Return of the Dead

I titled this blog in honor of Halloween approaching and due the fact that it’s been ages since I’ve written anything.  It isn’t that noteworthy events haven’t taken place, it’s just that I’ve been rather distracted. I vow to write more often.  I vow to do a lot of things, actually.

A short summary to bring us up to speed:

I went to Turkey on the fifth of September.  I’d left so abruptly last April, I felt I simply must go back and put things in order.  Besides, I had some nice costumes there.  I stayed about 10 days in Istanbul and of course, it wasn’t quite enough time.  I saw many of my friends, but not all of them.  I got a chance to see my Turkish little sister, and to hear Raquy, my lovely friend, next door neighbor (and a kind-of-a big-deal musician–I think she’s in Lebanon participating in a TV show at the moment), perform in Taksim, and the musicians all invited me up to dance as they played for me, so that was fun.  All in all, the trip was more sentimental than functional.

I returned to DC and spent three weeks here, partly performing, partly interpreting, but mostly wasting time–I wasn’t even practicing yoga everyday(!), and before I knew it, it was the Thursday before our Hong Kong trip.  That day, I served as the Spanish interpreter for a a 16 year old inmate at the Youth Detention Center from seven am to seven pm, and the very next day, I flew to the Far East with my mother and sister to attend my brother’s wedding.

Party of the decade.

{A Chunky Onion Production}

Hong Kong was wonderful.  I stayed about 10 days.  It would have been even better had I not been so broke from the recent Istanbul trip (and the underemployment.)  The wedding was amazing, and was so nice to be together with my family.  Unfortunately, since we’ve left, a few members of said family have become quite miffed with me.  :'(

It’s been four days since I got back from Hong Kong, and there’s been a harrowing turn of events including, but not limited to, having to change my return flight to the US, losing my phone forever in a taxi, my Istanbul apartment being burglarized, and other unfortunate occurrences, some of which, in eery retrospect, seem almost to have been foreshadowed during the weeks leading up to this storm of misfortune by things I’d heard, seen, or offhandedly said.  Despite this nightmarish string of setbacks, or perhaps because of them, I have finally found a bit of motivation to get my affairs in order.

Operation work hard and focus is underway.

Al Rakesa. . . The Belly Dancer

So I’m in this Egyptian television program. . .

 

Detours eventually return to the original path

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times.  Life in Turkey is a roller coaster of events, emotions, and experiences.  In February, I’d decided to trade in this roller coaster of dance and life highs and lows for training and travel in the US.  I bought my ticket, planning to fly in the third week of April.

It was shortly after this decision that I was contacted to participate in a belly dance competition/reality television show in Cairo, Egypt, called Al Raqessa.  As my involvement in the show was slated to finish toward the end of March, resulting in a happy detour in my varied and unpredictable life, it would not conflict with my plans of departure from Turkey in April.

However, a week before my scheduled trip to Egypt came a phone call from a captain I’d worked with a few times.  I was wanted to perform on a Bosphorus boat tour. . .  nightly. . .  for a year.  Although I was on my way to Cairo for a couple weeks, then to the US for an extended period, I agreed to do it, knowing that Burası Türkiye–This is Turkey–and things could change at any moment.  I explained to them that I’d be away filming a television show for 10-20 days, found them a suitable replacement, and performed several times during the week leading up to my departure.  I was pleased with the venue, and I enjoyed performing there, so much in fact, that I began to reconsider leaving Turkey.  Perhaps I’d stay until the end of the year, then find someone to take my place . . .  Perhaps I’d stay until next spring.  Perhaps. . .  I felt quite content, appreciated, and well-compensated performing on the yacht, and when I left for Cairo, I was told to hurry back.

My time in Cairo was amazing and bizarre, frustrating and exciting.  It deserves a blog entry of its own.  I laughed, I cried, I learned, I may have thrown a temper tantrum. . .  I met wonderful new friends and was reunited with old ones.  I learned that all Egyptian food tastes better with tahini.  I was in Cairo for 18 days.

Obligatory jumping in the desert in front of a pyramid photo

Obligatory jumping in the desert in front of a pyramid photo

I returned to Istanbul and immediately resumed performing on the yacht.  Soon after, there was a misunderstanding with one of the less likeable members of the management team.  I still don’t understand exactly what transpired . . .  They were dissatisfied with one of my subs?  I was gone closer to 20 days than 10?  It’s still unclear, but what I know for sure is that I will not be working with them now or ever again.

So, luckily, I hadn’t yet altered my flight arrangements from Turkey.  I’m taking this as a sign from the Universe to continue the path I was on before Cairo–a combination of training–Rocket yoga, belly dance master classes, aerial dance lessons, aerial yoga teacher training, performing, FAMILY and FRIENDS, and of course a bit of exploring within the US.  Purple mountain majesties and all that.

