Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Serena's Legacy

Serena Wilson, a grand dame in the world of Middle Eastern dance, passed away Sunday June 17, 2007. (See my earlier post entitled The Irony of Life). Visit to see clips of Serena dancing during her heyday and to read dedications by many of her adoring students.

Ballo ergo sum
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Irony of Life

It has been many years since I left the world of nightclub entertainment behind, and since then I have not bellydanced for anything other than my own enjoyment. There were several reasons for that, none the least of which was America's disdain for all things Middle Eastern in the wake of 9-11. Also I had grown tired of some of the games people in the business played. Dancing has always been a medium of joyful expression for me and is something I do because I have a passion for it. Dealing with mundane pettiness, ignorance and backstabbing was, to say the least, a buzz kill.

Yet in recent months I have noticed a recurring bellydance theme emerging. In my efforts to rehabilitate after a debilitating condition that severely affected my balance, I began dancing around the house and my music of choice was the Arabic music to which I danced when I was doing the nightclub and private party circuit. I find myself gravitating towards clothing and jewelry that evokes that sensual goddess feeling in me. People have been asking me if I would teach them to bellydance. And I recently reconnected with one of my old dance partners, Layla, after being out of touch with her for years. Apparently my inner gypsi is re-awakening.

My youngest daughter happened to casually ask me last week about my former bellydance teacher, Serena Wilson, ( specifically to ask if she was still alive. I found this rather odd because my daughter has never met Serena and knows of her only by the stories I told. I assured her that the day Serena passed, I and the whole bellydance world would hear of it. How ironic is it then that Layla should send me an email to tell me that Serena had collapsed and died without regaining consciousness.

Serena was an iconic figure in the Middle Eastern dance world and made her living as a performer and an educator in this most sensuous of dance forms. She was recognized as an exciting performer with incredible technique and for producing professional dancers who could be readily identified as "Serena dancers" by their skill in execution and their interpretation of the music, trademarks of her technique. She was a savvy business woman who managed to survive all the ups and downs of show business in New York City. And like every successful business person, she made enemies along the way. Yet in spite of her detractors, she remained a strong presence in the world of bellydance, both here in the United States and in Egypt where she had cultivated many friends and business alliances.

I have no doubt that the news of Serena's passing will be heard by every Middle Eastern dancer across the country and that her funeral procession will be one that Serena herself would have liked to have staged... full of color, glitter, sequins and veils. I plan to be there, wearing bugle beads and sequins and paying my respects to the woman who gave me my start in the business and helped release my inner gypsi.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The relentless passage of time

A week ago a milestone was reached in my household when my 17 year old son attended his senior prom. The months of anticipation, preparation and agitation finally came to head when I drove him to the place where the limousine would make the first of several pickups on the way to the banquet hall. Seeing my son in his tailored suit, surrounded by a bevy of beautiful young women, I acutely realized the passage of time. No longer was he the cute, chubby toddler with the devilish eyes and the dimpled chin. Now he is a handsome young man with a nascent beard on his chin, still sporting those beautiful devilish eyes. You can see pictures of him in my Photobucket album. Just click on the link in the box at the top of the right hand column.

His graduation ceremony at the end of June will officially mark his transition out of the ranks of childhood. That countdown began when he stepped into that limousine and said to me, "I'll call you" as the door closed and the car pulled away. Yes, he did call me that night, several times, in fact. When he came home at dawn, tired and grinning, I knew there was no turning back. In a very short time the transformation will be complete.

As a mother, I've always considered it my responsibility and my privilege to try and prepare my children for this transition. I've done my best to teach my kids what they need to know in order to navigate this sometimes scary world in a safe and sane manner without me there to guide them. But there is something in the process that I was not aware of, something that totally blindsided me and caught me off guard. While I was preparing them for life without me, nobody was preparing me for life without them.

I still have one more to go. She will be graduating high school in another three years. Surely I will have prepared myself for the adjustment by then. I can only hope.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana