Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Cheer -- New York Style

Or "How to Make the World Your Personal Soup Kitchen..."


I've been nursing this nasty cold and finally drag myself down to Europa Café for some medicinal chicken soup.

I pay at the register with a $20 and the gal behind the counter bags my soup and gives me change in the dumbass way everyone does these days -- putting the bills flat in my outstretched hand, and dumping the coins on top. I try to tip the coins into her jar, but they spill on the floor.

So I bend over to pick them up, and when I stand up to retrieve my bag o' soup -- IT'S GONE!

"Where's my soup??" I ask counter-girl.

She shrugs.

"That woman took it," a man pipes up from the other side of the counter.

"What?" I blurt, "What woman? Where?"

Some other customers bleat out agreement, "Yeah, her, she took it."

At first it looks like they're pointing a pair of suited execs at the table nearest me, so I'm figuring one of them grabbed my bag by mistake.

"Them??" I ask.

The man shakes his head "no" and guides my eyes with his finger, one table over....

"That homeless woman!"

Almost as though she were emerging from my blind spot, I suddenly see this enormous straw-haired raggedy blob slurping down my soup.

"You??!" I splutter, "You took my soup??"

She looks dead in my face and says, "You gave it to me!"

I turn back to counter-girl.

"You let her take my soup?!?"

She shrugs.

I repeat, "You let her take my soup?!?!"

She shrugs again, implying that it was my fault.

After all, I suppose, once money had changed hands -- even on that very counter -- she no longer had any responsibility where theft was concerned.

Now, maybe it would be another story if she had stealthfully grabbed the bag and run. But she was sitting right there, and had effected the crime in front of multiple witnesses!!

I barrel down on this inept creature: "You have to replace my soup."

"I can't do that."

"Yes you can. You can and will give me another soup."

This goes back and forth for much longer than it should have -- so now our homeless culprit gets both lunch and entertainment -- until counter-girl finally sends me to the soup station just to shut me up.


These jerks should take a lesson from Starbuck's where, every once in a while, some douchebag grabs a paying customer's drink.

And they replace it on the spot.

No questions asked.


Soup in hand, I gather a bag and napkin (apparently guess-who got the last spoon), turn to the homeless woman and say, "Merry Christmas."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Men Behaving Badly

Actually, I think many women behave worse.

But we are not the ones who sit with our legs spread as far apart as possible on the subway.

And I've given a few spreadeagled guys a hard time ("I'm sure your balls are huge, but do I really have to smell them??" Giggles from fellow passengers are usually enough to shame the guy into exercising his noodley inner-thighs).

But today, the problem wasn't a leg-spreader; it was a seat-stealer.

I had to take my cat to the vet this frigid morning. So I carried her in a bulky Sherpa shoulder bag, held close to my body -- a sweater around the cat inside, and a blanket draped over the outside.

And I had a heavy knapsack of stuff for the vet on my back.

So there I am, on the DeKalb platform, train pulling in.

I hobble onto the moderately crowded Q and head towards the remaining empty seat.

About two feet from my Formica Valhalla, a smirking twentysomething shoots me a look and dives into the seat.

I sidle up to the pole in front of him, positioning my foot near his, figuring a good jolt would give me the opportunity to crush his metatarsals.

But no -- too childish, I decide (actually, the train operator didn't drive like a cabbie, for a change... so no convenient jolts).

So I'm standing there wrestling with myself, wishing I'd said something when he first sat down.

But now that the moment is gone, what do I do? Seek petty, childish, eminently satisfying passive-aggressive revenge?

I glower down at him for the full seven minutes across the Manhattan Bridge. He notices this at first, but sniffs a little scoff of victory and feigns sleep behind his tinted glasses.

Canal Street comes and the person sitting next to him gets up.

I plop down next to him, cat carrier on my lap, and turn my head to face him full-on.

"You got a problem?" he sneers.

"Yeah." I sneer back, but still can't bring myself to speak directly.

All the way to Union Square, I turn the words over in my mind. I'm not going to be passive, I decide. He put me through discomfort, and I'll return the favor. And that will be that.

Finally, as we pull into 14th Street, I get up, face him, and say:

"You knew very well I needed this seat more than you did. But you went and plopped your fat, ugly, lazy ass in it anyway." (He actually wasn't fat, but that's always a useful ephithet -- even for men.)

"But what goes around comes around. And karma is a bitch, and so am I. And with the way you act, I won't be the last bitch who bitches at you. And you'll deserve every bitchy word, you selfish, pathetic douchebag."

I head towards the open door, but turn back one last time: "And Merry Christmas."

He scoffs again, turning to the woman sitting next to him as an ally against the crazy bitch yelling at him.

But she's seen the whole thing and turns away with a little scoff of her own.

