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: