by Helen Patrise

One month later, I still have the souvenir bruises to prove I was there.  I don't know why I thought I could handle two workshops in one weekend, but I guess my innate stinginess led me. "Three workshops, entry to the Kismet Bazaar, entry to the fashion parade and dance party, and free glass of champagne on arrival, all for $80". The Kismet Bazaar, run by Flowers of the Desert, was held in Melbourne, Australia during August 2001. Being a belly dance fanatic as well as teacher, of course I had to be there. My partner signed up for the drumming workshop, and I signed of for two dance workshops with teacher Trisna Fraser.

The Bazaar was a riot of colour with several belly dance shops from Melbourne and interstate plying their wares.

I wandered happily, admiring and coveting. Confidently I strode into the workshop area. I had been dancing for some years. I knew a lot of stuff. I taught classes. I always admire the ability of belly dance to bring me down to earth. Just when my ego slips its reins and gallops around neighing and snorting, it will be brought home to me that I ain't as good as I think I am. Trisna took us through a vigourous warm up and got us started on some hand and arm movements. Easy-peasy. "Tuck your thumb in more, Helen." I'd always circled my hands with my fingers splayed and thumb out. I watched Trisna. Her hands were fluid, soft, and were nicely tucked, not flopped out like a bunch of bananas. I tucked my thumb. Hey, it made my hands stiff. I had to think about this. Relaxed hands, fluid, no, not stiff.tuck that thumb in again, relax the fingers, remember to smile. We moved on to snake arms. For the first time, I noticed that my right wrist waved about in an unnecessary manner. I kept an eye on it. "Helen, remember to move your left arm."

I tell you, if you don't watch your body parts every second, they slack off and just hang there.

We each interpreted a piece a music using only arms and hands. I managed to smack myself in the face with my own wayward left arm. Trisna's arms had no bones, I was sure. She told a story with her hands. Then I noticed her hands shaking. I felt relieved. Tucking that thumb was a problem for her as well. Whew! Finally, we got down to some serious floor work. "I'm so glad the floor has carpet," Trisna crooned, as she bade us, for the ninth time to slide on our knees to a sitting position. I've had a faithful pair of leggings that have lasted me through years of belly dance workshops. Halfway through the class they had pilled on the knees and hips. When I washed them the next day, they developed holes. Alas poor leggings, I knew them well. We did figure eights from a laying position. My right hip ground into the floor. We had to lift ourselves on our elbows. Crack went the elbow. We had to roll. I did, into a set of chairs stacked out of the way. Is thirty seven too late in life to realise you are the class clown? I rolled into furniture, into fellow classmates

"Well hello, what nice socks you have on, now that I've seen them up close in my face"

I flopped when I should have bent gracefully like a willow. We spent an hour working up a floor routine. I suppose it looks unprofessional to have a little nap in the middle of it, but that's what I wanted to do. Finally, Trisna sat back and watched us. We made it, executing a floor routine in unison. I limped out of the room, shaking. My knees wouldn't hold me after all that sliding and kneeling. I drove to my partner's house and leaned on the doorbell. "Spa bath," I said when he opened the door. "Need spa bath. Need epsom salts. Need chocolate." When I stripped for the bath, I saw the results of the workshop. Bruises on both legs and my backside. Carpet burns on both knees, hips and elbows. I changed my mind about wearing a revealing costume to the evening's dance party. I opted for a long dress. The next day, I groaned as I thought about the other workshop. Again with Trisna. This one was called BELLYNESE FUSION. Trisna was going to impart some of the skills of Balinese dance. I lasted an hour. I have nothing but admiration for Balinese dancers. How do they keep their arms up for so long? How do they get their hands moving in opposite directions whilst smiling so prettily? In the end, I sat and watched. My knees were not cooperating, still shaky from yesterday. Little did I know that I was incubating the flu. When I went to the doctor a few days later, he remarked that the flu rarely brought one out in bruises, carpet burns and stiff wrists. I told him it was the Balinese/Arabic flu. Don't get me wrong. I learned a lot and floor work has added a new dimension to my dance. But don't say I don't suffer for my art. I have the bruises to prove it.

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