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Blast From the Belly Dancing Past

Delilah and Harem Caravan I recently talked with David Dhillon from San Diego. David is a drummer friend who I worked with for many years when I first started belly dancing. I asked him if he had any publicity photos from the days when we worked together at Puccis Sultans Lounge in the Ramada Inn in Hotel Circle?

Those were the days. We did three shows a night, six nights a week in a cozy performance venue built for our show. The show was conceived by Richard Barham, an American born second-generation Palestinian who had plenty of experience playing professional shows in Hollywood and Las Vegas. There was a smooth veneer to the show that was class all the way. He knew how to please an American audience, as well as an ethnic one. He even designed the club’s layout and lighting design.

So popular was the show that before each performance, the house was cleared and refilled with a new audience. We had a ramp stage that jetted out into the room from the stage the musicians were on. Some customers could sit on pillows placed on the floor along side little drink tables. The rest of the chairs, tables and couches were layered in levels so every seat offered a perfect view of the show. Richard set the mood taking everyone on a magic caravan excursion through the Middle East and India. Tony Karesek played multiple instruments: tablas sitar, bagpipes, and base guitar. Dave played a row of dumbeks, Richard played oud and violin so they had a great sound. Each song was from another port of call, and then finally he would introduce the dancers with some wild superlatives, such as the entrancing, the unforgettable, the omnipresent, the inimitable . . . Delilah

Delilah's first belly danceThese guys were wonderful to work with. Whatever you could imagine, they were willing to give it a try. I came up with my famous little dance “The Cane Dance of the Ancient Pharaoh.” You can read about it in Alexandra’s Library on this Web site.

I loved that show and these photos are priceless to me today. I had no idea that the first would be the best. When the show closed, l thought that was going to be the nature of the industry for years to come, but I came to realize it was a rare performance venue in my career. Musicians and club owners in future shows were not always so accommodating to the ideas of dancers. There were a few good shows, but in many other clubs the bands often were in competition with the dancer rather than wanting to work together with her. Club owners usually sided with the band out of good-old-boy camaraderie and because the dancer was easier to replace than the band. Conditions often were rough and sometimes the bands lacked a sense of how to professionally MC the show. There were a lot of really dumb instances.. . . but hey! Harem Caravan was the best!

Dave is a gem, He’s still playing and is very involved with SAMEDA (San Diego Area Middle Eastern Dance Association) magazine. Tony is moving to India to retire with his sweetheart. Richard Barham passed a way about 7 years ago. Sultana Lea is still around Southern California and pops up from time to time. Rossah is in Las Vegas. There was another dancer that worked this show steady when it first opened. Her name was Jamila and we both started learning belly dance from Scheherazade. She called me up and took me under her wing to teach me everything I needed to know in order to audition for Harem Caravan. Thanks Jill! She quit after a couple years and had five kids! I have not heard from her since.

Harem Caravan Belly Dancers

The Harem Caravan Revue
left to right: Katarina, Dave Dhillon, Delilah, Richard Barham, Deziree, Tony Karesek

Harem Caravan Belly Dancers

Delilah, Tony Karesek, Richard Barham David Dhillon, Rossah, Sultana Lea
The year was 1974 and 1975

Jamila, Scheherazade and Delilah

Then I talked to my first teacher and mentor, Scheherazade, and asked her if she would send me some photos of herself. Scheherazade is a mother of two children and a grandmother of two. Mother, daughter, and granddaughter all currently belly dance together in Florida. She continues to be an inspiration!

Scheherazade today


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