The Journey – Baby Belly Dance Years


I just celebrated my 20th anniversary of walking into my first belly dance class and subsequently I have been reminiscing about my journey in dance and how a few things have really come full circle. One of those is being given an opportunity to perform with and liaison for Doug Adamz during TribalCon next week. For you young-uns out there, Doug Adamz the guitarists/violinist and songwriter who recorded music with the group Light Rain from the mid-seventies until the mid-nineties. Not only was this music adored by belly dancers, it was also used in an original work by Gerald Arpino of the Joffrey Ballet. But I won’t completely regurgitate his website bio – do a little googling on your own for more about the man and his music.

The first time I heard Light Rain’s music was in my classes with renowned belly dancer and restaurant performer extraordinaire, Layla Katrina, in the mid-nineties. You know, back when the internet was in its infancy, when we had to buy costumes and music from an actual live person and when we used cassette tapes to create our set lists. Taking those classes opened up such a world of beautiful things in my life.

Layla taught beginner classes in her condominium to a small group of ladies during the week and on weekends, would lead a more advanced afternoon class at the restaurant where she worked. We danced on gorgeous rugs surrounded by beautiful Moroccan decor. This class was attended by more advanced students, many of whom were working in restaurants at the time. I am sure that back in those days, about 90% of the dancers employed at restaurants were current or former students of Layla’s. It was wonderful to be surrounded by such talent in class.

belt with skirt draped the 70's way

belt with skirt draped the 70’s way

Going to her week night classes was more intimate but still felt just as other worldly. Her home was well appointed with Moroccan imports, lush rugs, tapestries and other Oriental decor as well as numerous pictures of her and her troupe. She displayed her hand-beaded costumes on several book shelves and often had one under construction sitting on an antique arm chair next to small boxes of beads and trimmings. I loved to arrive just a few minutes early so I could gaze at those lovely works of art, trying to imagine what they would look like when Layla danced in them. I would also imagine what they would look like on me – I mean hey, I was just starting out and needed to move past the rayon fringe. There was one costume in particular that caught my eye – the peacock pattern bead work was exquisite and the fringe was dense – I could not stop looking at it! It was style made famous in the seventies AmCab era, beaded bedlahs made by performers themselves, often paired with full draped chiffon skirts.

Layla and I became good friends, she was the reason I started restaurant work after all. Years later she had moved to Savannah and often needed a break from her regular dance gig and I would come down to sub for her. Each time I visited – I looked for that costume in her display and admired it as well as the others she had acquired from local vendors, or those she had hand made herself. After several years in Savannah, she decided to move again – this time to Hawaii. So as a result, she needed to thin her collection a bit – so I pounced on that peacock costume!  When I bought the costume, it was disassembled as Layla was in the process of refitting it. It needed straps for the top and extenders for the belt which thankfully was in two pieces. It sat in my costume display for nearly a decade – my how time flies.

When it was announced that Doug Adamz of Light Rain was slated to perform and teach at TribalCon, I secured a position as his liaison immediately. I also applied to perform, because how could I pass up a chance to dance to music I heard in my first belly dance classes all those years ago?  I chose De Ann’s Dream, named after the dancer that inspired Doug’s interest in Middle Eastern music back in the seventies. Of course in order to fully interpret the music and style appropriate – I had to get that peacock costume ready to go! I commissioned local dancer, Karmelita, to assist with straps and belt extender. In the meantime, I made a matching circle skirt out of green chiffon and a re-purposed from a veil (more on its back story in a later post) plus a matching Turkish vest. The pieces all fell into place!

I hope to place a video on this post of my upcoming performance with Doug Adamz and the TribalCon Orchestra! The show will be this Friday night (February 27th – more info on tribalcon.com) Thanks for reading!