I hope my family and friends have a wonderful holiday season and a safe and happy New Year’s Celebration. I will be performing at Taverna Plaka again this year with fellow dancer Inara. DJ Amix will be playing some great Arabic, Persian, Greek and European dance mix throughout the night! I am really looking forward to it.
For the past 16 years I have been in love with belly dance, Danse orientale, Raqs Sharqi – so many names for a single activity that has given me great joy. NYE is one of my favorite holidays – I like the feeling of starting something new, trying to change bad habits, trying to live life a little better, learning a new hobby or skill – all of these things are inspired by a new year. So what better way to celebrate than by performing the art I love.
I have had many wonderful New Year’s gigs – in my first year as a professional belly dancer, I worked in a restaurant in Atlanta near Little Five Points called the Casbah. I shared the evening with one of my mentors, Zhaleh Fereshteh – I had such a wonderful time with her that weekend. She stayed at my place – we performed at Casbah – where I debuted my double sword routine and shemedan. I was fairly ambitious with the props in those days. On New year’s Day, Zhaleh and I went shopping to Gail K. Fabrics and Texas Saree Sapne – the funny thing is I still wear the outfit I bought at the Saree shop but that fabric I got at Gail’s never became the project I intended – oh well!
A few years later I had left the Casbah in Atlanta and was without a real “home” for performing. I did work at various restaurants in the area but I really wanted to be some place special for New Year’s Eve. My first instructor, Layla Katrina, had moved to Savannah, Georgia where another Casbah Moroccan Restaurant had opened. She wanted to leave town during the holidays and offered me the gig in her absence. I was ecstatic – it is a very beautiful venue, plenty of space for props and since it is a bit touristy, the patrons were always up for the experience. So my boyfriend at the time convinced me to shoot a performance video during the trip. Mark had been to film school in L.A. and really helped me complete the project – which was grueling but very rewarding.
Over a four day period including NYE, we filmed my live performances at night as well as staged performances in the restaurant during the day. We had rented lights and hired another videographer for the shoot. I was so stressed out on the first day, a GIANT cold sore appeared on my upper lip. It was so bad that first day, Mark nearly canceled the entire shoot – of course he didn’t tell me this at the time – but the next day after treating it with modern medicine, the sore was barely noticeable.
At one point during an evening shoot, Mark thought it would be a great idea to have me perform one of my choreographies in front of an old movie theatre that was a block away from The Casbah. It had a magnificent entrance – full of lights beneath the marquis. So after one of my sets, the three of us headed out into the cold with a camera and a boom box. We had to wait until just the right time since Mark had to film from across the street. The other videographer picked up a side shot we could use if a car drove in front of Mark. I think we managed to get it done in two takes. If memory serves I got really sick the next day and managed to get a ‘day off’ from the staged restaurant filming but that night we were back at it for the live performance.
I was really happy with the video though we never quite finished the DVD. It was right at the time when DVDs had begun to monopolize the video market – I create VHS copies but we had so many grand ideas for the DVD motion menu and special features that never got realized. One day I do plan to re-visit this project.
Those are the first two in my list of wonderful NYE gigs stay tuned for more!