Gilded Serpent presents...
I have always
loved attending and performing at the Rakkasah Festival over
the years, feeling that even as a “working” dancer
I wanted do my part by performing there to support the festival
(the call-in used to take about an hour) and the dance community.
Contrast that with my Rakkasah experience this year:
of all, it should not take SIX HOURS of redialing to get a
performing slot at ANY festival, but that’s how long
I and many other dancers/directors had to spend on the phone
this year before getting through on the domestic call-in number
the point: each year it has taken longer and longer to get through,
so, obviously, Rakkasah has outgrown the capabilities of the staff
that's trying to field all the calls. Shukriya,
can you hear me now? Please, if you are keeping the same sign-up
format, get more phone lines and more staff to help on the domestic
just received the flyer for the Rakkasah “Summer Caravan”
which explains all about how the “call-in” works:
that dancers are chosen “by the phone company” but
I know this year a dancer performed in three slots at Rakkassah
West. This was despite the requirement for paperwork for the performing
dancers to be submitted to Rakkasah in advance so it could be
cross-checked on the computer to prevent this very situation.
I could understand a mistake where a dancer performs twice, but
three times? This is terribly unfair to all the dancers who spent
hours calling in for their one dance slot.
again are informed in the Rakkasah Summer Caravan flyer that one
can be provided a performing slot by paying for the entire package
of workshops by a deadline, just as with Rakkasah West. This is
obviously all about marketing workshops, and not at all about
a reasonably fair method of divvying up a limited number of performing
slots among dancers. Further, this encouragement to workshop students
to essentially “buy” their performing slot at Rakkasah
lowers the caliber of the performing immeasurably; Rakkasah is
fast becoming a “student showcase”. So, what’s
a paying public expects and deserves to see a lot more performances
from experienced dancers at Rakkasah than is happening.
but the “headliner” performances sprinkled through
Rakkasah don’t compensate for showcasing so many beginner
dancers. Friday night’s main stage at Rakkasah was a prime
example of this endless procession of obviously beginning soloists
with that “deer in the headlights” stage persona and/or
clone-like troupes incapable of commanding the audience’s
attention from a concert stage. Truly, the audience at the Friday
night main stage would have been far happier with live musicians
and open stage dancing rather than be subjected to so many painfully
beginner dancer performances!
a word about the performing conditions: the Cabaret Stage
at Rakkasah had a distinctly nightmarish quality – no
stage entrance, so dancers had to line up along the side,
poor stage lighting, and the dressing rooms were unassigned
security guard Friday refused to allow troupe dancers to re-enter
the dressing room, forcing them to walk all the way around in
the parking lot in the dark, on their bare feet through broken
glass! Now, I’m no stranger to difficult performing conditions,
“challenging” stages and cramped dressing rooms, but
this broken glass incident struck me as particularly heinous and
Rakkasah festivals include some sort of screening/audition process
for Rakkasah performers/troupes, or at least the requirement that
dancers who do sign up for a slot send in a resume and a RECENT
picture in costume, it would be more valuable to have only the
workshop teachers perform at Rakkasah.
let’s just all recognize that Rakkasah is a beautiful
and fun festival for shopping, eating and schmoozing with
friends, and is largely a student showcase that has ballooned
into three festivals a year - two of them in the Bay Area.
Rakkasah organizers need to recognize is that with all this growth
comes the responsibility of managing issues that go with the territory.
And that the current popularity of belly dance that is supporting
Rakkasah is now providing lots of other performing vehicles, troupes,
community fundraisers, restaurants, and dance studios that dancers
will migrate to because a) they can, and because b) the performing
conditions at Rakkasah have become just too difficult.
I was reminded
recently what an “icon” of American belly dance the
Rakkasah festival actually is - it is even internationally recognized.
But icons need to be cherished as the treasures they are - not
in some superficial sentimental way, but with the hard work of
taking a look at issues and working to resolve them to preserve
the standards and therefore caliber of Rakkasah, which has enriched
my dance experience so much over the years.
Yours in dance,
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
more from Nisima-
the “Agony & The Ecstasy” by Nisima
It’s an unnerving experience to be “critiqued”
by your peers, but my personal opinion then and now is that when
you perform in public, critiquing just goes with the territory
Adventures in the Big Apple”
So there was really a “mystique” in the 1980’s
about dancing styles in other parts of the US, and especially
about the New York style, so different from what we were used
to in the Bay Area.
Rose by Any Other Name
Is this an identity crisis?
"...but was truly mortified all the same and swore
me to absolute secrecy"
Rakkasah West Festival
2004 Friday Evening March 2004
Rakkasah West Festival
2004 SATURDAY, PAGE 1 March 2004, Page
2, Page 3,
Page 4, Richmond,
California photos by GS Volunteers including: Biram, Clare, Cynthia,
Krista, Lynette, Michelle, Monica, Sandra, Valentino, Yasmine
and probably more!
*Let us know if you recognize faces!
Dancing Darkly: The Phenomenon
of Gothic Belly Dance by Laura Tempest Schmidt
may come as a shock to many, but Gothic Belly Dance isn’t
really a new phenomenon, and it’s not just centered in California.
First of all, it’s simply a merger of two entities that
go well together, like peanut butter and chocolate.
Sirat Al-Ghawazi, Part
2 by Edwina Nearing
in the mid-1970's , the early sections of "Sirat Al-Ghawazi"
were first published under the title "The Mystery of the
Ghawazi." We are happy to be able to respond to the continued
demand for these articles by making them available to our readers
Page 4 of
the Rakkasah West Saturday Photos The last page of photos