New Chapter!

Much has happened, but I’ll keep it succinct.

On December 23, I flew to the States from Istanbul for five week holiday.  I enjoyed so much spending time with my family and friends, performing, attending classes, giving a workshop, and indulging in store-bought vegan baked goods.  I began to wonder if five weeks in the US would be enough.

During the time I was in DC, I signed up for an unlimited introductory week of Bikram yoga.  As you can imagine a carpeted room heated up to 105 degrees Fareinheit and used for intense physical activity would, it stank to high heaven in there.  Still, I began to hate it less and less with every class, it was a chance to bond with my sister, who I’d dragged along, and it really does do wonders for your flexibility.  The Karunamayi and Iyengar yoga classes I attended (with my mom!) were great, too.  I also took classes with the amazing Egyptian folkloric and oriental dance instructor, Faten Salama.  The studio gouges you a bit for drop-ins, but it’s better to pay up than to not study with Faten at all.  I also drove all the way out into the depths of Baltimore to take my very first aerial silks class.  Think Cirque du Soleil.  You climb up (gracefully) between two pieces of fabric suspended from the ceiling, secure yourself in the silks, and make beautiful shapes with your body while hanging several feet above ground.  I was convinced after my first experience with aerial dance that I would like to be an aerialist.  In fact, I had known I would love it even before my first class.

I got a chance to travel a bit, too.  I spent MLK weekend in Cleveland.  I saw all the key mid-western players–my best friends and their babies, my dad and step mother, some very old and dear friends–it worked out that I had a performance scheduled in Cleveland, so practically everyone I knew in the city came to see me dance.  After Cleveland, I headed to Oakland.  I have about 30 cousins out there, and I got to spend time with a bunch of them.  My hip young cousin took me to Sunny Spot Cafe, a legal marijuana dispensary.  (For medicinal purposes only, of course.)  Another one of my cousins x-rayed my wrist.  He’s an orthopedic surgeon, and compulsive handstand attempts had caused me to sprain it about 3 and a half months earlier.  It had nearly healed by the time I’d reached California, but I was relieved to get the final word that I hadn’t caused any permanent damage.

My return from California to DC left me in a panic.  I had only four more days to spend before returning to Istanbul, and there was so much more to do.  A yoga friend came to visit me from Rhode Island, so of course we went to Carson Clay Calhoun’s Rocket yoga classes.  Lots of jumping, balancing on our hands and sore muscles.

While I love Turkey and enjoy many things about my life here, it was during this trip that I began to have thoughts about returning to the States sooner than later. After a little over a week of deliberating, I have decided to move back to the US, at least for awhile.  I’ve got a whole plan worked out, and I’m very excited.

My Colorful Neighborhood

Every morning, a man comes down my street selling veggies and fruit.  He yells, “Portakal bir lira!  Portakal bir lira!” (“Oranges one lira!  Oranges one lira!”  A kilo of oranges for one lira.  That’s about 25 cents a pound.  What a bargain!)  The man alternates.  Sometimes it’s a man selling tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and potatoes.  He yells, “Domates!”  One yells, “YEŞİLİİİİİİİİİİİİİK!”  (“Green veggies!”)  I like the one who sells lentils and chickpeas.  Another man sells breakfast rolls.  He yells “PoğaÇAAA!”  His cry sounds so desperate, I hope every day that someone on my street is buying a dozen rolls at least.  He must be selling them though, because he comes every single morning, and sometimes again in the afternoon.  Then the ladies yell out of their windows to ask how much and run their baskets down along the side of the apartment buildings on a rope to buy a kilo of this, five kilos of that.

Meanwhile, the first call to prayer is at about five or six am.  There are a couple of mosques nearby, so it sounds like they’re singing in a round.  In addition, you have the children calling to their grandmothers from the street, and the ladies chatting with their neighbors from window to window or street to window.  All of your chores, your entire social life and religious devotions could take place without you ever leaving the house.

Ala Turka! Modern Turkish Oryantal and Flexibility Workshop

I will be in the States from late December to late January.  Can’t wait!  During this time I will be giving the following workshop in the DC/Maryland area.  (See below.)  If anyone else would like to sponsor me to teach a similar workshop in your area, please contact me.  Cheers!

Lara Adrienne (Oryantal Lara) has been dancing in Turkey since 2011 in a variety of cities and venues. She has performed at five star hotels in Bodrum, on national Turkish and Israeli television programs, and in upscale nightclubs in Istanbul and Adana. She has performed in concerts with psychedelic Turkish band Baba Zula in Istanbul as well as in Lefkoşa, Cyprus, with clarinet virtuoso Hüsnü Şenlendirici in Washington, DC, with pop singer Atilla Taş in Van, and with the late great Müslüm Gürses in Istanbul and Bodrum. Additionally, during the past three years living in Turkey, Lara has been called on to perform in Alanya, Dalaman, and in Montenegro and Greece. Lara currently is a resident dancer at Al-Araby in Istanbul. Lara also has a life-long and ever-growing love for stretching, flexibility and body conditioning, fueled by her training in several dance forms and gymnastics, and a dedicated yoga practice.

