Listen to the Music
1 here- One Ad Changed My Life
2 here- "I'd
Rather Stay Home with my Kids"
3 here "A
Marriage Made in North Beach"
4 here- "Smokin'"
started at 8 pm whether there was an audience or not. The
"Barker", dressed as "Aladdin" so we could be seen from
the street through the rattling, beaded curtains, would pull
the velvet curtains open. There was something enticing about
being on the outside and almost being able to see the foreign-looking
harem dancers on the inside.
wanted us to look exotic, like we were from the Middle East,
so he made us stay downstairs, look available and wear sexy,
skimpy pantaloon outfits or diaphanous caftans when we were
We had to
provide our own "B girl" costumes. Yousef told us to ask for
mixed drinks and he would give us coke or 7-Up instead. Some
of the dancers would get the bartender to give them real drinks,
but they were always watered down. The waitresses also had to
wear exotic clothing.
had to wear black pants, white shirts and fancy Middle Eastern
embroidered vests. They didn't really have a break. They would
play all night and only get off the stage for the bathroom.
They smoked and drank onstage and held their cigarettes between
their fingers while they played.
were back to back. As soon as one dancer was finished, the next
one would be announced. We were like a "fortune cookie factory".
Each of our shows was between 45-60 minutes long. We danced
whether we were sick or not. We couldn't call in sick or we'd
be fired. We had the flu? So what, "if you dance hard enough,
you'll break the fever." Yousef said our dance costumes had
to compete with the topless/bottomless clubs on the street.
always had to "show more leg" and pad the bras. Carla Lopez/aka
Saida (later she changed it to Nakhla) had so much
padding in the bras that she had to use eyelash adhesive
to glue herself decent.
three dancers during the week, sometimes four on the weekends,
and always at 8 pm all the dancers were required to be downstairs
and on the stage while the band warmed up and played mellow
songs. On stage we wore our "Dream of Genie" costumes and danced,
sometimes in unison, sometimes not. If Fatma
was on stage we would follow her and sometimes even look like
we had a choreography. We would dance and prance around on stage,
with the curtains open to the street and hope that a customer
or two would rustle through the beads and be enticed to come
in. Sometimes one of us would have to sit on stage with the
musicians and play the tambourine. When we had a couple of customers
in the club, one dancer, usually me, would go upstairs to the
dressing room and change for the first show.
dancing and was learning so much by watching and imitating the
other dancers. But, as I said before, I found it difficult to
relate to and entertain the audience because I was really a
mom and a housewife. Having a new name helped some. That way
I was mom in the daytime and Amina at night.
I had a problem: I didn't know how to act "sexy" like the other
dancers. I thought all the other dancers were so sexy, but I
was just "Mom."
So, I decided
to look sophisticated and aloof. But really, I was just plain
scared. "Stage Fright" should have been my dance name. Yes,
I got lots of tips: probably more than most of the other dancers
at that time. Yes, maybe because I was probably much younger
and more available looking, (Yousef didn't like me wearing my
wedding ring when I performed, so I didn't) but getting lots
of tips still didn't make me less afraid of my audience. They
were mostly men! Big bad wolf men wanting to take innocent young
belly dancers home and do.well, you know - or foreign men speaking
in a language I couldn't understand looking dark and scary.
(Already the Persian drummer, Ali, was angry
at me because I wouldn't go out with him. - Upstairs in the
dressing room one of the dancers had told me that Ali wanted
me to go out with him. I told her to tell him no because I was
married and when she went down to tell him, I heard him yell
from the front of the Bagdad, "Who does she think she is that
she won't go out with me!")
I to do. I already heard rumors that the dancers were calling
me "Stone Face" because I had no personality on stage. I had
no one to really express my feelings to. All my friends were
just housewives with babies and I couldn't really ask my husband
about how to look entertaining for other men. I needed advice.
Then I remembered! I had a friend who was a master showman.
Anton Lavey was a magician and "psychic investigator"
who lived in a black Victorian house on California Street with
his wife, children and a pet lion in the back yard who was pursuing
an "Addams Family" lifestyle. I was drawn to his Friday night
lectures on the occult, voodoo and Katherine Dunham.
