A Period of
In the late 1970s, there were two events produced for the belly dance community that were different from things that had happened before - events that began and paved the way for so many that were to happen later.
- in 1976 - was called Isis.
Second was in 1979.
The evening show included all the above dancers, as well as Rhea and Farma. The musicians for the show included Fadil, Vince Delgado, Ron Ransford and some others. It was well-received, though there was one performance that certainly had everyone talking! Ilyana chose to present a dance that represented a birthing, moving from orgasmic sex through the appearance of the baby from between her heaving thighs! Yow! No one had expected it, so it was certainly the highlight(?) of the evening!There was a long and winding road that led to this event (no, not the "birth"!).
We finally hooked up with Ilyana, a dancer and teacher from Marin County who put on a lot of small shows, so she knew what she was doing. She said that she would be glad to set things up and be the hostess for the event, as long as it was produced under the aegis of BAMEDA, the Bay Area Mid-Eastern Dance Arts Association. Well, once we had arranged for that, things sped along much more quickly! She was able to produce a much more professional flyer than we had come up with - it included a questionnaire so that attendees could let us know ahead of time what issues they would like to see discussed.
Mary Ellen Donald also put on a series of evening shows (after day-long workshops known as the Summer Seminars), called Arabian Splendor. Nakish and Ma'shuqa were her perennial stars, and they did spectacular things! In 1981, Nakish's entrance was striking - as the curtains opened, she was standing with her back to the audience, holding out her veil, on the top of a pyramidal flight of stairs, which she proceeded to dance down. ( I seem to remember that she was wearing brown, butsurely that is wrong!) Unfortunately, there was a problem with the curtain and they had to start over, but it certainly was a spectacular start to her performance! That year Ma'shuqa came out and was doing her dance (very nicely), and when it came time for her taqsim, the stage lights dimmed and we discovered that she had running lights around the top of her belt and on her bra! Wow!
The next year, 1982, Nakish made what seemed to be a magical entrance from the center of a gang of backup dancers - she hadn't been there a minute before! That was good, but Ma'shuqa had had a flashier idea: she was carried onstage by a strongman named Ken - both of them wearing blue feather masks! After a little, she took off her mask and danced, and we were almost blinded by her skirt, which was something shiny silver, and looked like vertical blinds! When the lights hit that sucker, we needed our dark glasses for sure!
Other performers who were featured in Mary Ellen's shows included Bert Balladine, Aisha Ali and her troupe, Issa Deeb and the great Flamenco artist Cruz Luna, sometimes accompanied by Reyna, who used to belly dance with us at the Bagdad, but later turned to Flamenco.
I will mention one more series of shows that came out of this fecund era, which was the Choreographers' Showcases, presented in the South Bay area in a beautiful theater. There was also a show that joins them in my mind, though I think that it was actually a separate entity. It was called Strictly Cabaret, and was (another) workshop and concert, presented by Habibi (Bob Zalot). The music was by Jalal and Salah Takesh, with Sulieman and Armando. Singers were Alireza, Khalil Aboud and Maha. The dancers were pretty spectacular: Rhea, Sultana, Feiruz Aram, Nakish and Marliza Pons. I have heard that the dressing room was in a cloud of marijuana smoke - but it didn't slow anyone down! I can remember standing in line for the show for a long time - I had on a snake necklace that kept pinching my neck - what a thing to remember!
1976 Isis Convention Program
1979 Panel Discussion Photos
Zelzeleh, My Troupe Adventures
to Santa Rosa
West Festival Photo Teaser March 2004, Richmond, California
2 of Photos
by Ram, the Featured Stars, Aida
Nour & Magdy El-Leisy, and Wafaa