And I scoff too ... and, finally, step off.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rockefeller Center Security Guard -- Drunk on Holiday Power?

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely -- but petty authority is far more dangerous, in that it is pervasive, insidious and wreaks its damage not as the single blow that brings down the house; rather it's the nibbling vermin that shreds the structure from within.

And a verminous mouth nibbled me today.

Now, bear in mind, I'm no fan of security guards.

Often underpaid and desperately underqualified -- especially after the post-9-11security frenzy -- they manage to make me feel safe and threatened at the same time.

In the wake of 9-11, as security in one form or another was ubiquitous, stories of abuses were rampant, as guards made a sport of fondling, bullying and otherwise victimizing air travellers.

In the past few years, thankfully, this has abated.

But every once in a while, in a high-profile, high-volume situation -- like Rockefeller Center at Christmastime -- security gets a tad overzealous. And I start to wonder if we're heading back down that slippery slope.

So today, as I headed back from a lunchtime gig at the United Nations, I trudged through the 4pm crowd around the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink.

I had done a sword routine for the show, and carried the prop in a shoulder bag that is too short, so the hilt sticks out of the top corner.

Bear in mind, I had passed through UN Security without even a nod, and weaved my way through gaggles of NYPD without a second look.

According to my pal in the NYPD, "Legally, under NYC Admin Code, section 10-133, possession of a knife with a blade longer than 4 inches is illegal. No intent, no recklessness, not even not having knowledge that you possessed it. Up to 15 days in jail."

And, if indeed, this item were a "blade" it would have had a sharp edge and a point.

But it doesn't.

This "blade" is a clumsy, blunt, bronze scimitar -- perfect for balancing on my head...

World Exotica 2

... and not much else.

It's less threatening as a golf club -- a fact obvious to the NYPD and UN Security.

(It is refreshing to know that SOME people in authority can recognize a theatrical prop when they see one.)

But not so at Rockefeller Center.

Somewhere along the northern path above the rink I became aware of a tall, wiry, middle-aged black man walking next to me.

"Hey, is that real?" he asked with a hint of a chuckle, in the way that men do when they are hitting on me.

I ignored him.

"Is that real?" he asked again as we walked up the staircase in front of 30 Rock.

"It depends on what you mean by real," I finally answered.

"No, seriously. Is it plastic or something?"

I made a "WTF?" face and turned away.

"It's bronze," I said, flatly.

Then he grabbed the handle of the sword, trying to pull it from my bag.

I snatched it away. "Please don't touch that!" I spat and yanked it and myself back.

He didn't say anything else, but held up a walkie talkie and said, "Person of suspect is heading... "

I moved quickly across 50th Street, heading in a panic towards the Swarowski booth.


Not the most terrifying encounter; but enough to scare me with images of being hauled off to some security desk, made to wait, bullied, harassed, whatever.

And then what do I say when I finally make it back to work?

(OK, they're pretty nice at my job, so it probably wouldn't have been an issue -- but still...!)

Then I thought about the incident, and how completely inappropriate his behavior was, for two striking reasons:

(1) He did not identify himself to me as a guard; indeed if he had touched my person rather than my prop, I would have socked him one in the jaw;

(2) He should never have touched my person or my prop at all!

So. How to handle this?

Well, I fumed about it at first.... posted it in my facebook, gnashed my teeth at a few tolerant friends.

And finally I decided to do something about it.

I found the concierge number on the Rockefeller Center website and asked to speak to security, explaining that I'd had an incident with a security guard.

The receptionist apologized and forwarded my call.

I repeated the story to a guard who seemed genuinely surprised by the offending guard's behavior. "Yeah," he said, "He definitely should not have done that."

He alerted the supervisor of my call and took details -- time, location, events, physical description. "Hmm.." he said as I described the guard, "That doesn't sound like one of our team."

He explained, "It's not just our guys out there... there's Fifth Avenue security, some NYPD..."

The supervisor became available and took the call.

I repeated many of the details and he, too, asked for a more detailed physical description.

I did my best: taller than me (about 6'3"?), late 40s to 50s, caramel skin, glasses, dark jacket and pants, dark hat, walkie talkie.

He had some kind of badge on his left side, but he had grabbed me with his right hand, so the left side was away from me. And I wanted to get away from him.

The supervisor expressed his apologies and said he would do his best to address the issue.

I thanked him for his time and hung up feeling not entirely resolved.

Perhaps I should have asked the supervisor the best way to have handled that situation.

Should I have stopped and faced him dead-on? Would that have left me more vulnerable?

Probably. Yes, I think so.

And that is the biggest problem here.

The petty authoritarians have their tiny taste of power, and are chomping at the bit to use it. And if you are on the receiving end of their unwanted attentions, it will rarely turn out well for you.

