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Eagle River, Alaska
June 27-28, 2003
A Workshop Sponsored by Saude Abdul
and the Eagle River Dance Academy

Talk About Northern Hospitality!

I left on a Wednesday late night flight to Anchorage, Alaska, and almost didn’t get on the plane. I got there in plenty of time (2 1/2 hours early) but I fell asleep in the holding area. If it wasn’t for the kindness of a fellow passenger I might still be asleep in SeaTac.

Saude Abdul met me at the gate (well, as near as you can get to it these days). I could see her from way off in the distance. Her red hair bobbing and her hands waving excitedly, she was grinning from ear to ear. We collected my bags and to my dismay baggage security had broken my suitcase. The combination lock had been turned by accident and I guess they took a screw driver to my bag, rendering it useless. Luckily they duct taped it back together.

This is the land of the Midnight Sun. It was daylight at 2 a.m. We drove 40 minutes out of town to Peter’s Creek B and B. There, the proprietor, Lucy Moody, was graciously waiting to meet me, (in her nightgown, of course). Saude and Lucy poured me into the luscious bed with a million pillows and cush; just the way I like it! I stayed in the Whale Room. I highly recommend Peter’s Creek: featuring ten rooms, each with their own bathroom and outfitted with TV, ironing board, blow dryers, refrigerators, and exquisite furnishings. It was spacious and clean, as one could imagine. In the morning, Bob and Lucy cooked breakfast and chatted with me.

Saude pawned me off on Lenny, of Magic Circle, while she finished up some last minute workshop business (I know how that goes). Ginger, Lenny’s wife, did some laundry because they came up for a 10-day vacation and had been there a while. So, Lenny got roped into driving me back to the airport for a forgotten bag. He’s one of my favorite people and I was glad to see him!

It was after 2 in the morning when I arrived and I had a ton of bags and boxes to manage so one got left behind. Lenny and I returned from our tour of the airport and Anchorage biz district. Next, we all went to the native cultural center for the afternoon. After that we went to the famous Alaskan Bar called the Bird House (I’ll say no more) and to Beni Hannah’s for a fab dinner. We topped it off by popping into a cool blues club. We needed to work off our dinner, so Lenny and us three babes took over the dance floor. The band was rad! Lenny was feeling like a king! We got a little wild and I managed to kick my skirt right over my head. So, this may not have been the most graceful trip of my life. I almost missed my flight because I fell asleep, then I left my bag at the airport and now I’ve been too wild, but, hey, it was way fun!

Off to bed and my hosts assured me, tomorrow we’d have some real fun. I thought that’s what we were having already? The day began with a car trip to see Turnagain arm. Lenny was our tour guide and told us about the amazing natural phenomena of Turnagain Arm Inlet: How it got it’s name — captain Cook kept having to turn around again when running into sand bars; About it’s unusual danger of quick sand, due to the glacier silt mud. “Quick sand in Alaska?!” I exclaimed.

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We had lunch at a restaurant where Lenny had seen a bear the day before! (God, I love Alaska.) Then we took the 2.5 mile tunnel to Whitter. They say, or rather sing “nothing could be shitter then to wake up in Whitter in the morning” (Alaskan Joke). We had ice cream and split. Next stop was a boat cruise to Portage Glacier. I had no idea how cool this was gonna be. We saw the blue ice of the glacier at close range, a mere 300 feet away. A giant chunk broke off and fell into the water and turned into an iceberg; a process called caving. Next, we went to the wild animal preserve. They had lots of baby animals: moose, bear, foxes, fawn, and other big critters, too. There were a lot of dead trees in the preserve. Saude told me they were from the 1964 tsunami that took over the bay ten minutes after an earthquake. The saltwater killed a lot of the vegetation.

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We canceled our plans for a tram trip up the side of the mountain and decided to head straight for our dinner reservations at Mr.Whitekeys Fly by Night Club. Lenny, Saude and Ginger were acting all hush-hush about dinner. They said they had a surprise. Mr. White Keys was a tacky campy blue/comedy club. This show was called Whale Fat Follies. When I call this club tacky, I mean it in the best sense of the word. I know Mr. Whitekeys and the cast would approve. Alaskans are proud of their tackiness. This is the spot every visitor must come to truly appreciate the Alaskan spirit and heritage. Oh my fish scales, don your hip waders and let’s go dancing with Martha Stewart, Elvis Presley, President Clinton and that Alligator Hunter guy on TV. It was a high falootin show in a low falootin town with singing fish dancers, moose and musical duct tape (my favorite). It was way too much fun. The running gag of the show is the popularity of spam in Alaska. Running neck-and-neck tie with Hawaii as the Spam-eating capital. No, I don’t meant the unwanted email kind. I mean the pink delicacy often used as modeling clay. Lenny had seen their show last year and was familiar with the Alaskan fondness for the delicacy of Spam. In fact, Lenny was inspired. Not to eat spam, but to make a bellydance belt out of the can. So their little surprise was to present Mr. Whitekeys with a special Magic Circle belly dance spam belt complete with a school of little silver salmon . It was modeled and danced in the finale of their show by, Surprise!, Saude Abdul. The show ended, but the four of us stuck around to kick up our heels some more with the Mr. Whitekeys Blues band. Off to bed, and up early for the first day of the workshop.

There were forty dancers, all very enthusiastic. It was a great group of women. After the workshop, we had a late lunch, then off to the auditorium, where we had the use of a state-of-the-art theater on the high school campus. The two-part show ran quickly, and to my surprise, I did a Turkish drop. I thought I had quit doing them, but the moment was so perfect inside of the spin. The theater lights, the curve of the stage and the sound so balanced, the support and hospitality so fine, that I just got so inspired and BOOM! I did the perfect Turkish drop (See Volume 3 for instruction). No burns, no bruises, no skid marks. Maybe it was the fresh air, the late night sunshine... Off to bed and then to workshop number 2.

This day, I taught my new choreography which we had worked out for the Summer Solstice Parade the week before. It’s called power bellydance. It’s simple, yet challenging, and helps hone skills in belly rolls, eye contact, quickness, and torso isolations. We worked on an exercise called My Hip is a Circle and Rhythm Dance from Rapture Rumi. We ended the day with a talking circle because everyone was pretty pooped. We took a lot of pictures, which I hope to get copies of for this page. HINT, HINT. Later, a few die hards and I danced to (my favorites) Michael Beach’s new CD, Hands of a Thousand Dances, and the New Nuba CD, Laylit Shibbet. . . they can be found on our belly dance music page.

I duct taped my suitcases back together and I was ready to go back to Seattle. Ruby Wallace and her kind husband from Valdez Alaska volunteered to drive me to the airport. I fell asleep on the plane and was back home in Seattle just past midnight. Wow, what a blast! Thank you Saude and thank you Eagle River Dance Academy for your great northern hospitality!


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