performs with Scott Wilson's band at the Grisly Pear.
on dumbek, Scott on oud over Sarah's right shoulder and
George plays clarinet
photo by Sal Romano
Two Doors Close Two Doors Open
New Venues in New York City
by Sarah Skinner
is an inevitable flow of nature. With the ying and yang of
destruction comes rebirth. And so the same happens in the landscape
of New York City's night life. Hot spots with live Middle Eastern
music and a belly dance show has become fewer and fewer over
the years with only a few golden nuggets left. A weekly show
you made sure you saw were Avram Pangas'
s band The Noga Group and Scott
Wilson's band. In the last few months both bands got
up-routed from their historic locations but thankfully landed
Cupping Room opened in 1977 serving coffee in
the artist haven of SOHO. The Noga group started playing
there on Wednesday nights seven years ago. Over time the
waves of gentrification set in. Affordable artist lofts
became bought out for high-end apartments and so changed
the temperament of the upstairs neighbors. The Noga Group
looked else where to play their lively Mediterranean notes.
successful restauranteur and avid supporter of Middle Eastern
live music opened up another restaurant a few years back.
Sharif was thrilled to snap up the band on Wednesday evenings. The
Woolworth Tower Kitchen is located in the historic
Woolworth Building, at 57 stories, is one of the oldest—and
one of the most famous—skyscrapers in New York City. The Woolworth
Building is unusual among skyscrapers for having been financed
in cash. Its owner was five and dime king, Frank W.
Woolworth, who in 1910 commissioned architect Cass
Gilbert to design a Gothic-style skyscraper. Gilbert
covered most of the building in a skin of ornamental cream-colored
terra cotta instead of masonry to stress the beauty of the
walls. The lobby of the Woolworth Building was an important
tourist attraction but access to view it has been limited since
911, for security reasons. Designed as a grand arcade, the
public areas are warm marble, sculpted relief, vaulted mosaic
ceilings and painted decoration all contribute to an awe-inspiring
environment. The Woolworth Kitchen continues the feeling of
sophistication with its high vaulted ceilings: sleek decor
and delicious menu. The restaurant has its own entrance located
on Barclay Street.
Aquini gives author a preshow massage
photo by Kevin Fox
was thrilled to have the honor of getting called to dance the
second week of the band being there. I decided to do it right
and pamper myself before hand. I called up Kevin Aquino, my
massage therapist, for a massage. I set up the room for ultimate
relaxation, putting the massage table in front of the salt-water
reef tank, aromatic room scents and soothing music.During the
massage I tell Kevin that I am excited to perform in this new
venue with one of my favorite bands. Kevin reminds me that
since we are loosening my stabilizer muscles that I should
be very careful that my muscle memory will be looking for a
certain tension and it will not be there to support me. I dismiss
this since I had had been doing shimmy drills that day; I felt
I am putting on my make up and my red tapestry costume, I reminisce
about how when I first came to New York City, Avram Pengas
was working at the Lafayette Grill and
gave me my first NYC live music dance gig. I feel lucky to
still have the opportunity to be dancing to his music. I hop
on my two wheeler and motor down to the City Hall Park area.
I walk into the glass front restaurant to be greeted by Sharifs
smiling face. He shows me to the ample changing space and gets
me a glass of water. The acoustics of the space are exquisite
for the sound. I can hear the music with perfect clarity from
where I am getting ready.
become filled with excitement and nerves. I decide to warm
up by doing some more shimmy drills and to my alarm my
shimmies felt completely wonky. Terror shot threw me, Kevin
was right! I can't shimmy! Oh no!
took some deep breaths and reminded myself I had a bit of time
before I was going on. I kept working out my shimmy until they
came back. I heard the band quiet down and introduce each member
one by one- Samir Shukry, Nick Mandoukos,
Elysa Sunshine, Eran Asias, Farouk, Avram Pengas-
and then I was introduced. My supportive crowd clapped loudly.
The music was even better out on stage then it was from where
I had been listening. I was in heaven. Before I knew it the
show was over and just a joyful memory. I was beaming as I
gulped down another glass of water. I felt relieved that The
Noga Group had found a new happy home.
knew that Cafe Figaro had closed its doors.
