It’s finally here! The long awaited footage of the shows from StarFest 2017 hosted by the wonderful Aalim Bellydance Academy of Oklahoma City. I was to learn from the amazing Karim Nagi, who is a wonderful teacher, an awe-inspiring musician, and really really funny. I greatly enjoyed the experience and I learned a lot from his music and rhythms classes. I’ve recently ordered his Finger Cymbals DVD to go along with my new Turkish Delight Professional zills from Saroyan Mastercrafts by way of Dahlal Internationale. I can’t wait for it to arrive.
I had a wonderful time. I was able to spend a whole week with Evryn and her husband leading up to the event. I spent a fabulous weekend of dancing, and I picked up my second costume, the red Fifi Abdo dress featured in Saidi Sass. I can’t wait to see what happens this year.
So, after months and months of anticipation, I present my piece from the Friday night show of the Star Fest 2017 festivities. It’s baladi, of course, my one true love. The music is Tahtil Shibbak by Fatme Serhan. The costume is a Queen Hanan galabeya from Neenee’s Imports.
A particular trait that Evryn and I share, aside from loving this beautiful artform, is the fact that we both have horrendous vision. We have roughly the same quality of vision, although her prescription is slightly stronger than mine. We employ the wonderful technology of high index lenses so as not to walk around with Coke-bottle thick glass on our faces. She has worn contacts in the past, although not in recent years. I’ve never been able to wear contacts myself. Without corrective lenses, we live inside an Impressionist painting with a few extra blur filters added on.
A major component of Raqs Sharqi (belly dance), and any dance, for the stage is presentation. The glitz and the glamour. The costuming, the makeup, the accessories. One thing I noticed very quickly as I saw more and more performances, was that no one ever really danced in glasses. When I became involved with the wider community and the workshop circuit, those I saw at the shows who typically wore glasses removed them for their performance. Whether they wore contacts or stayed half blind, I can’t say.
But, seriously, I am all of the blind. I can see shapes and color, but more than a few feet away and I lose pretty much any degree of detail. I like to connect with the audience, see their reactions, interact with them a bit. When I don’t wear glasses, people generally look like demons from some horror movie, with blurry beige faces and fuzzy black voids where their eyes and mouths should be. So, if I can’t see, connecting can be…difficult.
I have also always been photosensitive. Going outside on a bright day gives me an instant headache, so I pay the price hike for Transitions lenses. Bright stage lighting can be an issue, even when I can see, but I can so see myself running into things and falling off stages if I try to dance blind. Thus, I never have.
At this point, I think it has become part of my overall style. I always like to emphasize how anyone can take part in this dance, regardless of size, gender, disability, look, impairment, situation. Belly dance on the whole is a very inclusive dance form, at least at the community level. I’m sure different regions expect a certain look on the professional level, but I’m not a pro, and I wager most dancers aren’t. I have no intention of being a professional. I’ve never danced for money. I’ve never intended to do so. I adore this dance, and I love performing. I just don’t get many opportunities to do so.
So, I dance in glasses. I think more dancers should. Embrace your imperfections. I’ve never been criticized for my bespectacled presentation. I doubt most people notice much. I have seen some online say that it ruins the aesthetic, but perhaps that’s just because we never see dancers, in really any dance form, wear them.
Join me, my myopic sisters and brothers! Let us begin the spectacle of spectacles and bring glasses to the stage! Bring on the sparkly frames and the smokey eye makeup! You can be glamorous and blind as a bat at the same time. Trust me.
Improvisation from the Vanessa of Cairo show in Tulsa, Ok, June, 2017.