Thursday, August 28, 2008

Showcase night at Sophia's in Placentia

Great dancing, a great restaurant, and lots of truly friendly faces – that about sums up the OC Bellydance Connection Showcase at Sophia’s Greek restaurant in Placentia on Tuesday night.

After showcase hostess Rachel welcomed everyone, she introduced local belly dance teacher and longtime performer Marlena Shaw, who made her entrance in dramatic Egyptian cabaret fashion with a lovely silk veil trailing behind her that nicely complemented her dazzling daisy yellow costume. She danced part of her number on the restaurant’s diminutive dance floor and then came into the audience and danced with the crowd, pulling willing participants into the aisle to dance along with her. The audience loved it, as you can tell from the pictures.

Then it was Rachel’s turn on the dance floor, and she charmed the crowd with a lively number set to a “Leila,” by popular Arabic singer Hakim joined by R&B legend James Brown. The upbeat music and the surprising mix of Hakim’s and Brown’s styles had everyone’s toes tapping and hands clapping.

The evening’s final performer was Deborah, who performed two numbers, including a graceful veil choreography set to one my favorite songs “Layali al Sharq.” As I watched and admired her, it occurred to me that I’d been attending her annual Market at the Casbah event in Fullerton for years and I’d never once seen her dance -- until now. Let me just say, wow, this lady can dance.

As usual, I took lots of pictures and only a few of them came out. You can head over here, though, to see a bunch more.

Monday, August 25, 2008

L.A. Times' Little India videologue

If you're a fan of Little India in Artesia like I am, you'll want to check out this terrific videologue from Robert Gauthier at the L.A. Times. It's part of the "Street Scenes" series and runs like a 2 1/2 minute documentary. You'll see the shops, the fashions, the food -- and even a bit of an Indian dance class. The evolution of the Pioneer Boulevard neighborhood is told in the residents' own words, too. Very cool :-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Announcing: Gypsy Groove belly dance showcase

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

Parking is plentiful and free, the cafe is comfortable and casual, there are lots of comfy seats, and there's no cover charge. So, if you're in the area (or planning to be), I hope you'll mark your calendars and come out to join us for some great dancing.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A visit to Merry's in Long Beach

Don't ya just love Merry’s Fashion with Passion? Not only is Merry the friendliest shopkeeper I’ve ever met, but stepping into her Long Beach boutique is like finding a little slice of heaven for a belly dancer. You’re immediately surrounded by wonderful Kuchi jewelry, serpentine armbands, Arabic amulets, shimmy hip scarves, coin belts, cholis, gypsy skirts, full cabaret costumes (full cabaret costumes!), coin bras, exquisite Nepalese and Indian scarves, Moroccan dresses, and so much more.

And you wouldn’t think that you could spend hours in this tiny little shop, but Merry has packed so many wonderful things into this space that I guarantee if you start poking around, you better be prepared to stay awhile. That’s what happened to my very good friend Katerina and I when we stopped in on Saturday and spent far more time (and money) than we intended.

But honestly, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon. Merry certainly has a passion for fashion, but she also has a passion for belly dance, and she’s always eager to talk with dancers and help them find exactly what they’re looking for. She was thrilled to see the amazing ensemble Katerina put together with pieces in the shop (I can’t divulge more because this stunning outfit will be making its stage debut on September 6, at my new belly dance showcase in Foothill Ranch – details on that will come later this week).

Merry also had some great news to share. Her wonderful friend Aziza from Oregon (yeah, this Aziza) will be making an appearance at the shop, perhaps as soon as October. These two lovely women have a long and interesting history together, and an event that involves both is bound to be a very special event. Keep an eye on Merry’s and Aziza’s Web sites for more information.

Merry also told us about an exciting new development at the shop. The Oojam performers recently took over the dressing area, which is decorated like the most luxurious Bedouin tents you’ve ever seen, for a photo shoot. Isn’t that a terrific idea? Merry said she loved hosting them and would welcome any opportunity to work with other dancers looking for interesting backdrops. If you’re a dancer, you should definitely keep that in mind for the next time you update your portfolio.

Personally, I was delighted and humbled when Merry asked if she could host an event to celebrate my novel’s release next summer. I told her I was secretly hoping she’d be willing to work with me on something when THE BELLY DANCER published, but to hear her enthusiasm nearly brought tears to my eyes. She is a very special person and I am deeply honored for the consideration. We talked about some ideas, and I’m really looking forward to creating something that will be fun and entertaining. I mean, what's the good of publishing a book about belly dancing if you can't have a great belly dance party, right? And you can bet I’ll making those announcements right here. :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Want to let the L.A. Times know there is strong interest in covering Egypt?

Friends who work at the paper have told me that the people in charge pay close attention to what stories receive the most Web hits. If you haven't already done so, we have an opportunity to send them the message that we want more coverage of Egypt, its culture and its people.

Reporter Jeffrey Fleishman did a wonderful piece on Alexandria on July 19 that you can find here.

Please click over, or pass the link along to others you think might be interested in reading about this beautifully written slice of Egyptian life.