If you decide to stand your ground and fight back, then occasionally you can help ferret some bad ones out (if, indeed, the higher-ups are even interested in doing any ferreting -- and making such an assumption is in itself extremely risky).

And if I had been not been running late, I might have done that.

But in this case -- and in the case of many of us who are confronted with petty authority bullshit -- we just want to get on with our lives, make whatever obeisance these assholes want to let us be on our way.

And perhaps that is precisely what gets them off.....

My guess was that this scumbag knew very well that the sword was not a problem, and that he was, indeed, using its presence as an excuse to hit on me.


To be continued.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some More About Jerry....

Years ago, when I had just begun to take bellydance as a means of healing from an agonizing back injury, my teacher at that time, Darshan, invited me to see her perform at Mezzo Mezzo.

When I arrived, I saw a poster in the window with this astonishing image of my teacher:

Headshot 1

I'd thought she was quite lovely in class, but this was a whole 'nuther level of radiant gorgeousness.

At that time, my only interest in bellydance was for exercise.

The very concept of my pursuing it seriously as a professional art, given my size, age, lack of serious dance training, and more disqualifiers than I could list ... it was, well, inconceivable for me ... even more so as I gaped at this poster, thinking, "That could never, ever, ever be me."

The image stuck with me, though, as did Darshan's performance that night.

On a superficial level... yes, she was beautiful and graceful, as well as an engaging performer.

But there was something else, something about the dance itself that struck and engaged my cement-cold aching viscera.

There was something about this dance ... the way it honors and celebrates the body -- a woman's body -- in its natural state, that brought out inarticulable levels of beauty in this already very beautiful woman.

And it occured to me that the image was not merely the working of a skillful artist making his subject into some hairy-fairy image of conventional gorgeousness.

Rather, he brought out the very depth of loveliness I saw in her dance.

"Usually my images are not of dancers dancing," the photographer, Jerry Bezdikian, told me years later, "They are of dancers dreaming of the dance."

Over those years, I did dream of dancing; and I dreamed of growing enough as a person, a dancer, and a woman, to embody that very essence.

As luck had it, Jerry happened to attend one of my performances earlier this year.

I spoke to him afterwards and, to my shock, he liked my work.

And we got to talking... and I told him that I'd enjoyed his work for years, but didn't think I was "good enough" to pose for him.

And he told me I was out of my f**king mind.

We scheduled a shoot the next day.

Below are some of the extraordinary images he created from that threefold session: One outdoor, in plainclothes (for acting and comedy), and one for bellydance.

And so, without further ado... Enjoy!!

From the indoor session...

A headshot:

Headshot 1

And these stunning works of art:

Portrait 2

Portrait 1

From the outdoor session:

Headshot 2

Mid-Length Headshot !

Note the sharpened foreground and gently blurred background -- not an easy effect!

This design was inspired by a Portuguese song, "Beijo de Saudade" -- "Kiss of Longing":

Beijo de Saudade

And, of course, there is this stunner, which he used for the breathtaking design for PURE Pandemonium:

Bellydance Portriat

(My make-up, incidentally, was done by the incomparable Jade ElHaddad.)

To see more of Jerry's work, please go to his website, or check out his galleries on Facebook.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Jerry & Dickey & Jehan at the Sullivan Room

This past Thursday, I had the transcendent delight to see Jehan perform with musical prestidigitators Jerry Bezdikian and Dick Barsamian at The Sullivan Room.

Jehan at the Sullivan Room Thurs Dec 3

For those who have perhaps only heard of Jehan from her appearance on last year's season finale of Wife Swap, know this: She is a big deal in the bellydance world.

And I do mean a very Big Deal.

This is not simply because of her artistry and longevity as one of America's best bellydancers, but her power -- as a performer and as a person.

This was apparent even in the episode of what could have been a very cheesy show (bear in mind, I didn't know her much when I saw it), in which she was switched with straightlaced pig farmer Brandi Carmichael.

In the beginning -- most likely to create the strongest contrast with Brandi -- they attempted to portray Jehan as, frankly, a bit of a loon.

They went nuts with the bellydance scene... glitter, veils and candles everywhere (and, frankly, it is a bit like that).

But as the show progressed, and she impressed upon her adopted family the values of creativity, joy and relatedness, it was clear that she was no caricature to be trivialized and exploited; she was an extraordinary woman with an extraordinary message.

Now, before Thursday, I'd never seen her dance a full set. And from the beginning, she was nothing short of mesmerizing... beyond mesmerizing.

She was at times playful, seductive and serene -- but always powerfully compelling.

Imagine my surprise to learn afterwards that she'd been completely exhausted and dealing with a dastardly wardrobe-malfunction-waiting-to-happen.

She wrote to me the following day when I told her how she had enchanted the audience: "..this was a valiant effort, but a mere shadow of what I wanted to give... it was the best I could do that day but I am happy it reached people..."

So. That's Jehan.

Now. About Jerry and Dickey.

Those in the Middle Eastern Dance & Music community know Dickey for his music, and Jerry mostly from his photography, which has been his focus these past many years.

But earlier this year -- in fact, shortly after my photo session with him -- Jerry came out to see me dance at The Grisly Pear and ran into Dickey.

And they decided it was time for Jerry to break out his kanun once again; and what better person to break with than Dickey?

So, months later, and after a few false starts at other venues, their bi-weekly gig has found a beautiful home at The Sullivan Room in the Village.

And I'm so, so thrilled to have been there when it was first conceived... I was about to say I sort of felt like a midwife... but I think it's something else when you are there at conception... hmmmmm.... :-D

Hope to see you there (at The Sullivan Room, not at conception... well, maybe some of you... we'll tawk....)!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Friends With Benefits -- Part Three

Been busier than ever, getting ready for my double-header this Sunday, 12/6 (acting at the Barrow Group at 3pm, and dancing in Ranya's Holiday Gala at Lafayette Grill at 7pm) ...

... AND ...

...another double-header on Thursday, 12/10 (doing stand-up at Broadway Comedy at 6:30pm and dancing in Dalia Carella's Holiday Party at Je'Bon at 7:30pm).

See my Schedule Module on the right for detials... But here is Dalia's gorgeous flyer:

Flyer for Dalia Carella's Holiday Party & Benefit

I will also probably be performing in yet another Artistic New Directions benefit in February... but more on that later!

In the meantime, I know what you really want is PHOTOS, PHOTOS, PHOTOS.... (Special thanks, once again, to the lovely Cynthia Boucher for sharing her photographic talents).

When last we saw our valiant Pandemoniators (Pandemoniatricies??), the stunning Thalia....

Thalia 4

...fluttered her belly and shook her booty.... (she is a goddess of the bellyroll, by the way)


Next up, the ever-glamorous Jaida...

Jaida 1

... and her divine double-veil...

Jaida 3

Jaida 10

Next, Lourdes got super-serious with a Chinese veil-and-fan dance...

Lourdes 3

And a little Kung-Fu Fighting!

Lourdes 5

One Dangerous Dancer followed another... as the fire-spinning burlesque goddess Masae ...

Masae 4

... shook a tail feather...

Masae 9

.. and raised the roof! (Roof! Roof! Roof!)

Masae 11

Balinese Diva Natasha graced the stage in full Leogong ...

Natasha 1

... and magic fingers ...

Natasha 9

Mime legend Richmond Shepard got silly...

Richmond Shepard 1

... with a touch of old-school debonair ...

Richmond Shepard 4

This was one of my favorite moments in the evening.

As part of his Stand-Up Mime routine (yes, stand-up ... as in verbal), he recites Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky, and enacts the absurd text with even more absurd and brilliant movement.

When he does this routine in his own show, he has the poem printed on the back of the program and the audience recites it with him.

When there is no program, he asks anyone who happens to know it to recite it with him.

"In a crowd of fifty," he told me after the show, "maybe there will be one or two."

In Pandemonium -- over a dozen!!

Yeah baby!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Friends With Benefits -- Part Two

Cynthia has been on a photograpic roll, sending me Pandemonium pics faster than I can go through them.

But stay tuned... They will soon be added to my Flickr page, and then blogged about here.

In the meantime, I wanted to respond to the many comments and praise that has come in about the spectacular Pandemonium line-up -- in particular, many of you have asked about these artists' upcoming work and online material.

First up:

The inimitable Brian Carter...

... whose deliciously funny song Your Hair was the surprise hit of the evening (tho I told him it would be!!).

And you can dowload this fabulous tune from CD Baby for only 99 cents!

Next up: Mr. Mike "G-licious" Gianelli himself!

This Sunday, November 21st, he'll be performing his one-man show at The Pit:

Mike Giannelli: Bad Advice from Both Sides of the Border
A one-man show with three people.
Make a mistake every once in while.

With Ana Bellinghausen and Lucia Brizzi.

4:30 pm, Saturday, November 21
The People’s Improv Theater (“The PIT”)
154 West 29th Street, between 6th & 7th Avenues

The lovely comedienne Sheba Mason will be performing this

Friday, November 20 @ 10pm at
The New York Comedy Club
241 E 24th Street, NYC
$10 Cover
2-drink minimum

Next up, the legendary stand-up mime, Richmond Shepard joins the stunning Leslie E. Hughes in the quirky, witty and all-around delightful comedy Lord Buckley and Marilyn (yes that Marilyn).

Remaining performances are:

Thursday through Saturday: 17, 18, 19, 20 & 21 @ 8pm
and Friday & Saturday 27 & 28 @ 8:00 p.m.
Richmond Shepard Theatre
309 E. 26 Street @ 2 Avenue
212/684-2690, $18, Stud/Sen $10
(tell them you are Tandava's student for the discount... :-D )

And lastly, the phenomenal Akim Funk Buddha will be doing a double-header for BAMcafé Live during Thanksgiving weekend.

Friday, November 27th @ 10pm
Hip Hop Holiday I: Back to the Essence
The Art of Scratching on Turntables to Urban Mythology & Fables

Saturday, November 28th
Hip Hop Holiday II: Cultural Collisions the Funk Buddha Chamber Orchestra
The Boom Box Journey Continues

Brooklyn Academy of Music

See you there!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friends With Benefits -- Part One

Has it really been two weeks since PURE Pandemonium??

In some ways it feels like it was just last night... in others, it seems ages ago. But either way, it was an evening I will never forget!

I was so touched and impressed by the performances of my talented friends, and by the huge turnout of friends.

For the first two hours, we had standing room only (or people sat on the floor and along the side of the stage!), even as a few tables cleared out at intermission, more guests arrived to take their place.

In all, the event was a huge success, raising over $800 for PURE in cash donations, and over $100 more in online and other donations!

It looks like we will reprise the show at Columbia University in April 2009, so if you would still like to make a donation, please make a donation on the PURE NYC website.

So.... after the premiere of PURE Reflections, I began to think about how, since I'd gotten back into comedy, theater and improvisation, I had an extraordinary assortment of insanely talented friends whose paths might never cross otherwise.

Inspired by my Improvisation Theater group, Artistic New Directions, which bridges diverse groups in the theater community, I wanted to create a multi-discipline event and hopefully inspire these amazing performers to connect with other fields.

Knowing many dancers would come out to support PURE, and knowing that my non-dancer friends would come out for my Big Birthday, it seemed the perfect opportunity to create a little pandemonic fusion.

And I got pretty pandemonic myself, dancing, emceeing, singing and doing comedy at points throughout the evening.

Starting the evening, in full costume...

Tandava 2

... I described my solo as "inspired by the elegant dances of Fred and Ginger" to a "classic song from the 30s..."

Tandava 4

Cocktails for Two... by Spike Jones!!

Tandava 8

For those who recall -- this is a reprise of my CringeFest dance earlier this year, demonstrating that bellydance could be a perfect fit for even the whackadoo soundeffects of Mr. Jones and his City Slickers -- Comedy-Bellydance Fusion. A ComFusion, if you will.....

Then my lovely friend Kisha took the stage...

Kisha 3

... for a stunning veil dance in white-and-black.

Artistic New Directions' Scotty Watson followed ....

Scotty Watson Gets a Lift

... with his infamous Ballet Routine.

Then the incomparable Moroccan musian/singer Rachid Halihal performed the first of three songs with drummers Brian Carter and Brad Mack.

Last year, Rachid was a guest teacher at one of Raquy's dumbek retreats, where he taught our stumbling tongues the words to a famous Arabic song, Ya Rayah.

To our surprise, I managed to learn the chorus by heart, and sung it with him... (!!!)

Tandava SINGS (*gasp*) with Rachid Halihal

Then the sublime Thalia entranced the audience to Batawannes Beek...

Thalia 1

... and that took us to about 8:40pm, with still so much show to go!

I'll post more photos as they become available (the lovely professional model-turned-photgrapher Cynthia Boucher has been sending in photos as they are ready).

Check my flickr set for updates:

Ah, but th-th-that's not all folks!

In return for performing at my benefit, I agreed to perform at the benefit Scotty Watson was organizing the following week for Artistic New Directions -- making us truly Friends with Benefits (nyuck, nyuck).

The theme this year? Burlesque!

Now, I know for some bellydancers a few hackles are raised when these dance forms are combined -- but remember, quite a few bellydancers... um... go both ways :-D -- most notably, the divine Princess Farhana, but there are many others, including New York's Chicava and Masae -- both of whom agreed to do the benefit!

And what did I do?

Why, a sword dance, of course!

Tandava 3

For more photos, go to my Flickr Set.

Or check out Janice Goldberg's full set on Facebook.

Lots more going on... stay tuned!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

September-October Events Archive

Wednesday, September 9th @ 9pm
Performing Stand-Up Comedy at the Broadway Comedy Club
318 West 53rd Street (btw 8th & 9th Aves), NYC
$10 cover/2-drink minimum

Friday, September 18th @ 7pm & 9pm
Dancing in PURE's Groundbreaking Dance-Theater Work
PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined
University Settlement
184 Eldridge Street, 2nd Floor, NYC
$20 at the door
$15 advance

Saturday, September 19th @ 4pm
Dancing in PURE NYC's Annual Procession
Starting at Columbus Circle, winding through the lower paths of Central Park, through Grand Army Plaza, down 59th Street to the Tram
Join us anywhere along the way!

