here. I appreciated the judge’s comments,
and felt they were very fair. Truthfully, I would have welcomed
a few more comments for their instructive qualities. I know there
is always room for improvement, and I embrace the knowledgeable
input. Certainly, I have my own opinions about artistic things,
but my eyes are wide open to absorb both the good and the bad.
The evening started with the dancers’ check-in.
One of my instructors, Yasmine
(of Sirens In Sanity), was competing on the same evening
in the live music category, and another of my dance instructors,
the Director of Sirens and choreographer of my routine, came along
for support. (How is that for pressure?) I found my way to the
dressing rooms below stage, where there were several individual
rooms. I poked my head through the black curtains to peer into
one of them. Since I liked the fact that it had two long counters
and mirrors, one on each side of the room, I claimed my little
corner and began the primping ritual familiar to all performers.
Later, some tribal dancers and my friend Molly
(who had entered into the “Solo Category”) joined me in the dressing
room. Everyone seemed giddy, very friendly, and courteous. After
I applied my stage lips, I proceeded with my shakedown. That
is where I jump around, shimmy, wiggle, bend, swirl, etc. to make
sure everything stays put in my costume! I do not have too much
to worry about up in the… um… upper torso department, but I know
it is better to be safe than sorry!
a pop out did occur, I am sure the judges would not be undulally
influenced but performers know that incidents with costume failure
can make an audience feel sorry for the dancer rather than amused.
Next came the waiting, and the waiting… It was
not actually too nerve wracking to wait because everyone was talking
and looking at each other’s costumes. The fact that we dancers
get to dress in such eye-popping attire is yet another reason
why I love this dance form so much.
it was my turn to compete! As I was standing at the side curtain
waiting for my music to begin, I started to panic mildly, thinking
that, perhaps, I had mis-communicated my music cue to the stage
manager. As I became busy trying to signal to her—Boom!
Familiar strains of my music began. Ack! I was supposed to start
on that very first beat—so I had to scramble! It was a nice,
sizable stage, and the house lights were completely dark; therefore,
I was looking out into a black abyss! I could not see anyone,
not even the judges. Admittedly, contacts may have helped a little,
but regardless, at that moment, I felt like I was up there all
alone, dancing for myself; it was a bizarre, strange feeling.
I idly wondered if that is what inspired Billy Idol’s song
“Dancing with Myself”?
I managed to accomplish a head wrap with my veil,
and had to be careful to make certain my heels did not find the
electrical hole that was located, inconveniently, in the middle
of the stage. I was not sure how much of that concern the judges
detected, but it seemed I disguised my brain waves well enough.
After my performance, which, of course, I can barely remember,
I wanted to run out and do it all over again! After that initial
burst of adrenaline that tends to interfere with balance as well
as inner serenity, I wanted a chance to go back out and perform
my dance better, the way I knew I could. I can just imagine how
the Olympians must feel when they fall on the ice after they have
performed their skate routine perfectly hundreds of times. Mishaps
are so frustrating! While keeping the scope of this contest in
context, I was just grateful that I had not fallen off the stage!
The little faux pas could have been so much worse; so, I managed
to keep my delighted smile…
might ask why I felt the need to enter into a dance competition.
After a lot of thought, I have concluded that it was mostly
about me competing with--myself. I have done many things
in my life and by forcing myself to have other performers judge
my performance, I have motivated myself to step up to the plate
and accomplish what I had set in my mind to do.
It is not about exhibitionism or “showing off”.
If there is anything I detest in performers, it is those who believe
they are “all-that” and stick their noses up in the air. Our
lives, faces, bodies, health, etc., can change in the blink of
an eye. (You could have asked Christopher Reeves.)
The people that I love and admire the most are the ones that are
beautiful on the inside, and I have found them to be (typically)
confident, secure individuals that do not feel the need to boast
or rip on other people—even if they feel annoyed by unprofessional
antics from time to time. Anyway, that is enough about that!
If I have any regrets about anything, I would
be that I did not start learning Belly dancing earlier in my life
because there is much to learn and so little time! I have been
lucky to study with such great instructors! I began lessons with
in Martinez, California, and then, I established my dance home
at Sirens In Sanity in Benicia with Saiedeh
and Yasmine. I also take instruction from master
dancer and coach, Najia Marlyz
of Bay Point, California, who adds professional polish to my edges.
What a difference subtle changes can make!
Do I love to perform? Oh yes! I think is must
be for the endorphin rush it gives me. I seem to gravitate to
things that make my heart pound: performing, bungee jumping, and
other daredevil activities. My advice is this: if there is anyone
who is reading what I have written here who is undecided about
entering a contest, I would urge you, “Just do it!”
far as I know, we only have one life to live, and personally,
I do not want to leave my life thinking, “If only I had done
this and that, and that…regrets and missed opportunities! All
of the women I encountered who were participating in the competition,
even those in my Novice Category, all were very outgoing and
supportive. I felt no fear…
I encourage you to enter into a competition for
the fun of it, for the experience and motivational incentive,
and to meet new friends in the dance world. Dance your heart
out and have fun, but do not do it just for the trophy! …By the
way, have I shown you mine?
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
View, The North Valley Contest 2005, photos and report by
was an exciting contest, covering five categories: Novices, Intermediates,
Troupe dancers, Solos and Live Solos. Live music was provided
by the amazing Light Rain.
The 11th Annual
North Valley Belly Dance Competition photos
and layout by Susie Poulelis, Feather
Falls Casino Orovile, CA, November 8, 2003
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
Photographic Review of the
33rd Annual Bellydancer of the Year Pageant Photos and report
by Michael Baxter
This show has some wonderful traditions.
Interview with Safaa Farid by
found the foreigners to care about the quality of the work and
not to look only for tips
What's in a Name? A Dancer's
Response to Margo's poem "Much, Much, More" by Erica
of the UK
apologize to anyone who feels diminished and tarnished by Western
appropriation of their cultural heritage turning its labels on
them. I cannot speak for anyone else female or male. This is how
The Road to Heck is Paved With…
Good Intentions and Stone Throwing? by Nisima
the conflicts of interest seem obvious, why cannot the parties
involved negotiate these conflicts -- or avoid them in the first