November 22, 2004

Squatting Artists In London Were Good To Me

I've never heard of squatting before I came to London. It wasn't in my vocabulary until I read about it in the London paper a few months ago.

Last week, I was at Fresh and Wild (the "Whole Foods" of UK) and saw a postcard flyer for this event called "The Temple of Iz". It had a picture of a hindu goddess on the front. On the back was a huge listing of poets, fashiong designers, performers, and other musicians. I picked up a flyer and called the number on the back for a man named Sedek. To my surprise, he was really acceptive and said that my friend Hannah and I could perform.

I called Hannah later, but she turned out to be busy that Saturday night. I called Sedek on Saturday and told him that my dance partner couldn't make it, so I would be dancing solo. He was cool with that. He said to just come check out the place at 6. The flyer said that doors open at 8.

Having not ventured out much on my own, I had doubts about going anywhere or doing anything or meeting anyone on my own. I am a timid child, and London is a big city. The show was at this place called 491 Gallery. The URL for the website was on the flyer, so I investigated a little more. There didn't seem to be much else other than the website, though.

Saturday came around. I finished my costume during the day. I didn't even leave the house until it was time to leave for the gallery. The entire day, though, I wondered why I even bother with these costumes and dance. This was going to be my first time doing a full-blown tribal fusion performance. What better place to do it than in a room full of strangers?

A little before 6, I took the tube to the Leytonstone station. It was a good 30+ minute ride. The gallery was a mere 100 meters from the station. I went in with a lady carrying a huge suitcase. She was a French lady named Valerie who designed clothes using leather, suede, and elk skin. Her designs were inspired by Native Americans. We were greeted by one of the squatting artists named Olga who made clothes out of hemp. I got to see these ladies designs, which were spectacular. The designers were short on models, so I was asked to model some suede clothing.

I finally met Sedek, who was running around organizing the show. He had the program printed out which showed me performing in the first set. He was also a French guy, very accentric.

The designers rounded up a few more models. I was the shortest of them all, of course. There were 7 of us for Valerie's clothes. A couple of us in dresses, a few in tops and skirts... I was in a suede bikini top with fringe, a matching thick suede belt and a big suede skirt. We had some time to relax before strolling (there was not a real catwalk). I got to chat with Valerie about how she got into making clothes and how the Native American thing appealed to her. She was a really lovely person.

We got dressed upstairs in a small, but warm room. There was a big chill-out room upstairs with big draping curtains and pillows on the floor. The walls displayed some artwork. A few rooms upstairs were some of the artists studios, where they slept, work, etc. The downstairs was one big room with a small stage and a huge fiber optic light installation in the shape of gigantic wings by Genevieve
(who also got asked to model). There was a smaller lounge room also. In the back was a big cemeted area where they had a few warms fires going.

We catwalked out to some Native-American singing that Valerie had on CD. The 7 of us walked into a circle and held hands and danced a bit until the song finished.

I had to hurry back upstairs to change into my tribal-fusion bellydance costume. I danced to the first song on the Satya CD, except I cut out the part when the man starts singing "tikka tikka...". The crowd was really appreciative, and several people came up to me and said some nice things. Some people asked about the origin of the dance, so I told them about American Tribal Style bellydance and how it's influenced by several different cultural dances.

It wasn't my best performance, but I felt good and am glad that I did it. Mainly because I took a chance and went alone to some strange place and met some really great and talented people. I got to hear a few singers. One sang almost in a chant-like way, while she accompanied herself with some low drumming. I didn't get to hear Ruth play her harp. She was one of the models. I didn't stay long after my performance because I was not familiar with the bus routes out there, so I headed back to the tube station for home.

I know Sedek will have another great gathering soon. Hope I will be a part of it.

Many of you might remember the quote at the bottom of my emails:
"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great." - Mark Twain

... the people at 491 Gallery are really great.

Posted by oneray at November 22, 2004 4:59 PM