with Bert Balladine
The Belly Dancing Boom
of San Francisco in the 1960's
of the boom:
The company gathered around the dining room able and sat down
for tea, coffee, and the best hazelnut cake in the third dimension.
The conversation around the table buzzed and boomed with talking
and laughter. Immediately, Bert began to enthusiastically reminisce
and joke about "the good old days" when belly dancing
first took hold in the ready to boom flower power decade of San
Francisco in the 1960"s.
Bert: "Do you remember Leila? Dark haired Leila that came
from 'Russia with Love'? She was a waitress at that Indian Restaurant,
Omar Khyam. She learned to dance from Naji Baba."
"Oh, yea. He was a nice guy, Naji Baba."
"Naji Baba!" someone else exclaims, "Oh! He was
Bert: "Yes, he worked as a drummer and would hang out at
He was very nice, very friendly."
Company: "I think Najia
did a tape with him. Didn't you do a tape with him, Najia?"
Bert: "Do you know who one of the first really good Bellydancers
in San Francisco was? Betina.
She had a flat in North Beach. This was before the belly dancing
boom in SanFrancisco. One night she fell in a show and twisted
her ankle. She had a fund raising party and invited everyone to
come dressed up in togas. She draped herself on a leopard skin
chais lounge and everyone was there: the wanna-be belly dancers,
old men, club owners, the local drug dealer, you know! And many
people were making out under the coats. One room was full of coats
on the floor and there were people underneath all of them! There
were orchids floating in the bathtub and candles everywhere. In
fact, Francessca was there, and she was standing
this close to some candles. I was a fire eater at the time. Anyway,
her hair caught fire, and I grabbed her and threw her down on
the floor. Most of her hair was saved."
And this was before the boom! The Hippies didn't come out of nowhere.
Bert continues and almost gives out the vital information.
Bert: "The birth of belly dancing in San Francisco was."
I leaned forward, straining my ears, when another guest too soon
Company: "Thirty years ago?"
Bert: "Well, you know it has been lied about so often because
certain people want to take credit. There were no dancers, but
there were musicians. The leader of the group was Antonio
Daloop. They played on Thursdays at The Black Hawk
(I got the day of the week, but not the year!) with jazz people,
but they played Arabic music. They wanted some dancers. There
was one Greek student and an older Greek woman. That's where I
came in. I was supposed to make belly dancers out of them, but
I couldn't. So I recruited some Spanish Flamenco dancers. I persuaded
them to take their shoes off and replace their castanets with
zils and it worked. sort of. And then we got into it. Pretty soon
we were dancing downstairs at The
12 Adler and then at GiGi's,
And that's how the craze began San Francisco, whatever year it
was! The time was right, the music was here, and all that was
needed was the magic of Bert
Balladine and some barefoot Flamenco dancers!
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with Bert Balladine by Krista Gettle & Lora Schoen
of history and wisdom from our dear mentor!
at long last
Bert begins his North Beach Memories!