This past Sunday Elena Faye, Alura, and I headed downtown to visit the Grisly Pear. Hosting weekly performances with live music provided by Efendi, the Grisly Pear has earned itself a respectable reputation as a bellydance venue here in the Big Apple for both seasoned dancers and those who are still up-and-coming . Although it’s a bit pricey ($20 minimum per person per table with lackluster service*), in terms of atmosphere, this is by far one of my favorite staples of New York bellydance. There was a crowd of knowledgeable regulars, and the whole evening was suffused with a distinct air of respect for the art form being presented. I have to attribute the wonderful ambiance to the event’s promoters, Scott Wilson (oud player of Efendi) and his wife Leni. Both show a clear passion for the music and the dance and encourage hands on participation amongst the audience members. Leni very sweetly approached our table asking for musical requests and my desire for a Turkish 9/8 was quickly rewarded. It was a truly refreshing experience compared to the usual NYC hookah bar/restaurant fare.
The night’s featured dancers were Dorit and three of her students (sadly, I missed the first of the three). A full and enthusiastic crowd of friends, family, and fellow members of Serena Studios came out for the evening, and there was no shortage of money being tossed on the dancers regardless of level and experience. It was a wonderfully supportive and safe space for the students to push themselves and grow. Whenever the students visibly struggled with their improvisation, the crowd quickly cheered and zaghareeted (can I make that verb?) them out of their funk. I also have to commend the drummer of Efendi, Rami, for doing a wonderful job of playing for the dancer. If they wanted to go in a certain direction, he followed, and if they got lost, he showed them an easy way out. He made sure the dancers were the center of attention and left showing-off for another time. Of the two students I saw, they left their performance feeling accomplished and inspired, which is always delightful to see.
Turning to Dorit’s performance, her dynamism was really fun to watch. She had everything from veil to cane, and the band’s rendition of “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple (no doubt a tribute to her musical career) was highly entertaining. It was very enlightening to see student and teacher back to back. You could see the seeds of Dorit’s style in her students, and its full expressivity in Dorit herself. I think it was a great community building moment for their studio, and it was a real pleasure to take part their celebration of hard work and creativity. I would highly recommend a trip to the Grisly Pear for any bellydance enthusiast, and I hope to return again soon.
* EDIT: Leni just informed me via Facebook that the reason for the $20 minimum is to pay both the musicians and the headliner. Now we know our money is going to the people who really deserve it! Not just the restaurant!