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Alex Herrera

Gilded Serpent presents...
IBDC Part 2:- A Gilded Serpent tale
Alex in Wonderland
by Amina Goodyear

Part 1 here

Once upon a time there was an Egyptian man named Alex who, tiring of just having an ordinary business, decided to venture into the world of Belly dance. After 3 years of planning and dreaming, he decided to make the plunge, fell down the hole, and landed in Las Vegas. It all seemed quite natural really. Las Vegas is the entertainment and convention capital of the United States. And the United States is where our friend Alex calls home.

The hole went straight for quite awhile, like a tunnel, and finally after dipping and turning and diving, Alex found himself in a very deep well. He looked about and wondered what would happen next. After such a long fall down, down and down, what else could happen? Ir seemed that he had ended up in a garden. But this was no ordinary garden. This was a labyrinthian garden and it took him on many circuitous paths with many obstacles. As Alex was wandering about, wondering what to do and how to get out, it seemed every so often he would encounter a rose among this garden of brambles and lush vegetation. How to get out, how to get out, poor Alex was losing sleep from trying. And the others in the hole with him were not believing his intentions. He was being tried for crimes he claimed were beyond his control.

But Alex decided that the Truth and nothing but the Truth would be his only way out. The Truth would save him. He felt that by the end of the day he would get out. So many things had happened. Some happened the way he wanted, some not quite like he planned, and some never happened at all.

Some things happened the way he wanted.
He produced an International Belly Dance Convention from July 30 to August 5, 2007 at the Southpoint Hotel in Las Vegas. This event brought dancers and teachers from as far away as Korea, South America, and Egypt, although most of the dancers were from the United States. One of his intents was to connect the East with the West. He was proud when he saw the various foreign dancers networking and exchanging cards.

There were vendors, U.S. and International dance teachers, dance competitions, stages for open stage dancing, and formal dance shows featuring many of the teachers. All the shows had great sound and lighting. He had the utmost respect for the dancers in the U.S. and was proud of their talent and artistry. And he especially liked showing off to his Middle Eastern friends and colleagues how professional the dancers and groups looked when they performed choreography.

Some things happened not quite as he planned. 
Alex was a businessman. The purpose of this convention was to create business. He had never produced a show of any kind before, and therefore hired technical help. He didn’t dare take a venture without having a good technical end. He hired
Aradia and others to help make this dream happen. Aradia had worked for Alex before as a model when he was in retail. He knew that she was a Belly dancer and knowledgeable in this field, and so he looked to her for advice.

Unfortunately, the event did not draw the amount of vendors he had expected and, I believe, because he himself had not yet made a reputation for himself as a credible festival producer, he did not get the numbers of the dancers he wished for. Belly dancers are special people and Alex personally did not understand their basic nature.

Some things never happened at all!
Some of Alex’s stars - dance teachers, singer and musicians, did not show up. Whether it was an act of God, sabotage, poor planning, ineptitude, or plain bad luck didn’t matter. The bottom line is they were “no shows” and there were many disgruntled and unhappy dancers.
Alex felt that two major factors contributed to his convention not running as planned. These were caused by negligence on the part of his INS lawyers and the Southpoint hotel staff.

He claims that the reason that his stars Amani, Dina, Saad and their musicians did not show was because they did not have the correct visas issued in a timely manner. He had gone through the extra expense of getting the correct visas – business visas, not tourist visas, but his lawyers did not handle the follow-up properly. They tried to handle the paperwork through faxes, but the embassies required hard copy originals only. He now realizes that he needed more time to handle this type of problem. He did not foresee such obstacles and challenges. Too late found that he needed not just a few extra days, but actually a few extra weeks. Everything got delayed including the fact that Egypt Air wouldn’t issue tickets for the international flights without the visas. If Alex plans another event of this magnitude, we hope that he finds a different group of lawyers to assist and expedite.

The main reason he wanted to use the Middle Eastern stars was because they would have added excitement and prestige to his event…something like going to the Academy Awards and seeing movie stars. He reminded us that that was why he brought in Amani and Lucy to his press party. He now wishes he hadn’t even asked the Middle Eastern stars to be part of his convention, as it just was a major catastrophe and made him lose credibility.

Alex wanted to show off his American Belly dancers to the general public and to the American Middle Eastern population. He felt that his Belly dance convention was really 3 in 1: for Belly dancers, for Middle Easterners and for the general public.

About a month before the event, he began plastering ads all over the Middle Eastern papers, magazines and the Arabic channels ART and LBC on satellite television. He also bombarded Las Vegas with ads. He felt he had already reached the Belly dance community through ads and the internet. 

The Southpoint Hotel made him use their 800 number as the contact number for information and reservations. After the ads were up, he found that the hotel staff was unaware and uninformed of the Belly dance events at the hotel and told callers that they did not have information on the convention. Finally they gave information to the callers, but it was either incomplete or wrong information.

Some things did happen!
Every cloud has a silver lining:
What actually happened became a major plus for the camaraderie, the “let’s all make it happen” attitudes, the community efforts, the general understanding and empathy for the producers. There was a real “Let’s make the best of it” approach in spite of the fact that Alex didn’t seem to bother to personally inform too many people that there were numerous changes and “no shows” - such as No Dina, No Amani, No Raqia, No Saad. What Alex did do was post xeroxed copies of a letter from immigration on the walls of the hotel stating that Gold Star was innocent of the fiasco that kept Dina from entering U.S. 

As in many natural disasters there always seem to be local heroes. In this case, Aradia of Las Vegas, was the hometown heroine helping and pitching in and running herd. Shareen el Safy should be applauded for jumping in and trying to help and mediate. Tito of Egypt was another hero as he flew in from New York to fill in for the now absent Egyptian dance teachers.

It was interesting to hear the reactions, opinions and complaints of the participants. Generally the veteran dancers and workshop participants were upset, angry and disappointed. It seems that Tito filling in for the Egyptian dancers was recognized as “saving the day”.

Although the American dance teachers were great and much appreciated, it was duly noted that the big names, Raqia, Dina and Amani were sorely missed as they were forever present in the minds of the workshop dancers by their absence. Some said it was a waste of time and money to make the trip to Las Vegas and not get what was promised. (and in some cases, not get a refund).They said they would not have traveled to Las Vegas for the American dance teachers who already came and taught in their home towns. Although it was extremely disappointing that Amani, Dina and Raqia did not make it to the convention, everyone agreed that Aida Nour, Mohamad Khazafy, Lubna and Tito were wonderful and inspiring teachers.

What may happen.
Alex sincerely wants to do this convention as a business and said that if it also helps Belly dance that would be a good thing.
He knows that the 1st year you lose money, the second year maybe you’ll lose less, the  3rd year you might break even and finally after 5 years you’ll make money.

But before he goes on to announcing the next convention, he feels that he has to make good on this one. His intentions are honest and honorable, but as of now, his pockets are empty and he is working on recouping his losses so that he can pay off his debts. The event was very costly. As of July 30 he was current with his bills. All bills had been paid except for the teachers and the competitions. Because of the Egyptian stars’ and Amani’s cancellations, (workshops and shows) he had to issue refunds. and because of the poor attendance he was not able to make up the difference from the door charges.

He does, however, have every intention of paying – eventually.

Coming in Part 3:
Part 3 of this article is a report and a general overview of some of the promoters and participants’ reactions and feelings about the IBDC which took place in Las Vegas from July 30 to August 5, 2007

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

Ready for more?
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The Las Vegas BellyDance Intensive


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