Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My special delivery from Egypt

  1. Here's my new baby! The bra and belt set was shipped from Egypt on Nov. 20 and arrived the day before Thanksgiving -- giving me yet another terrific reason to be thankful.
  2. I'll have to reposition the fastener on the belt and do a minor alteration on the bra, but I'm very happy with the overall fit, the fabric quality, beading and workmanship.

I admit I was a bit nervous about purchasing from an exporter in Egypt, but the price was too good to pass up and I love the design. I'm already saving for my next costume, and I'll definitely go back to the same exporter. If you're interested in some of the other designs available, you can check them out here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Two cool things to tell you about...

First, Ansuya has launched her online video class series on her Web site and it looks great. You can see for yourself here (click on the "Free Sample of Online Bellydance Class" link on the righthand side of the screen). The free sample class is the first in what will be weekly lessons, which will each be between 45 and 60 minutes. The cost is $12.50 per class, and it allows the viewer to pause, rewind, fast-forward and watch the lesson as many times as you'd like during the logged-in session. However, because it's a streaming video, the lesson cannot be saved to your computer and saved for a future viewing.

At the end of the free sample class, Ansuya also brings in Ozzy for some dance instruction with live drumming, runs viewers through cool-down exercises, answers a Myspacer's question about dancing with snakes, sits down with Ozzy to talk about the dancer-drummer dynamic, discusses costuming and her term "caba-ribal-usion," performs in full costume with Ozzy, and ends on a funny note with a few outtakes.

The second cool thing is that Google now hosts Life magazine's archive of historic photographs and it contains some terrific images of Samia Gamal from the March 1952 issue, including the famous photographs showing her movements highlighted by a continuous stream of light. There are also 1942 images of Tahia Carioca. Another cool thing is you can order framed prints of these images. You can find the archive here, and type the dancers' names in the search field to see the photographs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One writer's view on the Bellydance Superstars ...

I came across this pair of articles from Wendy Liberatore, a reporter with the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, New York.

This one is a preview of the Superstars' performance in that area on Saturday night. There's some interesting background on the Superstars, mostly based on information gleaned from an interview with Miles Copeland. Petite Jamilla also is interviewed.

This one is a review of the show. Liberatore gives it high marks for the most part, but she does have some less than glowing things to say about the tribal performances and the general skill of Jillina as the lead choreographer. She also starts the review with what I interpreted as kind of a snarky statement: "Belly Dance Superstars is a cheesy name for a polished, flashy, almost-ready-for-Vegas spectacle."

Is it just me, or does that come off as unnecessarily mean-spirited?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Like the new look?

I'm trying out a new background. What do you think?

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to become a belly dance pro...

Leyla Najma has written a terrific article on how dancers can build their dancing reputation and elevate themselves out of amateur status. You can find it here.

Najma is a professional dancer and instructor based in New Mexico who has studied with Mahmoud Reda, Madam Bousy and Zohair Zaki. She also regularly writes for such belly dance publications as Zaghareet, Jareeda and The Chronicles.

For more about her, visit www.leyla-najma.com.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dancing in a bubble

I just came across this video on YouTube. I've never seen anything like it -- so of course I had to share it.

The dancer is Gemma, who co-founded the 1,001 Nights dance company in Paris in 1999.

If you'd like to find out more about the performance group or Gemma, visit them here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Worse than a watched pot...

Does time ever move more slowly than when you're waiting for a custom made costume to be delivered from Egypt? I have to say no...

Today begins week 10 of my wait ... Ugh...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"America at a Crossroads: Dissonance and Harmony: Arabic Music Goes West"

If you're interested in Middle Eastern music, you won't want to miss this telecast. Here's the show's description:

Since the attacks of September 11, the U.S. relationships with the countries of the Middle East have become increasingly strained and confusing. But citizens are not governments, and where governments are about politics, citizens are about culture. Where politics is often dedicated to objectives, spin and formality, culture goes deeper and defines real, everyday experience.

DISSONANCE AND HARMONY presents a rare portal into a vital and entertaining world shared by both Western and Middle Eastern cultures, the world of music. The film examines the struggles and successes of five very different Middle Eastern artists in their homelands and then tracks their experiences coming to the United States to the city of Los Angeles to collaborate with Western musicians.

