Belly Dance to the Music of Americanistan!
Americanistan Events of 2004
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Some of our 2004 events:
 
June 2004--what a month! This month saw band members performing from Ashland to Canyonville to Seattle.

Starting off this amazing month, The Gilded Serpent published an article by Dunyah titled "Making a BellyDance CD." It chronicles the process of creating our Mosaic CD. Read all about it at http://www.gildedserpent.com/articles27/dunyahmakeCD.htm
 
Americanistan got a nice review in the 6/4/04 Register-Guard, on page 16 of The Ticket  Weekly Entertainment Guide: "As we walked into Iralia's [sic] Mediterranean Rustica Restaurant, the group Americanistan--dressed in full splendor: satin ribbons, gilt-bound hemlines--was playing and oscillating to pulsating rhythms. As with the music, dinner carried me away to new peaks.... I swooned with happiness. The music that lured us into a magical world of flavors, aromas and tastes at Iralia's [sic] will not only lure me back for a second time, but for many occasions after that." --Nonie Fish. [note: The correct spelling of the restaurant's name is Iraila. This was the only flaw in an otherwise glowing review of one of our very favorite restaurants.]
 
The first weekend of June the band performed at the Old Peak Jam on top of a mountain outside Philomath, Oregon. A beautiful, remote setting, sunny weather, friendly people, great stage and sound system, and lots of really talented bands made this festival a standout. A very wonderful moment happened when special guest vocalist Amelia, daughter of Dunyah & Wayne, made a debut performance with the band, singing five songs, two of them in Hebrew, and making her father cry! Click here to see photos.
 
Sunday morning, though, found the band performing in drizzly weather under a canopy at the World Rhythm Festival in Eugene. Later that day Dunyah and Wayne Omar taught a workshop on Rhythms of the Middle East. A fabulous festival, marred only by the drizzly weather, which probably kept some folks away. The people who did attend flocked to the many workshops throughout the day, plus some really nice performances.
 
Our show, which included singing by Elena Villa and an Egyptian-style belly dance with a drum solo by Razia, was voted one of the best performances at the festival! Click here for pix from the Eugene World Rhythm Festial. 

Mid-month found the band in Canyonville for the Belly Dancer USA Competition and Show. We had the pleasure of playing for Sabura, Jamara, Asya, Mezdulene, Ayesha, Deena, Angela Palmer and Shania. What a show! Many of the dancers were past winners of the competition, or special guests of great skill and talent.
 
The fabulous Sabura wrote to us after the show,  "I LOVED dancing with you all, and hope to do it again, soon."
The band even received a standing ovation from the audience! 

Summer Solstice weekend was high energy--Dunyah and Wayne marched and played music in the Fremont Solstice Fair parade (Seattle) with Delilah and her Visionary Dancers. Click here  to see pix from the parade.
 
The whole band played for a Community Solstice Event in Eugene at Cozmic Pizza on June 21. Our music that night reflected the sacred Solstice moment: a time of abundance and gratitude; a time when the life force is rising high and the belly of the Goddess is swollen and heavy with life. It was a dreamy, magical night with a small but very appreciative crowd.

We enjoyed a packed house on June 25 for our  All Tribal show at Café Paradiso with Tribalation!, the Gypsy Sisters, and the Caravan Dancers. This show was so much fun! Rehearsing and working with with Tribalation! to create new music was a wonderful experience. Sabine, director of the troupe, had such a great time that she wrote about it for the Mediterranean Dance List, an international online dance forum. Click here to read her story.
 
Randy Smith, lead drummer for the Gypsy Sisters, sat in with the band to give our percussion extra "oomph" for the big tribal sound. He is fabulous to work with. Each troupe had a distinct style: Tribalation! is heavily inspired by FatChanceBellyDance; The Gypsy Sisters have an eclectic tribal style, and The Caravan Dancers performed "old school" ethnic dances, the pre-FCBD style of "West Coast Tribal." We look forward to future tribal collaborations with all three groups.  See the Tribal Gallery page to view pix from the show.

The next day Dunyah and Wayne Omar traveled to Ashland to perform for a private party. We hope to return soon with the whole band for a show in that lovely community. Afterward, Monique Monet, one of the dancers, wrote, "Thank you for the beautiful and excellent accompaniment to my dance Saturday. During the slow dance segment Omar's vocals helped create a mystical, sacred dance atmosphere.  I look forward to hearing you play again. "

The final piece in this incredible month was a performance June 28 by our Middle Eastern Rhythms Ensemble class at open mic night at Planet Goloka. The class created three pieces, each featuring different rhythms, and utilizing chant, tambourines, shakers, frame drums, dumbeks and Wayne Omar's bagpipes and sipsi (Egyptian folk horn). The class has been a lot of fun, and will resume in September at the Hands On Drum School.

Severina
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Photo by Bruce Beaton

Fri. May 28. Last Friday Evening of Dance at Cafe Paradiso, featuring Mezdulene. This show was so much fun. Mezdulene was joined by several of her students, and Deena and one of her students also performed. John, our flute player, unexpectedly returned and will be able to play with us for the next several months after all (we thought we were losing him for an extended period). So the band was in full force, sounding like a dream come true. And the dancers were really "on" this night. It was a great night.
 
Sat May 22  CD Release Party & Show with the Gypsy Sisters, Bend, OR. Click here for pix. This event was a lot of fun for the band, and was our second gig with our newest member, Frederique Al Bayyati, a fabulous musician and friend. He has already composed three new pieces for the band! We performed one of them at this show. It is titled "Return of theGeese," and is based on Sudanese traditional music. In the Sudan surface water is scarce, and if the people become too dehydrated, they die. In the fall, when the geese return from their migrations, the people follow the geese to find fresh water. This has saved the people's lives. It is a beautiful piece on the oud and accompanied by tar drums.
 
The Gypsy Sisters put on a superbly organized event at the Bend Community Center. The workshop on "Rhythms and Zills" was led by Dunyah with live musical backup by Wayne Omar and Frederique. There was one 8-yr old drum student who also attended, and he did quite well--a fabulous drummer in the making!
 
Randy, drummer for the Gypsy Sisters, did a wonderful job of set design and lighting for the show, and also sat in with the band. 
 
Gypsy Fire and Sister Fire opened the show with a magnificent Tribal bellydance routine to three pieces from our Mosaic CD. I can't tell you what a thrill it was to see them close their set with "Delilah," a piece that I composed. They are an awesome troupe--their set was extremely well executed.
 
Several American "cabaret" style soloists next graced the stage, including Traci and Sahirnee. Sahirnee recently placed first in the Grand Dancer category at the Gorgeous Bellies Competition in the Dalles, Oregon. She wowed us with her sword dancing. Traci's dance was also beautifully done. Leia, a second-generation dancer, was extremely poised as she beautifully performed a basket dance. I loved her facial expressions: slyly flirtatious eyes and a serene smile.
 
The Gypsy Sisters, an eclectic troupe with ATS roots, entertained us for the second half of the show. This troupe puts on a beautiful show, drawing from many sources to create their dance magic. Their wide variety of styles allowed them to continue the theme of the first half, which was to demonstrate both tribal or ethnic styles AND more glittery, "cabaret" styles of dance. Gardenia represented the cabaret style and danced a beautiful interpretive veil routine. The troupe finished the show with a lively Gypsy style routine to 9/8 rhythm and Fred's Turkish-style clarinet. It inspired him to write a new piece the next day, which we performed at the Willamette Valley Folk Festival!
 
For the band, one of the most unforgettable moments came at the end of the grand finale, when all of the dancers were onstage. They produced fresh flowers seemingly out of nowhere and threw them to the band as we were playing. It was such a loving tribute, so unexpected and so heartfelt. I was truly moved by it. The band wants to write this into all future contracts: the band must be pelted with flowers at the end of the performance. But I guess it just wouldn't feel the same if it was mandated in that way! What a lovely gesture it was, though.
 
