11 May 2013
Tags: travel, belly dance, Kervansaray, Oryantal Lara, vegan, dance life, bellydancer, Moving, Alanya, happy, lucky, gross, cockroaches, roaches, zenne, male belly dancer, transitions
I arrived in Alanya on Thursday afternoon, and so far, so good. No rest for the weary–I performed later that night. Loved the stage, loved the crowd, and really, really love the people who hired me. I also got to meet the other two belly dancers. One is friendly, curly-headed (automatic points in her favor), and pleasant. The other is a zenne, or male belly dancer. He’s moody and rude-y. What do you mean, why am I in the dressing room? Because I’m a major star, that’s why! Maybe he was having an off-personality day. I’ll give him another chance.
First night on the job!
The apartment they gave us is gorgeous, with views of the Mediterranean Sea from every window. I’m sharing it with the bookkeeper. She works seven days a week, from 9:00am to midnight, which is a definite bonus in a roommate. The management has been working diligently to get everything complete in the house, which has been vacant for quite some time–cleaning, replacing appliances, purchasing a full length mirror so my roommate can check herself out, etc. There was just one (major) problem. The refrigerator they’d bought second hand and had moved into the house just before I arrived, while unassuming enough in daylight, was SWARMING WITH ROACHES that scattered guiltily when we came home from work that evening and flicked on the light. I may be vegan, but roaches are where I draw the line. First thing the following morning, the exterminator was called, the refrigerator was removed, and poison was sprayed. I usually don’t like chemicals–I clean my house with vinegar, baking soda, and castile soap–but again, these were extenuating circumstances. The problem seems to have been remedied. I saw one lone roach today, lying dead on his back. May he rest in peace.
Friday, yesterday, was my off day, and time explore the neighborhood, visit the beach, get friendly with the cafe owner downstairs, start an argument with (then immediately apologize to) the girl at Migros who sold me some stale nuts, and finally rest from the emotional, hectic, and vermin-laced roller-coaster I’d been riding since leaving Istanbul.
Traumatic cockroach experience aside, everything has been great. I think I’m going to like it here.
Update: My roommate was a temporary employee! She worked only for about 10 days, so I have this fab apartment to myself. . . . ALL to myself, with not a pest in sight! (Knocks on wood.)
26 Apr 2013
Tags: belly dance, canlı müsik, Coşar Kamçı, dance, dance life, darbuka, doumbek, improvisation, Istanbul, live drumming, live music, oryantal dans, Oryantal Lara, rehearsal, Turkish music
For my next long term gig, they’ve requested two shows. One for Turkish Night, and the other for Palace Night.
Palace Night entertainment features, but is not limited to (i.e. I don’t remember the whole program): a fusion dance group of two or three, a Russian revue dance group, a Russian-speaking comedian, and me. I think I will perform candle tray that night. (Sorry, Mom. I know you hate fire.)
Turkish night includes live music, another belly dancer (she’s from Turkmenistan), a zenne (male belly dancer), a folk dance group, a Kafkas group (I love this. The female dancers are elegant and graceful, and the men do this thing where they parade around on their toes, which is cool and surprisingly masculine.) For Turkish Night, I think I’ll incorporate some floor work and a cane dance. “But cane dancing is Egyptian and Lebanese!” you say. And I say, “So, what?”
Months ago, in one of my updates, I mentioned that I had been doing some improvisations with darbuka player Coşar Kamçı, formerly of Baba Zula, and promised that I would post one online eventually. Well, I probably never would have, but my drummer did, so here it is. I think we recorded this one in August of 2012. Please note: the refrigerator in the background and my sigh of relief at the end signify authenticity.
20 Mar 2013
Tags: Arman, belly dance, Besidos, Bunyamin Olguncan, Coşar Kamçı, dance, dance life, expat, expat life, international, Israel, Israeli music, live music, music, music video, oryantal, Oryantal Lara, turkey, video vixen
After long post-New Year’s hiatus during January and most of February, my performance schedule started to pick up toward the third week of February, starting with my show in Van, then the listening party for a pop singer called Arman, where I performed with incredible percussionist Bünyamin Olguncan, and some other great musicians at Ghetto Music Lounge. (Don’t ask me why it’s called that, but it’s a cool place.)
This Friday and Saturday past, I performed with Besidos, the Balkan-gypsy-pop quartet of Germany in their shows at Nublu Istanbul. It was so much fun! Here’s a video from Saturday:
Yesterday was pretty cool, too. I, along with 29 other dancers, performed an oryantal choreography in a music video for Israeli singer Dudu, to be released this summer in Israel. We also had to sing a bit. In Hebrew! The filming took place in a beautiful hotel on the Bosphorus in the Tarabya area of Istanbul and lasted allllllll day. I met some cool dancers, and a few weird ones, too.
So much fun! What’s next?
