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Anasma, Kaeshi, Nathalie
Gilded Serpent presents...
My DVD Shoot Adventure
A Bellyqueen & Peko Collaboration
by Elisheva

After performing all different styles of dance professionally throughout my life, I became a member of “Bellyqueen” in April 2004.  Bellyqueen is a New York City based Bellydance company that was created by Amar Gamal and Kaeshi Chai in 1998.  It has since grown to 7 members strong from all different countries and dance backgrounds- Susan Frankovitch, a tribal dancer from California with a very strong American Tribal Style (ATS) background whose style specializes in pops and locks.  Fayzah Claudia has performed Tango professionally, has a background in ballet and is a pyrotechnic whiz.  Anasma is one of our newest recruits from France.  Half Tunisian and half Vietnamese with a dash of Turkish, her theatre and hip-hop experiences blend into her classical Bellydance style. Sandralis is another fresh recruit who’s from Puerto Rico.  Her Belly dance company was award winning and she has the most amazing talent for make-up artistry.  Elisheva, (myself), a dancer whose life-long academic dance training has brought her to professionally perform Modern dance, Breakdance, Hip-hop, Theatre Jazz and Belly dance.  Amar Gamal has a very extensive dance background and is a world champion Bellydancer who has won multiple awards, best known for her Oriental Style.  She is a soloist for the Bellydance Superstars and continues to tour the world performing and teaching.   Kaeshi Chai, the artistic director of Bellyqueen, also toured with the Bellydance Superstars, and is a co-founder of P.U.R.E., a community of dancers and musicians who share their art for peace and healing.  Her extensive travels around the world performing, teaching and learning have influenced the vision of the company.  Bellyqueen’s work is original and cutting edge, a collaborative effort fused with many world dance styles.

It was in October of 2006 that we were invited to Los Angeles to record a performance DVD for Hollywood Music Center/PeKo Records. Our journey started with very stressful conditions.

Apparently the group’s e-tickets had gotten lost in cyber space and Kaeshi and I were going to be separated from the rest and put onto a long stand-by list.

  I found myself wondering how I could check my bag with all my costuming in it without having a ticket on record, but the curt airline agent had no problem doing it.  To start this trip without tickets or luggage was just the tip of the “stressed-out iceberg”, but cold none-the-less.  Now, where is all that gear going…and will I go with it?  There is a saying “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all”.  These small words have always seemed to pull me out of the most desperate situations and even given me hope in getting past them.  It was at this true time of judgment that these words gave me strength, endurance and in the end, a powerful performance.

Confidence is not what I would call my first personality strength, but the experience at HMC’S DVD shoot gave me a renewed relationship with it.  I found myself throughout the week to be both excited and scared beyond belief.  My first lesson was remembering to pack everything, a lesson I never seem to learn quite right.  I always have the chance to borrow my fellow dancers costuming or make-up, but this trip wouldn’t allow for such privileges.  I made more than one trip to the convenient store- eyelashes “check”, hairdryer “check”, and how did I forget a brush? 

We’ve spent countless hours preparing for this moment and I never seem to be prepared enough.

After the stress of waiting for my luggage to arrive in the middle of the night and picking up those items needed that were left at home, it was time to rest up and show them what we’ve got.  Each day of this shoot was a new experience, meeting different dancers of all styles from all places.  I spent the week rubbing elbows with some of the most current well-known Bellydancers, giving me a sense of accomplishment I have worked hard to earn.  I was inspired time again by watching up close and personal performances by Aziza ( Canada ), Willow Chang, Louchia, Ariellah, Sashi and The Nekyia- just to name a few.  The Bellyqueen girls were permanent fixtures for the week, while the other dancers would come and go throughout.  As each day came to pass, each one of us BQ girls would help the other- whether we needed a little makeup artistry, or someone to pin us in, someone to clap us on, or even watch our solos for the millionth time just to make sure we have it down.

The day came for my solo- a day I had prepared for feverishly with the hopes of showing the world my own hip-hop/modern dance/bellydance fusion style to a brand new sound of Bellydance music- beat boxing combined with Middle Eastern drumming. 

I thought I had left my bad luck mantra at the airport, but I soon found that it followed me right through the studio door.

The flames on my set are lit; time is of the essence. I am instructed to ‘hurry up and dance’ as I take my position in front of the cameras and a studio full of peers and onlookers. 

I began my first recorded solo with such high expectations and would not let myself fall into bad luck’s hands.  I take position and see a bleeding foot- I mean really bleeding everywhere. 

CUT!  Take two: I dance through my HIGHLY choreographed intro when all of a sudden I hear a big voice behind the cameras telling me where to move to and where to dance, breaking my concentration and really confusing me. Oops.

CUT! Take three: I get through about 30 seconds of dancing and part of my costume breaks so completely apart that its not even ignorable, smacking me in the face over and over.

CUT!  A fourth take involves not hearing the beginning of my music, a part so important to me in the choreography that I insist I start over.

CUT! The flames are still burning, black smoke filling the studio, time pushing the patience of everyone involved.  How I wanted so badly for bad luck to leave me alone already.  I take a deep breath, bow my head for a 5th time and- voila.  The intensity and mayhem of the situation joined forces and ran head first into my choreography, creating a passion I could only imagine.

7 girls, 5 days and 13 choreographies later is a DVD that represents each one of us in our own personalities.

It was during this shoot that my bad luck mantra had survived its own name, and even given me the power to push my personal limits. As I watched the finished product of our dramatic week on film, I realized that disguised beneath bad luck’s façade was an enormous amount of good luck pushing my boundaries and guiding us all through our numbers

All the stress and crazy happenings had forced me to find new sources of power and confidence and in the end a renewed appreciation for the all bumps in the road.   The crew at the family owned and run company of Hollywood Music Center made this shoot such a great experience with their hospitality, delicious catered food from local “Carousel” restaurant every night, and I can’t forget HMC’s owners Moses and Mher cheering us on with zagarets throughout all of our performances in the recording studio, keeping our smiles on and the energy fresh all the time.  This group of professionals has produced DVDs this year of some amazing dancers and their newest work.  After a week of watching everyone up close and personal I cannot wait to take home every DVD.

click for enlargement

Back Row: Nalini, Elisheva, Kaeshi, Fayzah, Nathalie, Anasma, Sandralis, Willow Chang, Amar Gamal, Scott Sterling, Aubre, Elise, Mira Betz
Bottom Row: Princess Farhana and dancers, The Nekyia

DVD is available through Peko Records and Bellyqueen's website

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