Featured Middle Eastern musicians are: Saad El Soghayar (Egypt), Tareq Al Nassar (Jordan), Wael Kodeih (Lebanon), Tania Saleh (Lebanon), and Ilham Al Madfai (Iraq). Featured Western musicians are: Gustavo Santaolalla, the Academy Award-winning Argentinean musician and composer; RZA, the imaginative leader of the internationally celebrated Wu-Tang Clan; Nile Rodgers, a gifted guitarist-songwriter-producer and major influence on the U.S. music scene for over 30 years; and Charlotte Caffey, songwriter and guitarist from the renowned all-girl band, The GoGos.

For local show listings, visit http://www.pbs.org/weta/crossroads/when/

Monday, October 27, 2008

Registration underway for Tribal SDstyle festival workshops

Sooz, one of our favorite tribal teachers in Orange County, will be teaming up with Rachael to teach a workshop on duets for ATS at this year's Tribal SDStyle festival, and you don't even need to bring your own partner. Dancers will be paired on the spot.

Other workshop leaders will be Laura Rogan, Steven Eggers, Ayse Cerami, Politti Ashcraft, Olu, Kirti Sristava, Sabrina, and many more.

Tribal SDstyle's daytime performances and marketplace will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 8-9 at the Coronada School of the Arts in Coronado, a few minutes outside downtown San Diego. Find out more here. An evening show with performances by the instructors will begin at 8 p.m. Nov. 8 at The CoSA Theater. For more information, visit the Web site at http://tribalsdstyle.com/festival/2008.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Worldfocus": Egyptians Express Views on America video segment

So I was channel surfing last night and I happened to come across this "Worldfocus" news segment on Egyptians' views on America.

The nearly 4-minute clip includes several interesting man-on-the-street-type interviews with ordinary Egyptians about their views on Americans (they seem to like America and Americans in general, but don't like Bush or the recent government's military policies). There's also some history on U.S.-Egypt political ties and Egyptian government officials' views tossed in. Some of the interviews take place in a multi-story shopping mall n Cairo that looks like something you'd find in any U.S. city, complete with a Radio Shack, McDonald's and Papa John's pizzeria.

The journalist is Hoda Osman, who spent her first 26 years in Cairo and returned to sample current opinions, according to the organization's Web site. You can also read producer Sally Garner's blog post on the segment here.

Tonight, another segment on Egypt is set broadcast, this time focusing on women who choose to wear the veil. I've already set my DVR. If you're interested in tuning in, you can find show listings for your area here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

O.C. Bellydance Festival -- Oct. 12, 2008

If you haven't already heard, the first-ever O.C. Bellydance Festival, which took place at the Fountain Valley Recreation Center on Oct. 12, was an amazing success. The ladies from Troupe Incognito did a terrific job organizing, and they had everything so under control, you'd never know this was their first event of this size. (Right: Incognito gals Nikki and Renee.)

Although the event started at noon, I rolled in around 8:30 a.m., along with the other volunteers, to help them set up. We checked people in, posted signs, offered help to the vendors who were setting up inside the main hall, where the performances took place, and to those that were set up on the patio just beyond the workshop room.

I had to cut my volunteering short, though, so that I could get ready because this festival also marked the first time Marlena Shaw, Enala and I performed together. Despite being able to practice together only a few times, our troupe Al-Sukkar managed to pull off a choreography. A lot of credit goes to Marlena, who filled up a good chunk of our allotted time with her drum solo :-) (And thanks and credit go to Richard Lowe for this photograph of us dancing.)

After our 12:30-ish performance, we changed back into our street clothes and got busy shopping, visiting the vendors both inside the hall and out. There were lots of familiar faces -- Tribal Bazaar, Melodia Designs, Geisha Moth, Enchanted Designs, and so many more. There was also a definite slant toward tribal style, both in the vending and in the performances.

For anyone who might've had doubts, I don't think there's any question that tribal style is alive and well in O.C.

And my favorite part of the day? Watching all the great performances on the stage.

Here's just a sample:

Almase Arabesque

Kashmir, dancing to live drumming by Gorkem and Vernon


(In addition to be a terrific dancer, she's one of the great coordinators for the weekly Shimmy Showcase at Coffee Haven in Long Beach.)