Thursday, September 24th @ 7pm
Performing Stand-Up Comedy at the Broadway Comedy Club
318 West 53rd Street (btw 8th & 9th Aves), NYC
$10 cover/2-drink minimum

Saturday, October 3rd @ 11pm
Dancing at Epocas
6124 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
No Cover

Sunday, October 18th, 2:30-4pm
Teaching Beginning Bellydance at Greenhouse Holistic
88 Roebling St (near the Bedford Ave stop on the L)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
$15 drop-in

Sunday, October 18th, 7-8:15pm
Teaching Beginning Bellydance at Shambhala Yoga & Dance Center
348 Saint Marks Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238-3661
(718) 622-9956
$15 drop-in

Thursday, October 29th, 7pm-11pm
Dancing, Emceeing and Being Silly in my
PURE Pandemonium Halloween Birthday Benefit supportig
PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined
Je'Bon Restaurant
15 St. Mark's Place, NYC
(N/R/W to 8th St, 6 to Astor Pl.)
$10-$20 Donation
One-Item Minimum

Saturday, October 31, 7pm
Dancing with PURE NYC and Queen Mama Donna's Blessing Band
at the Front of the NYC Halloween Parade
Starting at Sixth Avenue & Spring Street, heading north up Sixth Avenue to 21st Street

Friday, October 16, 2009

Two Weeks to PURE Pandemonium

Get ready for some....

PURE Pandemonium

Yeah, I'm a little freaked, and a lot of PSYCHED. Things are coming together nicely, and I couldn't ask for a better, more talented, gracious, fabulous and altogether brilliant group of people to work with.

PURE Pandemonium is going to awesome!

So please join us!!

We've got some of NYC's top dancers, musicians, improvisers and comedians together to celebrate Halloween, a few Scorpio birthdays (yeah, I'm getting older!), and support an important cause that is near and dear to my heart!!

Performers include:

* Jaida (Egyptian)
* Kaeshi (Fusion)
* Masae (Burlesque)
* Sarah Locke with Alchemy (Tribal)
* Thalia (Folkloric)
* Tandava (American Cabaret)
* Yael (Alternative Fusion)
* Kisha (Egyptian Fusion)
* Sunny "Sonali" Chapman (Tribal Fusion)
* Natasha (Balinese)

* Rachid Halihal
* Brian Carter
* Akim Funk Buddha

* Eddie Brill
* Marc Maron
* Sheba Mason
* Mike Gianelli

* Richmond Shepard
* Carl Kissin
* Scotty Watson
* Cooper Shaw
* Lourdes Robles

MUSIC by the one and only DJ DERAJJA!

In September, I was honored to be a part of PURE NYC's ( extraordinary dance-theater event PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined, a collaborative multimedia work exploring body image and personal demons.

The response to its debut performance was overwhelming:

PURE chapters throughout the US want to produce the show locally, and educators want to bring its empowering message into NYC's high schools.

But before that can happen, we must mount the production again.

Because the multimedia show included live music, electronic visuals, custom wardrobe and set design, it cost over $3000 to produce just one evening!

It will cost OVER $1500 to do it again.

You can help us by donating even a few tax-deductible dollars here:


Join us for some birthday cake and the BEST saketini around at the

PURE Pandemonium Halloween Birthday Benefit
Thursday, October 29th @ 7pm - 11pm
Je'Bon Restaurant
15 St. Mark's Place, NYC (btw 2nd & 3rd)
N/R/W to 8th Street, 6 to Astor Place
$10-20 Suggested Donation
1-item minimum

Reservations recommended! 212-388-1313

Costumes are welcome!!

After-party at The Sullivan Room 218 Sullivan Street (btw Blkr & W 3rd St.) And SPECIAL THANKS to Jerry Bezdikian for his AMAZING poster design.

See you there -- and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined -- A Life-Changing Experience

January 2014 Update:  It is not only in fairy tales that the pursuit of beauty leads to the most rancid ugliness.

When we first created PURE Reflections, we sought to expose how commercial images of beauty were false and destructive, and explore how true beauty springs from deeper levels of wholeness and appreciation of self and others, which we experienced through our practice of bellydance.

Yet over the past five years, the show and those now behind it have degenerated into the very shallow, image-obsessed, self-indulgent, destructive egotism we sought to heal.

If the show's most recent promo is any indication, it is no longer about appreciating the beauty of many different body types through middle eastern dance. Rather, every lead role is played by slim media-standard perfect modern dancers ... dancing perfectly modernly. And while they are talented performers, to be sure, the lack of variation in size, age, shape, and race wholly undermines the show's message, which is more apparent in the shows initial cast (show in the video below).

