Sydney Middle Eastern Dance Festival Archive

1994: Fifth Year Frolics

1994 Festival Program cover. Click to enlarge.

by Ruth

In it's fifth year, the Festival got it's first "stand-alone" program.

Before 1994, the Festival was advertised only in the Amera's Palace newsletter. Remember, this is back in the days when Leonie owned Amera's Palace and Amera was pursuing her career overseas.

Produced by Leonie on a typewriter with the liberal use of scissors and paste, and including handwritten annotations, the first program certainly differed in style from today's (comparatively!) slick and professional format.

But the tone hasn't changed over the years - Leonie's enthusiasm and sense of humour shine out just as brightly from the dog-eared photocopy of 1994 as from the glossy programs of today. Prompting one to ask - how does she keep it up? Let's just be grateful that she does!

The 1994 Festival line-up consisted of the Thursday night cocktail party, workshops at Leonie's former studio at 12 Enmore Rd on Friday, Saturday and Monday, and concerts both Friday and Saturday nights at the Studio Theatre in Newtown. The Bellydance-a-thon was held again on the Sunday, followed by Terezka's Dances from the Desert night.

Kathryn Ferguson of the USA taught two workshops, on Taxim, and on her choreography Moon Over Cairo, (a title that may have later influenced the naming of the dinner dance - see 1999).

Other workshop teachers included Keti, Ruth Brent, Belyssa, Maria Masselos, Lissa de Sailles, Desiree Sheldrake and Judy Lees. Leonie and Ghassan taught the first of their ever-popular Dance to Live Drum workshops.

The Layali Sharq concerts were both compered by Maria Masselos (Brisbane). The Friday night concert featured a live band, with many performers choosing to take up the opportunity to perform with the musicians. Carolynn Parr-Whalley, aka Aziza, who then hailed from NZ but is now based in Sydney, was the opening act.

Keti Alia Belyssa and Gintaras Belyssa Turkish Delights

Above from left (click to enlarge): Keti as pictured in the 1994 program (note Leonie's cutting-out-work!), Alia and friend, Belyssa and 17-year-old Gintaras, Belyssa, Turkish Delights promoting the Bellydance-a-thon beside the fruit and veg at Marrickville Metro.

Carolynn reported on the 1994 Festival for the Amera's Palace newsletter, describing how she sang Tigi Niksim El Amar with the band and danced to a short taxsim and Janna Janna. Then she rushed off to a job (no such thing as a holiday for a dancer) and returned in time to see Kathryn Ferguson perform Zey El Hawa and Keti's show.

Leonie remembers Keti backstage carefully rehearsing her drum solo with Ghassan - only to find that the drum solo he played during her performance bore only a passing resemblance to the rehearsed version! Naturally, Keti took it in her stride and gave a great show. In the intervening years, many other dancers have had "interesting" experiences with musicians - see 1999 (Seda) and 2003 (Elenie).

Amera was the final act on Friday night, described by Carolynn as "spectacular in a red sequinned baladi dress". At the time, Amera was making a quick visit home in between her contracts in Abu Dhabi. She had been dancing in Lebanon and the UAE for two years and would spend another couple of years on the road after that.

Features of the Saturday night concert included Alia of the Central Coast plus snake and a tight drum solo from mother-and-son-duo Belyssa and Gintaras (then aged 17).

Happily for all concerned, there was a considerable reduction in running times of both concerts compared to previous years.

The Bellydance-a-thon, benefitting New Era Independent Living Centre, raised $950.00. The prize for dancing longest went to our very own Libby, aka Nabila, pictured wearing red in the Marrickville Metro promotion above. She is still dancing today, and she has become a vital cog in the Festival wheel - Lib is a long-time organising committee member and, since 1997, the program designer (see 1997).

Do you have a concert program from the Friday or Saturday concert in 1994? If so, please contact us.

View Documents: 1994 Images will open in new windows

| Festival Program | Workshop Timetable 1 | Workshop Timetable 2 | Video Cover, Friday Concert |