Troupe Masala

Sooz & Azuluna

(I love that they incorporate Carolena's dance prayer into their performance!)

Om Sisters

(Doesn't she have the most amazing hair?)

(This is the first time I've seen her dance. Wow, can she pop and lock!)

MC Laura Sutherland (who, BTW, was nonstop funny all day long) introducing Tribe Roman Morga -- who are always a favorite. Drumming in the back is one of my favorite people in the world, Katerina.

And the final performance of the day, our hostesses, Troupe Incognito.
Thank you for a great day, ladies!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jillina's coming to O.C.

Rania just forwarded the information on this great opportunity to study with a master belly dance instructor:


One Day only in O.C.!

Sunday, Dec. 7

2 to 5 p.m.

At Global Rhythms Dance Studio, 10184 Adams Ave., Huntington Beach


Cost: $60 in advance; $75 at the door

This workshop will include a powerful and exciting choreography set to modern oriental fusion music. Participants will learn dynamic floor patterns, drum solo techniques, khaliji, and flowing combinations to use with their own style in this dramatic routine.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bedouin Bazaar 2008

It's been years since I've gone to Bedouin Bazaar in San Diego, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to take the Ghawazee class offered by Sakti Rinek this year. And I'm so glad I did!

I believe all modern American belly dancers owe a debt to the Ghawazee dancers because they were the nation's first introduction to Middle Eastern dance when they performed as part of the Egyptian installation on the Midway Plaisance during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Not only does Sakti possess an amazing wealth of information about the art and history of the Ghawazee style of dance and culture, she's also truly enthusiastic about sharing that knowledge and deeply committed to keeping the spirit of this tradition alive (it's a sad fact that it is on the brink of extinction).

She's also committed to doing it in a way that is a lot of fun, as well as educational.

To start our workshop, which I took with friends Marlena (green hip scarf) and Mara (in the orange hip scarf), Sakti explained about her costume, which was a modern version of the traditional Ghawazee costume, and offered students a 10-page booklet she'd put together of Ghawazee images, history, costuming details, basic movements, finger cymbal patterns, and combinations that can be worked into choreography. At $1, it was the best bargain of the day!

Next up, Sakti got us into the right posture (knees more bent than classical belly dance, chest lifted) and then we dove right in to the basic steps, like the Ghawazee Basic No. 1, which is a marching style of step with a vigorous hip shake; the Ghawazee Basic No. 2, with hips bouncing side to side; and various choo-choo, shimmy steps and chest drops. Most of these movements involved an amazing amount energy, and it was astounding to learn that Ghawazee dancers were sometimes hired to dance for up to seven hours at a stretch. While the 10 or so of in the workshop huffed and puffed, Sakti sailed through it all with ease--that certainly says a lot about the fitness benefits of the Ghawazee dance style.

In our two-hour workshop, she taught various combinations, demonstrated how to dance with partners (Ghawazee style is a group dance and not really meant to be danced solo), and demonstrated how to incorporate cane and zills into the dance.

At the end, I was completely exhausted, but exhilarated, too. She says she'll be back in Southern California to teach in November, and I do hope I can make it. If you're interested, you can e-mail her at sakti@newmex.com. To learn move, visit http://www.sakti-international.com/.

Still to come: Pictures and note from Sunday's first-ever O.C. Bellydance Festival. OMG, was it amazing! I can't wait to share more about it later this week.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Don't miss the debut of the O.C. Bellydance Festival

We're gearing up for a busy, busy belly dance weekend in SoCal!

Bedouin Bazaar kicks things off in San Diego on Saturday, and then on Sunday, we have the chance to support our very own, Orange County-based festival when the O.C. Bellydance Festival debuts at the Fountain Valley Recreation Center in Mile Square Park.

Workshops will be offered with Robin Johnson (8-10 a.m.), Politti Ashcroft (10 a.m. to noon), Sooz Hall (noon to 2 p.m.) and Elizabeth of She'enedra (2 to 4 p.m.). The cost for each is $40 at the door.

Vendors who will be selling their wares include Tribal Bazaar, Geisha Moth, Enchantress Designs, Left Coast Trading and many more.

