A Great Dance Experience in London

I have a great book called "The Serpent of the Nile" by Wendy Buonaventura. Her text reflects my thoughts, feelings, and theories exactly. Plus it's jam-packed with beautiful reproductions of paintings, drawings, sculptures and lithographs of Arabic dance. When I arrived in London, I bought a copy of "Time Out", a local calendar of events for London-towne. In the dance section I saw a listing for a Middle Eastern dance class taught by.... Miss Wendy! Unfortunately I'd just missed it but there was an information number there, so I called it. Guess what? It was her home number! I introduced my self and explained why I was a fan. She was quite approachable and we schmoozed a bit. She referred me to a fellow dancer in the London area, Josephine Wise, who I then called and found a kindred spirit. What a lovely talk we had! A genuine Harem club member. She in turn referred me to another dancer whom Wendy had also mentioned: Catherine, who was coordinating a massive dance-a-thon to benefit a local children's hospital the following Sunday at Covent Garden. The format reminded me of Rakkassah: one 5 minute dance after another. She asked if I'd like to be a special guest dancer and I gladly accepted. It was in it's fourth year and has consistently raised tons for the hospital. When the big day arrived I met many other dancers - one over 70 years old, bless her heart! The folkloric style of costuming was most prevalent, even the more cabaret styled costumes featured layers of full skirts. So what costume had I brought? My red beaded bedleh with a 1 yard skirt (but double layered: beaded black netting over red tissue lame). When I exited the dressing area and showed it to Catherine, she raised her eyebrows and said "oooo, skimpy!" She was intrigued that my belt was higher on the sides and low in the front and back. (Hey! They would benefit from my Costume Manuals!) Anyway, the big moment: The mistress of ceremonies was a popular teacher in the area who kindly saved me for the grand finale and made a very complimentary intro. I had brought a 9 minute tape, almost twice what was allowed, but they graciously allowed me to use it. "You're good" they explained, although they'd never seen me! But I was in my way-babed costume, and had passed out my super official color photograph business cards. Image is everything! My music was a piece that always kills for American audiences, and it worked equally well with these Brits who were wonderfully enthusiastic. Afterwards, I was approached by a woman from Libya and a gentleman from the Gulf States who each wanted to know if I was from Lebanon - now that's a compliment!

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