Meeting My Guru
I shall never forget the first time I attended a yoga session with Walt Baptiste. I arrived early at the yoga room after a long day of rehearsals and rested my tired body on a floormat. It was held in a large room with high ceilings, many paintings, esoteric figurines, gongs, lit candles, Buddhas and artifacts, creating a mystical and extremely pleasant atmosphere. There were about twenty people laying on mats waiting for the class to begin.
Walt Baptiste arrived a few minutes late, entered the room quietly, and sat down on a raised platform. I did not hear him walk in and therefore remained stretched out on the mat with my eyes closed.
Freedom And Self-Acceptance
Growing up I basically worshiped my mother. Please don’t take me wrong, I love my mother very much now, and have discerned that love by giving her the freedom to be who she is, with virtues and faults just like any other human.
Sadly, I grew up hating my father. I was as blind in my relationship to him as I was to hers. I saw my father as an ogre, a monster, and a disciplinarian. I avoided him as much as I could.
When we danced in Tokyo, Japan, I thought of my father constantly. I was so impressed by Japanese culture, by their wish for excellence and striving toward perfection; by their punctuality, cleanliness and their sense of harmony and esthetic. I felt I was in paradise. I had to think of the fact that my father … Read More »
May I speak with Farida?” There was a sense of urgency in the woman’s voice. “She is not here, may I take a message?”
After a few seconds hesitation, the woman said, “I am afraid her husband just died of a heart attack.”
While I went to deliver the most unpleasant news of my life, I thought of a thousand ways to tell her.
Farida Fahmy had been the principal dancer at the National Folkloric Troupe of Egypt and was an authority on the subject of Egyptian folklore. She was a good-looking woman with the typical proud posture of a dancer and that certain distinction people have who are born into good families.
That morning in early June, 1993, I found her preparing a cane dance in front of the mirror. She was scheduled to teach a workshop at our Berlin … Read More »
Chapter 20 Egypt
I had first heard about the Egyptian dancers and their sensational orchestras from Shareen El Safy, one of my early teachers of oriental dance (see Chapter 7).
Beata told me so much about her adventures with Cairo’s belly dance tailors, frustrations when dealing with Arabs, and the non-stop chaos of the city. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened on my first visit in 1991.
While in a taxi, we were stuck in a forty-five minute traffic jam on the way to Mme. Abla’s. I was having visions of apocalyptic proportion – air pollution, street filth and utter chaos. Suddenly a pick-up truck rode up on the sidewalk next to our taxi. In its open bed were piles of cow’s legs, wobbling livers and hordes of hovering flies. To add to the surreal scene, our driver casually lit … Read More »
Love And Marriage
I never saw Bobby again, and honestly never quite understood why he resented us for having found each other. He was scheduled to teach a workshop in Frankfurt a couple of weeks later. Beata flew there from Berlin to participate, and Bobby had one of his tyrant moments, walked towards her and said, “pull up your posture,” as he grabbed her pony-tale and stretched it up almost lifting her off the ground. Beata said she had a headache for three days.
That very month, in the following edition of Arabesque magazine, of which he was the editor, Bobby indicated that people in the dance scene were wondering which one of us was going to “take top billing.”
Honestly, the thought never…
The suspense was overwhelming at the Rakkasah Belly Dance Festival. Everyone was awaiting the performance of an internationally famous dancer. All sales and networking that usually continue during on-stage performances came to a complete halt at the Richmond Auditorium, in Richmond, California.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, from Berlin, Germany, Beata Zadou.” She took the stage seemingly blessed with something no one can teach, buy, or explain. One has to be born with it – charisma.
By then she was already nicknamed, “the darling of Rakkasah.” Dressed in endless shimmering pearls and violet chiffon, Beata’s dancing was like a spray of diamonds on fine velvet. It took me back to my early memories of Maria Teresa de Jesus in Cartagena, when I saw that archetypal image on stage for the first time. I was as enchanted then as I was … Read More »
It was great having you in New York for the teacher’s weeklong. You are a fast learner and possess all the right
ingredients of a master. I am very proud of you and share your passion for the dance. Always
remember, no matter how modern the dance may become, you must never lose the oriental essence.
You may not realize it now, but it is you who will be bringing oriental dance to the new millennium.
I am happy to see that someone like you, with your strong background, will give credibility to this dance
Don’t be discouraged and don’t let frustration bring you down.
Yours in dance,
I returned to San Francisco after teaching a very frustrating workshop in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin, in the fall of 1987. Of ninety-six women in attendance, only three could follow the choreography I had planned. … Read More »
It would probably be a disappointment to readers if I did not mention the Pharaoh. After all, my interpretation of his persona was pivotal to my oriental dance career and his image is portrayed on the cover of this book.
By this time, I had yet to find my identity as an oriental dancer. Actually, I did not even begin to find it until I visited Cairo and experienced oriental dance in its own element, and with its grand orchestras. I believe it was hearing the music, exploring it deeply, and then producing my own musical accompaniment that really catapulted my personal growth as an oriental dance artist.
During this period of my life I was still exploring the new territory of belly dance and determining what I had hoped to do with it…
Healing The Scar
I thought I would never dance ballet again, but I couldn’t stay away longer than nine months. The return to daily training showed what a jealous lover ballet can be. My leg extensions had lowered, the strength in my feet was gone and my pirouettes were totally off center. I had to climb up the ladder once more.
After the dramatic exit from San Francisco Ballet, if I was going to dance in that city again, I was going to be in the best shape I’d ever been.
I was back to tiny meals and hundreds of sit-ups – and I found a new training ground. The performing space was a bohemian location a block south of Market St. called Dancer’s Stage – a ballet academy frequented by SFB dancers when they needed to get away from their regular … Read More »
I had turned a page and was ready to face a new chapter in my life. I actually refused three or four offers to join ballet companies. The last thing I needed was another Robert Galdstein, and believe me, every ballet company has one. I ventured into teaching ballet at a school in San Jose and continued with my belly dance festivals. While my life as a ballet dancer had temporarily lost its fire, my life as a belly dancer ignited, inviting opportunities nation wide.
Soon I was performing every weekend at Pasha’s, a luxurious club on Broadway in San Francisco. More than just learning how to dance to live music, it was also exploring the complexity of the Arabic culture. I faced prejudice in that I was a male belly dancer in what was normally an all-female world. … Read More »