Fri. April 30. CD Release Celebration with Saqra, Elena Villa, Razia, Mezdulene, Etana, and Zamara! Cafe Paradiso. It was a very special evening because of the presence of so many wonderful friends, fans, and of course, our incredible dancers. We were especially pleased to have Saqra and Etana travel from Seattle to be with us. Etana is so gorgeous and has a unique "Gypsy" style of dance. Saqra wowed us with her grace, her humor, and her skill at balancing. Mezdulene (our Queen!) came up from Sutherlin and blessed us with her dance. Zamara knocked everyone's socks off with her stage presence and her beauty. Razia rocked (or should I say "raq-ed") as usual, with her beautiful facial expressions, crisp isolations and endless shimmies. Elena Villa was stunning in a bright red dress and shawl, playing castanets and doing "taconeo" (Flamenco footwork) for her Spanish-style piece. Each dancer performed to music from the Mosaic CD that was written especially for her. We were very pleased to have Fred Wilson join the band on oud, clarinet, and flute. (Those are only a few of the instruments he plays!) We are thrilled that Fred is now a permanent member of Americanistan. John, our flute player, is taking an extended leave of absence, but we hope he will return some time. All in all, it was a great evening. I am hoping to post photos and maybe even video clips soon!
 
Thurs. April 15. Americanistan, featuring Elena Villa, opened for the Bellydance Superstars at the WOW Hall in Eugene, OR.
Playing at the WOW Hall is like coming home for us (we recorded our first CD there), so we felt very comfortable. Opening for the first professional national tour of American style belly dance was a real kick. Meeting Miles Copeland and Jillina was interesting. Miles is very much the entrepreneur, and Jillina was very warm, but professional. I appreciated the effort they both made to be personable toward the "locals."
 
Our set went well and was a complete contrast to their show, as we had live, acoustic music vs. their recorded, techno/pop/fusion style music. We played two original pieces from our Mosaic CD, "Delilah" and "Rania's Seven." We had a male dancer, Alfredo, performing Uzbek dance with his usual crisp style and amazing energy, and they had all female dancers. We had Elena Villa, who sang a Sephardic (Spanish Jewish) song from the 15th century. They had no live vocals. Then Elena danced to traditional arabic music, with her wonderful mind/body/spirit connection and focus, and using elements of Spanish dance, which was unlike anything else in their show. So we felt satisfied that we had suitably kicked butt!
 
On the other hand, the BDSS show had lots of group numbers, with dancers of very high caliber, an absolutely fabulous live drummer, Issam, and the big dance stars, i.e. Jillina, Ansuya, Sonia, Rachel Brice, and Dondi. It was all very well done. I loved Dondi's humorous "Marilyn Monroe" dance, she nailed it perfectly and had the audience in an uproar of laughter.
 
One of the highlights of the evening for us was being invited onstage during the finale of the show. Dondi introduced the band, and we joined the BDSS ensemble onstage, Wayne playing the zurna, and John, Janet and I joining Issam and Rachel Brice on percussion.
 
All in all, it was a fabulous experience. Everyone in the BDSS ensemble was friendly, polite, professional, and their show kicked a**. Hope they come back next year and we can do it all over again! See www.bellydancesuperstars.com for more about their tours.
 
Fri. March 26, 8:30pm. An Evening of Middle Eastern Dance at Cafe Paradiso, with Featured Dancer Asya. Special Guests Manon, from Seattle, and Tiffany, from Portland, PLUS  Elena Villa, Zahra, Dalia, Inanna, Carina, & Mara! What an incredible show! Asya was sensuous, powerful, and evocative, just as billed. Connecting with Manon's beautiful dancing was such a gift. Having Tiffany here was great, too. All the dancers were really "on" and though we were cramped, the musicians enjoyed the show tremendously. The audience was fantastic--they were there an hour before the show and they stayed for the whole three hours! (The show ran a bit longer than I had anticipated! But it was all SO GOOD that it went by fast.) I especially enjoy the intimacy of the venue and the fabulous sound guy at Cafe Paradiso. Can't wait to go back and do it again!
 
Sat. March 20, 7:00pm. Persian New Year at Iraila Mediterranean Rustica, live music by Americanistan with special guest dancer Kendra. There was a great turnout, the restaurant was busy for three solid hours! We had a great time, and Kendra was beautiful. See www.iraila.com for more about this delightful restaurant.
 
Sun March 21, 1:30pm. "Eight Thousand Drums to Heal the Earth." Planet Goloka, 679 Lincoln St., Eugene. About twenty drummers, dancers, and singers of all ages joined us for this event. We raised the roof at Planet Goloka! It was uplifting to be with these folks who have hope, who want to create positive energy, and who love to drum and dance. It was a powerful ceremony. "According to a Prophecy Revealed at the Otomi Ceremonial Center by the Otomi Elder Sages to the Indigenous Peoples and all Humankind and a Vision of our Venerable Ancestors:
The day when the Sounds of Eight Thousand Sacred Drums join together will be the beginning of a true Healing of Mother Earth, of All the Species and of the Human Family -which is now in total disequilibrium - in order to be able to live together on the road to Sacred Peace, in harmonious union with the Universe, Mother Nature, the Community, the Family and our own Hearts. It is time to re-unify ourselves and rediscover for ourselves all the Seeds of the Four Directions in order to reactivate cosmic energy, heal historical wounds and heal our Mother Earth by respecting life and the liberty and dignity of our Peoples." See http://universidadindigena.org for more information about this world-wide event.
 
Sun. March 7, 2004 Benefit for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, sponsored by the West Cascade Peace Corps Association. This event was a big success! The Peace Corps alumni did a great job of organizing. The WOW Hall was transformed--I've never seen it looking so good. The huge hand-painted map of the world covered one whole side of the building. A giant peace quilt hung from the opposite wall. Tables with colorful cloths and artifacts from Afghanistan accomodated the diners. A tent draped with Afghani rugs, textiles, pillows and tea things was a cozy niche. And the food was fantastic! When Peace Corps alumni cook a curry dinner--they do it right. The band played for 2 1/2 hours and managed to include music for the national dance of Afghanistan, which is done to a 7/4 rhythm. The event was a fund raiser to benefit Kids 4 Afghan Kids, a project started by children in Michigan, which supports a school and clinic in a remote area of Afghanistan that receives little support from foreign aid. Learn more at: http://www.kids4afghankids.com/
 
Sun. Feb. 22, 2004. Planet Goloka, Eugene. We followed a lecture by John Winslow of Om Chi Herbs, who is one of only two people in the world who are harvesting the blue lotus and researching its properties. The blue lotus was sacred--the basis for the ancient Egyptian cosmology and was used by the priests to communicate with the afterlife, which they saw as a Paradise. Mummies were interred with vats of blue lotus to help them on the journey to the next world. Interestingly, the Mayans of Central America used a white lotus for similar purposes, and they also built pyramids. A fascinating connection. I am posting a link to his website on our links page.
 
The lecture included quite a bit of imagery from Ancient Egypt, and the transition from the esoteric, mystical, spiritual topic to the dance performances was bridged by the musicians beginning with a chant of blessing by Wayne "Omar," then a piece I wrote called "Desert Waltz" which is very trancey and beautiful. This was followed by Elena Villa, who is the most amazing dancer! She has this incredible focus and mind/body/spirit connection that is just extraordinary. Without really knowing the atmosphere she would be stepping into, she had created the perfect music with the band to continue the sense of sacred mystery through her opening piece and veil dance, and then rocked out with some tribal sounding drums for her ending. It was stunning, but she is always like that. I must get video clips of her and put them up so all of you outside the Northwest could see this unknown, great dancer. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oregon and is as passionate about her academic work as she is about her dance, so she doesn't "promote" herself to the dance world. We are so lucky to be able to work with her.

I am feeling so grateful this morning for the richness that falling in love with this dance and music 28 years ago has brought into my life. And I am so blessed that my soul mate and life partner shares this passion too. We may not have as many material possessions as some other folks, but I prefer the richness of the connections through music and dance that have shaped our lives. It is truly extraordinary. How many interesting and wonderful people we have met and the places we have been. I feel blessed.

