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Bast and Tallula Sullis
Gilded Serpent presents...
Ansuya's San Francisco Performance
Reviewed by Surreyya

Superstar Ansuya and Belly dancer enthusiast and event producer Gina Grandi provide warm environment to feature up and coming local talent.

Gina Grandi began studying with Belly dance Superstar Ansuya in early 2001.  After Ansuya’s relocation to Florida, Gina migrated to San Francisco to study with Suhaila Salimpour and Jill Parker of Ultra Gypsy.  It was there she also nurtured her love of event planning through her brother’s company Opel Productions.  Gina expressed to me that it was thrilling for her to be able to work with her brother and discover a world where her love of dance could intersect. Gina and Opel invited Gilded Serpent to their recent December 10th event, featuring Ansuya and a diverse mix of bay area dancers…I and my student report for duty at 7pm and can actually pull right up and park in San Francisco…the night already started on a good foot...shall we begin?

DJGina must have cloned herself several times over.  I swear she greeted everyone at the front door with a smile and calm unheard of in most event hosts.  The event space at the new Workspace Limited was a bit cold in an all-white live-work-artspace kind of way, but the art installations, peddlers and overall warm vibe went a long way.  Among the sellers of stuff was Rose of Ultra Gypsy, whom I immediately purchased two hip skirts, which she makes by hand.  All were glitzy and unique!  Wonderful.  Gina sauntered to and fro with that pre-Christmas anticipation of surprises to come, making sure her guests were welcomed and performers were cared for.  I was quite surprised at the diversity of the crowd and there was ample time to browse, booze and mingle to world-flavored tunes spun by DJs Amar and Richie Rich. Gina took the stage and gracefully enticed the crowd to the delights awaiting them.

The night began with Bast and Tallula Sullis performing a tantric inspired ritual to awaken “shakti” energy and open the hearts and minds of all in attendance.  Not having witnessed many “public” tantric acts, tantric inspired events or tantranistas I am not really qualified to evaluate this performance and will reserve judgment.  Rose of Ultra Gypsy

What I did witness were two provocatively dressed voluptuous beauties in white lace under things covered in fairy dust greeting a curious group and proceeding to the stage with white roses and carnations, milky liquid and wonderment.  Bast and Tallula appeared to pray and/or meditate, bless their ingredients and each other in some very sensual movements.

They then bestowed their goddessy form, mystery and blessings upon the audience in a playful nymph-like way, offering flowers, whispering blessings and sharing smiles and eye contact with all.  While one may dwell in the overtones of this performance and attach their own sexual baggage to it, I do think it was intended to be innocent, playful, and respectful to the wonderment and beauty of the feminine form.  It’s very comical the sexual stigmas we attach to acts of beauty in this country, while in many countries girls hold hands and kiss each other with the utmost innocence and it’s perfectly accepted and understood.  Had these girls worn a different color (black or red), I wonder how the energy and mood would have shifted and what assumptions would be present.  Definitely a good lesson in how a color can affect perception, and people were definitely warmed up for the night.

sarahNext was Sarah White, a long time member of Ultra Gypsy.  I learned from Gina that Sarah lived, studied and cohabitated with the Kalbelia Tribe of gypsies, also known as the snake charmers of India. 

Sarah’s costume was loud, folkloric and exotic all in one word that I can’t find.  Her dance was proud, fast and spirited and evoked a timeless quality and somehow looked as though she jumped off the cover of a National Geographic magazine.

SummerI was ill-equipped to capture the beauty of Sarah’s costume and performance, unless you dare call the images artistic blur (damn low-light-shutter-speed-bad-camera karma), but that should only encourage you to see her in person.  Sarah performed a fun trick, placing money and rings on the stage then launching into a backbend to pick up the bill in her mouth and rings with her eyelids.  Now that’s something you don’t see every day.  I imagined if I were on a mystical journey in some far away exciting land, this would be the real deal of the dances performed in the streets.  Proud, shameless, beautiful and raw.

Summer of the Nekiya in tasteful tribal performed a charming solo with clever music and the accompaniment of a live drummer.   Summer exposed a warm and friendly persona in her performance, which I often find missing from the tribal style.  It is nice to see a dancer who connects with an audience, is playful, and isn’t afraid to smile, giggle and interact.  I miss this energy when watching many tribal style dancers.  Perhaps that is the poker face, the cold, solemn serious presence that many tribal or goth inspired dancers evoke as a perception while dancing, but it often puts a barrier between performer and crowd.  Summer seemed confident, friendly and conversed smoothly with her drummer companion Scott Sterling (music guru for Nekiya), playing off the subtleties of rhythms and enhancing the low and high beats with appropriate body accents.  Refreshing to see a drummer and dancer communicate for a change.

Following Summer’s dance, Sandra sauntered on stage in a hot red costume, beautiful as always and in top form.  I won’t deny it - I am a fan of Sandra, her professionalism, her disposition, and her attitude.  After reading her helpful articles and many visits to her website where she generously shares advice and tips, I was delighted to see her perform for the first time. 

Sandra is a highly skilled dancer, she is comfortable, technically apt, and makes you feel as if you are the only person she is dancing for, even in a large crowd.  That is a quality to be respected and savored.  I see Sandra as one of those performers who could have been rained on, dog died, car stolen, insert your favorite tragedy here, and she would still show up early to a gig and be “on” from the moment she walked in the door.  That’s a star.

Ansuya and BeauThen came Ansuya.  Her costume was lime green and lovely, and with her spins and turns her luscious long hair seemed to float on the air.  Ansuya is an emoter.  She emotes.  Much in the way a Dina or Amaya would express their heart using utilizing their face as a canvass and eyes as voice.  She has a presence that wins you over from introduction, and captures a nostalgic quality of the dancers of the 1970s.  Her veil doesn’t get stale, and her dance isn’t over crowded with layer upon layer of confused energy and accent.  I found my eyes traveling equal distance between her face and her body, which is probably a good thing. With a little more time to perform as the featured dancer, Ansuya took us on a journey of musical delights and it didn’t get old.  She invited her drummer (and beau!) to perform a tasteful drum solo and the eye contact between them was sugary sweet. 

It was exciting to witness her whisk through the crowd and invite people to dance, Gina among them, which offered a positive sense of closure on a nicely organized event.  She truly had a “star quality” and presence about her, was friendly and gracious and didn’t hesitate to stop her busy schedule to talk with people or take photos.

SandraThis was an excellent event – Opel Productions knows how to whip up a fun shindig with good people, quality talent and a welcoming atmosphere for any level of dancer or enthusiast.  At $10, a purveyor of entertainment got more than 5 minutes to connect with each performer and the playbill wasn’t overcrowded. I really can’t think of anything I didn’t like. I am sad having missed Ansuya’s workshop earlier in the day, but understand that in 2007, she will be producing a variety of workshops as well as comprehensive training and certification in her method of dance.  Gina and Opel plan on hosting these events more regularly, providing a frequent showcase for up and coming dancers, as well as an opportunity for students to have access to instruction and networking with their influences and aspirations.   Be on the lookout at OPEL’s site for the January 14th Ansuya workshop and event.

The only thing missing from this event was drama; stressed out hostesses running too and fro, gig anxiety and ulterior motives.  Gina’s ready smile, welcoming attitude, humble disposition and genuine warm and inviting nature make her the true superstar of this event, and she should serve as a role model for other producers to follow. 

Gina with her mother and brother of Opel Productions

Bast, Summer, Ansuya and Sandra


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