Indeed, most if not all of the original cast members are no longer with the production, or even with PURE itself. 

I never learned why they left, though I'd heard rumors ranging from their belief that PURE had an "inner circle" from which they were excluded, or that the real purpose of the group was "ego stroking" of its remaining artistic director, Kaeshi Chai (the original co-facilitators, Sarah Locke and Darshan left the group for undisclosed reasons in 2007).

For years, I did not want to believe this group that for years had been so dear to me precisely because it was ostensibly devoted to healing and peace was in fact in service only to Kaeshi's ego -- until she unceremoniously ejected me and another long-time member from PURE following the increasingly successful productions of PURE Reflections in Japan, Taiwan, and Florida..

I have considered removing this blog post since the show has been, to my mind, destroyed by a focus on commercialism. But after much consideration, I decided to let it stand -- since its themes are still dear to my heart, and I continue to explore and develop them in my own work in Tandava Arts' Blood on the Veil.

And part of me still believes that Kaeshi will come to her senses one day and realize the damage she has done, apologize to those whom she has harmed, and restore the show to its original intention -- which brought the most stunning awakening in audiences and cast members alike.


See footage of PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined here:

[Note: if you are viewing this through my Facebook feed, and are unable to see the images, please go to the original entry at Thanks!!]

Last Friday, September, 18th, I had the honor to debut a remarkable dance theater work with PURE entitled PURE Reflections: Beauty Reimagined.

Audience members had been moved to tears and laughter. One educator remarked that "this should be seen by every teenage girl!"

We were honored to be joined by the extraordinary musical talents of Tamar Kali, Kristin Hoffmann and PURE's very own drummers, with our bodies lit by dramatic visual images created by techno-wizard Nasha Masha, and clothed by Couture dressmaker Diana Susanto, who created stunning costumes for us.

Since many of us are not experienced actors, it is no exaggeration to say this production would have been impossible without the contributions of Desert Sin's visionary founder, actor/director/dancer Djahari, who coached us through the beginning stages of exploring and embodying our personal demons, furthered by coaching by Dixie Fernandez, also an actor/dancer/musician, and finally with the task of creating this psychologically complex narrative in barely two short weeks falling on my shoulders, as I was the only member of the group with writing and directing experience, as well as foundation in Jungian archtypes and individuation.

This project had been a 13-year dream of PURE's co-founder Kaeshi Chai, also known for her excellent work as Artistic Director of Bellyqueen and a dance captain for the Bellydance Superstars.

She, like many of us, discovered bellydance as a means to heal both body and mind, and formed PURE in 2004 with co-founders Darshan and Sarah Johanssen Locke to bring the healing and peace of this dance to audiences everywhere from theaters to sidewalks to subways to parks.

The response to PURE was overwhelming, as chapters formed throughout the United States and beyond!

Most PURE chapters meet once a week, as both a supportive community of friends and a dance collective. And at least once a year, we hold a Procession at approximately the same time in our respective cities.

But this year, in addition to the Procession, Kaeshi came to us in early May with the idea of doing a theater project around the theme of body image.

She had been inspired by a riveting work by LA-based tribal dancer Heather Shoopman's troupe Se7eN where a young woman is tortured by demon images within a mirror telling her she is fat, ugly, etc. She is pulled through the mirror, confronts and ultimately calms the demons.

With the singular idea of body image/mirror/demon, we began to create this show.

We attracted new members who were intrigued by this theme, and began to explore our own paths of recovery from various eating disorders, low self-esteem and other unhealthy states.

We examined the source and effect of those punishing "Demon" voices that often set in during adolescence, and we looked to the healthy reflection we see of ourselves when we are very young, before we learn there is an image we "should" try to emulate.

We found how dance, peace, self-love and loving connection to others reintegrates the healthy image we once knew.

And we learned how the "Demon" voices merely speak for tortured parts of our own psyches that are squelched as we try to fit an artificial mould.

And then we set about putting all of this into a narrative dance.

Needless to say, this creative journey was a profound one. Many of us revisited traumas, dove into the heart of our insecurities and deepest fears. And, as one might expect, personalities clashed and hackles rose.

But it is a testament to the dedication of the group both to this project and the larger purpose of PURE -- healing and peace -- that we were able to voice and confront our conflicts; indeed, our resolutions came not by denying our uncomfortable feelings, but by expressing and reining those very passions towards our greater shared goal.

As a result, many of us experienced extraordinary transformations as friends, dancers, people...

One dancer, delving into her past as part of this journey, reunited with her father who had been estranged for many years.

