Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rockin' Bellies!

Lately, I have been into producing shows as much as I have been into performing at them. My last creation, “Rock-A-Belly” went down at the internationally famous CafĂ© du Nord, in San Francisco.
Belly dance and rock music? Can the two really be combined without looking silly?
After “Rock-A-Belly”, the answer is a definite ‘yes’!
It’s easier to belly dance to rock music than you’d think. Everything is in an eight count, and the guitar solos are really just rock and roll versions of a taxeem. And the drums! Great way to get your shimmy on. And frankly, let’s admit it, there’s a reason so many strippers grind and get down to rock music; rock is sexy and fun and makes you want to dance! There’s a wild abandon that comes with rock music, which is so unlike the strict traditionalism that can come with classic styles of belly dance music.
I certainly let loose with wild abandon at the show. We opened with a belly dance set (sans bands), and all four dancers- Rasa Vitalia, Leah, Alodiah, and myself- had the crowd entranced by our own, unique styles. Yes, belly dance is diverse! It’s not all coin belts and sequins and bad Middle Eastern pop music. Especially in San Francisco.
I had only booked three bands for the night, but we somehow ended up with five. Deeva opened, but shared their set with Art in Heaven. Castles and Spain rocked the middle set. Ironically, there were no belly dancers in their set, and yet they were the only band that night who had a history of including belly dancers at their shows.
Our headliner was Electric Sister. Really sweet guys. So respectful to Alodiah and I during the rehearsals we went to. No sleaziness whatsoever. Until they got onstage. I knew they sometimes described their music as “LA stripper metal”, but I didn’t quite put two and two together. And really, it’s quite the challenge to belly dance to that kind of music, with the band guys acting like sleazy rock stars, while trying to maintain some sense of class.
Don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love sleazy rock and roll. And Electric Sister are great at what they do. It’s just a challenge to belly dance with them and not look like a stripper. Just one eight count of sloppy technique and I knew I’d be doomed!
Thank god, Alodiah and I had spent hours rehearsing our choreography. We could put those moves to any kind of music- rock, Middle Eastern, or otherwise- and we’d still look like professional belly dancers. Which was what I was going for: to show that belly dance is classy all on its own, regardless of what kind of music you put it to.
The night ended with a great surprise. One of my favorite bands, Triple Cobra, showed up to play a secret set after Electric Sister. Triple Cobra has a bit of a cult following, and their glam rock, make-up, and sparkles fit right in with the belly dance theme. Despite the differences between belly dance and rock culture, I’m glad to say that we can at least all get away with wearing sparkles on our faces.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Zadiel in California!

Planning a tour is no small feat. I have always loved the expression "hindsight is 20/20", because it really is! I recently hosted my first tour, in California for Zadiel Sasmaz- one of Europe's most famous male belly dancers. Looking back, there are so many things I would have done differently. Contracts, for everything, for starters. More promotion. Tons and tons and tons of promotion!
That said, the tour was successful in many ways. Namely, I discovered what it was like to live with two gay men. You wouldn't believe the amount of cologne that was sprayed in my house- I almost debated wearing a gas mask! And if you ever thought that teenage girls were boy crazy, you'd quickly realize that gay men truly define the term "boy obsessed". But can you blame them? Two gay guys from Germany in San Francisco for the first time, how could they not get a little nutty about all the gay men walking around?
The best part about touring is all the people you meet. From San Diego to San Francisco, we only had the best of hosts along the way. And to share the stage with other talented dancers is priceless. The downside? Lack of sleep! We all kept staying up way past our bedtimes because we were enjoying the pleasant company so much!
Also, as one of Zadiel's hostesses, I got to take all of his workshops. And Zadiel is a master teacher. From "Dancing to Turkish Pop" to "Drum Solo" to "Turkish Roma", I was shimmying my heart out. The "Turkish Roma" workshop was my favorite. The only drawback was that all the hopping a walking and sliding gave me a blister the size of a large grape on the bottom of my right foot. For the past three days I've been hobbling around like an old lady!
The toughest day of the tour, though, was the day of the Balkan Fusion Party show at Triple Crown in San Francisco. I was running on five hours sleep, and drove from San Diego to Los Angeles, then flew to San Francisco, got ready in thirty minutes, walked to the club, and produced a show.
In hindsight, that all seems very stressful and a little crazy. But then I pause to reflect some more and I think, "Lack of sleep? Excessive traveling? Blisters?" Meh. It's just another day in the life of a belly dancer.