Perhaps a year later I got a phone call from Shira (Jane Padgett from the Hajji Baba's days in the '70s) asking if I would be interested in joining a dance troupe that was forming. The idea for the troupe was to join together LA's most popular working dancers. After Arabesque Dance Co I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to get myself into that kind of commitment again, but I had just been laid off from USAir so I had some free time. When I heard Laura Crawford was starting the troupe I perked up a bit. She was working the hot nightclub at the time Al Andalus, & they were interested in a weekly troupe show with live music. I showed up for the rehearsal & was greeted by a friendly Laura, a young dancer named Miriam, Shira, Veena (one half of Bellytwins fame) & a Turkish girl named Zeyno. Laura was excited about doing a retro show with coin costumes & finger cymbals which in all truth was not something I was even remotely interested in. I wanted the hot Egyptian show with beads & crystals, & the Amcab look was something I had years before left behind with a good riddance. To make matters worse, Laura handed me a fluffy lace skirt to go home & add sequins to. I was rather huffy about this & as I glued one sequin on at a time for hours on end, I cursed myself for being talked into what felt like another troupe debacle. Hallah Mustapha who now has a successful costume business in Cairo made the costumes & she said we looked like flowers when we did what was to be our opening dance with several measures of fast spinning. Laura added "of the Desert" for a bit of a Mid East flare & voila The "Flowers of the Desert" were born. The whole thing sounded a bit too American to me & again I was having flashbacks of Arabesque hokeyness.
|Advert for Al Andalus nightclub|
|Early Flowers in our retro coin costumes. Veena, Laura, Miriam, Kamala, Neena|
Truth was, nearing 40, I was the old lady in the group. I was pretty fortunate that Laura even accepted me into the company, but it didn't change the fact that I didn't do as many paid gigs as the younger girls were doing. A hard pill to swallow, but I had to accept it. My prime time had come & gone. I was really happy to be at an Arab club again, with the hospitality (& great food) that came along with it. Laura & I would drag our young daughters with us to practice. They would hold court in a booth as the owner, musicians & waiters would come by to talk to them & offer Shirley Temples & the likes. My 4 year old daughter was loving every minute of it, & unbeknownst to me was soaking the dancing in, mentally & probably unconsciously taking notes.
Early promo video including Rose Parade Al Andalus, Fountain Theater & Arab American TV
Not much later a few more ladies were added. Najwa was a dancer I had worked at Ali Baba's with. Veena brought her sister Neena & they added some Indian Punjabi & Filmy to the mix. Farhana was brought in to do some balancing & was soon integrated into the troupe full time. Of course Farhana eventually became Princess Farhana & the rest is history.
|Clockwise from bottom right: Laura kali, Princess Farhana, Neena, Veena, Laura, Najwa, Kamala|
We were immediately tapped to produce a show at a snooty theater reserved for more esoteric dance forms. The owner of the Fountain Theater in Hollywood came to Al Andalus & was impressed enough to let us create a theater production. "Dances of the Orient" was a success - filling two nights with enthusiastic audiences. It was really unusual at the time to have a full length Bellydance production & we were even favorably reviewed in the LA Times. The owner thought we were too commercial & was very sour throughout, but we WERE commercial - we were working clubs & parties.
|Clockwise from bottom right: Zeyno, Veena, Najwa, Laura, Laura Kali, Kamala, Farhana. Center Miriam|
The Flowers became the toast of the town. I felt very fortunate at my age & at that point in my dance career to be a part of the current "In Crowd"in the LA Bellydance scene. Looking back I really wasn't that old, was I? But to put away my steel toed work boots & take off my suburban mom kit to be a part of a popular working dance troupe was a bonus I really hadn't anticipated. And things were about to get even better...