Cafe Figaro was located in the Village. The location and place
itself had been steeped in bohemian history in the early 60s.
The four corners had cafes with out door seating that lent
itself to people watching. Sunday nights became the home of
belly dancers and live music. It started out with belly dance
teacher Stella bringing in a boom box and
giving students a place to perform. It developed into having
the live music band lead by Scott Wilson. Recently, two of
the four corner restaurants including Le Figaro Cafe closed
shop after over 50 years in business.
performs with the Noga group at the Woolworth Tower Kitchen.
Band L-R Farouk on dombek, Elysa Sunshine on bass guitar,
Samir Shukry on violin,
Avram Pengas on guitar.
Members not in photo-Nick
Mandoukos on guitar and Eran Asias on drum kit
by Kevin Fox
Wilson picked up his three headed guitar and walked a half
a block up the street and set up at the newly opened The
Grisly Pear to give that spot a try. The Wilson's
contacted me and asked if I would be the headliner for this
venues opening night. I was immensely happy that they had found
a spot so quickly. I packed up my latest favorite chocolate
costume and trotted on down to Greenwich Village. As I walked
in I wasn't sure what to make of the all-wood bar front room.
It wasn't the feel that I expected.
in the back of the place there was this cozy black box
room with a raised platform for the band and the side tables
around the room are raised.
first I was unsure how people would do navigating the step
ups but as I sat and watched other performers that night, I
realized that it made it so that every single chair in the
room had a good vantage point of the show. The family that
now owns the Grisly Pair were very accommodating and kindly
set up a dedicated room for the three dancers to change and
get ready. They gave us a big pitcher of water. Valerie,
Aimee and I giggled as we shared glitter getting ready.
The band this night was Scott Wilson, George, Raquy and Rami.
The night was filled with good wishes and a supportive environment
that the Wilson's are so good at creating.
was thrilled with the new place and said it reminds him
of the late night clubs in Istanbul, Turkey. At the end
of the night I walked out into the hot summer air feeling
invigorated and inspired.
though it was sad to see the old haunts go, the new venues
breathe life and excitement as the baton has been passed to
a new era of entertainment delights.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
11-5-07 Two For One,
Two very different DVDs on Turkish Dance reviewed, DVD review
Love Turkish Dance by Sarah Skinner & Turkish
Style Belly Dance by Elizabeth Artemis Mourat
Dancing in Estonia by Ines Karu
in the rest of the world, the Egyptian style of belly dance is
the most popular one in Estonia. Most of the instructors and
dancers are specialized in that style. The American Tribal Style
Belly Dance is also becoming more known each day. The general
impression of belly dance in Estonia is glamorous, feminine,
luxurious, modern and elegant. It’s a time where Estonian dancers
can truly say that they can be proud to be a Middle Eastern dance
artist in Estonia.
Fest 2008, Saturday May,17 2008, Sebastopol, CA photos
and video by Lynette
Produced by BlackSheep BellyDance and held in the Sebastolpol
Community Center, photos and performance clips of Hahbi’Ru,
Unmata, Sexy Scallywags, Romka, Tempest, Clandestine, Titanya,
RockRose, Natium, Sabrina
Complete Performance Bag by Anna
performance bag is that ONE practical and necessary accessory
that aids in the creation of that ideal performance environment.
Belly Dancing 1966: B.C. (Before Choreography) Schehera
of Ohio Interviewed by John Clow
censors didn’t want me to show my stomach because you couldn’t
reveal the navel on television back then. Keeping the veil on
was kind of hard to do, dancing with a snake.
Seif: The Moment of Eternal Shimmy by Stavros Stavrou
Karayanni photos by Samira and Masouma, videos by Lynette
is now an international phenomenon. And how wonderful that a
man from Egypt has taken to the West’s belly dance stages
establishing himself as one of the greatest belly dancers and
showmen today. Such development flies in the face of those American
belly dance instructors, students, and performers who have long
considered this art defunct in Egypt and dependent upon their
kind support and cultivation.