Gilded Serpent presents...
Shake and Bake
hostess and organizer of the Shake and Bake Festival, creates fun every
summer in New Mexico's high desert city of Albuquerque. As with any
long-standing popular event, no one (and that may well include Amaya)
knows for how long this event will continue. I had heard about the Shake
and Bake festival for years, but until last summer, I'd never had the
occasion to attend. It took absolutely no prompting to get me motivated
for another round this year! Shake and Bake is not your ordinary seminar.
a true happening, an experience, and for all who attend, an adventure.
Shake and Bake offers more than most seminars, and so to call it
a seminar or a conference is inadequate. Let's call it what it is:
A festival that provides the stage for the true bonding of dancing
Not all attendees
are experienced dancers or performers. All attendees are interested
in seeing dance, in experiencing dance, soaking up the local culture,
and connecting. However, what is a dance festival without getting all
you can from the seminar instructors? This is especially true with instructors
like this year's: Amaya; Bert
Balladine, and Jalilah,
this year's featured guest artist.
Amaya says about
Shake and Bake, "This Shake and Bake festival is built with the
glue of friendships built over many, many years of workshops, behind
the stage jitters, giggles and gripes, stitch and bitch sessions over
costume adjustments." Its true that belly dancing provides many
opportunities to bond and to share in the creative spirit, but Shake
and Bake can probably best be summed up by it's attendees..
put her businesswoman's talents to the test with this year's Shake and
Bake. Not all the events went according to plan. She had the opportunity
to show how to keep your cool while all those carefully laid plans crumble.
As the festival sponsor, Amaya creates the agenda, lines up technicians,
drivers, volunteers, and spaces from the hotels and dorms to the various
show venues, year after year. Those who sponsor seminars know what this
entails and how completely the sponsor has to trust others to do their
best too. Every year something is bound to go wrong, so you learn quickly
to find a way to get around the problems and go on.
year almost every activity during this festival required the implementation
of "Plan B".
of Dallas, loved coming to Shake and Bake because she loves Amaya's
teaching style, and when asked what she enjoyed most about the seminar,
she promptly replied, "Amaya's class!" There is something
for everyone at Shake and Bake. This Shake and Bake was no exception
with such a terrific line-up.
What is Shake and Bake from my perspective? Shake and Bake is more like
a pleasure cruise with more great activities than your typical dance
festival. The southwestern desert is your ocean and Albuquerque and
Santa Fe are the ports of call. Our captain is gracious (and unlike
most pleasure cruises, beautiful), and the cruise-goers are also often
beautiful at this event which was designed so that they could have a
wonderful time. We came from all over the country, Seattle, Baltimore,
Boston, Clearwater, Florida, LA, Austin, Dallas and, seemingly, everywhere
to find the flame.
first day of the festival we gathered together outside the dorm to wait
for the bus to take us to Santa Fe for shopping and the Maria
Benetiz, Flamenco show. As we waited, Amaya had Jeanette
dispense the tote bags and t-shirts from the trunk and back seat of
Amaya's car. Jeanette scribbled the names of those picking up their
totes and t-shirts frantically on the back of an envelope. As I watched
her handing out the goodies to this as yet small group of women, it
made me think of gypsies selling baubles or fortunes along the side
of the road.
The first of the many seminar classes is with Jalilah. Jalilah, the
featured dancer of this year's seminar, proved to be a complete delight.
Words like sweet, soft, kind, musical and introspective come to mind.
a truly warm-hearted Madonna from Montreal Canada, teaches what
she preaches, which is to feel and understand the music. Jalilah
believes that simply counting the rhythm is not enough to produce
a great dance.
You also need
to know and feel your music. Jalilah has had a lot of experience putting
this into practice. She produces CDs of classical Arab songs, especially
songs made famous by the Arab singer Om Kalsoom and
that is a fact that translates into an understanding of the complexities
of modern Arab music. So, if you can feel the music, it is possible
to interpret the music through the dance, allowing the music and the
dance to become synonymous.
impressed many of the workshop attendees, some of whom had never taken
a dance class like Jalilah's. As a young Albuquerque dancer put it,
"I always get so hung up on the count, I sometimes forget what's
coming next, and then get really lost." As Jalilah showed us, you
know your music, you know what you need to do, and so you don't need
to follow the rhythm as though it was the only thing in the music. Most
rhythms are connected to the heartbeat, so one may dance naturally!
Amaya, who has known Jalilah for about 15 years, recalls the first time
she saw her. "Jalilah was dancing in a restaurant in Berlin to
'Music for Amaya' by the Sultans. Needless to say, I was very impressed
with her dancing and her excellent choice of music. Over the years,
our paths have crossed, mostly in Europe. Jalilah has a photographic
memory when it comes to music and many of us dancers would ask her about
song titles. Her wide eyes give her such an innocent look, but she is
street smart and sort of an angel flying above the rest of us. She struggles
less. She seems implacable. She really was a joy to bring to S&B
and I plan on doing so again."
class was next. Bert, who has been a part of Shake and Bake for almost
every year that it has existed, has been immortalized in many articles,
dedications and acknowledgments on albums and CDs. On a Light Rain album,
he's called the "world emissary of magic". He reminds us there
is so little joy in the world and it's good to dance and be joyful.
