Saturday, August 9, 2014

Reflections on the times 1990s - early 2000s

I'm winding down my memories. The Flowers of the Desert did their 10th anniversary show in 2005. The cast was completely different, and it was The Flowers in name only. It was hard to teach the old routines to new dancers. There was something about the original troupe that felt organic & true. The new dancers were young and beautiful, many had been my students, but it was hard to recreate the charisma of the original troupe. "Cirque des Fleurs" was our swan song. None of the original members would return for the anniversary show.

After the dust had cleared and the Flowers were disbanded (dancer Dolphina likened it to the Bellydance equivalent of the Beatles breakup) I realized the sea change in the business was cataclysmic & irreversible. It was something I bucked against, but I was too old & from a different era to be listened to.  With the advent of the troupe era, theater productions and charity shows I was an unwilling accomplice to the end of making a good living as a performing soloist. The mentality was different - the new dancers were willing to dance for free at any chance possible. I gave in to the unpaid shows, I broke my own cardinal rule of always being paid, because I wanted to do the fun shows & I was at the end of my performing career. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. This paved the way for the "pay to play" era that exists to this day. Coupled with the dearth of clubs & the glut of Bellydancers, there wasn't enough opportunity for all the dancers in Los Angeles who wanted to make this their career. So maybe I shouldn't feel guilty, maybe the new dancers saw the writing on the wall.

Truth was that I was totally focused on being a mom of a preteen who was very active in gymnastics, dance & an all around hard working student & great kid. I was teaching, & even still dancing at Burger Continental & a few other random places. But being a mom trumped it all, & my own wants & needs were transferred to being a mother who put her kid first, knowing it was a fleeting & magical moment that I could never again recapture.

2003 From left clockwise Jindra, Emily, Laura Kali, Kamala, Katia, Irani, Princess Farhana, Erica

The new version of the Flowers did have one hell of a crazy job at a giant Mexican nightclub called "El Parral". Four of us would dance several nights a week, providing a diversion while the norteƱo groups singing their tales of drug kingpins with their oompa bands took a break. We were well compensated for showing up, dressing in a cockroach infested dressing room with a terrible stench & doing a 10 minute schtick with group numbers. The place was jam packed with men in cowboy hats & women squeezed into tiny dresses & teetering on stiletto heels. We looked positively virginal compared to these ladies. So no one watched our show. No one. They would sit with their backs to us, chatting each other up & guzzling beer. One show we went down on our knees during a hair swinging Bandari number & my heel got caught in a cutout in my pink lycra bellbottoms (don't judge). I couldn't get up off the floor. So as my fellow dancers were up & continuing with the choreography, I was still on my knees struggling to figure out why I couldn't get up. The dancers tried to help me up & still I struggled until my foot was finally set free. We must have looked like a bunch of clowns, yet there was zero reaction from the crowd. Another time I had a wardrobe malfunction. I bent forward in the choreography & when I came up the back strap of my bra popped open & I completely flashed the audience with my bra around my neck. Again, not a blink from the crowd. We could have done anything out there. At the end of the evening we would go to the office & collect a good chunk of change & get the hell out. It always felt like some sort of front for a drug ring. Definitely one of my more unusual gigs.

I finally gave up my position as Assistant Director of the Flowers. Laura Crawford was busy with her law career & eventually the Flowers faded into oblivion for the last time.

Student production 2006. The Orchids Al Sahara perform with Joey Dowdy World Groove

I was having fun choreographing shows for my students & coaching them in competitions. I found that most of them went out there won, giving me a ton of satisfaction & pride. As long as I was a full time mom I was in heaven. Nothing else really mattered. But as all good things, the full time job of Mom was soon to be changing as well. I hate change. I don't do well at all with change. And I was about to enter one of the most challenging changes in my life.