Twenty-five performances are lined up, beginning with JJ & the Habibis at 12:05 p.m. and culminating with the festival's hostesses, troupe Incognito, at 3:53 p.m. In between, you can check out performers like Perizad, Kashmir, Om Sisters, Blue Damsel, Tribe Roman Morga, and many more.

The Fountain Valley Recreation Center is at 16400 Brookhurst St., near the corner of Brookhurst and Heil Avenue. Tickets are $10 at the door. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/troupeincognito or e-mail Nikki at troupeincognito@sbcglobal.net.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gypsy Groove II: the video

The video quality is a little iffy, but it'll give you a taste of some of the great performances we had on Saturday.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A peek at last night's Gypsy Groove showcase

We had an unbelievable night last night at the second Gypsy Groove Belly Dance Showcase. The dancers and drummers filled the House of Grind in Foothill Ranch with their wonderful talent, and the crowd couldn't have been more amazing. It was terrific to see so many friendly faces, from the lovely ladies of the O.C. Bellydance Connection Meetup group (Rachel is my hero for all that she's done to bring our Orange County belly dance community closer together), to former belly dance classmates I don't get to see nearly often enough (especially, you, Angelica and Betty!), and of course Diane, whose love for belly dance rivals even her love of horses, and who drove all the way from Long Beach to support our event!

The night started with live Middle Eastern drumming by Ed Lee, Jennifer Laemmer, and my wonderful husband, Austin Cameron.

Linda was our first dancer for the evening, and she performed a lovely Egyptian cabaret piece wearing a stunning tangerine costume. She's a former member of the troupe Rakassah Al Zaman and has studied with some of the best teachers in the area, including Angelika Nemeth, Fahtiem, Jheri St. James and Tina Enheduanna.

Next up, we had Sarah al Nour, who's been studying and performing belly dance for almost a decade and currently teaches at the Anaheim Family YMCA. Her piece drew inspiration from orientale and American Tribal styles, yet Sarah's modern fusion of the two -- along with her own darkly glamorous aesthetic -- made for a very entertaining two-part performance that incorporated recorded music and dancing to live drumming.

After our mid-show break and with the help of the drummers, I demonstrated a beginning combo -- 4 counts pestle, 8 counts vertical figure eights, 4 counts shoulder shimmy with a rocking step back, repeat other side. Easy, easy :-) The ladies and young girls brave enough to try it out on the dance floor looked fabulous and some of them even had their own hipscarves with them. Talk about prepared!

Then it was on to our first-ever troupe performance at Gypsy Groove: a terrific set by Sooz & Azuluna. I couldn't believe these beautiful ladies only started performing together in July. They're a student troupe led by Sooz Hall, who teaches in Santa Ana and Fullerton, and they're dedicated to the pure American Tribal Style format. Just look at these ladies -- they're stunning, and I can't wait to see more from them.

I have to confess that Sooz gave me the biggest surprise of the night, too. She told Diane and me that she recognized us from a performance we did at Market of the Casbah with one of our former tribal troupes, Tribal Fire, and I nearly fell over in shock. Why? That performance was almost seven years ago! Funny how it sorta feels like yesterday, and it sorta feels like a million years ago. She's a doll for her kind words, and she made me want to pull out my old Flying Skirts .

Our final performance for the night was a traditional Egyptian cane dance by Linda, and again she dazzled the audience with her dancing and another amazing costume, this time a purple velvet beledi dress with long and dramatic chiffon sleeves. Wow!

Then our drummers went to work again, and we opened the floor to anyone who wanted dance -- and boy did people want to dance! We had first timers and beginners, pros and seasoned veterans. It was so much fun, I can't wait for the next time :-)

Here's our group photo:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gypsy Groove belly dance showcase returns Saturday

Here's the flier for this Saturday's Gypsy Groove belly dance showcase, which will be held at House of Grind in Foothill Ranch. You can see a bigger version of the flier here.

The parking is free and plentiful , the cafe is comfortable and casual, there are lots of seats, and there's no cover charge (though tips for the dancers are greatly encouraged)!

If you're in the area (or planning to be), I hope you'll come out to join us for some great Middle Eastern drumming, belly dance performances and, if the crowd is up for it, some open dancing, too!

