Backstage at “A Taste of Los Angeles Bellydance”Posted by in Blog | Tribal Fusion | Uncategorized | World Dance in LA
Last Saturday January 21st, was the premiere event for the new Los Angeles chapter of MECDA (Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association). It may have been called “Taste of Los Angeles Bellydance” but we all left satiated. There was over 8 hours of performances and workshops by Devilla, Heather Shoopman, Mandala Danceworks, Princess Farhana and Khani Zulu.
While basking in the beauty of the amazing Los Angeles dance talent, I contemplated the unique environment of a performance/festival event backstage. Fortunately most organizers understand the importance of a large, well-lit dressing room. The dressing room provided at the Alexandria Hotel filled this need and more. With its dining room furniture and family pictures, it facilitated strengthening our community through our laughter, conversations and pinning each other’s costumes. There was the usual excitement, slightly frantic at times as people shared their nervous energy before they hit the stage. Yet this was balanced by our enthusiasm to start a new chapter of MECDA.
MECDA has a long history of giving dancers a name, a belonging, and strength in numbers. As I discovered from a workshop by Marta Schill, MECDA was originally formed out of a need for dancers to unionize and protect their rights for pay and private dressing rooms from club and restaurant owners. As bellydance began to grow in popularity and numbers in the 1970s, many club owners in San Francisco had lowered the standards and pay that dancers would receive. Not wanting the same fate in southern california, 12 dancers, including Marta, created MECDA in 1977 (originally the Middle Eastern Cabaret Dancers Association).
Unlike the original MECDA members, most of the performers and attendees of LA MECDA were not professional dancers. That is, most find their income outside the music and dance world. Yet I find aligning ourselves, as artists, with a professional organization validates our commitment to our art, and to each other.
Being both participant and observer, I recognize and take pride in our “tribe”, our community’s ability to create friendships and inspiration to each other in our love for Middle Eastern and Middle Eastern fusion dance. Not to say that we don’t experience jealousy, desire, comparison and envy, but these human emotions are greatly outweighted by our praise, respect, and encouragement. Looking forward to seeing you backstage!