Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Northeast Belly Dance Competition Gala to see a lovely array of performances and a decent selection of vendors. The entire event lasted approximately two hours including a brief intermission. The Grand Ballroom of the Best Western Lehigh Valley was the perfect space for the size of the event: the stage was set up on the far side of the room with ample seating and the vendors were set up at the rear. The event itself was on the smaller side, perhaps since it is the first time it was held, but that suited me just fine. Both the performances and vendors were almost exclusively Cabaret oriented, however I did actually manage to find a nice Kuchi metal belt at the table belonging to Salome's Tent that fit me well (it will serve as my "back up belt" in case I'm unable to finish the belt I'm working on making for the Faire).
It seemed to me as if the event organizers arranged the order of the performances to have the less-experienced dancers perform first, followed by the more seasoned performers after the intermission. I was pleased to find that virtually all of the dancers had a healthy sense of humor and were even willing to have a laugh at their own expense (it's good not to take yourself too seriously all the time).
Amartia danced first in a bedlah spangled with dozens of compact-sized round mirrors, sending spots of reflected light whirling around the room as she moved. At one point in her performance during a long section of shimmying, she withdrew a stick of lipstick from her costume and proceeded to apply it by looking in one of the large mirrors on her arm band. Afterwords she tossed the lipstick into the audience and continued dancing.
Tasha was not only very talented but also quite comical. The event program featured an advertisement for her classes, touting that she had been dancing professionally for more than thirty years which I found surprising since the photo was of a very youthful, dark-haired dancer. When she emerged from behind the stage curtain, she was still just as elegant but had long silver locks. She did an interesting technique with her zills which was akin to a roll on the drum that I want to figure out for myself (I think it involved slightly shaking or rapidly moving the thumb to achieve a quick, staccato sound). As she was dancing, she caught sight of an older man in the front row and sauntered toward him, planting a big kiss on his bare head and leaving her vivid red lipstick behind. My boyfriend and I thought it might be her husband and that it had been arranged beforehand, but a little later, she spotted another bald gentleman and approached him with same intent. When he hesitated she declared, "It will make your hair grow" and he allowed her to kiss him on the top of his head. During a veil segment, she found another male victim, only this time she wrapped the veil around his neck and while doing so questioned his wife if it was tight enough. She twisted it up and around his head to form a makeshift turban and headed back to the stage. The man with the new turban apparently loved the attention and stood up and started dancing too. When she caught sight of him wiggling around she quickly ran back, brought him foreword and danced with him on the stage.
Two dancers from Hipnosis were the only Tribal style representatives in the gala and as always I look foreword to their pieces. Unfortunately, there was a serious technical difficulty and for some reason the CD they brought with their music would not play on that particular sound system. There were evidently no drummers in the audience to accompany them, but determined to perform and with the help of some guests who had purchased some CDs from a vendor that very evening, they did a great dance to a song neither of them had probably heard before. The song wasn't even Middle Eastern in origin with familiar rhythms to rely on — it was an upbeat techno/R&B tune with several false endings. This my friends is the glory of improvisation.
My favorite dancers were actually the ones I wasn't familiar with before the show including Kalaa, Azhia, Tasha, Lotus Niraja, etc. although it was great seeing Neon of WDNY perform just a few yards away. I cannot wait for next year's competition as I would like to see the actual competition pieces too. I hope it will be held at the same venue.
Northeast Belly Dance Competition: Gala Show
Date & Time: Saturday August 29, 2009, starting at 8:00pm
Location: Best Western Lehigh Valley Hotel & Conference Center
300 Gateway Dr
Bethlehem, PA 18017
Price: $15.00 (I'm checking to see if tickets can still be purchased at the door. They don't seem to be sold out, but I'm unable to select the tickets to still purchase them online at this point.)
For more information, visit their website: Northeast Belly Dance Competition