Friday, September 26, 2008

A 3-generation belly dancing family

The Orange County Register ran a story today about an Orange County family of belly dancers with a wonderful assortment of photographs (33 online!). The story, written and photographed by Leonard Ortiz, details how Maruja Eckart learned the art of belly dance in Morocco as a 12-year-old girl and went on to perform it in her native Spain before immigrating to the United States in the 1960s. She later passed the knowledge on to her daughter, Pilar Costello, as well as her granddaughter, Ashli Costello.

Together, the three women now teach others at the Murdy Community Center in Huntington Beach, where Eckart has taught for 30 years.

See the story here.

And the amazing photographs here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Belly dancing -- from the Middle East to the Far East

Belly dancing has gained in popularity in Japan and Korea in recent years, and now here's a report that it's winning over converts in China, too.

I just came across this story in China Daily, which reports on the proliferation of belly dance clubs in the southern province of Guangdong. The pastime is so popular with the growing number of white-collar workers that the number of qualified dance teachers can't keep up with the demand. But it's still such a new enterprise the local dance association says it is unable to institute regulations. You can read the full story here: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/life/2008-09/24/content_7055721.htm

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The 'California Gold' belly dance episode

So what'd you think about last night's episode of "California Gold" on the Raqs L.A. event? I don't ordinarily watch the show and I wasn't sure what to expect, but I thought Huell Howser covered the event in a fun and entertaining way. He interviewed several dancers, including Mesmera, Ansuya, Petite Jamilla, Leela and her Salome Jihad troupe, and a few other dancers I didn't recognize (That was one drawback of the show: a few of the people he interviewed were never identified. So if you know who they were, I'd love it if you could enlighten me in the comments section).

Howser also interviewed Bellydance Superstars producer Miles Copeland, who organized the festival along with Marta Schill, and the vendor who was selling Saroyan zills and swords (which she demonstrated), as well as belly dance costumes and hip scarves. Howser seemed fascinated by all the merchandise, but then who isn't?

I'm glad we got to see some dancing, too. The show included short bits of some of the live dance performances, but the producers also spliced in segments from Petite Jamilla's double veil instructional DVD, "Unveiled," and a DVD performance from Ansuya.

I don't know what time Howser and his camera crew were shooting, but it was unfortunate that the auditorium looked nearly empty throughout most of the episode. There was a shot or two of a performance taking place on the stage with only a few people in the audience that had seating for more than a hundred. I felt so sorry for the performers!

But all in all, it was a great representation of our dance community that emphasized its positive aspects. My favorite quote of the show came from Mr. Copeland himself when he described what belly dance is about to Howser. "It's an artform about the real beauty of a woman," he said, adding that it was for all ages and sizes. Very nice, I thought, and very true. In my book, it boils down to fun, fitness and friends. I guess I would add "fashion" in there, too, because we do love our costumes, don't we?

If you'd like to buy a copy of the episode on DVD or VHS, you can do that here.

Here's Howser with Leela and Salome Jihad for the final wrap-up of the show:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Raqs L.A. on 'California's Gold' tonight

Don't forget to check out "California Gold" at 7:30 tonight on KCET-TV (at least where I am -- you should check your local listings). The episode will feature footage shot during Huell Howser's visit with the belly dancers at the Raqs L.A. festival in May held at the Glendale Civic Auditorium.

I can't wait to see how many familiar faces I see :-)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kamala's workshop

Learning two and half minutes of choreography in two hours? It might not sound like a lot to you, but it's unprecedented for me. Compound that with the fact that the choreography includes about a dozen turns with tricky directional changes and lots of other Reda-inspired moves, and you might understand why I haven't felt this tired since... well, I'm too tired to even think of a comparison.

Marlena Shaw sponsored today's workshop at the Reflections studio in Anaheim, and about a dozen of us took part in this great opportunity to learn from one of the region's most accomplished dancers. Kamala is not only a terrific instructor in Los Angeles County, she's been dancing professionally since the 1980s and learned from the famed Farida Fahmy of the Reda troupe, among others. She's also performed with such world-class musicians as Hakim, Amr Diam, Cheb Mami and Alabina.