Having missed many of her life's important events, he was moved by her enthusiasm for this project and attended the performance. They both beamed with exuberance and pride after the show.

Below are select images taken by Ken Stein, accompanied by the Program information.



[Note: As we explored the birth scene, we came upon the idea of a central figure -- a Mother Goddess -- representing our authentic feminine nature from which we would be separated and to which we would ultimately need to return.

Since the Mother Goddess figure has become highly charged in a religious as well as feminist sense, we found it would be necessary to clarify her meaning within the context of our psychological/emotional narrative.

About the Mother Goddess

The Mother Goddess is a symbol often associated with nature and fertility, representing the part of us that is at home and happy in our bodies, that trusts the body’s instincts and freely enjoys its creative sensuality. To quote Jungian analyst Marion Woodman, “She knows the sacredness of matter...the divine body of love that holds creation together.” Yet her deeper wisdom recognizes that “ forever renewing itself [because] what does not move dies.” Through her we learn to bear and ultimately respect the pangs of transformation as essential to developing a consciously embodied, whole, and fulfilled life.

BIRTH (EMERGENCE)Music: Free Flow by Kristin Hoffmann

The Mother Goddess stirs us into life, nourishing and supporting us.

Birth 1

Birth 2

Music: Truth by Kristin Hoffmann

Enjoying and exploring the world around us, we find the Mirror and begin to discover who we are.


Childhood2 - Discovering the Mirror


As our bodies change and we are immersed in media images of idealized, unrealistic beauty, the Mirror reflects a new, distorted vision: A seducing, controlling Demon emerges, exhorting us to embody impossible ideals. Overshadowed by this new influence, our connection to the Mother Goddess is lost.

This image is just before the Demons emerge. At the start of adolescence, we enjoy our bodies and emerging sexuality... before we are taught to do otherwise.....


Music: Displaced by Amon Tobin from the Chaos Theory CD

The Demons reflect our inadequacies, driving us into compulsive, unhealthy behaviors as we struggle to conform -- to the point of despair, depression and ultimate collapse.

Demons Attack 1

Notice the tape measure in the background of this one....

Demons Attack 2

Demons Attack 3

Alura's demon was compulsive plastic surgery; Debbie was her demon-surgeon!.

Demons Attack 4

That's me torturing Amy... her dysfunction was self-mutilation (cutting, hair-pulling/twisting). As her demon, I would do these things to her to make her "feel better" -- after first shaming her, of course, for not being perfect....

Demons Attack 5

On the screen above us, just out of frame, is the message "Your butt is huge!!"

The Demons Still Attack!

Music: Ocean in Me (Om Mani Padme Hum) Kristin Hoffmann

At bottom, we surrender and close off to the noise around us. We return to Nature, which becomes a second womb where we can once again feel the Mother Goddess’s support and nourishment of our true selves. We may further connect with others on a similar journey through suffering and recovery, and begin to rise again on a more solid foundation.


Recovering - Returning to Nature 2

Recovering, Return to Nature

Music: Primal Breath Kristin Hoffmann

Stronger, but still developing, we return to the Mirror to reclaim the healthy Reflection it had shown us in childhood. To complete the integration, we confront and embrace the darker aspect of ourselves that had once functioned as a Demon.



That's Kaeshi, as Liz's Demon, trying to get between her and her Healthy Reflection. That's me in the back (just out of frame -- click on the image to view the original), desperately trying to control Amy, but unable to... Oh those darned Healthy Reflections!!!
Demons try to Attack Again!

EXULTATION OF THE MOTHER GODDESSMusic: Chaos by Gabrielle Roth & the Mirrors from the Tribe CD

Having helped us integrate our full selves, the Mother Goddess celebrates our ability to reconnect with her.

The Mother Goddess Celebrates!

The Mother Goddess Celebrates8

The Mother Goddess Celebrates2

Music: Sundance Kristin Hoffmann

The Mother Goddess awakens each of us to the Divine within ourselves and each other.

The Mother Goddess Awakens us to our Divine Selves!

PURE FOUNDATION (COMMUNITY)Music: Live Percussion by Brad MacDonald, Pete List, Dan Myers & Gina Callender

Now whole within ourselves, we are able to connect to others. [Note: The Foundation is PURE’s central choreography, created by co-founders Kaeshi Chai and Darshan at the collective’s inception in 2004, and which is now performed by PURE chapters throughout the world.]

Pure Foundation - Diagonal Reflection

The PURE Foundation

Music: Ocean by Tamar Kali

No longer a source of shame and despair, the Mirror can be enjoyed playfully, as we celebrate the journey on which it has taken us.

[Sorry, I have no photos of this one -- yet!! We had several photographers at the event, so images are trickling in slowly... stay tuned!!]

Special thanks to Ken Stein for taking these excellent photos!!