Visionary Dance Productions' Renaissance Man

In 1985 Steve and Delilah made their first instructional video while Delilah was pregnant. It provided income and served as a pilot for their future video ventures. They sold about 50 copies of that first video — which essentially invoved Steve video taping Delilah's spontaneous lesson in the dance studio in the back of their house. They dubbed them one at a time from their VCR. Seeing that this was a successful enterprise, they bought their first Macintosh computer (a Mac Plus!) and a new video camera. Soon they started a business together called Visionary Dance Productions and set out to make a more professional presentation. They began by producing instructional bellydance videos aimed at real bellydancers rather than that impulse buyer of how-to-make-your-husband-sultan-for-the-evening. The series offered real instruction for women who wanted to learn the dance art.

For more information about Delilah's philosophy of belly dance, click here

Steve standing by while Claire Wesley and Bill Brown adjust lights between takes
Video is the perfect medium to actually learn movement forms — much better than a book. Visionary Dance Production’s modest, but increasingly polished home video industry was a good means of support for this two-artist family. The timing was perfect. The belly dance and music club scenes were in decline in the 1980s, with regular jobs and a reasonable family income increasingly difficult to sustain. The Visionary Dance video production company began to grow steadily by day while Steve and Delilah continued their club gigs by night.

Steve's amateur movie-making experience as a child, his college degree in photojournalism, and his renegade music profession were all focusing for the benefit of Visionary Dance Productions! Steve and Delilah went on to make and release other instructional videos, music CDs and performance programs through Visionary Dance Productions. Delilah was literally creating dancers through her video and in-person teaching all over America and eventually the world. Her students were hungry for more instruction, and Visionary Dance Productions met this increasing demand for high quality and inspiring instructional material.

Steve wrote and recorded the music, and directed, shot, and edited the video footage while Delilah scripted, taught and performed in front of the camera. Delilah wrote articles for belly dance magazines and traveled around the world performing and distributing videos. Steve and Delilah both wrote lots of copy for labels, covers, advertising brochures, etc. Katha Dalton provided incredible inspiration and design expertise in the beginning. Steve continues to design and maintain the elegant look-&- feel for all of Visionary Dance Productions graphic needs. Eventually, with the tremendous help of Fran Murphy, Visionary Dance expanded their horizons with a fabulous web site.

Steve shooting footage of Delilah for one of Visionary Dance's early video projects
Steve is always hard at work learning to use the newest computer programs for all facets of their business; bookkeeping, banking, music recording, video editing, advertising design, web design, and most recently, DVD mastering. . . . They drew the help of supportive friends into all their productions. Claire Wesley, Fran Murphy, Bill Brown, Katha Dalton, Kathy and Bal Balducci, Rip Knot, many musicians, many student and professional dancers, and even their kids.

Laura Rose Flynn started college early and began learning film making and video editing at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She is really talented and began to move like greased lightning through her courses, convincing her teacher she could be responsible for solo contracts to produce, direct and star in her own movies in her first year. See Laura's first animation project: Bondage

At about the end of her second year, Steve and Laura Rose began the tedious process of producing DVDs for Visionary Dance. Real DVDs ! They were not just slapping the video programs on disk but truly utilizing the newest DVD technologies to best facilitate the instruction of bellydance in an entertaining and beautiful way. “Absolute Beginning Bellydance with Delilah” was first and the entire family launched a three day long video shoot at American Productions Studios in Seattle. They taped the footage to “A Retro Choreography” and two more programs which will be released in 2003.

The shoot was really fun. The family created a great production team. Steve had the director's chair. Laura was handling continuity, makeup and clap board. Victoria was in charge of keeping all script notes on the computer, her boyfriend, Herman, was a grip and errand runner. Fran and Pablo were on cameras. Everyone set up lights and sound, and Steve’s cousin, Nancy, provided the catering and was Delilah’s personal assistant.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Just like her Dad, Laura Rose made her first movie in 1st grade with home video and then a feature length movie called “Freedoms' Crossing” was written, directed and acted in Jr High school. In college she stacked up quite a collection of movies she either wrote, directed or starred in (usually all of the above): Versago's Home, Running from Redemption, Actis Luna, and Captain Chaotica. Now that Laura was taking this to a new serious level it represented a new dimension in Steve's relationship with her. In making these new DVDs, father and daughter were colleagues. Sometimes he knew the answers and sometimes he needed her advice.

