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A sample of vendors in the west hall (Exhibiton Hall) , the first building

Gilded Serpent presents...
New Venue for Rakkasah Festival West
text & photos by Susie Poulelis

They say as you grow older, the years pass more quickly. It seems only a few years since I made the brave move to dance at Rakkasah West - has it really been 8? I remember the excitement, nerves and the sense of pride that I had made such a brave commitment. That year, also, Gilded Serpent was still in its infancy stage and the thought of taking photos of as many dancers as possible to post to the site was thrilling. Combining performing with 3 days of photo taking, and it was a weekend from which to recover. In a good way.

Several years had passed, and my excitement from taking photos remained strong, though I had left performing to those better suited than I. However, in the past few years, my attendance to the festival has been slowly dwindling. Part monotony and unnecessary drama mixed with my own changing interests lead me to the point where I was somewhat begrudgingly attending. I missed one year entirely, but usually made an effort to see what I believed were the best dancers; yet, I always left feeling satisfied that the few headliners I saw were worth the commitment and time it would take to process the photos.

When I got the call this year from my trusty belly dance buddy about the coming event, I was ready to go. I had previously researched the schedule and had a good idea of when I wanted to attend in order to see my favorite dancers, although a few of the usual names were missing from the line up. I was interested mostly in checking out the new venue. Rakkasah West is now moved into its new permanent home at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, California. The venue for this event was split into two buildings where each stage, the West and East were located. In comparison to the previous venue, there was a more even distribution of talent between both stages, and traversing from one stage to the next to catch the dancers you wanted to see, for me, added to the thrill.

In retail, there is a saying that having an item sell out was a happy problem to have. You want to keep your customers yearning for more, making sure they won't hesitate to buy the next time they see something they want.

At Rakkasah, I had a moment or two of frustration that the lag time on the West stage made me miss a dancer or two that I wanted to see on the East stage, until I realized that I really wanted to see those dancers! It was nice to feel the old thrill again. Rakkasah had left me longing for more! By the time we had seen Naheeda from Germany, I turned to my companion and said, "I already feel like I've had my money's worth". My only suggestion for next year would be to announce at each stage if the other stage is straying from the schedule.

The feeling of each of the rooms was similar. The stages were set up and the "backstage" was curtained off, though not too well. Depending on where you stood or sat, you could see offstage fully, distracting from the performances. Only in the case of the Suhaila's new troupe, where I could fully see Suhaila backstage beaming at her new troupe and her daughter Isabella's center stage performance, did I enjoy the peek. I do feel the formal stage will be missed.

Aisles between vendors seemed a bit smaller than at the Richmond auditorium, but sales activities seemed to be more buzzing than in past years. There were some new vendors; it didn't seem like all the same fare. The gourmet chocolates were a big hit!

I was there on Saturday, late afternoon to evening, after getting a late start getting out of the city due to the St. Patrick's day parade. Next year, I'll be sure to check the traffic before leaving. Yes, I'll be returning next year...

A view from the stage in Exhibition Hall (West Hall)

The security bag check between halls.
Bags were checked everytime you went to the other hall. Swords and other weapons are okay but no video cameras!

A musician serenades the golfers behind the halls.

The parade between the halls could be inconvenient for a few.

Baracades kept the visitors from straying off course. Is that the west hall?

Walking back to west hall.

Vendors in the east hall or McCormick Hall

More vendors in the east hall or McCormick Hall

Naheda on stage in Exhibition Hall (West)

Red Desert Dancers

Oreet on stage in East or McCormick Hall

Suhaila's troupe- "The Repertoire Collective"
That is Suhaila beaming in the background on stage in East or McCormick Hall

Titanya's costume was a big hit.
It was inspired by 40's Cuban theme. That is a cigarette holder as prop!

Mesmera on stage in Exhibition Hall (West Hall)


Suzanna Del Vecchio on stage in Exhibition Hall (West Hall)

Audience at the west stage. That is Micheal Baxter back there with the cameras.

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

Ready for more?
6-7-07 More of Carl Sermon's Photos : Rakkasah West '07
Prep and layout by Michelle Joyce

4-14-07 Randa Kamal in Cairo The Photos of Susie Poulelis
I was fortunate to travel to Cairo on business in April '06, and managed to take some time to see a few sights and, at least, one dance performance: Randa Kamal at the Marriot Zamelek's Empress Nightclub

3-22-07 The Photos of Susie Poulelis, Sunday March 18, 2006, Rakkasah Festival, Richmond, California
Isabelle shines at 9!

11-9-06 The Ethnic Dance Festival 2006 Photos by Susie Poulelis Weekend One "Time" June 10, 2006
Palace of Fine Arts, San Fransico, CA

10-20-02 Visions of Delight, A History of Belly Dance in the United States Reviewed by Bobbie Giarratana & Susie Poulelis
Photos of MECDA performers & layout by Susie, Third Annual Bay Area MECDA Showcase

3-27-08 To Buy or Not to Buy –A Guide to Mass Market Belly Dance Instructional DVDs by Yasmin
Most producers ask or hire others to write glowing reviews. You will often see the same people reviewing a producer’s entire line of product. Those are suspect. Look for the one-off comments. They will give a better overview, along with anything less than 5 stars.

3-25-08 A Career Path Less Traveled: Dancing in Movies and TV in the'60s, An Interview with Tanya Lemani by John Clow
In "Get Smart" I enjoyed working with Karen Steele and Don Adams. They took some of my lines out and Don saw that I was upset. Don insisted that they give some of them back to me.

3-22-08 Hafla at the Hoover featuring Morocco February 10, 2008, Hoover Theatre in San Jose, CA Video and photos by Lynette
Debbie Smith on scene reporter, event produced by The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of MECDA

3-17-08 From Cabaret to DJ Bellydance in New York: An Overview, 1988 - 2007 by Nina Costanza (Amar)
But the primary forums for dancers, the major New York nightclubs, have closed their doors. Cabaret is gone; it is the era of the DJ. And the new dancer has to have another job.

3-17-08 Photos from Carnival of Stars 2007- A-Z Page 3 Casual photos by Carl Sermon, Duane Stevens, John Kalb, Murat Bayhan, and Lynette Harris
Novemenber 10 & 11, 2007, produced by Alexandria and Latifa Centennial Hall in Hayward, California

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