I thought that I might gain an insight to Katherine Dunham's
dancing, but that dance connection, as I remember, was never
actually made. Over milk and cookies in Anton's kitchen, with
the lion pushing his huge nose against the window outside, I
asked Anton what I could do to get confidence and stage presence.
While munching a cookie and interrupted by the roar of his lion,
he advised trying "a little white magic." He basically said
the customers (who at that time were 99.99% men) probably were
uncomfortable because they were out of their element. True -
the Arab customers at that time were pretty new to this country
- and the "businessmen" were mostly actually tourists and most
probably family men.
if I could relay sincerity and warmth and welcome them to my
dancing on the stage, they, in turn, would put away their arrogant
fronts and would sit back and just enjoy the dance for the dance
that it was.
night I tried my "magic" and it actually worked! Instead of
looked aloof and "sophisticated,"
opened up and looked friendly and inviting. My eyes invited
the audience to enjoy the music as I did. And it really worked!
Now I could
look at the audience as real people.and with warmth. I could
express my feelings with the audience and they understood.
Now, I needed
to work on my dancing. Yousef and the other musicians were nice
to me and extremely helpful. They knew I didn't have a teacher
and they guided me through my dances. The best advice I got
was from Fadil
Shahin who was the singer, oud player, drummer
and later, the owner of the Casbah.
He said, "Listen to the music and it will tell you what to do."
So I listened and sure enough the music talked to me and told
me what to do. And when it didn't, Fadil, Yousef,
and Walid (Fadil's brother) would stop the
music and tell me to start again. (And this was during real
time, in front of all the customers.) Soon, I was able to really
hear the music and dance as the music said to dance. And soon
also, I didn't need any more prompting; I really was connecting
with the music. I turned when the music said "turn," I slowed
down and actually felt as though I could interpret the words
of the songs. Strange - I didn't understand what I was interpreting,
but the Arabic customers thought I did. It was true. Listen
and the music will direct. I listened. Sometimes so hard, I
felt my ears were like magnets to the music. I danced and put
all my problems aside because when I danced I had no problems.
It was just me and the music and the audience. As if.
all in it together.
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Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Visions: A Trip Down Memory Lane CD review by Amina Goodyear
CD titled “Veiled Visions” is a re-release of music
that was formerly produced on vinyl.
San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Weekend Two, photos by
Chinese, Peru, Korean, Appalachian, Bolivian, Mexico, Tajikistan,
Cambodian, South Indian, Tahitian
My DVD Shoot Adventure, A Bellyqueen
& Peko Collaboration by Elisheva
thought I had left my bad luck mantra at the airport, but I soon
found that it followed me right through the studio door.
Seeking Sol Bloom by Kharmine
to Bloom, the troupe had a hired Algerian guide, “a giant
Kablye,” who had lived in London and was able to chide Bloom
sternly in an accent “normally heard in an English drawing
The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival,
Weekend One, photos by Lynette Harris
Dragon, Kathak, Flamenco, Philipines, Bali, Afro-Peru, Mexico,
Tahitian, and Shabnam does "Belly Dance Fusion"
Belly Dancer of the Year Pageant
2007 Saturday Photos, Photos by Michael Baxter, Photo Prep
by Michelle Joyce, May 26, 2007 Danville, California, Produced
contest includes Troupes, Duo/Trios, Grand Dancer, and Preliminaries
for Solo's, Sunday Finals Coming Soon
Photos of Gala Show for
Raqia, photos by Carl Sermon, prep and layout by Michelle
night there was a show at the Veteran's Hall. The Show was: Big
on technique; sometimes a little too studied. The soloists were
selected mostly for being Raqia's students.
A Report on the First International Bellydance
Conference of Canada Part One- Lectures, Workshops, Panel Discussions
by Diane Adams Photos by Lynette
18-22, 2007 Toronto, Ontario. Hosted by Yasmina Ramzy of Arabesque
Academy in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, this International Bellydance
Conference of Canada, the first ever on the Canadian dance scene,
proved to be one of the top dance experiences in this reviewer’s