Mila, an Austin dancer, teacher, choreographer, former boutique owner
and long time friend and student of Bert's, says that the epithet is
true of Bert and having taken it to heart, she feels that when she's
dancing (and especially when she's around Bert) she's taller, younger
and more beautiful. He has taught her how to find that joy in dance
and, with it, to nourish her body and soul.
teaches what no one else does: how to feel the dance, to be a star,
to exude a persona into the dance and how to fall in love with the
dance." Aneena tells her own students that if they can only
take one workshop it should be from Bert. They can learn a lot from
many teachers, but what they learn from Bert is "what he does."
probably knows Bert as well as any dancer working today, says, "to
describe Bert is to say 'indescribable and one-of-a-kind.' Bert is one
of our staples who knows many stories with many of these memories of
past Shake and Bake Festivals. There is nothing like hearing Bert do
the sound effects to a story from long ago. I have been so lucky to
be able to hang out with this guy and become included in some of his
great stories. His gentleness and compassion for that struggling baby
dancer in the corner has always made me respect him even more. Bert
has become part of my inner sanctum circle.... a totally trustworthy
friend. His advice has always been sound-- from money issues to love
issues. Bert knows me better than my own mother!"
We capped off
the second day of the festival and the first day of classes with a show
at the Rodey Theater on the University of New Mexico campus. The first
half of the show was the Ethnic Dance Troupe competition. This competition
was for fun and gave some dancers a chance to perform in a theater.
It also provided the dancers with the opportunity to stretch themselves
a little farther and to try a little bit harder than they possibly would
have, had it not been a competition. Most of the groups seemed to be
very light hearted about participating and were busily cheering the
other groups back stage.
Friday night also saw the return of Mila's Patsy Cline number, which
is still Funny. Having seen the stairs she had to climb from the dressing
room to the stage made it even funnier. How did she manage to get up
the stairs with a golf club hidden in her dress? Amazing! Armana of
Palm Harbor, Florida performed the prettiest sword number I have ever
seen. Armana dances with two swords, and she really dances with them.
dancing with props, you want them to be an integral part of the
dance and not just an inanimate object being flung around the stage.
Armana's sword work is not about employing sword tricks by the numbers.
This sword dance was dramatic and graceful and kept the audience
on the edge of their seats, which again, is exactly what you want
to do with dramatic props like swords.
continued through the next two days, beginning with Jalilah's interesting
take on Ghawazee style dance and Bert's instruction on the use of the
veil in performing. That night took us to Summerfest, Albuquerque's
longtime free summer ethnic event, encompassing entertainment, food,
and vendors of all kinds. Dancers from Shake and Bake graced the large
stage in the Plaza in downtown Albuquerque accompanied by George
Lammam's incomparable group.
In the afternoon, Amaya, who couldn't believe that she'd slated herself
to teach last, gave a class on the business of belly dancing. She taught
us all how to be good negotiators; pay attention to security; and build
business skills. As Amaya explained, "It's no longer just about
dancing once you decide to enter the business world of belly dance."
Next she gave a demonstration on how to do an entertaining belly gram.
I know that several newer dancers had been asking about that very topic
earlier in the festival. I hope those asking were in attendance for
this class, because Amaya's information and demonstration were just
what they were requesting. Amaya ended the classes focused on some of
her most classic movements.
The last stop on this wonderful adventure was that night at the Silk
Road Restaurant, an interesting restaurant featuring cuisine from the
various regions along which the Silk Road ran. We were treated to more
performances from among the attendees and the presentation of the Leaping
awards included such notables as
- the Quasi
Moto award given to Jeannie Godbout who crammed so
much in her backpack she couldn't stand up straight to walk,
- the Booby
Prize for our lovely hostess who misplaced her costume bra and had
to valiantly dance in someone else's lovely black bra,
- and the prize
for true valor in the face of adversity, the Sound and Fury award,
which went to Nita (and her hubby) for saving the
Friday night show sitting in as sound engineer.
The Shake and Bake Festival is really nothing
without Amaya, who IS Shake and Bake, and is described so well by a
long-time Shake and Bake veteran, Jeannie from Littlefield Texas, as
being a joy to watch whether teaching or performing. Jeannie struggled
to find the right word to best describe, Amaya. After a moment's thought
she brightly proclaimed, "She's crystal. She takes simple steps
and adds crystal to the movements, they're clear and then she sparkles!"
She may well be
crystal as in brilliancy in her persona and clarity to her dancing and
teaching style, but she definitely is not the kind to chip or break.
Amaya is a competent professional with many years of experience from
which to draw, especially as a seminar sponsor of Shake and Bake. If
she were not, there probably would not be a Shake and Bake Festival
to go to every year, and that would be a shame.
Go to the next article: Cairo's
Costume Disasters by
Go to another review by this author: Club
Galia Grand Opening
Would you like to respond to this article? Write a letter to the editor!