"Still More Dancing in the '70s"
By Kalifa

My phone rang, and once again it was Bert Balladine sending me on another gig out-of-state.
"Can you fly to Salt Lake City and do a month's gig there, Kalifa?" Bert's alto voice came over the line.
"Of  course," I assured him.  I was one of Bert's dancers that could be counted on to always take a job.

I flew to Salt Lake to dance at The Athenian, a Greek club owned by Mike and Steve Katsanevas.  Their mother, Mama Katsanevas was the chef and the club was known for its delicious food.  Salt Lake City had a large Greek community in the 1970s.  About 6000 Greeks had settled in the lovely city.  This was the same city that had enchanted Brigham Young.  Once there, I took a room down the street from the club at the Zee Hotel.  A New York belly dancer was dancing that night.  It would be her last, and this would be the only chance I would have to experience the musicians before I danced the following night. The dancer from New York wore high silver heels, a beaded and sequined costume and her technique was less ethnic, more "showy," than mine. But she was very skilled and captured the audience.  The next morning, I went early to the club.  Mama K. was and let me in.  I was a little nervous and wanted to get the feel of the floor and stage before I went on.  She was so friendly and prepared a huge plate of food, insisting I take it back to the hotel. She said something like, "too skinny," under her breath.

The first night was uneventful and everything went well.  Mama came into the dressing room between shows with another plate of food.  I was to eat it immediately, she said, and she would have another one ready when I left for the hotel.

This was to become a nightly ritual until my job was finished. I could just see myself piling on the pounds. 

I liked the food, but a dancer never eats between shows or an hour before one, so I started bringing a plastic bag with me, and wrapping the plates securely, I stashed them in my make-up case until I could dispose of them on my way back to the hotel.

I started thinking about dancing in heels, so I bought a pair of gold strappy ones.  I figured if the New Year dancer could do it, so could I.  I had never danced in heels before but I figured it was no big deal.  It did make the hip shimmies a lot easier, and I was beginning to enjoy the experience; that is, until I did the Turkish Drop. As I landed on my back, with my legs tucked under me, I felt a stabbing pain in the vicinity of my kidney.  One of the heels had become imbedded in my flesh!  Somehow, I was able to unwind and continue to dance.  The adrenalin of being on stage masked the pain,

but when I returned to the dressing room, I saw the skin was broken and bleeding from the pressure of the spiked heel. 

Judy, Bert & Kalifa

Needless to say, that was the last time I ever did the Turkish Drop while dancing in heels.

Downstairs from the hotel was a health food store and I would have lunch there everyday when I got out of bed.  One day, a young man introduced himself to me.  He said his name was Putt.  He had long hair, tie-dyed shirt and raggedy blue jeans.  His two companions, a young woman and man were also dressed like "hippies."  We got acquainted and he said he and his friends lived in a commune outside of town.  He wanted me to visit the commune where they lived. When he found out I was the local belly dancer, he said he wanted to see me dance. Two nights later, in the middle of the first show, Putt and his two friends came strolling into the club dressed in their usual colorful clothes, sat down at a table and ordered dinner.  I went into the audience to pick up some tips but stayed away from his table.  When he saw the other customers giving me money, he rushed over and started shoving five dollar bills under the straps of my bra, and into my coin girdle.  Later, in the dressing room I counted fifty dollars!  I was shocked at the amount.  Where had he gotten all that money?  When I asked him about it, he said he and his friends had just robbed a bank.  I didn't know whether to believe him or not.  I decided to err on the side of safety and NOT visit his commune. I kept that particular fifty dollars separate and didn't spend it until I returned to the Bay Area.  Nevertheless, I looked over my shoulder every time I used one of the bills. 

My time at the Athenian went well, and although Mama Katsanevas wasn't able to put any weight on me, she, along with her two sons, invited me back to dance again. At the airport, Putt saw me off.  "If you ever decide to come back here, be sure and get in touch with me," he said.  "Maybe then you'll be ready to join a commune."  I never saw him again, and although communes were big in California at that time, I was never tempted to join one…

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