Thank you!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A visit to Global Rhythms Dance Studio in MV

I was thrilled when I saw Rania had opened a second Global Rhythms Dance Studio in Mission Viejo, and on Sunday I finally had the opportunity to drop in on one of her belly dance classes. It's in a strip mall, and from the outside you can't see much more than the door and a modest sign. But inside is a charming dance space that offered plenty of room for the six of us who turned out for the 2 p.m. class. In the hourlong session, Rania led us through a warm-up sequence and drilled two combinations that we then cobbled together into a mini-choreography set to Solace's "Crimson." What a workout!

I was so glad to have the opportunity to learn from this former Bellydance Superstar who I've admired for so long. And you can bet I'll be going back. If you haven't had the opportunity to check out one of her classes for yourself, stop in at either the Global Rhythms in Mission Viejo or Huntington Beach. You find out more here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Take a look at the Amateur Belly Dance Competition

If you didn't make it to last week's Amateur Belly Dance Competition, you can see some of what you missed on the great video that Farah's professional videographer, Tom Jensen, put together. He captured the whole event -- from the opening belly dance lesson to the wonderful lineup of competitors. There were beautiful costumes, lovely dancers, and some great drumming -- check it out, you'll see what I mean!
You can find the link here.

Bringing Belly Dance to Foothill Ranch

Some of you might already know that I'm trying to put together a regular showcase in Foothill Ranch to bring belly dancing to this part of Orange County (specifically my neighborhood because, well, I don't like to drive and spend as little time on freeways as I can). However, this in no way is intended to compete with other showcases that are out there. I thought there might be others, like myself, who simply don't get to the other showcases because they are so far from home. My hope is that this event would complement, not compete, with other events.

That said, the initial feedback I'm getting is really amazing. Many dancers have already responded to say they would be happy to attend, dance and generally support an event in this area. You all know who you are, and you have my deepest gratitude and appreciation! I'm going to meet with the coffeehouse manager again soon to talk about logistics, and I'm thrilled that I can tell her there is so much enthusiasm. I'll let you know more when I know more. In the meantime, please feel free to add your suggestions and comments here, or e-mail me privately at

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Available now: Belly Dance magazine's summer issue

The latest issue of Belly Dance magazine is out, and I'm excited to tell you about the two articles I contributed. The first, "GOTHLA U.S.: The Conjuring" (starting on page 38), features the terrific event that Sashi, Ariellah and Tempest presented in Fullerton in February. It was a weekend packed with workshops, performances, shopping and a gala show -- all in celebration of the dark and sublime side of belly dance.

The event was such a success -- dancers arrived from all over the country and even overseas to participate -- that plans are already in full swing for a February 2009 festival.

More information will be available soon at, and you can also see what's in the works at

I was thrilled to see that the feature was given star treatment in the magazine, with loads of great photos from Richard Lowe Jr. There was a mix up on some of the photos, though. I took the handful of smaller ones credited to Ruslan Batenko, and I hope he isn't upset by the error. The editor was juggling many photos from this event from a number of photographers and I know as a former editor myself, mistakes like that sometimes happen despite vigilant efforts.
The second article I contributed was a short review of Angelika Nemeth's CD, Angelika Unveiled (page 82). I was delighted to share my thoughts on this album, as anyone who knows Angelika knows she is a perfectionist. You better believe she brought the same attention to quality and detail she directs toward her performances to this collaborative effort with producer Raul Ferrando.

I hope you'll get the opportunity to read these articles and the many others that fill this season's issue. If you'd like more information about the magazine, visit

Friday, August 1, 2008

Lights, Cameras, Dance -- the Amateur Competition Results

When the contest between six competitors came down to a tie between two beautiful dancers, the audience made the final call between Emily and Iowana in a last round dance-off to live drumming by Gorkem Somer. Both competitors demonstrated strong talent -- and both self-taught, they told show founder and emcee Farah. But in the end, Emily of Riverside, in her shimmering green, blue and gold ocean-themed costume, earned her place as the winner of the inaugural Amateur Belly Dance Competition at Orchid Persian Cuisine restaurant in Costa Mesa.

It was the culmination of a successful evening that started with a terrific buffet, a performance by Farah and a visit from Ben Aaron of KDOC's "Daybreak OC." Aaron's camera crew followed along as the correspondent wrapped a red and gold hipscarf around his waist and tried to follow as Farah and Perizad showed him a few moves and how to work a crowd. Before he left, Aaron announced that footage from the event would air on "Daybreak OC" on Tuesday; the show runs from 6 to 8 a.m. on KDOC.

Then it was time for the women in the audience to dance. Farah and Perizad packed the dance floor and led the group through hip drops, shimmies, serpent arms and more, ending with an impromptu circle dance.

It was a great prelude to the competition that was to come. Every competitor showed talent, and the costumes were stunning. Best of all, the audience -- filled with friends, family and other dancers -- was kind, welcoming and appreciative of every competitor's skills. And with all the dollar bills flying around, every dancer was "enriched" by the experience, too.

If we're lucky enough to have Farah host this event again in the future, you won't want to miss it. I know I won't...