Absolute Beginning Bellydance
Retro Choreography
Absolute Beginning Bellydance A Retro Choreography, Fire at the Iao

Interview with the producers

The family did all this with shoe-string budgets. What they lacked in investment capital, they made up for in talent, creativity, and close attention to detail. This attention to detail is an important trait Steve Flynn always brings to the table. Steve and Delilah put in amazing hours of hard work. They wore all the hats, and though it was time consuming, it was fun and rewarding too! They were their own bosses, and they were successful and happy being so!

In addition to shooting and editing, Steve wrote, recorded and produced the original music for Visionary Dance Productions in his production studio, Wild Child Music, at Black Whole Studios. He used the traditional Arabic rhythm patterns that Delilah used in teaching the dances, but invented his own rich melody lines to score a contemporary music for the American Classic style of belly dance that Delilah offered.

Steve and Delilah also started their annual Visionary Bellydance Retreats in Hawaii. There, women spend 10 days studying bellydance with Delilah and really become immersed in the dance. Live Middle Eastern music is an important part of the retreats as well. “Sirocco,” a wonderful band made up of Armando “Uncle Mafufo” and Suliman El Coyote, has been an essential part of these retreats. They have both played music and given instruction in drums and other instruments. The retreats are a rich and wondrous experience.

Victoria, Delilah and Laura Rose
Steve setting up for a "Dancing in Nature" shoot

The retreats led to many new concepts in connection with bellydance. "Dancing in Nature" was a new revelation in the curriculum of understanding bellydance. They would take cameras, musicians, and dancers into the wild and document the creative process of incorporating nature as a dance partner in their compositions. This work explored the archetypal impetus for all dance since Adam and Eve and how we, the audience, come to understand this wordless expression. Steve and Delilah worked with the wind, waterfall, rain, ocean, sun and sand of Hawaii, the forests, beaches and mountains of the Northwest and the tropical rain forests in Costa Rica. In 1994, inpired by this previous work with natural elements, Delilah wrote a piece for an NPR radio contest called "Living on Earth." Steve recorded Delilah's narrative and then worked his magic in his recording studio to produce an incredibly detailed collage of sound effects amplifying its message. The piece won first place. The prize was a $5,000 trip for two to Costa Rica. See NPR Radio Contest:Well Nation Day.

Bellydance as therapy for all sorts of psychological woes was another important concept. They demonstrated how dance could bring meaning to every aspect of one’s life. By way of connecting bodies, hearts and minds to the natural world around us, we feel more alive!

These two visionaries were pioneering very creative frontiers of dance, music, personal growth and photography. Another of Delilah’s visionary ideas was fully realized through the eye of Steve’s camera, and that eye is in the deep blue sea, capturing the essence of underwater belly dances! See the Underwater Gallery. Bellydance is serpentine and fluid. It moves t
Betty Kelly
hrough the body, not just on the surface. Water is a perfect medium for the dance. Steve’s skilled eye captures it like no one else’s.

Mind you, this was all going on while Steve and Delilah were raising a family: Laura Rose and Victoria Artemis. When the girls were small, Steve and Delilah were equal parents by day and then kissed their little pride-and-joys goodnight as they left to work in the night clubs. Steve was playing with Jr Cadillac at night while Delilah was working two to five nights a week either in night clubs or teaching classes! Delilah was home by midnight and Steve by 2:00 or 3:00 am. They found the perfect nanny named Betty Kelly who was with them for about 13 years.

“I don't know Vic, should we write another verse or take it to the bridge?”

Music for Dancers
Steven Flynn’s first recording for Visionary Dance Productions was Tales of the Night Wind which featured seven-minute songs in all the basic rhythms taught in the first two instructional bellydance videos, Delilah’s Bellydance Workshop Volumes 1&2 . It was a great tool for assisting dancer’s practice. Many dance troupes in America use and enjoy dancing to pieces from this collection. Steve also released another recording called Inner Dances, that is an unusual ambient soundtrack that Delilah used as a teaching tool in her live classes and workshops.

A pensive, reflective moment during an audio session
Steve began composing music for Delilah’s more “avant garde” theater pieces as well. This has given him a chance to stretch culturally as well as creatively. He used spoken words, found sounds, and unusual synthesized voicings in these compositions. He created the theater works; Calling up the Oracle and Calling up the Oracle for Peace that were performed in Seattle and in the Soviet Union by Delilah and Sarah Teofanov, four months after Steve's trip there with Jr Cadillac. Other works by Flynn include Conversations, Themis Mother of Oracles, Deluvian Rock, All Must Come This Way, Amazonkas, and Hathor.

In a following year they did some filming in studios and on the island of Maui for Delilah’s Bellydance Workshop Volume 3 and Dance, Delilah, Dance! followed later by the Costume Workshop Part 1&2, Dance to the Great Mother and Delilah and Sirocco; Live and Wild! During this time Steve composed the Welcome to the Dance CD. This recording featured a full contemporary routine which Delilah later performed in Germany. That performance would appear on the German and American video release of the Spirit Of Oriental Dance video. Other cuts on the recording were compositions Steve had been playing for Delilah’s dance troupe called the Visionary Dancers. Lily Wilde, who sang with Jr Cadillac at the time, sang a song on this album, called Turning Around. It was inspired in part by all the entrancing spins bellydancers do in their dances, by the poetry lines of Jelaluddine Rumi and by the whirling (or turning as it is more properly called) of Turkish dervishes. (Rumi as he is casually called, was a poet and scholar, born in Afghanistan in 1207, but lived most of his life in Konya, Turkey). Read some of Steve's favorite poems. Also see the Kennedy Center archives and Laurel Gray's Silk Road Dance Performance, featuring music by Steven Flynn and others.

A note from Victor E, a fan of Steve’s music

Middle and Near-Eastern Connections

Steve with his breathy soulful ney
Steve had always been interested in the Sufi’s approach to music. Delilah remembers giving him a small book he wanted, called “Music” by Hazrat Inayat Khan, when they first met. Steve didn’t really know about Sufism at the time but music was clearly his soul’s calling. The poetry of Rumi was beginning to speak loudly and clearly to many Americans at this time, and Steve became especially inspired by the translations of Rumi by Colman Barks. This led to Steve and Delilah taking a workshop with Colman Barks and a Sufi dancer named Zuleka (in about 1992-93 at Hollyhock, just outside of Vancouver, BC). This, for both Steve and Delilah, began an interest in learning about Sufism; Sufi music, dances of Universal Peace, and Sufi poetry and its teachings. Delilah took up whirling with the Mevlevi Order of America whirling dervishes under the leadership of Jelaluddine Loras, and Steve was called to a musical wind instrument called the ney. Sulyman el Coyote of Sirocco showed him how to make a ney out of a length of PVC plastic and helped Steve to play his first notes on it. He then went to Turkey with Jelal and the Mevlevis, to immerse himself, take ney lessons and buy a finer instrument.

Traditionally the ney is made of a particular kind of cane (but today is made just as well with a length of PVC pipe).It is one of the oldest instruments in human history. Just a hollow reed with six holes on top, one on the bottom, and a hole at each end.

On the light side. . . after being responsible for such huge and heavy instruments such as drum sets and pianos for so many years, the opportunity to switch to a lightweight instrument was very appealing to Steve on a practical level. If you make it out of PVC, it's a cheap and easily replaced instrument, one you can take anywhere. On the heavier side. . . the process of making music with the breath is a penetrating mystical experience, deeply relaxing and meditative. Metaphorically, the physical form of the instrument is said to represent the human body. The breath of life moves through it and the soul is expressed. So, now Mr. Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues, Visionary Bellydance Composer would need to study the eastern scales called macams and hear in quartertones . A very complex system. The soul that had so eloquently spoken though his song writing thus far, would now explore a very ancient tradition.

Claire dancing to Steve's beautiful breathy ney.
Having been so richly inspired by this instrument and the poetry of Rumi, there soon came a day when Steve was commissioned by the very popular Robert Davidson Dance Company to compose all the music for an entire aerial dance production called “Rapture Rumi”. The show was done on low flying trapezes. The music from the album was also called Rapture Rumi and was released in 1995. The album was composed by Steve Flynn on Ney, vocals, keyboards and percussion and also featured Jeffrey Sick on violin, Karl Stacksteder on didgereedoo, and Armando Fojacco on drums. The music is an embroiled mix of Flynn’s own divine inspiration, classical Turkish rhythms, sacred music lines, and ritual traditions; ziker, zar, and mysterious and rapturous rumbas.

Later on, selections from Rapture Rumi would inspire many other artists and dancers to employ its use as well, including: Laurel Victoria Gray and the Silk Road Dance Company, Wendy Buenoventura, artist Sarah Teofanov, Havvah of Germany as well as Delilah. It has also found its way into the hands of body workers and therapists too... (see Rapture Rumi; Music to Dance, Make Love, and Die By)

Steve in Turkey
Steve has learned the classical sema music played for the traditional ceremonies of the whirling Dervishes. He travels every so often to participate with these dancers, as well as other Sufi event presentations, playing with such musicians as Latif Bolat on saz, Gary Haggerty on oud, Mimi Spencer on kanoon, fellow neyzen Huzur Steven Coughlin and Peter Davrington.

Turning in front of Rumi's Tomb
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