Part 2:- A
Alex in Wonderland
Once upon a time there was an Egyptian man named Alex who,
tiring of just having an ordinary business, decided to
venture into the world of Belly dance. After 3 years of
planning and dreaming, he decided to make the plunge, fell
down the hole, and landed in Las Vegas. It
all seemed quite natural really. Las Vegas is the entertainment
and convention capital of the United States. And the United
States is where our friend Alex calls home.
The hole went straight for quite awhile, like a tunnel, and finally
after dipping and turning and diving, Alex found himself
in a very deep well. He looked about and wondered what would
happen next. After such a long fall down, down and down,
what else could happen? Ir seemed that he had ended up in
a garden. But this was no ordinary garden. This was a labyrinthian
garden and it took him on many circuitous paths with many
obstacles. As Alex was wandering about, wondering what to
do and how to get out, it seemed every so often he would
encounter a rose among this garden of brambles and lush vegetation.
How to get out, how to get out, poor Alex was losing sleep
from trying. And the others in the hole with him were not
believing his intentions. He was being tried for crimes he
claimed were beyond his control.
But Alex decided that the Truth and nothing but the Truth would be
his only way out. The Truth would save him. He felt that
by the end of the day he would get out. So many things had
happened. Some happened the way he wanted, some not quite
like he planned, and some never happened at all.
happened the way he wanted.
He produced an International
Belly Dance Convention from July 30 to August 5, 2007 at
the Southpoint Hotel in Las Vegas. This event brought dancers
and teachers from as far away as Korea, South America, and Egypt,
although most of the dancers were from the United States. One
of his intents was to connect the East with the West. He was
proud when he saw the various foreign dancers networking and
were vendors, U.S. and International dance teachers, dance
competitions, stages for open stage dancing, and formal dance
shows featuring many of the teachers. All the shows had great
sound and lighting. He had the utmost respect for the dancers
in the U.S. and was proud of their talent and artistry. And
he especially liked showing off to his Middle Eastern friends
and colleagues how professional the dancers and groups looked
when they performed choreography.
happened not quite as he planned.
Alex was a businessman. The purpose
of this convention was to create business. He had never produced
a show of any kind before, and therefore hired technical
help. He didn’t dare take a venture without having a good
technical end. He hired Aradia and others to
help make this dream happen. Aradia had worked for Alex before
as a model when he was in retail. He knew that she was a
Belly dancer and knowledgeable in this field, and so he looked
to her for advice.
Some things never
the event did not draw the amount of vendors he had expected
and, I believe, because
he himself had not yet made a reputation for himself as
a credible festival producer, he did not get the numbers of
the dancers he wished for. Belly dancers are special people
and Alex personally did not understand their basic nature.
Some of Alex’s stars - dance teachers, singer and musicians, did
not show up. Whether it was an act of God, sabotage, poor planning, ineptitude,
or plain bad luck didn’t matter. The bottom line is they were “no shows” and
there were many disgruntled
and unhappy dancers.
felt that two major factors contributed to his convention not running as
planned. These were caused by negligence on the part of his INS lawyers
and the Southpoint hotel staff.
He claims that the reason that his stars Amani,
Dina, Saad and their musicians did not show was because they did not
have the correct visas issued in a timely manner. He had gone through the
extra expense of getting the correct visas – business visas, not tourist
visas, but his lawyers did not handle the follow-up properly. They tried
to handle the paperwork through faxes, but the embassies required hard copy
originals only. He now realizes that he needed more time to handle this type
of problem. He did not foresee such obstacles and challenges. Too late found
that he needed not just a few extra days, but actually a few extra weeks.
Everything got delayed including the fact that Egypt Air wouldn’t
issue tickets for the international flights without the visas. If Alex plans
another event of this magnitude, we hope that he finds a different group
of lawyers to assist and expedite.
The main reason he wanted to use the Middle Eastern stars was because they
would have added excitement and prestige to his event…something like going
to the Academy Awards and seeing movie stars. He reminded us that that was
why he brought in Amani and Lucy to his press party. He now wishes
he hadn’t even asked the Middle Eastern stars to be part of his convention,
as it just was a major catastrophe and made him lose credibility.
wanted to show off his American Belly dancers to the general public and
to the American Middle Eastern population. He felt that his Belly dance
convention was really 3 in 1: for Belly dancers, for Middle Easterners
and for the general public.
About a month before the event, he began plastering ads all
over the Middle Eastern papers, magazines and the Arabic channels ART and
LBC on satellite
television. He also bombarded Las Vegas with ads. He felt he had already reached
the Belly dance community through ads and the internet.
