Belly Dancer of the Millennium Contest!
Photos mostly by Susie
easy parking and a short walk to the Crowne Plaza Hotel
in the Union Square area of San Francisco, Susie
and I found ourselves on a walking tour around the
ballroom while the usher attempted to locate seats
for us. We ended up having to sit in the back, to the
side and to sit separately so that we were unable to
discuss the event. It seemed obvious: Like a notorious
airline, the flight to Belly Dance Fantasyland had
been oversold! The room capacity appeared to be two
or three hundred guests. At $30/35 per ticket, we were
certain these dance enthusiasts had a fine show in
the evening. The band included Jan, Nazir, Fouad,
Nabil and a new keyboard player Safwan
From my seat, the acoustics
were great. Behind the raised stage hung a black
backdrop and a couple of sequined Egyptian Hieroglyphed
tapestries that gave a sense of theme to the evening.
The stage featured something rare for belly dancers:
a spotlight and other nice lighting too! Most people
were seated at tables. No participants were dancing
on stage yet, but it was quite absorbing to watch
and listen to the band. Reda's band is handsome
with a tight, funky groove!
from the wings in her wonderful Cleopatra wig and began
the show in her usual style. She gushed flattery to
one ever- present judge of the contest, Dr. Mo
Geddawi. He then arose from his seat and did the
same for her. After the obligatory show biz hugging,
the show began!
Santa Cruz, was the first dancer. She flew from the
stage wing with her hair covered by her veil in a village
style. I have always liked Sahar's style and felt a
lot of joy in vicariously dancing through her. She
is smooth, graceful, and is intuitively synced with
the band. She has allowed her hair to go gray with
no fancy cuts, just like one might expect to see in
a dancer from "layed back" Santa Cruz. Sahar
is fit, firm, and looks youthful. She holds herself
very elegantly but her smile lets one know that she
is warm and approachable. In spite of a minor distraction
or two, Sahar was a classy start to the evening of
the program, the next performer is to be Nabil el
Ansari. Instead, it was announced that the next
dancer is Devi Ananda Baptiste, Magana's daughter.
Devi has matured along with the rest of us dancers. It seems to me
that she dances with a forlorn, sad quality, but her dance is pleasant
to watch none the less. She flashes us the occasional obligatory
stage smile along with sassy hair tossing. I glance at Devi's proud
Mama and find her rapt and appearing nervous.
|There are times when
I wish there had been a little more light in addition to
the spot, because I consider watching the band an integral
part of the show. My photographer wished for more light as
well. I knew from past experience that this night would be
long. It seems to me that there is no need to have so many
performers, each having 20 min shows! Five to ten minutes
each would have been plenty. (Magana told me later that the
band knew to keep the shows short, but seemed to get carried
Santa Cruz is the next dancer. She is reminiscent of a
joyful, enthusiastic cheerleader. Her body looks great;
she ignites my desire to perform again. They would love
her at the Taverna. The band plays the old favorite, "Tammerhenna" for
her. Her costume is green on black. She points at the audience
and gives us that "I'm a sexy babe" look. She
does a very nice veil section and Fouad gives her a great
Kanoun taksim. In my opinion, Sese plays with her hair
Ramzi el Edlibi also
mentioned on the program did not perform and did not appear
to be present.
|I missed Magana's
troupe performance while I was taking a break
in the lobby, but Susie says they did some nice combinations,
seemed to be having a good time and were fun to watch.
Dallal was the
next performer. The band had been taking a break too,
but returns to play for her. She dances in a peach colored
costume. The top looks like it is an El Rose stretch
velvet design. She has a matching headband, but leaves
a single curl "right in the middle of her forehead".
I notice Reda's big, confident smile over the dancer's
shoulder. Nice veil work is next and then she descends
to the floor. She has been very pretty, but now she finally
gets sweetly sensual. Her skirt is velvet at top and
then chiffon below. The velvet hugs the curves of her
rear end and emphasizes the quiver as she gives us a
fine shimmy vibration. Tamalyn goes off stage into the
audience and then comes back for a rather nervous taksim
from Fouad that sinks into a funky beledi
progression. This performance ends with a credible drum
solo and finale.
another break while most of the judges are introduced. As
I return I see that Magana has forgotten to introduce one
judge and then announces him after he gets her attention.
Magana uses a cordless mike and occasionally forgets to turn
it off when she is not announcing. The audience hears parts
of her conversations during the performances.
reflect back that the show is long already and
we have not even seen a single contestant. The
pre-contest dance shows are entirely too long.
a fleshy luscious blond dancer with a healthy looking
tan. She does a complete backbend to pick up a dropped
veil. Not a bad start!
proclaims that she is a second generation dancer.
