Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rachel Brice and Tutankhamun


Every Friday night, the De Young Museum in San Francisco hosts a free party, complete with music, performances, and activities. In celebration of the current Tutankhamun exhibit, the festivities have included whirling dervish, belly dancing by Rasa Vitalia, and an assortment of bands. Last night was the kicker, though, with Rachel Brice performing to live music by Ajyal (a local Bay Area band).
Rachel Brice is one of my belly dance heroes. She’s been studying, teaching, and performing for well over a decade, combining sensual yoga postures with slinky belly dance moves. Her body is as lithe as a snake’s, and her movements posses a fluidity that’s like watching a river; every pop, lock, rotation, and undulation is entwined together in continuous movement.
The crowd went wild for her last night. Her improvised drum solo had me in total admiration. The drummers were definitely not being easy on her- the rhythms changed after every fourth set, with no repetitions.
I had an interesting wake-up call right before Rachel went on. Pretty much everyone in the belly dance scene has heard of Rachel Brice; she’s world renowned- a house hold name in the dance studio. So, I actually felt surprised when a women went up to her and asked, “What’s your name, dear?” It seemed like the most absurd question in the world to me. But of course, lots of non-belly dancers don’t know who she is. I guess sometimes I forget that not everyone belly dances!
After being dazzled by both Rachel Brice and Ajyal, I submersed myself in the world of Tutankhamun. Also known as King Tut, Tutankhamun became ruler of Egypt at the ripe old age of nine. He was considered a deity by many, and died mysetriously at the age of nineteen.
His tomb was found in 1922 and was a hidden trove of treasures. I can't even imagine how the discoverers must have felt. All that gold! Gilded coffins, statues, sparkling jewelery, and intricate details on every piece. It was almost mind-blowing to look at the artifacts knowing that they were over 3,000 years old.
Also a little mind-blowing was that so much of the jewelery resembled the jewelery that belly dancers wear today. Fascinating that a 3,000 year old necklace could look so familiar. I even have a necklace with similar beading to a chest piece that Tutankhamun used to wear. But I bet there’s quite a difference in the price! I wonder if anyone would notice if I swapped my piece for King Tut's...

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