The Gilded Serpent presents...
Kalifa's Big Comeback
by Kalifa

I was standing at the edge of the bar listening to the musicians warm up. Pulling my veil tighter around my torso, I checked to make sure it was tucked securely inside my coin scarf on my right hip. I felt butterflies in my stomach – my throat was dry – and my fingers already damp where I lightly held the ends of my skirt. All the old familiar feelings a performer experiences just before going on stage.

The oud player spoke into the microphone. “Our first dancer…Kalifa.” The adrenaline shot through me in a rush, a montage of the many clubs and restaurants flashed through my mind, that I had worked in over the years.
The moment had arrived. Showtime! The dumbek, oud and kanoon players began a fast tempo as I made my entrance, whirling across the Turkish carpets, blue skirt swirling around my bare legs.

I was dancing at the El Morocco Restaurant in Pleasant Hill, as a guest dancer. Fadil, who once owned the Casbah on Broadway in San Francisco, was the owner of this club and had agreed that several dancers who had taken Bert Balladine and Amaya’s workshops that afternoon would dance this night in his club. In fact, Amaya would dance just after me, with Bert doing a “cameo” performance with her. Bert had arranged with Leea, of Walnut Creek, who organized the workshops, for me to open the show. Actually Bert did me a great favor so I didn’t have to follow Amaya’s performance. Now all I had to do was make sure I didn’t expend too much energy early-on and run out of steam. I hadn’t danced in a Middle Eastern club with live music for twenty years so this was an exciting challenge.

As I performed a series of transitional steps I looked to the left where Bert was sitting surrounded by his friends and other dancers. He was smiling and I knew he was enjoying seeing his ex-student, an “old time” belly dancer from the seventies, dancing again in front of an audience.

The music slowed and I was caught up in the slow sensual movements of the taxim. I began the usual veil work always associated with the taxim part of the dance. Oriental dance or belly dancing has changed subtly over the years.

Certain movements have been dropped and others added. The emphasis now seems to be more on choreography in the dance rather than the improvisational approach of the past.

But being one of the “old school” dancers, I moved to the mood of the music, letting my body decide what step to do next.

I removed my veil, wrapping it slowly around my torso, using the undulations to enhance my performance. I looked into the audience. They were seated around three sides of the room at low tables. I saw several children with their families enjoying the show.

The taxim gave me a chance to rest and catch my breath. Then, just as I had completed my veil work the musicians increased the tempo and began playing the finale.

I did some hip shimmies and more twirls realizing suddenly that I was becoming quite winded. Torn between not wanting to leave the stage and fearing I would run out of energy, I wisely signaled to the musicians and they immediately went into a drum roll which ended my performance. I took my bow to the audience and the musicians and hurried back to the dressing room, sweat dripping from my brow and running in rivulets down my belly. I felt wonderful – exhilarated – on a natural high.

I hadn’t lost my balance on half toe, stepped on my skirt, dropped the veil, or tripped on stage. And – I received an appreciative applause, or so it seemed to me.

I passed Fadil by the bar and he gave me a quizzical look. Did he possibly remember me from 30 years ago when I danced in his club? Not likely! Not after the thousands of dancers that had passed through his place over the years.

I squeezed into the tiny dressing room just as Amaya was leaving for her performance.
“Break a leg,” I said.

“Thanks,” she said, over her shoulder.

I sat down on the only chair, wiping the sweat from my face. I had pulled it of - and done a good job. Not bad for an old gal in her sixties! So much for Kalifa’s big comeback.

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Ready for more?
more from Kalifa-

10-27-03 Dancing on Broadway in the ‘70s by Kalifa
One of my strangest experiences on Broadway involved getting a small part in Carol Doda’s movie...
8-26-02 Still More Dancing in the '70s By Kalifa. "I felt a stabbing pain in the vicinity of my kidney"
4-22-02 MORE DANCING IN THE '70's, The Cowboy Bar in Montana by Kalifa
Out of breath, I asked her, "Why didn't you warn me?"
12-21-01 Dancing at Zorba's in the '70's by Kalifa
By show time it was a full house!

2-1-04 Youth, Beauty and Branding, The Virgin Megastore Grand Reopening, part 2 photos by Lynette
with Jillina, Sahlala Dancers, and
Issam Houshan San Francisco, California, December 3, 2003

1-17-04 Virgin Megastore Reopening featuring Jillina & the Sahlala Dancers & Issam Houshan, photos and layout by Susie
San Francisco, CA, Wednesday, December 3, 2003

1-25-04 One Ad Changed My Life by Amina Goodyear
I was very desperate and determined to get back to my old self.



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