She is graceful and evolves as a crisper and more
precise dancer after she warms up. She wears beautiful
gold arm ornaments that sparkle and compliment her
royal blue and gold costume. She dances to an Arabic
popular song, one with a male singer and a female
chorus that I do not recognize.
to an old tune and I wonder if it is Armenian? It
has a beautiful clarinet taksim to which she should
surrender. She has a beautiful costume of intricate
diagonal layers of gold beaded fringe. The skirt/belt
is attached to a swath of beads around her waist.
like she is having fun. She wears an appliqued dress.
She lacks rotation or articulation in her vertebrae,
but wins us over with her personality. It's nice
to see a mature dancer competing.
in a silvery raspberry costume. She brandishes
a sword. I really enjoy her show and wish she
had longer to display her repertoire. She is
dynamic and a great performer! She has my vote.
It occurs to me that
already with just the wonderful performers so
far, this year's contest video would be a great
a brunette in a root beer colored costume with a
tiara. Her show is obviously choreographed but it
is a nice routine, none the less. She has nice arms
and a trim torso. (I would vote her first runner-up
after Leyla so far.)
from Miami, of Cuban and Czech parents. She has a nice
introduction inviting us on a journey with her as she
dances. She is a pretty, blond woman with a sexy, sweet,
genuine smile, and a long torso with creamy skin. I
would like more fire from her or perhaps more sophistication.
Her costume is slate colored incorporating some powder
gray with Maribu trim.
I'd wish for a little more crispness as a contrast, but she is lovely
to watch. No finger cymbals were played in her show.
from Dallas and was with the Isis Dancers. She uses over-large
gestures and movements, and she dances with a small circular
veil. The music with which she performs is highly unusual
and reminiscent of a western movie. Her costume includes
an orange gypsy style tie top with puffy sleeves over a
a short, attractive Filipina woman. She has a sweet mischievous
smile, and her intro says that she also has a background
in Polynesian and Philippine dance. Her torso is stiff,
but she uses her zils well. Her costume is fuchsia. Her
drum solo is rather brutal, not subtle. Perhaps the Polynesian
influence has fused into the Middle Eastern dance.
in a beautiful white Cairo dress with lots of sexy cutouts.
It fits her well and accentuates the beautiful sculpture
of her backside. Beth has chosen to dance with New Age
music. She seemed nervous at the beginning but then warmed
up to the occasion.
Reda's band plays
for an open dancing session and then Magana restarts the
show. She speaks glowingly about Reda's beautiful new CDs
and an audience member yells a comment about Reda's beautiful
face, which causes him to blush and grin.
That concludes the competition
portion of the marathon for Ms. America trophy. Now
we continue with more exhibition dancers, competing
duets and Mr. America contestants.
next, not on the program, but I imagine that she is
probably one of Magana's star students. (Perhaps she
has been added to the roster because of the missing
earlier performers.) She's spicy and sexy, dancing
to Reda's drum solo. She takes risks and really puts
herself into the dance. She has great energy, and is
continuously creative and spontaneous while she dances
to the long drum solo.
next and it is announced that he is back after
a battle with cancer. His hair has been bleached
blond and he wears it in a short spiky flat top.
He gives us a safe and gentle dance to familiar
music. He knows this music and is very precise.
He wears a black collared shirt and black pants,
silver jazz shoes and a blue and silver bead
fringe belt. Hassan has to signal the sound technician
to turn his music back on after the first piece.
Hassan brings out his red circular veils and
reminds us that he was one of the first Middle
Eastern performers to dance with the double veil.
This he does to a Spanish influenced song, which
may be Amaya's
music. There are too many cheerleader moves in
the finale. This seemed a very long performance.
There were those who were sitting close enough
to the stage that felt his performance was emotionally
moving, "straight from his heart!".
dances at Menara
Restaurant. The rest of Reda's band comes back
to play for her. The band's multiple comings and
goings cause a delay as they get themselves set
up to play each time. Una looks happy to be dancing.
She wears her trademark handkerchief skirts over
lame harem pants and her pop bead belt that she
rolls up and down over her knife tattoo. She sports
a puffy organza veil, does great veil work, and
her floorwork displays that she hasn't lost any
flexibility. She dances with her zils. She signals
that she's tired, but Reda and the band still push
her onward. She finds her second wind and pulls
out more ingenuity.
The momentum created by Una and Reda's band diminishes again as
the band leaves once more.
It's 12:30am and we still
have 2 more categories of this contest to go! My photographer
has bailed - after all, she is volunteering.
