Friday, December 2, 2011

Hollywood Babylon Anniversary

Its hard to believe:  This week marks the 10th Anniversary of the show Hollywood Babylon. How is it possible that 10 years have gone by?  It seem more like I was there just last year.

Our show Hollywood Babylon happened in December 2001. I would like to share some stories about that show.  It was a special show in many ways, and it stared some great talent.  Sadly, one of those talents will never been seen again in any show.  I'll explain later.

Here's the all star line up: Anaheed, Rania, Anisa's Orientale Beledi Troupe, Marula, Brandi, Dondi, Jillina and the Sahlala Dancers, Marguerite, Leyla and Saharan Silk, Princess Farhana, The Tut Sisters and Mesmera.

We had a combination of live music by Al Kimie and recorded music.  The show was held at the Burbank Center Stage in Burbank, California.  This is the only time IAMED produced a show at this venue.  I'd love to go back and do another show there, but its difficult getting a date locked in because the theatre holds its own productions.

The attendance at the show was not what I expected.  Burbank Center stage has about 200 seats, we filled about 100.  I believe the problem laid solely with the 9/11 attack which had occurred just a few months prior, and this is after all a dance from the Middle East.

Our photographer we hired was asleep at the wheel and most of the photos he took were not useable. Note to photographers: Be sure to always bring a telephoto lens.  Fortunately, Var Daghdevirian saved the day and took most of the photos that you can now view in on our photo gallery.

The show also served as a fund raiser for a local dancer who suffered a heart attack and needed help with her medical bills.  We had a great silent auction with wonderful items that were donated.  Most people in attendance bid on at least 1 item.  I don't recall the amount we ended up raising but it paid a big chunk of her medical bill.

Leyla, the dancer and director of Saharan Silk died in an accident in Hawaii several years after this show occurred.  She had moved to Hawaii and apparently slipped and fell to her death from a cliff.  During her belly dance career she won the Belly Dancer of the Year contest.  She is sorely missed in our community.  In Hollywood Babylon she danced with her newly formed dance company, Saharan Silk. If you watch the video you get a good taste of what she and her dancing was like.  I wish there was more of her performances out there on video.

And of course, what show is complete unless there is a controversy!  It was all about Dondi's costume.  Dondi, who graces the cover of the Hollywood Babylon DVD, was wearing a couture costume.  She bought it during a recent trip to Turkey.  It's very see-through with those few certain areas covered.  Geez... there was a lot of talk about that costume!  A few people were out right offended about the skimpy costume.  I myself, do not care for vulgar, non authentic costumes, but this costume was an authentic costume.  Its quite normal for Turkish dancers (the ones in Turkey) to wear very skimpy, revealing costumes.  Thankfully most people loved the costume and Dondi's performance in it.

Brandi gave us a rare treat with a Moroccan Guerda dance.  Her entourage included dancers and her own Moroccan band.

Jillina and her dance company The Sahlala Dancers put in some truly special performances.  The girls did a beautiful Armenian piece with candles.  Jillina and her dancers performed a pop Bollywood/belly dance number.  These numbers were later used in the Bellydance Superstars shows. 

Jillina put in 2 of the best belly dance performances in her career on Hollywood Babylon.  A superb drum solo and my personal favorite; a taxseem to Om Kalthoum music.  In the later she wore a gorgeous flesh colored couture Egyptian costume. 

Dondi brought down the house performing her now infamous Marilyn Monroe dance.  She perfected this performance just for this show.  Later it also appeared in the Belly Dance Superstars shows. 

Looks like Miles Copeland got ahold of the Hollywood Babylon video and decided to borrow the numbers and talent from this show.  Its certainly not the first or will it be the last time people copy what I produced. 

Marula and her dancers were all wrapped up as mummies and performed an interesting choreography billed as the Tut Sisters. 

Multitalented Marguerite not only turned in a beautiful American Cabaret performance, but she jumped in with the band as its singer. 

And then to top it off we had our very own movie star as our MC.  Lance Henriksen star of Millennium, Aliens, Aliens versus Predator, etc. introduced the performers.  Some of his fans found out he would be there and came to the show to see him. 

These are just some of the stories surrounding the show. I've shared as much as I can remember right now. With all the complications, controversies, etc it stands as one of my most memorable and favorite shows. 

I have put the Hollywood Babylon DVD on sale this month, because I think everyone should have this outstanding DVD.  Most of you were not at the show, but this is the next best thing and it was captured beautifully on video.  A clip of the show can be seen on site.

See the following links for:
Hollywood Babylon DVD
Photos for Hollywood Babylon
Hollywood Babylon Video Clip on YouTube

Suzy Evans
International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance


Rachell said...

I saw this show in person and it was amazing with so many top level dancers! The DVD is like having a front row seat, every performance is a 10!

Anonymous said...

Excellent performances on all styles and master performances of belly dance, a show for Kings and Queens, Thanks everybody that make Hollywood Babylon, a new leyend of belly dance, a present for the world history