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I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia.

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The first novel of my trilogy, The Talismans, is available as e-books from Smashwords, Amazon and other online sellers. I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $AU25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. Book two of the trilogy, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available again shortly. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

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The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. I hope to see my books back on Amazon under a new publisher in the near future.

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The Dagger of Dresnia
Want a copy? Contact me at satimafn(at)gmail.com

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The Cloak of Challiver
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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Belly Dance memories



My Facebook friend Kevin has another set of questions, this time about belly dancing! Answering them has been an interesting exercise, as it’s been many years since I was a performer.

1.       What was it like when you performed for the first time?
In a word, scary! As a ballet and modern dance performer, I was used to dancing on a stage, not in a restaurant setting. Being able to look into the eyes of individuals in the audience and to hear the murmur of voices under the music was weird! What really got me was having to compete with food and drink. Usually, you can’t, and any club or restaurant performer has to get used to that. There is the odd occasion when some people will become engaged by the performance and actually stop eating, but that’s unusual.

2.       What have been some of your most favourite moments throughout your career as a dancer?
The odd time when people paid more attention to the performance than the food! And those rare occasions when some kind of magic happens and you know the audience is with you, fully engaged in the music and the movement. Those times make a dancer remember why she dances.

3.       What have been some of your least favourite moments?
Oh, dear – there have been lots of those! Again, they happen to everyone now and then and create embarrassment even when I think about them fifty years down the track! Getting my veil tangled up with an earring was mortifying. I struggled to remove the earring while continuing to dance, eventually discarding both veil and earring.  Another worrying thing was hostile musicians who deliberately played too fast or too slow, or kept playing long after I’d given them the signal to finish. I don’t know what it’s like now, but in the sixties musos were often resentful of dancers, who got paid a relatively high fee for a short act. What the musicians didn’t consider was the hours dancers have to spend making and repairing costumes, or the time and money they spent on hairdressing and make-up.

4.       Where would you like to be (as far as your career goes) in 5-10 years (or more) from now?
As I am now in my seventies, I may not even be around, and if I am and can still dance, I hope I shall still be attending classes and workshops.

5.       What was it that attracted you to the culture and/or world of belly dance the most?
When I was about fourteen, I saw the film Zarak, in which Anita Ekberg performed a sensual dance for her lover. I watched for opportunities to learn more about that kind of dancing – I guess I was about nineteen when I started to learn, though. The glamorous costumes, of course, held a lot of appeal!

6.       Would you have chosen to become a belly dancer had you known then what you know now?
Probably. It’s a job that has a limited lifespan, since there are always younger dancers waiting to step up and take your place. As long as you accept that, and are happy to change careers when you get older, there's lots of fun, good money, and many happy memories to be created along the way.

7.       Who would you say has the biggest source of inspiration for you throughout your career?
I am continually inspired by other dancers. My current teacher, Ayesha, is typical in her generous sharing of information and technical skill. Belyssa Radzivanas and Keti Sharif, who have done so much for belly dance in Australia, Egypt and many other countries, are also people I thoroughly admire. So is the wonderful Farida Fahmy, a dancer-actress of my own generation who became a dance ethnologist as well as a fine teacher.

It’s interesting to see how belly dance has changed over the years since I started out. My routines as performer were always based on one or two choruses of slow music – ‘Miserlou’ was a favourite – culminating in a floorwork section that was quite acrobatic, involving the splits and backbends. (After one gig, I wound up at an outpatients department with a splinter in my bottom!) Then the music would change to a fast number – my favourite was ‘Ya Mustafa’. This would get the audience clapping in time and usually led into a nice round of applause. The whole act would take less than five minutes, although sometimes a dancer would do two spots in the same floorshow. Today's routines don't follow that pattern, and as a result modern routines might have more artistic integrity as they set a mood and stick to it. There is also more respect for ethnicity, compared to the cabaret style I learnt and performed.

Ah, memories!

(Picture courtesy http://dance.lovetoknow.com/Belly_Dance_Clip_Art)

4 comments:

Jo said...

Didn't realise you had actually danced professionally. You have had a very varied life Satima.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I didn't know you did belly dance! I took lessons for a couple of years and really enjoyed it. I had a fabulous teacher, who had been one of the first belly dancers in Melbourne. She was a Greek lady from Egypt who had left when Nasser kicked out the "furriners". She was very, very good, a plump little lady in a track suit and sneakers who was still graceful, and told me that her doctor had said she was riddled with arthritis and should have been in a wheelchair if not for the dancing! She sneered at anyone who danced barefoot and advised me to wear heels if I didn't want to trip over my veil, short as I am.

When she left for the other side of Melbourne, I just couldn't find anyone as good. My policy was that if I wasn't exhausted at the end of class, it wasn't being done correctly. None of those I tried exhausted me. Their style was different from hers. I'd definitely go back if I found someone I was happy with.

Satima Flavell said...

I sure have, Jo! I was a professional dancer for about four years, first with a small company (we once got to dance before the Queen!) and later as a showgirl, burlesque artist and belly dancer. In my twenties I took up dance teaching seriously, and did that for years, interspersed with other lines of work. Writing and editing came later, when I was in my fifties.

Satima Flavell said...

Sue, there must be a good belly dance teacher somewhere in Melbourne! I'll make enquiries and let you know if I find any useful info.

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