Sat. Feb. 21, 2004. CD Release Show at Moonbaker StarBar, Salem. Sponsored by Cira and the Sisters of the Desert Moon. It was a delightful show, nice place, and Cira did a great job organizing. One thing she did that I hadn't seen done before was to explain proper tipping procedures! At the beginning of the show she had one of the dancers come up to the stage while Cira explained the cultural context of tipping the dancers and that it is done in "family" situations. She showed how to put the bill in the belt or strap in the proper way and where NOT to put it, which she did with some humor. It really made a difference in how the tipping was viewed, and the dancers were happy because they got to go out for tips and the audience enjoyed it too. It was a great way to handle the tipping issue.

 
The band sounded good (unbiased opinion--<grin>) and we had a great time. We had performed earlier that day at the Asian Celebration in Eugene with the fabulous Tribalation! We got offstage at 5 pm and headed up the freeway to play again at 7 pm. Setting up the sound equipment at the StarBar, in an unfamiliar setting and layout, and with very little time, was the most stressful part of the day for the band. But once we got going it was a blast.
 
We had worked with Alfredo on an Uzbek piece for the Asian Celebration. Janet, our kanoon player, (we call her Janet Kanooni) transcribed a traditional piece from an obscure cassette tape from Uzbekistan! It's a very peppy dance, very cute and crowd-pleasing and the music is happy and fun.
 
Razia was stunning in her new black gown with blue jewels and cut-outs that was custom made for her by Pharaonics of Egypt in Cairo! Suhayla also rocked, she always does an incredible show. Cira didn't dance, but was a great organizer and MC. She taught a line dance to get the crowd up dancing. And they did. They were a great audience. We ended the show by processing out through the restaurant with the audience dancers following the band clear out into the street. We mixed it up for a bit with zaghareets, dancing, and drumming, then we came back in and took our final bows.
 
Salem, and probably just about any place, can always use more dancing in the street, right?! Photos from this show are posted on our Gallery III Page.
 
Sat. Feb. 14, 2004. Mystical Oasis Bellydance Festival and Evening show. It was great to be with Mezdulene and her students and friends. We had a warm welcome and felt a part of the Sutherlin/Roseburg community. The show went smoothly and was especially great for the band because we have met most of the dancers and played for them in the past. Last year we did a workshop in Sutherlin on "Dancing to Live Music" and we became really bonded with the dancers. The feeling of connectedness between dancers and musicians always enhances a performance. Congratulations to Mezdulene's students and protegees who did so well at the Emerald Rain belly dance competition in the Seattle area, winning first place in:
Intermediate:  Luminara, Roseburg, OR
Troupe/Duet:  Mystical Oasis Dance Co., Sutherlin, OR
Alternative:    Aloria, Sutherlin, OR
Professional:  Jamara, Oakland, OR

The performance by Haruspicy Dance Craft was a real treat--this dynamic duet from Sacramento, CA, puts on quite a show! They fused Indian Dance movements of several styles with belly dance and American Tribal dance in one of the most successful fusion performances I have ever seen. Very tight, great choreography, great dancing, and a well-researched and well-designed fusion of dance styles. Super!
 
Wed. Feb. 4, 15th Anniversary of the CBDPG at the Old World Deli, Corvallis, Oregon. With the sad news of the sudden death of Joseph Pusey, founding member of the Brothers of the Baladi and longtime resident of Corvallis, sending ripples of grief and shock throughout the community, we were a little unsure of how this evening would be. It had been booked several months earlier to celebrate the remarkable achievement of the Guild--15 years of continuous weekly performances at the Deli. Because of front-page publicity that the event had received in the local newspaper, the Deli was filled to capacity, standing room only. It was decided to begin the evening with the announcement of the loss of a very respected and well-loved member of our "tribe," and to remember him with a moment of silence. Later, a musical piece titled "Remembering Joseph" was performed by Beatrice Rose on the harp, and she also dedicated her dance to him. The evening was a poignant mixture of the sadness of death and the celebration of life which is the natural expression of the dance and music. It was a very memorable experience. It is good to remember the ephemeral nature of our life on this planet, and to cherish the things that really matter most--for me, that means my loved ones, my friends, and our art, expressed through our music and dance. I was grateful to be a part of the Corvallis community and to have known Joseph and to have been inspired by his music. I wish I had known him better.
 

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