Monday, August 31, 2009

Belly Dance Tips in a New City

The belly dance scene, in any city, is not always the easiest scene to locate, especially if you do not speak the language. Just a few tips that I've gleamed from trial and error:

-find out what "belly dance" is called in that city (ex: oriental, raqs sharqi, etc.)
-research your teachers/venues/schools ahead of time
-use a translation page ( to translate websites that are in a foreign language
-ask dancers you already know if they can recommend a teacher/venue/school
-use facebook, myspace, etc. to make connections quickly
-if you want to teach, check out fitness centers and dance schools, or try to collaborate with an instructor that is already established in the city
-audition for dance companies, productions, etc.! Doesn't hurt!
-ask around about what the going rate is for a class/show (you don't want to undercut the dancers who are already working in the city- that's a way to make enemies)
-go to performances (it's a great way to see if you can get a performance at the venue)
-go to classes (great way to meet fellow dancers)
-utilize craigslist (
-make business cards so you always have something to give someone when they want your contact information
-find a booker (they often act as a translator, too)
-work with local musicians (sometimes it's easier to get a show if you have a band backing you up)

I'm sure I'm forgetting a few things, but I think that's a pretty good list for starters!
Good luck.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Located on Karl Marx Str. in downtown Neukolln (Berlin), Sandfuersten is more than your typical shisha (hookah) bar. For starters, the floor is made entirely of sand. The kind of sand that is in the desert. There is a raised area at the back of the club that is not sand, but I liked the sandy area best. The walls alternate between floor-to-ceiling mirrors and beautiful paintings depicting scenery from the middle east. There are two rooms with a spacious hallway connecting the two. The room in the back has a fountain and is the best spot to watch the belly dancer.
Belly dancers also make the bar unique. Belly dancers perform Friday and Saturday nights. Wilson and I met a friend at Sandfuersten for a hookah, but mainly to see Laura perform. Laura and I share the same dance company, Zadiraks Dancers, which is directed by Zadiel Sasmaz.
The performance was beautiful, complete with shimmies, gorgeous costuming, and a cane dance in which she balanced the cane on her head. So worth the $4 hookah.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Before moving to Berlin, I took some time to research who was teaching belly dance in the city. I was delighted when Zadiel popped up, since I had loved watching his videos on you tube and had no idea that he was based in Berlin. I was even more delighted when he invited me to join one of his dance companies, Zadiraks Dancers.
Zadiel directs two companies- Velvet Snake and Zadiraks Dancers- both of which are made up of advanced dancers and dance instructors. Velvet Snake learns the choreography from Zadiel, but performs without him, while Zadiraks Dancers performs with Zadiel.
Combining raqs sharqi with oriental cabaret with Turkish Roma, Zadiel is stunning to watch. His performances are full of passion and perfect technique.
A woman I know in Berlin writes a travel blog for the New York Times. When she heard about Zadiel, she was so impressed that she decided to write about him in her blog. And I love her for quoting me in it. Finally, some press! (sort of).

The link to the blog:

Zadiel's website:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wild at Heart

In the heart of Kreutzburg is the infamous rock and roll club “Wild at Heart”, Wilson Gil's favourite rock club in Berlin. We performed on a Monday night, which is the “Great Country Swindle” night. The club wasn’t as packed to the brim with seedy, friendly, punk, hipster, rockabilly, crazy motherfuckers as it usually is, but Wilson and I still rocked the house.
How do I describe Wilson Gil's music? It’s a mix of grunge and country and punk and rock. It’s Johnny Cash meets Nirvana and they decide to jam with the Ramones. And it sure is fun to dance to. Wilson’s crooning has been quoted as “serial killer suave” and I’d have to agree.
We were opening for a gypsy punk band from Australia called “Juke Baritone and the Swamp Dogs.” I love those guys. Juke is a crazy Aussie front man who resembles the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. The Swamp Dogs are all professionally trained musicians and they can rip their instruments to shreds with their melodies. I felt truly wild at heart as I danced with Juke Baritone and his Swamp Dogs; I love releasing my inner gypsy.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mauer Park Flea Market

Busking in Mauer Park. It seemed like a good tip at the time. Until we arrived at the park late and discovered that all the good busking spots had already been claimed. There had to be at least ten musicians spread out along the thorough way. Some were amplified and performed as a band (and were quite good, I might add) and some were lone crooners. We gave up after 20 min. There was just no way we could compete with a five piece amplified funk/punk band.
The day wasn’t a total bust, though. The Mauer park flea market was a kaleidoscope of clothes, house wares, gadgets, food stalls, and miscellaneous craziness. I was in heaven. My only purchase, however, was a vintage key with my lucky number three engraved on it. I bought it for 50 cents. The key reminded me of my friend, Mei, who has about 30 or so vintage keys. Mei and I used to live together. The keys for the locks on the inside doors had long been lost, but Mei discovered that she had a skeleton key that fit all the locks in our house. I think she really loved having the power to lock us all in our rooms if she ever so wished (but she loves me, so she never did!).
Of course, I have to comment on the food. I always have to comment on the food. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to eat. And eat and eat and eat. San Francisco dining has made me a food snob, too, so when I can find quality food, it makes me oh so happy. At the Mauer Park flea market, I felt like I could orgasm just from the smells coming from the food stalls. Part of that may have to do with the fact that I don’t eat meat, but I love the smell of it. My mouth only waters more knowing that I can’t have it (or I could, but it’s not worth the guilt or the stomach ache). There was every kind of “wurst” you could think of. All sizzling and popping on the grills. Mmm, and freshly grilled corn on the cob. The smoke from all the BBQs that people had brought with them to use for their picnics in the middle of the park definitely added to the delicious smelling fumes. I think I need to go BBQ something right now!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

White Trash Fast Food Club

My first dancing gig in Berlin and it was at a place called the “White Trash”. So, I was expecting a dive bar and was wondering what I had gotten myself into- until I saw the club. Asian inspired décor meets tattoo parlour. Chandeliers, Chinese lions, punk rock posters, country western memorabilia, gothic accents, and low lighting gave the restaurant an edgy, cowboy-bohemian vibe. Plus, the place was enormous. Three different levels, with the restaurant splayed out on the top two (complete with stage, DJ area, game lounge, and bar) and the rock club in the basement (complete with tattoo parlour).
The show got started kind of late, but I was on by 10:40pm. The carpeted stage gave my feet rug burn, but I pulled some slinky moves and travelled throughout the restaurant. The booker wanted me for the club because of my vintage jazz performances, so I played up the vibe with ruffles and feathers.
After my set, a band called “Radiant” went on. They were crooners, kind of a U2/Cold Play vibe. They chatted with us after the show (“us” being Wilson and our friend, Saskia). Nice boys from Texas.
The “White Trash Fast Food Club” treats their performers to food and drink. I ordered the vegetarian chili fries. Yum. The menu was crazy. I’m sure I’m miss-quoting, but they had things like the “fuck you burger”. The menu said the chili fries would make me fat “just like on reality TV”. But so far, so good.
Also, I have to say that the DJs for the night played some killer rock sets.
We lost track of the time and realized around 12:30am that it would be after 1:00am by the time the band was finished breaking down their set. I was exhausted from two hours of rehearsal with Zadiraks dance company earlier that day and was not looking forward to performing my second set. Of course, I rallied myself and pulled off a great finish. Ta-daa!