"Where's The Hook
When We Need It?"
Desert Dance Festival 2000
San Jose, California
by Bobbie Giarratana
by Susie Poulelis
photos do not illustrate text
Olympics have turned us all into armchair judges, I
admit, but a little peer review couldn't hurt... We
attend festivals for many reasons: to socialize, to
shop, to sell, to schmooze- to entertain each other
and to be entertained. Belly dance festivals give us
costuming ideas, teach us new steps, and inspire us
to dance for the shear enjoyment of moving. I have
attended countless festivals and competitions in the
San Francisco Bay Area and they always include the
range of levels from student to amateur to professional.
leave with more insight and a greater appreciation
of courageous and talented performers. There is, however,
something lacking in the typical program, and it was
painfully demonstrated at the last Desert Dance Festival.
In the dancers I refer to taste and talent. In the
audience, the courage to voice their impatience with
both of these were missing at the Desert Dance Festival.
Supporting the belly dance community is one thing, but
we pay good hard cash for these events and deserve quality
teacher tells me that there is no better way to improve
one's performance than by dancing to live music in
front of an audience. Important as it is, dancing
in a studio can't compare with what you learn from
a dancer and devoted member of the audience,
let me first say "Thank you!" to those few
performers, from beginners to pros, who bothered
to prepare, rehearse, and stand up straight;
you made my day.
was absolutely excruciating, however, was having
to watch far too many Diva Duets, women who appear
at the festivals year after year after year and never
improve with age. It's as though every year they
decide to join the line only on the previous day.
Then, five minutes before climbing onstage, they
hurriedly choose a song, partner, and costume.
witness the performers' horrible realization
that once again they aren't familiar with the
music after all, and are out of practice with
their zils/veils/feet. If they did register
well in advance, then shame on them for assuming
the audience would fail to recognize a messy
contrast, there were amateur troops, like Zuhair
al Sahara, who have been dancing together
less than a year, and who delivered nice, tight numbers
while listening to the music and looking genuinely
happy to be onstage. I know that for these dedicated
groups it takes an incredible amount of organization
to get so many dancers to devote their free time to
hours of rehearsals. These enthusiastic students almost
make waiting through the bad acts worth it, and make
the unprepared solo performer look inexcusably lazy...
I say almost because the very next act will smack me
back into reality with an interpretation of a tribal
number performed in a cabaret costume.
sure the unfortunate costuming misdemeanor is not intended
as comic relief, but it certainly creates that effect.
The dancers I am referring to here are clearly untroubled
by the burdensome consideration of audience reaction.
In preparing to perform in public, it is acceptable
to ask advice from one's instructor, and if the teacher
isn't knowledgeable enough, to do some research, or
better yet, to just check the mirror and be honest.
Self-awareness is critical; after all, the audience
is not blind and stupid. While I am on the subject
of costuming, allow me to congratulate Amirah (Queen
of the Wood Nymphs) for her daring potpourri costume.
It was original, well made, and complimented her clean
cabaret style. I was pleased to witness a sweetheart
costume working so well on a natural dancer.
task of organizing these events is undoubtedly
overwhelming, but is hopefully rewarding. There
must be countless details to consider and I'd like
to add one to the list: theatrical productions
demand some kind of formal selection process in
deciding the line up, so I suggest a preliminary
review of the dancers. This does not need to create
an "in-group" or promote political infighting;
there is room for the dedicated beginning dancer
as well as the seasoned performer if that is the
goal of the festival.
really, is it so hard to "Just Say No" to
a troupe who trips all over itself or to
an infamous duet who unknowingly embarrasses
themselves before the audience?
the paying customer a favor and hold auditions. And
keep track from one year to the next of which acts
just aren't ready for prime time. This is a method
by which the organizers can create a higher quality
of entertainment and open the festival to an audience
beyond the usual dancers' claques... Imagine newspaper
and radio ads inviting the general public! And imagine
the public coming and spending money with the vendors,
and returning the next year with their friends!
a comment? Send
us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other
response to this review and
a final word from Bobbie
Fundraiser OMEN Production, Palace of Fine Arts, SF
This production marked U.S. Omen's fundraising launch for Palestinian
aide and presented an evening of first-rate performances including
solo vocalists, children's dance troupes, and choir.
Metwali On Tour! Review by Bobbie Giarrantana and Susie
"The Christmas Eve performance was exceptional, another
fantastic night at El Valenciano!"
and the North Beach of Yore An
interview with Gail by Meredith McGuire
addition to our North
Beach Memories. Find more names and faces you have known or heard
Drummer's Advice to Beginning Dancers -
by Kirk Templeton
rhythms! I have drummed for bellydance classes where the instructor
not only couldn't clap baladi but didn't even know what it was..."