Luckily, it looks like they don't have very many contestants
in these two catagories.
and Leyla Zahar both
come out shrouded completely in black, doing a tightly
synced choreography finally stepping out of their sleeves.
There is some chemistry between the two of them. Leyla
is a comfortable pro and Arislam is getting better as he
||Bozenka & Zeina are
nicely matched. They are both blond; Boenka now wears
a fall to match her partner's long hair. Boenka wears
maroon and silver; Zeina wears pink & silver.
Sapphira is summoned back stage over the mike during their finale.
| Sapphira is
next. We wonder why she was called during the last act. There
is a long pause as she runs back to talk to the sound technician
and then Reda comes on stage after she negotiates with him
a while. Over the speakers comes recorded New Age style Middle
Eastern music and Reda plays his drum superimposed. Her dancing,
always entertaining, borders on the energetic to the frantic
in style. The music evolves into Arabic Pop. Sapphira ends
the section with a Turkish drop. Next is more Middle Eastern
Pop, with a deeper groove. We see more wonderful athleticism,
kicks that touch the back of her head. Goofy and Egyptian
styled Hieroglyphic arms are common with many performers
again in a Black caftan, red turban, gold dervish cape
while spinning. He needs to straighten his upper back;
his posture is a bit hunched. However, as a man, he can
get away with the gruffness this posture gives him. A Cane
Dance next accentuates those rounded shoulders. Women in
the audience give a silly squeal as he takes off his caftan
to reveal a red vest and pantaloon combo.
a somewhat stilted rendition of "Tammerhenna" (from
the Ya Salaam Tapes) that we all know. His purple circular
veil is used as part of his headdress. Zils are almost
on time. He dances stiffly and with his knees apart.
There's a sudden and jarring break in the music, and
he's done! Perhaps he reached his time limit. This ends
the Mr. America section of the contest. Is it really
a competition if they're are only two contestants?
last Calliope dances and Reda's
band returns to play for her. This should be a gratifying
finish! Magana announces Calliope's name long before
she and the band are ready. Audience anticipation dissolves.
Calliope wears a purple sarong skirt and high heels.
She is elegant, genuine and sensual, as always. I love
those '40s style bangs she wears over her forehead and
her maroon colored hair. She keeps her composure even
when the local videographer, Nabil El Ansari of Studio
7, interfers with her performance by motioning for her
while he stands center front to come closer to his camera.
A professional videographer can show their skill by avoiding
disruption with overly visible camera work (or blinding
light). Luckily for us, Calliope, the true professional,
ignores him and floats around the stage with that fine
mesmerizing shimmy. Calliope's famous dance dad watches
her proudly, but intensely, from the back of the room.
She and Reda duet through one of the longest drum solos
I've heard in a while, never losing their audience and
taking us through the whole range of textures and subtleties.
It is a joy to watch this team as they pace themselves
perfectly, taking us along with them to a grand finale!
"Dr. Mo" ends
the whole show at last for us at 2 AM with his
famous Stick Dance, Raks Tahtib. The band loves
this performer and sits up straighter and gives
him a nice festive mood with which to dance. I've
never seen Dr. Mo quite so relaxed and confident.
He keeps his show fun and short. The show ends
quickly with a brief announcement of winners and
a "Thank you!" from Magana to a room
that is now two thirds empty. This has been a long
but satisfying evening!
2nd runner-up: Virginia
1st runner-up: Leyla Zahar
Winner of Ms America: Bozenka
Duets-Leyla Zahar & Arislam
Mr America: Arislam
The contestants for Ms America
all readily shared the titles of the music that they used:
from Yani Seemi, a CD called "For Cats" (for
guys) a Lebanese CD. " "I like to make people
happy," she says.
piece called NASA from the Nelli CD by Sayed Ballaha
music from Badawist, Amani
used Dark Fire from Light Rain, Chase the wind. "I'm
glad it's over!" she says.
Sohair Zaki, Live from Cairo, and Tammerhenna. Her comments-"I
couldn't see the stage and it's edge, I got disoriented."
- Zelina danced
to Adam Basma CD, the first cut, Nagwa
- Naiya Hayal-
danced to George Merdigian, a Turkish takseem and a drum
solo from Fame and Fortune. She said also that it was
hard to see the audience because of the lights.
- Virginia danced
to Naswa Al Raks by Abudi Badwan and Tony Chamoun
- Leyla Zahar danced
to Setrak Champagne, Rakni
Tammerhenna, Youry Sharif & Rakia Hassan, Wash Ya
Wash, Nicolas Nolutis, Omar Farouk, drumsolo from Sohair
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