This lady has some pretty impressive credits, but she's also one heck of a teacher. I'm about as dyslexic as they come about learning new choreography and that Kamala could still get me through the whole thing -- if not gracefully at least sufficiently -- is truly a testament to her ability. She was great about breaking down steps and letting us repeat them with and without music until we felt comfortable before moving on to subsequent sections. She was also super positive and encouraging, which made all of us feel at ease.

I'm really excited about working with this choreography, and if I can ever make it even a tenth as beautiful and fluid as it was when Kamala performed it, I will be a very happy dancer.

If you'd like to know more about Kamala, check out her Web site at http://www.kamaladance.com/Kamala_/Home.html.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gypsy Groove showcase in action

For some reason, YouTube doesn't want to play nice with my computer today so I'm giving Vimeo a try.

My disclaimer on the video is that it is entirely my fault Winnie gets a collage instead of real-time video. I got caught up in the moment and forgot to tape! So, as you can probably guess, the music is not what she performed to, it's a piece I have the right to use. I hope she can forgive me.... But she looks great nonetheless, doesn't she? As do all the terrific dancers, as you can see for yourself :-)

Gypsy Groove Belly Dance Showcase -- Oct. 4, 2008 from DeAnna Cameron on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Gypsy Groove showcase debut

Oh, what a night! Last night's Gypsy Groove showcase was a blast, and I still can't believe it went as well as it did. I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about how it was going to go. What if no one came? What if these wonderful dancers and drummers had no audience? Or worse, what if people *did* come, and then I had to speak in front a roomful of people! (I have a deathly fear of speaking in public and fainting on the spot seemed like a very real possibility.)

Well, people did come -- enough to pack out the House of Grind coffeehouse and spill out into the courtyard actually. I saw many familiar faces, including a few of the wonderful members of the O.C. Bellydance Connection meetup group and other dance friends. (No one supports a belly dance event like our own belly dance community!) And the fliers we handed out at the coffeehouse brought a lot of newcomers.

Everyone loved the talented lineup. Our terrific drummers -- Ed Lee, Jennifer Laemmer, and my wonderful husband, Austin -- got the crowd in the mood with some live drumming, and then Winnie Rafael of Santa Ana, who teaches beginning belly dance classes in Irvine, started things off. She looked gorgeous in her red and silver costume.

Next up was Enala, a beautiful dancer from Westminster who has been my dear friend since we were in tribal troupes together a few years ago. She's focused more on classical Egyptian style these days, and performed a terrific number in a sparkly gold and burgundy costume.

We took a short break after Enala's performance to give people a chance to order coffee or a glass of wine from the counter and enjoy the free, freshly made strawberry crepe hors d'oeuvres the House of Grind passed around. Wow, were those crepes good.

When we started back up, I taught a few good sports in the audience a simple 8-count combo with the drummers' help, and then it was on to our next featured performer.

Katerina from Long Beach, who's been a dear friend since our high school days, was the tribal gal for the evening. She entered with a slow taxsim and mesmerized the audience with her poise and snaky moves. When she picked up the tempo with live drumming, she pulled a couple of her students out of the audience to dance in true tribal improvisation style. They looked they had a good time, and the audience loved watching the interaction.

Our show culminated with Marlena Shaw, an exquisite performer and teacher from Westminster, who also happens to be the director of Al-Sukkar, a new troupe she formed with Enala and me (more to come on that later). She is a master at the classical Egyptian style, and her talent and grace captivated the audience.

It was during her performance that I got my one big scare of the evening. I'd been watching the shopping center's security guard hanging around the open doors for a while and worrying that he was going to complain about the loud music. When he motioned me over, I thought I was in for it. But no! He handed me a wad of bills (a wad!) and asked me to add it to our tip pail. Then he smiled and wandered away. How amazing is that?!

When Marlena's performance came to an end, I don't think I was alone in being a little sad that it meant the show had come to an end. Most people didn't rush off. There was a lot of chatting and visiting afterward. Newcomers inquired about lessons, people ordered from House of Grind's tasty menu of Russian delicacies, and dancers hung around and talked about dancing.

And our wonderful friend Diane Becker (who loves belly dancing almost as much as she loves her horses, and who is doing all she can to save Hollywood Park from being torn down -- check out http://www.savehollywoodpark.com/ to see what I mean) took this group photo and donated adorable bindi sets as gifts for all the dancers: