A Night in April
I must be the luckiest dancer in the world. What are the chances that on a Thursday evening I would open for Diana Krall at Lincoln Center and then headline with Raquy and the Cavemen at a down-and-dirty Brooklyn performance space right after that? Talk about culture shock!
April 12, 2007 has now come and gone, but it was one of those sweet evenings that I'll never forget. The Lincoln Center event was an "Investment Industry Gala" to benefit Lincoln Center. It took place in the spectacular new Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle (Broadway and 60th), home of Jazz at Lincoln Center. My beautiful dance partner Rayhana and I were escorted to the 5th floor to our dressing room down the hall from the Allen Room, where we were to dance for about 400 people. The Allen Room is a majestic, multi-tiered room with huge ceiling-to-floor glass windows overlooking a stunning view of Manhattan, my birthplace, land that I love. The room was decorated to the max in a Moroccan theme replete with big round sofas covered with rich red velvet, antique gold brocade, and all kinds of gorgeous fancy pillows.
photo by Brian Palmer
Everything was precisely timed to the minute. At the stroke of 7:25 PM we wafted into the room with veils swirling and enchanted the dressed-to-the-hilt guests for the next 45 minutes. There were several layers of mezzanines and balconies to cover and I don't think I hit the same spot twice. I heard flattering comments and saw many captivated smiles. When I was way up high, I could see Rayhana on a different floor and people smiling and applauding her too. Mission accomplished. I hadn't stressed at all about this show except for a couple of weeks of what-to-wear, what-to-wear, what-to-freaking-WEAR. It would have been a no-brainer - something elegant and feminine for Lincoln Center, then something funky and sexy for Brooklyn. My problem was twofold, though. I wouldn't have time to change, but mostly I just plain did not feel like lugging around another costume for the next 7 hours. Hadn't I done that enough in my life??? OK, call me lazy. I prefer to think of it as: Keep it simple. In the end, that worked out just fine. I wore the funky/sexy costume all night. For Lincoln Center, I simply added a full flowing skirt underneath it all, which I took off for Brooklyn. Voila. After the Allen Room, the guests were escorted to the Rose Theater for Diana Krall's performance. My only regret of the evening is that I couldn't stay for her show, which I'm sure was great.
All Galapagos photos courtesy
Avran of Northpass
On to Brooklyn, the Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg. I got there with more than enough time to spare. Raquy and the Cavemen were just beginning their second set, the one in which I was to perform 3 numbers at the end. The party was in honor of their new "Naked" CD release. The place was packed, loud, crazy, and wild. Right up my alley! I danced the first two numbers down on the dance floor - an uneven concrete floor complete with bumps and holes. It didn't matter, though, because the crowd was wonderful, the band was on fire, and I was in my zone. Being in my zone means to me that I am relaxed, happy, warmed up, prepared, feel strong and glamorous, all performance anxieties have melted, and I know that no matter what I do, it's going to be right because I'm one with the moment. And that's that!
I opened with "Graovsko," a fanciful, folksy, upbeat number. Then I danced to "Jordan," a slow, mystical offering, the title track from their first CD. "Jordan" is in a 10/8 time signature and features Raquy on Kemenche. I used two full-sized veils, one deep pink, one turquoise. That piece was like being in a dream. I know that you could hear a pin drop because people told me that's how it was. I felt like I was in another dimension, transported beyond the physical world. In my real sleeping dreams, my most recurrent dream is that while I'm dancing I levitate off the floor and float, spin, make body designs in the air. Dancing to Jordan that night is the closest I've ever felt to actually having one of those dreams come true. I wanted magic, and that's what the band gave me. I can't say enough good things about them for that alone.
The finale was a drum solo, "Hallas Wala," that I got up on stage for. I only had about 3 inches of space to dance in once I was up there [Exaggeration Alert], but that didn't matter either. I had spent the last month practicing this drum solo so that I would know it inside out and play it like part of the band with my zills and body accents. My poor neighbors. I had my zills covered with masking tape during practice to dull the sound, but they were still LOUD. I used my over-sized, dual-toned zills that I always used at Mogador and L'Orange Bleue. These require a whole set of "chops" to play cleanly and with dexterity, so I needed to rebuild those muscles because I hadn't used them in a while. I did not choreograph any of the compositions - I wanted to be able to improvise on the spot, which also means that the zill playing was not set in advance either. The drum solo has some tricky time signatures and a lot of changes. I didn't want it to look mechanical and rehearsed, as so many drum solos do. I wanted it fresh, in the moment, and smokin' hot. And that's exactly what we got. The band burned it. I nailed it. The audience went berserk. Hey, no self-esteem problems here! I was ready, willing, and able and I'm not afraid to brag about it.
Raquy and the Cavemen and Shamira rock the house with "Hallas Wala"
l-r Brian, Raquy, Shamira, Liron, Yotam
I had worked with the fantastic Raquy before, but never with the Cavemen. In fact, entering onto the dance floor and performing the first song with them was the first time we met each other, what a trip. But I felt I knew them, just from working with their music. That's how it is with musicians, the music connects us. Liron had sent me a bunch of mp3 files to choose from to dance to. I could tell just from corresponding with him in email that he was my kind of musician - dedicated, excited, knowledgeable, and totally INTO IT. Imagine after a month of listening to them only on my little laptop speakers, to suddenly have them live and reverberating my whole body and soul, it was like I died and went to heaven.
What made the night there extra special, the icing on the cake (dark chocolate), was that there were musicians in the audience I hadn't seen in a while, old friends I used to work with. Also there were new bellydancers and bellydance enthusiasts who had never seen me dance. I was happy to give them a good show. And thank goodness for Rayhana there to help me find my veils and zills when I needed them. Best of all, the world's most awesome fusion drummer, Kim Plainfield, was there...and with flowers for me too, woo! Kim has spent a good part of his career working on tools for performers called "Positive Performance Thought," which he has developed into a remarkable, popular lecture. Heartfelt thanks for the understanding advice he gave me the day before my shows when I was freaking out.
I highly recommend you check out Raquy and the Cavemen in further detail. I will be using their music on my next DVD. That should be one hell of a DVD-release party! If you ever have a chance to hear them live, GO. If you are a dancer and ever get to dance with them, DO IT. Also check out Avran of Northpass, a special thanks to him for all the pictures taken at Galapagos.
So there it is, my night in April, my magic carpet ride, yet another reason to feel blessed and grateful for the creative life I'm so lucky to live.. ~Shamira
I have played for, played with, and watched Shamira dance on and off for many years, and it is extraordinary for me how completely timeless she is. Every event seems like the first yet only better. I could offer a description of effortless grace. Shamira is so captivating for me the world seems to fade away. She knows time and rhythm and form and nuance - qualities I find absent in so many dancers. When I saw her dance most recently, she was dancing with a band called Raquy and the Cavemen at Galapagos Art Space. I was in the audience, and often there is a buzz that can happen in the course of a number that a performer is not aware of. Shamira had a buzz going on, big time. When she would make certain unexpected movements people were oohing and aahhing like crazy. There was nothing that entire evening that was as advanced or had such depth. Personally I wasn't surprised, I knew she would be stellar.
The band has a fantastic array of odd time signatures and intricate rhythmic events. They are tight, have good spirit, and Shamira's contribution elevated the performance to unimagined altitudes. Those rhythms are sophisticated and unusual. Shamira skates on them like glass. And she is so fine like a sweet clementine when doing so.
OH MY GOD IT WAS AMAZING!!! you totally blew everyone away with your dance, doing Jordan with you was one of the most moving songs performances I've ever had - you're AWESOME! and your zils playing on hallas walla were so right on, it was incredible
we should definitely do it again - I guess maybe the next thing would be your DVD release? let's be in touch to figure it out.
be well, and we'll be in touch soon
peace and bless,
your choreography is awesome btw. You rock.
OMG, Shamira!!!! I've never seen anything so stunning in my life as your performance at Galapagos. Raquy and the Cavemen were already on fire, then you came in and rocked the roof off the place! You're something. I'll never forget it.
I was there and so impressed!!!! But I had to leave before you were finished because I had a 2 hr commute unfortunately - you were great! I also love the DVD, thank you!
Normally it's hard to find anyone standing still in the crowd such as the one that filled Galapagos on a hopping evening with Raquy and the Cavemen, but not so when Shamira was there, as every person stood still to watch her. Shamira rocked the house with her glamorous but funky costume, brightened the room with her face and smile and was *dead-on* with each and every move. There was nowhere else to look when she was dancing.
Another friend who came to see her show described her as "effortless grace." Very true. She makes it look easy... it's not.