Bari Simon in the Old DaysSo let me tell you about Bari Simon. Most of you probably haven’t heard of her, but she was one of the most famous and controversial Israeli belly dancers in the 80ies. In the early 90ies Bari exchanged her bedlahs [a two-piece belly dance costume] for a head cover, bought up all of her dance videos and opened a bridal boutique in Bnei Brak [a city east of Tel Aviv, populated by orthodox Jews]. Needless to say since then Bari does not perform in public, however she does tour the country with seminars for women only. This January Bari was one of the guest instructors at the Oriental Dance festival in Eilat. She taught one workshop and gave one lecture followed by a short performance.

The workshop started late. In between fiddling with the mic and hissing away the men who tried to infiltrate the classroom Bari made us thank god for our beauty, health and talent to the sounds of Omar Faruk Tekbilek. Then she proceeded to dance on the stage while we were desperately trying to follow her. Naturally, Bari didn’t explain anything, because how would you break up her majestic poise and grandeur? Self-confidence and the sense of superiority are gained through years of hard work.

The next day the hall was packed even more, as we all gathered to hear Bari’s story. I’m not going to retell this jumble of self-flatter, preaching etc. etc. ad nauseum. Instead let me try to describe Bari’s dancing, because this is something I will remember for many years to come.

After a short change of dress Bari entered the hall to the opening sounds of Inta Omri under a canopy of a long turquoise veil. She briefly scanned the stage and then discarded the veil revealing one of the most stunning costumes I’ve ever seen. The long slinky dress emphasized all the curves, which was rather ironic, giving the sermons we had heard earlier regarding revealing dancer’s flesh. The dress had long draping skirt and sleeves and veils were attached to it from behind to create an effect of wings.

Bari’s dancing was spectacular. She was in total command of time and space. Her hip work was subtle and precise, her arms – exquisite, long and willowy, she was one with the music, she was divine… Bari reminded me of the Egyptian Golden Age dancers, only if I might say better.