the Belly Dancer of the Year Contest 1999
The 1999 Belly Dancer of the Year competition was held May 29th at California High School auditorium. A deeply stacked arena gave every spectator an unblocked
view of the stage. Performers had a large proscenium stage, that both gave a lot of room to work with, as well
as a difficult space to cover effectively. Preliminary performances were held during the day. The field was narrowed
to 10 performers, who danced again that evening. Those 10 dancers were Ayitah, Arishlam, Leyla Zahar, Istara, Yolanda,
Tilana, Sarasa, Bethlehem, Jamileh, and Izora. It was refreshing to see a man, Arishlam, amongst the finalists.
This reporter was disappointed with several of the finalists, who seemed to be more
worried about getting the steps of their choreography correct than dancing from the heart. Their performances had
little relationship with the music, and were uninteresting to watch. Three noteworthy exceptions were; Yolanda,
in a stunningly designed blue and purple creation, whose understated style was
reminiscent of Najia El Mouzayen; a 13 year-old Bethlehem, who performed a flawless interpretive piece with grace
and elegance in a beautiful white linen costume that left merely her face, hands, feet and small amount of her
shoulder exposed; and Izora, who gave the evenings most challenging performance, which included a candelabra dance,
costume change, and energetic cane dance.
Troupe of the Year was Sisters of the Sands; Duet of the Year was Leyla and Cyrianna. Congeniality was won by Aneena
of Novato, California; 4th Runner-up was Sarasa of San Ramon, California; 3rd Runner-up was Bethlehem, of California;
2nd Runner-up was Tilana of Bakersfield, California, who was also named 1999 Grand Dancer; 1st Runner-up was Istara
of San Francisco, California. I'm sure that we will see all the runners up in future pageants, and I can guarantee
you that there are Belly Dancers of the Year for the next millennium amongst them. 1999 Belly Dancer of the Year
was Leyla Zahar of Puerto Rico. She performed a beautiful double veil piece in
an elegant white costume. She has trained many dancers from the Caribbean, and is counted as one of the finest
dancers the islands have produced. I expect that we will be seeing her teaching workshops and master classes around
the belly dance world soon. I would recommend to everyone to attend her shows when she is in your area. A fine performer and deserving winner.
Ready for more? Nadhira el Farasha
writes more about the contest.
Official photos submitted by
More pictures by GS staff too!
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