Sunday, October 18, 2009
An interesting thing has come to my attention. While belly dance is popular in Berlin, the scene lacks a sense of community. In San Francisco, almost everyone supports one another. Teachers encourage you to study with other teachers, company directors are fine with their members being in more than one company, and dancers come to each other’s shows, even if they are not affiliated with the same people.
In Berlin, belly dance (or oriental dance as it is called here), is highly competitive. Teachers vie for students and discourage dancers from taking classes from anyone but them, dancers refuse to help one another get gigs because they don’t want to risk being outdone, and company directors want dancers to only be in one company. Within dance companies and classes themselves, there is a sense of family and camaraderie, but straying outside your circle can result in exile.
The company I am in, however, is a gem. Zadiraks is led by Zadiel Sasmaz and he wants his students to train with other teachers, dance with other dancers, and support shows from other companies. He understands that it only harms the belly dance community as a whole if we work against one another. I know there are other belly dancers in Berlin who follow Zadiel’s ethics and I applaud them for it, but there are too many dancers who take a cut-throat approach to the business.
A fellow Zadiraks dancer told me how she was in a company for several years and got kicked out when her instructor heard that she wanted to audition for Zadiraks. I’ve witnessed one teacher yelling at another teacher because he was ending his rent contract with her in order to rent a larger studio space. She basically gave him an ultimatum, saying that if he rented with another studio, then he would be her competition. Yikes.
All of this makes me thankful to be in Zadiraks, and sad to say good-bye. Zadiel performed at Maroosh restaurant last Friday and he organized a little farewell party there for me with his two companies, Zadiraks and Velvet Snake. Maroosh has quite the Oriental vibe with images of hieroglyphics on the walls, a giant cat statue, and Middle-Eastern clientele. It was awesome to see Zadiel perform in a restaurant atmosphere. The reactions from the diners were hilarious. The women looked like they were getting their jollies while the men looked mortified, avoiding eye contact with Zadiel at all costs. I wanted to tell them that it was okay to look- watching a guy dance does not make you a homosexual!
At least my boyfriend appreciated Zadiel’s performance. He’s open-minded that way. Plus, Zadiel redefines belly dance by taking the stereotype of the “sexy woman” out of the equation, which allows you to focus on the technique of the dance. Zadiel is graceful, innovative, and a perfectionist when it comes to technique. He truly makes the art form high class.
I’m glad I got to see Zadiel perform one last time before I leave for California, and it was so nice of my fellow dancers to come out to say good-bye. I’ll be returning to Berlin in the late spring, and looking forward to dancing with all the wonderful Zadiraks dancers once again.