26 Feb 2013
Tags: Atilla Taş, belly dance, bellydancer, dance life, Howard University, life, Oryantal Lara, travel, turkey, Turkish pop, Van, VJ Bülent
I hadn’t heard of Van until a year and a half ago, when the area suffered severe damage, injuries and deaths from a major earthquake. It’s a city near the eastern border of Turkey, about an hour and a half from Iran. When I accepted a gig there, my friend said, Van? That’s the city Turkey forgot about. Why are you going there?
Well, there are plenty of people who haven’t forgotten about Van, namely those who live there, and the those who live for Van-made herbed cheese. The show was a kadınlar matinesi. The closest translation I can come up with is a “ladies’ luncheon”, which took place in a hotel ballroom.
I loooooved the hotel, a five-star ordeal called Rescate, facing the impressively huge Van Lake and breathtakingly beautiful, snow-covered mountains,
and employing the Best Staff Ever. We (the event organizers, one of the other performers, and I) arrived a day early, so I got a chance to enjoy the Friday night entertainment: live music in the top floor bar. The other entertainer who arrived with us to perform at the matinee was VJ Bülent, the first VJ on Turkish television, and also the first openly gay man on TV in this still rather homophobic country.
I popped out of the hotel early-ish on Saturday morning to visit an esthetician. There was a salon in the hotel, of course, but it wasn’t full service. I made fast friends with the girls in the local Van salon. One of them took me for a quick stroll around Van’s main drag (okay, we went to the bazaar and I bought a colander) and then, of course, we had a photo shoot.
After heading back to the hotel, I popped into its salon to have my makeup done by the resident makeup artist.
While I waited backstage, in walked the event organizer, Tayfun, with a man dressed in a black on black suit and with a dimple in his chin. Tayfun introduced me to the man as though I was already supposed to know who he was. As it turns out, it was Atilla Taş, a well-known and well-loved Turkish pop singer.
The show went off without a hitch. It was a packed ballroom of well-dressed ladies on their feet dancing, singing and applauding for four hours. My portion of the show was a 25 minute performance. I listened to Atilla from back stage. One of his songs was an amusing Turkish rendition of Gagnam Style. Not sure if he performed the accompanying dance as well.
That night, our flight was grounded due to cloudy weather. No biggie. One more sleep in a lovely hotel, and one more shower in a bathroom twice as big as my kitchen.
03 Jan 2013
Tags: 2013, belly dancer, bucket list, dance life, new year's resolutions, Oryantal Lara, to do list, travel, vegan, yoga
This is more of a to-do list than a list of resolutions. I reckon that the second to last item on the list would be classified as a resolution, though, and the last item fits into both categories.
-Visit Hong Kong.
-Visit Holland and/or other countries.
-Hike in Great Falls.
-Take my mother to Cappadocia.
-Choreograph a difficult piece of music.
-Be ridiculously selective about the dance engagements I accept.
-Spend a month or more in the US.
-Write a lot.
-Read a lot.
-Dance a lot, and in interesting places.
-Prepare an elaborate, multi-course, gourmet vegan meal. Serve it to some
-Practice yoga a lot.
-Have a temporary extension put in my hair that is hot pink or
some other outrageous color.
-Party more than last year.
-Cook my way through the Veganomicon cookbook my sister gave me for giftmas.
-Wear even more jewelry.
-Talk a little bit less sometimes.
This post was inspired by Tia’s New Year’s Bucket List.
25 Dec 2012
Tags: belly dance, belly dance in DC, dance life, family, holidays, Oryantal Lara, Sahara Lounge, tipping, travel, TurCuisine, turkey
My week-long stay in Washington, DC was a whirlwind of friends, family, fine food, and of course, dancing.
Arriving on a Thursday at midnight, I performed the next day at TurCuisine, and then again on Saturday at Sahara Lounge. These are my favorite places to perform in the DC/MD/VA area, because the atmosphere is lovely, and both venues give me the Beyonce treatment. I hadn’t performed at Sahara since they opened a few years ago, and they’ve expanded their bright family-style restaurant to include a smoky, happenin’ hookah lounge and bar next door.
Another highlight was my second performance at TurCuisine the following Friday. I gained two new fans. After the show, a two year old boy and his three year old sister approached me to say hello. Unbeknownst to their parents, the boy reached into his pocket to tip me with his very own money. Not to be upstaged by her little brother, the girl rushed back to her table to present me with a precious (plastic) jewel.
Now I’m in LA with more family
until December 28th. I know my trip is coming to an end, because I’ve just awakened from a version of the recurring nightmare I have where I’m in the right country at the wrong time–in my dream, I nearly missed my flight back to Turkey, and therefore, my New Year’s Eve performance in Adana. Cold sweat!
Happy holidays, everyone!
25 Nov 2012
Tags: American music, Arenbi Lara, dance, dance classes, English, fun, how to do the wobble, Istanbul, Istanbul dance classes, kids, Life in Istanbul, Oryantal Lara, Turkish, wobble, wobble dance
There’s a strange phenomenon in Turkey. I’m not sure how it came about, but popular foreign music by (mostly, but not exclusively) black American artists (some Caribbean artists are included) is referred to as R & B. This is not R & B as an abbreviation for “Rhythm and Blues.” It is pronounced by Turks “arenbi“, and encompasses hip-hop, electro-r&b pop (like Rihanna), and some mainstream dancehall songs.
