Gilded Serpent presents...
The Magnificent Fundraiser Part IV:
The Berkeley Fire Department and Act 3,
Bert and Najia's Duet
by Najia Marlyz
Slideshow coding by Tammy Yee
links to parts 1, 2, 3 are at bottom of page

During rehearsal for our magnificent 1975 fundraiser, I made the fateful decision that we needed to add a lighter pink spot as well as an amber spotlight to the stage lighting set up.  Knowing virtually nothing about stage safety and potential dangers, we simply plugged in a couple of sidelights and set about our mission. However, you know the old saying: "If something can go wrong, it will!"

So many people crowded in to see the show from backstage; someone tripped over the light cord (which we had not thought to duct tape to the floor) and moved the light until it was touching the main stage curtain.  Near the end of our Second Act, the curtain began to smolder badly filling the air with an acrid stench and blue smoke... 

Our quick thinking photographer grabbed a vase full of flowers in water and extinguished the problem…but not before another, not-so-calm guest from the audience decided to run and call the fire department.

By the time the Berkeley Fire fighters arrived, we had aired out the auditorium and had gone on with the Third Act of our show.  Sadly, this incident caused the revoking of Ike Rekus’ business license for his Greek social hall—not because of our ignorant infraction using the portable light fixture, but because the Fire Chief discovered a rear stage backdoor had a chain and lock around its door-bar, and it was locked shut. 

I felt (at that time) that the department was over-zealous, but since then, I have seen disco patrons have died in such circumstances, and now I understand the amount of danger all of us faced.

Bert and I had only opened the Dancing Girl Studio a year before and we were presenting our second annual show—a presentation that had grown like a cactus in the desert.  One day a young man showed up at my studio with an oud slung over his shoulder. He explained that he had been studying Middle Eastern Music across San Francisco Bay in Marin county asked if he could play for my class because his teachers said that he needed to experience working with live dancers.

 "Well that is a twist." I thought, "Usually, we dancers are told that we need experience dancing with live music (and it was certainly true!)."  I was always one who looked for something new to add to the mix and said "Sure; let's try it!"

That young musician was Tim Stackpole, son of the famous photographer for Life Magazine, Peter Stackpole.  He was well mannered, focused, serious, and a fan of the Belly dance as well as Middle Eastern music and a student of the Ali Akbar Khan School of Music in Marin County (--oh, and he was seventeen years old!).  He played for several of my classes, and when he heard about our fundraiser, he volunteered his services for our show.  Already, we had engaged two bands for the occasion (Jazayer and Meraklithes), but I wanted Tim's beautiful energy in our show; so I said, "If you don’t mind: you will sit on a Cleopatra bench at stage center will be featured playing only an Oud taxim for my solo dance in the third act."  Without hesitation he said, "Wow! Let's do it!"

As the actual performance took place, our free-lance photographer, who was interested in creating moody and artistic photos and was not in the business of photographing events per se, captured what has always been one of my favorite dance photos. 

The original was black and white, with me out-of-focus in the foreground, floor dancing, and Tim, with his eyes closed, playing his oud taxim, obviously lost in the private wonder of his music and our stage moment.  Here is that photo:
Fully three years ago, I began to go through my old file of photo contact sheets for many events and got the idea to save them and clean them electronically.  The photo of Tim was so beautiful!  I cleaned it first and put it into my portfolio as an 8.5 by 11 photograph.  I thought I would find him over the Internet and send him a copy of the photo with a note of thanks, but alas, what I found was that he had died in 2003 of an accident on the water. His ex-wife told me that Tim had loved his music all through his life and still played the oud until the end.  She also said that she and he had had a son who is now (in 2006) 21!  I sent the photo to his son along with a note, telling him what little I knew of his dad.
I feel honored and blessed because my career has brought me into contact with so many creative and adventuresome performers and artisans!
I hope that other dancers will have lovely memories of their dance careers similar to mine; that is part of the reason I thought that sharing my thirty-one year old photos was worth resurrecting them for my portfolio, this article, and the following slide show:

1-Kaethe and Najia before the dinner and show.
Nadia of San Mateo performed in the lounge, also danced on stage. Here, she opens Act 1.
3- Our printed program for Act 3
4- Bert Balladine primps before a mirror backstage.
5- a .Bert removes his massive cape on stage.
--- b. Bert removes Najia's crown as their duet begins.
6 - Bert ensnares Najia in her veil.
7 - Tied together with her veil, Bert and Najia move slowly.
8 - Najia completes this scenario and discards veil.
a. Music quickens and the duet moves in unison.
--- b. Lights enhance an eerie mood in their movements.
10 - Najia and Bert spin and make simultaneous Turkish Drops.
11 - Najia backbends over Bert's knee.  This becomes a signature move for many of Bert's performances.

12-Tim waits with Oud as duet finishes.
13-Duet finishes; Najia begins her solo removing circular fringe shawl.
14-a. Tim biting his lip as he plays oud taxim
--- b. Najia dances with Oud on darkly lit stage.
15-Najia flying half-circle fringe shawl.
16-a.  Standing taxim.
--- b.  Sensual floor taxim.
a.Najia presents Bert a rose from her bouquet.
----b.Bert amuses audience with the rose in his teeth.
 Najia and Bert exit quickly.
19 - An Robaire Nakashian, Khadija, Bert, and Vince Delgado backstage.
20-  Friend Kaethe hooks Najia back together after the show.
21-  Show review in the Berkeley Daily Gazette

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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
4-7-06 The Magnificent Fundraiser, Part Two- Police Barriers Surround Event by Najia Marlyz
Over coffee, we decided that our fundraiser would have to be an extraordinary dance show rather than “just another student night” or worse yet, a studio recital

6-18-06 The Magnificent Fundraiser Part Three: Acts I and II by Najia Marlyz’s dancers and producers sometimes write that they believe that large stage shows with good sound and lighting, a Master of Ceremonies, and live music are only now starting production ...

1-10-06 The Dina Show! Photos by Catherine Barros, Slideshow coding by Tammy Yee
Event sponsored by Little Egypt on May 28-30, 2005 at the Crowne Plaze in Miami, Florida

11-28-06 Back to Basics by Najia Marlyz
Belly Dance is most meaningful when we define it as a communication of mutually held emotional response and truths between people

1-4-07 Saturday Photos -Carnival of Stars Bellydance & Comic Book Convention & Costume Contest Photos by Michael Baxter
Event Sponsors Alexandria and Latifa November 11 & 12, 2006 Centennial Hall, Hayward, California (Costume contest, panal discussion and Sunday photos yet to come...)

12-30-06 I Dance; You Follow by Leila
As Westerners interested in an Eastern dance form, we might want to ask ourselves if we are missing certain critical aspects of Raqs Sharki because we are not open to Eastern teaching methods.

12-26-06 Teaching at the 2006 Ahlan Wa Sahlan Cairo Festival by Leyla Lanty
Performing on teachers' night is a good way for new teachers to attract more students to their classes.


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