Southpoint Hotel made him use their 800 number as the contact number for
information and reservations. After the ads were up, he found that the hotel
staff was unaware and uninformed of the Belly dance events at the hotel and
told callers that they did not have information on the convention. Finally
they gave information to the callers, but it was either incomplete or wrong
things did happen!
cloud has a silver lining:What
actually happened became a major plus for the camaraderie, the “let’s all make
it happen” attitudes, the community efforts, the general understanding and empathy
for the producers. There was a real “Let’s make the best of it” approach in spite
of the fact that Alex didn’t seem to bother to personally inform too many people
that there were numerous changes and “no shows” - such as No Dina, No Amani,
No Raqia, No Saad. What Alex did do was post xeroxed copies of a letter from
immigration on the walls of the hotel stating that Gold Star was innocent of
the fiasco that kept Dina from entering U.S.
As in many natural
disasters there always seem to be local heroes. In this case, Aradia of
Las Vegas, was the hometown heroine helping and pitching in and running
herd. Shareen el Safy should be applauded for jumping in and trying
to help and mediate. Tito of Egypt was another hero as he flew
in from New York to fill in for the now absent Egyptian dance teachers.
was interesting to hear the reactions, opinions and complaints of the
participants. Generally the veteran dancers and workshop participants
were upset, angry and disappointed. It seems that Tito filling in for
the Egyptian dancers was recognized as “saving the day”.
Although the American
dance teachers were great and much appreciated, it was duly noted that
the big names, Raqia, Dina and Amani were sorely
missed as they were forever present in the minds of the workshop dancers
by their absence. Some said it was a waste of time and money to make
the trip to Las Vegas and not get what was promised. (and in some cases,
not get a refund).They said they would not have traveled to Las Vegas
for the American dance teachers who already came and taught in their
home towns. Although it was extremely disappointing that Amani, Dina
and Raqia did not make it to the convention, everyone agreed that Aida
Nour, Mohamad Khazafy, Lubna and Tito were wonderful and inspiring
Alex sincerely wants to do this convention as a business and said
that if it also
helps Belly dance that would be a good thing.
He knows that the 1st year
you lose money, the second year maybe you’ll lose less, the 3rd year
you might break even and finally after 5 years you’ll make money.
before he goes on to announcing the next convention, he feels that he has
to make good on this one. His intentions are honest and honorable, but as
of now, his pockets are empty and he is working on recouping his losses so
that he can pay off his debts. The event was very costly. As of July 30 he
was current with his bills. All bills had been paid except for the teachers
and the competitions. Because of the Egyptian stars’ and Amani’s cancellations,
(workshops and shows) he had to issue refunds. and because of the poor attendance
he was not able to make up the difference from the door charges.
does, however, have every intention of paying – eventually.
Coming in Part 3:
Part 3 of this article is a report and a general
overview of some of the promoters and participants’ reactions and feelings
about the IBDC which took place in Las Vegas from July 30 to August 5,
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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
Part 1 A Brand New Idea for Belly Dance: The Festival Idea in its
Formative Years by Amina Goodyear
speaking of a festival and its promoters that promised more than they were able
Egyptian Dance - Has it crossed the line? by Amina
festivals, held in Giza were isolated and insulated from the people
and the Cairo that I know and love
Report on the First International Bellydance Conference
of Canada Part 2 - Sunday Club Party Photos
by Denise Marino and Lynette
Live orchestra, Randa, Amir, a packed house and very
festive mood. How could it be any better?
North Beach Memories Chapter 6: Bert, by Amina Goodyear
On my first Monday at the
Casa Madrid, Bert came to support the place and me. Well, what he saw was equivalent
to a San Francisco earthquake.
Visions" How Belly Dance Music was First Brought to the United
States by Ray Rashid, intro by Amina
One time he
told me about a blind accordion player who sat and made lots of jokes while they
rehearsed, that musician turned out to be Ammar el Sharie.
the Scenes of " Bellydance Workout" by Venus
television crew said that in the control room it was dead silent during filming
as they strained to listen to what I was saying so they’d know where to
aim the shots.
Experience with Mahmoud Reda: A Little Aloha goes a Long Way by Tammy
end of the evening Ric, Walid and Mr. Reda were huddled together like little
boys, telling naughty jokes. Ric, of course, telling jokes beginning with "There
are three friends, an Egyptian, a Lebanese, and a Filipino..." These jokes,
surprisingly, initiated my Mr. Reda himself, who from the workshops I had taken
to be a distinguished and refined gentleman. They laughed like old friends.