I used to chuckle about this with my well-informed, fluent English speaking, Turkish “little sister”, and when the studio where I work asked me to teach a children’s dance class, I jokingly suggested I teach an “arenbi” class.
Well! Although arenbi doesn’t exist as an actual music genre nor style of dance, the parents and their kids were ALL over it from the start, and another 1-3 children join my class every week. We dance to popular hip-hop and dancehall music from over the last five years, plus any other songs that tickle my fancy, or songs the kids request, and I teach them simple skeletal choreographies, how to stay on beat, and try to get them to “add their own flavor.” I thought line dances would be fun to do with them, so last week, I taught the Wobble.
Don’t know what the Wobble is?
Would you like to learn to do the Wobble yourself?
19 Nov 2012
Tags: belly dance costumes, Belly Su costumes, feather mask, Istanbul, Life in Istanbul, Meissoun, New Year's Eve, Oryantal Lara, Pelin Moda, photo shoot, second hand furniture, second hand goods in Istanbul, shopping, Turkish, vintage, vintage belly dance records
On Sunday, I met with a dancer visiting from Switzerland who seems to have traveled the whole world, and knows Istanbul like the back of her hand. I was pleased to introduce to her to the very happenin’ secondhand/antique/vintage/flea market in Bomonti. They have cool old records:
Mustafa Kandıralı ve Arkadaşlar (Mustafa Kandıralı and friends)
and everything else under the sun. I bought an expensive but delightful little Ottoman table for my bedroom, which I’ve recently redecorated and renamed The Chillout Lounge. My roommate keeps asking me who’s going to be chilling in there. Well, still just me, but I will be chilling alone in style.
I met up with Meissoun again on Monday morning, and we went to see one of my beloved costumers, Pelin. When we finished up our chatting and business there, we headed to another of our costume designers, Serap Su. After a bit, I left the two of them to their adventure of fabric hunting in the textile district, and headed to the first of a bunch of meetings with another friend. One of the meetings was an introduction to a photographer, who took a series of test shots of me, then let us loose on the backdrop with his props and our camera phones.
In the morning, I get to go sign the contract for my New Year’s Eve gig. I got something juicy!
07 Jul 2012
Tags: adventure, ancient city, beach, beautiful, belly dance, casino, Cnra Gora, foreign dancer abroad, Kotor, Montenegro, Oryantal Lara, travel, walled city
I arrived in Montenegro four days ago. I’m ashamed to admit that two weeks ago, I knew very little (read: nothing) about the country. I was contacted by a DJ acquaintance of mine who did lights and sound for me last summer in Bodrum, Turkey at Kervansaray Hotel. He’d recommended me for a position performing at a casino here in Kotor, Montenegro, and convinced me that a trip out here to work would be worth my while.
I was skeptical at first, but I’m not one to turn down the chance of a trip to a beautiful country, and with a gig and housing there waiting for me, there wasn’t much risk, so I packed my dance costumes, my bikinis, and my sunglasses, and flew out Wednesday morning after a Baba Zula show the night before in Istanbul.
My first day was exhausting and unorganized, but when I was (finally) shown to my accommodations, things began looking up. I’m staying in a house within the stone walls of Old Town Kotor, (an ancient city that was first fortified in the early Middle Ages!) in a lovely bedsitter.
This is my first visit to such a town, and now I can better imagine the towns authors describe in books like Pillars of the Earth.
Over the past few days, I’ve been lazing around on the beach (a rocky bay, really) at the appropriately named Lazy Bar with my new-found Montenegrin friends, exploring the city, and trying to learn a bit of the language (Serbo-Croatian.) I’ve found it a bit tricky as locals are more likely to cut to the chase and speak to me in English than to humor my attempts at speaking their language, but I’m making some headway. I’ve become a PRO at saying “Hello? How are you? I’m fine thanks. Water, please. It’s very hot today.” Not terrible, considering I didn’t even know the name of the language two weeks ago.
My first show at the casino is tonight. Opa!
Below are pictures of “my” neighborhood here in Kotor.
So many docks and so many boats
Lazy Beach Bar
Just outside Old Town Kotor’s walls
In two weeks, I’ll be off to do another show with Baba Zula in Cyprus, but if things continue to go well in Montenegro, I might return for another four weeks or so before flying to England. (!!!)
16 Dec 2011
Tags: belly dance gigs, Beyoğlu, foreign dancer abroad, Istanbul, Oryantal Lara, update
I have two special events coming up this weekend, next weekend I begin performing regularly again at a new (to me) place in Beyoğlu, and I found a lovely apartment right in the middle of the city center.
I dare say that I deserve this after the harrowing experience I had in Karaman.
Not sure how many gigs I’ll have this New Year’s Eve. So far, just two. (*Waits optimistically.)