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Modern Turkish style is full of flash–fast turns, crisp hip work, clean upper and lower body isolations, kicks, rolls, and spins, short but showy taxims and floorwork, powerful shimmies, and daring backbends–all done in heels. Modern Turkish oryantal has been highly influenced by two famous dancers–the ground-breaking Asena and the poised and precise Didem Kınalı.

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This two-part workshop with Lara Adrienne will cover the above aspects of modern Turkish dance, beginning with part one–a flexibility and muscle awareness segment to prepare and condition the body to safely and skillfully execute these flashy moves, followed by part two–drills and combinations “ala Turka”.

Turkish people are also known for enjoying a chat and a “çay,” so please feel free to ask Lara any questions about her experience as a foreign dancer in Turkey and Europe over tea after the workshop at a nearby cafe in Takoma Park.

**When**
Workshop: January 11th, 3:30pm – 5:30pm
Tea Q&A (optional): after for an hour or so

**Where**
Roda Movements
7014 Westmoreland Ave.
Takoma Park, MD 20912
www.rodamovements.com/

Tea Q&A (optional): location at a near-by cafe TBA

**Cost**
$30 in advance, $40 at the door
Send payment via Paypal: indrazaira@gmail.com
*Note “Ala Turka Workshop with Lara Adrienne” in comments

Or e-mail indrazaira@gmail.com for other arrangements or questions.

Turkish people aren’t racist, but

. . . they do make some bizarre comments.
Here’s my short list:
I’ve often been asked if my skin color is a tan. If I had a dollar for every time an esthetician asked me if I’d gone to the solarium, I’d have enough to get a lunch special at a vegan cafe.
Last week, when she saw my legs, my new esthetician asked if I’d recently been to the beach. My sister told me she would have said, “No, I’ve been to DNA.”
A lot of Turkish people are into brown skin. Sometimes strangers in a public bathroom or on the street will smile at me and tell me they think my skin color is beautiful. I like that very much.
Then there are the people who have weird brown-skinned fantasies. A dance manager told me once that she wanted to marry a black man so she could have brown children with curly hair, like me. This same dance manager repeatedly tried to book me for samba and hip-hop gigs. “You’d be perfect!” And when I was reluctant to accept–“but we need someone like you!” Really? You “need” an amateur samba dancer whose experience is limited to the 5 or so times she’s gone out drinking and dancing at Brazilian night?
Once, while filming a music video for Israel’s version of The Bachelor with 29 other dancers, 27 of whom I was meeting for the first time, a girl approached me and asked me earnestly if I could introduce her to a black man. With a good job. Who was looking for a wife. Why? She wanted mixed kids. Again, this was the first time the two of us had ever spoken. “Well,” I replied, “I live in Turkey, so most of my friends here are, you know, Turkish. I see lots of African immigrants working as street vendors, though. Maybe you could approach one of them.” She rejected this idea. She wanted someone who could take care of her. “I can’t carry anyone. He’s got to be able to carry me.” Where are your priorities? How badly do you want mixed kids?
There are many other examples, but this recent one stands out: “You can ask any of my friends,” he said. “Hayalim [my dream] is to marry a black woman. In fact, he compared me to a woman he’d “been in love with” for “a few weeks.” I happened to know the person he was talking about. She’s Morrocan. A beautiful, tall, chiseled-cheeked chocolate drop. We don’t even look like we could be cousins, but according to him, the two of us “look just alike.”
Then, of course, I have met one Turkish person who is a bit racist. An acquaintance of mine, upon my return from Bodrum three summers ago, noticed my tan and offered the following observation and advice. “Wow, you got really dark in Bodrum. Too dark. You should go to a hamam [Turkish bath] and have that scrubbed off.” This was coming from the same woman who’d said, (prefaced with “Don’t get me wrong, but”) “There are so many blacks in Istanbul lately, especially around Şişli.” When I raised my eyebrows, waiting for her to elaborate, she said, “They cause trouble. They steal and sell drugs.” Of the five black people I’ve met here, two have been teachers, one a teacher’s wife, another a singer (my Moroccan “twin”), and the last one is an engineer.
“I don’t know,” I told my friend. “Seems like the majority of the ones I see in Şişli sell watches.” I didn’t bother adding that the only drug dealers I’ve met so far in Istanbul have all been Turkish. Not that I know very many.

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