Friday, 13 July 2012
Just a heads up...
Just in case the picture doesn't show up, as I suspect it might not, the text reads:
"One Night Only! Saturday, July 21st, Special Event, House of Tarab performs live with special dance performances by Amalia, Rishi & Delilah..."
This will be at the Prohibition Grill at 1414 Hewitt Ave, Everett, WA 98201-3503. Phone: (425) 258-6100.
Want to meet up there if you're local to Everett, WA? It'll be fun! You should call for reservations if you do though. It will probably be a packed house. Depending on whether or not the band arrives on time, the dancing will start around 8 PM. Floor open between sets for Rishi's students, troupe members, and other belly dancers. I'm going to brave dancing... I think; how about you?
Here's the direct link if you want to see the pictures and all that. Amalia, one of the girls in the dance troupe, in on the left. Rishi, our teacher, is in the center. Delilah, the one standing in the back right, is the first belly dancer I ever saw perform in person. That was at the Grecia Corner in Seattle back when I was 18 and still dating Reza, the deceptive Iranian. It wasn't strictly legal for me to have been there seeing as I wasn't 21 yet and there was alcohol being served; not that we drank any. But back up some, I should describe this better...
It was literally my first date with Reza. He'd invited me on the Edmonds Community College campus that spring afternoon, a Friday in 1981 when he'd come across me studying and sipping herb tea on a grassy hill. I was wearing a white spaghetti string dress on this first really warm day of the season and I'd ignored him when he first walked slowly past me before settling down with his own friends a little distance away.
He and I had partaken in many a playful political discourse during the Fall Quarter preceding this. His Spanish tutor was also my English student so we'd seen each other a lot. You'd think I'd have known him as soon as I saw him again, but I didn't. There were a lot of other Iranian men on the campus by then, an unusual racial type with dark to olive skin, aquiline noses, long eye lashes, high cheekbones and mostly straight wavy hair. Reza was darker and taller than most, something like 6' 5", but I really couldn't have picked him out all on his own. All I saw was the type, not used to it enough yet to pick out other details. Also, I couldn't recall his name to save my soul and even thinking it might be him, I was embarrassed enough by that little factoid to keep my mouth shut and my eyes averted.
I suddenly felt that little prickling on the back of my neck you get when someone is looking at or talking about you so glanced slowly around to see who it was with forced casualness, careful not to focus on anyone.
It was him of course, along with a short, round faced, Asian guy I later learned was named Toshi, the first Tibetan exchange student to the U.S., a really funny guy who later got a mail order bride from Tibet with whom he opened a highly successful teriyaki franchise. Anyway, Toshi was teasing Reza, pushing at his shoulder and nodding in my direction.
I turned back to my book, pretending not to have noticed. I knew, of course, that Toshi was urging Reza to ask me out, it may as well have been announced to me in 10' tall red block lettering, I was so certain of it, but I wasn't really interested in Reza that way so I was kind of hoping Toshi couldn't get to him. It might be awkward. I'd just broken up with Mark, a jerk of mammoth proportions who'd stalked after me for months afterward with as much persistence as the Plague once stalked Europe, and not at all sure I was ready to face another relationship or even the possibility of one. I just wanted to hide in the safety of my own little world, you know?
When Reza finally came up, tapped me on the shoulder, and asked me if I remembered him, I was only half faking it when I blinked up at him and answered, "I don't think so...."
He wasted no time bringing me up to speed, reminding me of our many heated discussions, many a Spanish and English lesson, and the time we'd argued so late in the cafeteria that I'd missed the last bus and he'd driven me home. He'd worn the same black leather jacket he was wearing now, despite the warmth of the day. I remembered him wearing black leather driving gloves with it as he'd driven me home in his red Volkswagon Rabbit and looking just a little bit sexy in an odd alien kind of way. Anyway, I had to surrender. Couldn't deny knowing him when he'd brought all of that up. Even so, I was all prepared to say "No" when he asked me out. Unfortunately, he unwittingly stumbled on my weakness - that, or he'd found out somehow. Had I told him?
"Will you come out dancing with me next Friday night?"
Er... what? "Dancing?" I asked, disbelieving, heart missing a beat.
I loved to dance; dreamed of it... and was still as furious with Mark as with myself for having missed going to Prom. After promising to take me he'd brought me to McDonald's and then his apartment instead, all dressed up in my Prom finery like a complete idiot to think he'd actually meant it. I was so abysmally naive!
"Where?" I asked Reza. It's not easy for kids past high school and younger than 21 to find places to dance around here, much less any reason to dress up.
"Grecia Corner. It's really nice nightclub. They do traditional Greek food, dancing, and music there."
"Oh." My heart settled like a sinking sun into the pit of my stomach. "I can't go into a nightclub. I'm not 21 yet. Besides, I don't know how to dance Greek style. Sorry." At this point I couldn't decide whether I was relieved to say so or just plain disappointed.
"It's okay," he said. "They're Greek and they think that I'm Greek. They'll let you in if you're with me. Also, we have a week. I can teach you how to dance Greek style in that time. It's easy. You'll love it!"
I was certain of it. Damn! How could I resist?
His apartment, across the street from the campus and shared with another Iranian student who worked as a chef at Grecia Corner, was where we went after school every day the following week to practice Greek dancing. He taught me a kind of figure 8 shimmy with elevation changes, abdominal and arm movements, a form of belly dancing, as well as an energetic kind of squat and kick dance I associated with the movie, Zorba the Greek. I got the gist of both styles right off the bat and pretty sure I did a good job of it.
As to the wisdom of agreeing to meet for this in Reza's apartment, anyone must consider me daft for it after my experience with Mark, but Reza was as different from Mark as night is from day. Reza had a virginal, almost baby-like, innocence about him and never tried anything inappropriate with me. So I trusted him - more than I should have perhaps, but the danger from him did not come from the same quarter as it had come from Mark, nowhere near it, and my guard was down for the count. I was beginning to genuinely like him as much for being from an exotic faraway place and being so innocent-seeming sweet as for teaching and taking me dancing. Yeah, my likes and dislikes were not overly complicated in those days.
I was so excited about my first grown-up night out dancing that my mom caught the contagion of it and offered an old yellow evening dress of her own to wear, even offering to remake it for me as needed. I thought the full length of it made it too old fashion, so asked her to swoop the hem up to the knees in the front and leave the back long and flowing. She did it, and it and the effect was really nice. She also helped me with my makeup (something I never got used to wearing) and styled my hair into long, wavy, curls like she wore her own and leant me a white pair of high heeled strappies.
When Reza came to pick me up at home that evening, he wasn't driving the Volkswagon Rabbit I'd remembered, instead riding as a passenger in Toshi's old white Subaru hatchback. (Why on earth do I remember details like that???) When I asked why after getting into the back while he got in front with Toshi, he blushed a deep red and sank as deeply into his seat as a tall man possibly could and Toshi began chuckling uproariously. I could see Reza didn't want to answer that because it embarrassed him somehow so didn't persist when he didn't answer.
In fact, it took months to find out that the Rabbit had been totalled and Reza laid up in the hospital for a month because during that winter he'd went speeding through a 4-way stop and gotten t-boned by a startled driver who hadn't a prayer of avoiding him on the black ice.
Reza couldn't understand why the other driver had hit him or why he'd been blamed for the accident since he'd been honking full blast as he went through the red light. That's what you do in Iran. You don't stop at red lights; you honk going through them to let people know you're coming. He'd had to lie to his own mother about having been in a car accident when she called him at home saying she'd had a bad dream about him being in a car accident. He was still in a body cast at the time. Telling her about the accident would have ensured her forbidding him to drive again as she had when he'd previous gotten into a motorcycle accident. Toshi and I had just looked at each other, rolled our eyes in unison, and burst out laughing until the tears came. Reza was not allowed to drive in the U.S. for the remainder of his time here in any case for some odd reason. Imagine that! Anyway....
W parked on a steep hill near the interstate in a part of Seattle that looked very much asleep. I was so suddenly wary of a mistake of Mark-caliber trick that I actually balked at getting out of the car, but Toshi and Reza managed to persuade me out and escorted me up to the door of what looked like a cafe that was closed for the night. Yet there was a man in there behind the dimly bar counter who raised his hand slightly when Reza knocked lightly on the locked glass front door.
The man opened the door for us and led us through the dark to black velvet curtain at the end of a hallway in the back. Beyond that, it was pure magic: a lively fancy nightclub with candle lit tables in tiers around a sunken dance floor and a Greek band playing authentic Greek dancing. The manager came forward to welcome us, stunningly greeting Reza with a big hug and a kiss on each cheek, bidding me a welcome almost as an aside in deference to Reza and leading us to a table near the dance floor.
When we got up to dance, I soon saw why Reza was so especially welcome there: he was real a crowd pleaser when it came to belly dancing and that whole Zorba the Greek thing. He was amazing! People cleared a circle around him... around us, because he'd taught me well. We were a dancing team. People clapped and cheered and poured money on our heads by the handfuls when each dance finished. It was a compliment to us but payment to the band you understand; a very Greek tradition.
Between the Greek dances, when the band took a break, regular 80s music was played and we got some fast and slow dancing in too. Then at 11 PM, the dance floor was cleared and Delilah came in. I'd never seen a belly dancer before and she was absolutely breath taking! Pure grace and almost superhuman agility; mesmerizing. She engaged the whole audience, whirling and undulating amongst us all, arms speaking eloquently, and shimming in a musical chiming of silver coins as tips were tucked into the straps of her glittering diaphanous sky blue costume. She danced with veils too. This is her:
At length, she suddenly stopped in the middle of the dance floor and raised a kerchief in one hand. A man went out and grasped the end of the kerchief and they performed a little dance together, taking turns ducking under the little kerchief. A moment later, a woman stepped out and touched the man's upraised outer hand and joined in the dance. One by one, nearly every person in the room and risen to join in the dance, an undulating spiral the twirled and wove among every table in the place.
It was the most fun I'd ever had and even now there are very few times that even come close to competing with it. I'm still such a sucker for dancing it's not even funny. Luckily I've lost most of my naivety though or there'd be no end to the trouble such a weakness could get me into.
I just think it's ironic that the man who'd taught me to dance and took me to my first nightclub had within the year soon forbidden me dance and music and even denied, at times, that he'd ever even danced himself. He said it was "nonIslamic" so how could he have?
Yeah whatever. I got my dance groove back again, no thanks to him, and Delilah has ever remained an inspiration to me. An look at her! She's close to 60 now and still as beautiful as she was then and still dancing. Unlike a ballerina or a model, she'd have long since been washed up by now but belly dancers, it seem, never really grow old or washed up. N'est pas?
Oh lookie! I found a music video starring some of Rishi's girls and a Seattle band called Das Dhoom: