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

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