Bert – Excerpt from Call to My Soul – Dancing the Path to True Love

Bert, originally from Germany, started his show business career as a young boy with the European circus. Eventually he migrated to the United States, where he had danced in Las Vegas. In the 70’s, when I started classes with him, Bert lived on a small farm in the country an hour away from San Francisco. He had to drive to San Francisco every Friday night for his class, but he never seemed to mind.

When teaching, he wore his cowboy boots and jeans and simply tied up his shirt at the chest. His gentle German accent gave us encouragement, words of wisdom, and stories. We danced to Baladi, Bolero, Chiftateli, 7/8, 6/8, and 9/8 rhythms. We rarely did floor work or separate finger cymbal patterns. Instead, Bert would teach us a combination of steps, and then around in a circle we would go, repeating them until we learned them. Often, he would choose one or two students in the class to demonstrate the step or combination as it looked when done well. The dancers would have completely different styles unique to themselves and their body types, so the combinations looked very different on each person. Bert consistently and emphatically supported the individuality of every dancer, a quality of his teaching which strongly appealed to me.

 Bert was who people studied with when they wanted to get jobs in the clubs. The talent scouts for the local night clubs would occasionally come to class to watch. They loved it when Bert had the dancers demonstrate his steps. On those nights, the more advanced dancers would wear their finest outfits and hope to get hired. Then the scouts would choose people to perform at one of the famous North Beach clubs such as the Bagdad or the Casbah. It was both exciting and intimidating for us newer dancers. At the next class we would feel the absence of the lucky women (I don’t remember men in that class, except of course for Bert), usually the best, who were now working on Fridays and so were unable to attend class. 

©2022  Marianna Mejia

The Mysterious Dancer – Excerpt from Call to My Soul – Dancing the Path to True Love

…Occasionally Steve and Alice would give parties, Flamenco fiestas that lasted all night. Flamenco artists from all over the Bay area would come, drinking, eating, dancing, singing, and playing guitar until dawn. I lived for these fiestas, for the high that followed being in non-stop, group Flamenco land. Living with Freddie kept me in the Flamenco flow, but the parties took it to a new level. Some would last three days.

One night, Jenny whispered to me, “You have to stay up until four in the morning to see this one guy dance. He only dances then, and he is really good. He is also really cute.” So the next night we both made plans to watch together, and sure enough, as the night stretched toward dawn and many people left, a handsome, young, dark haired man arose to dance to the guitars that played unfailingly, the soul of the music growing with the length of the night. I found out much later, that the dancer, Roberto, who also became a singer, was too shy to dance earlier, which is why he waited until fewer people were awake, to get up his courage to dance. But at that time, to Jenny and me, he just seemed mysterious and otherworldly as well as very good. 

©2022  Marianna Mejia 

Electricity – Excerpt from Call to My Soul – Dancing the Path to True Love

My senses felt fed. Freddie, the cute Flamenco guitarist, was sitting nearby, taking a break from playing music, and he offered to rub my feet at the same time his friend was rubbing my neck and shoulders. I accepted, naturally. When Freddie’s musician hands touched my feet, electricity immediately connected our flesh, causing an involuntary tremor through my body. But I made myself relax, breathing and luxuriating in the many sensations, erotically held together by the music. The fire flickered and danced with the overhead lights and my body surrendered in ecstasy. The smell of the burning wood mingled with incense, hashish and forest. The stars outside flickered and a sense of serene peace wafted over us.

         Suddenly the power failed and the lights went out. Everything stopped. Freddie took my hand and, in a trance, without thought or talk, we walked into the night outside through the curtained door. Somewhere in the dark, on the other side of a haybale, we came together in a ferocious and consuming passion that overtook us, making love in the dirt and weeds. When we strolled in after the lights came back on, we must have both had twigs and hay in our hair. And we must have glowed.

©2022  Marianna Mejia 

Goodbye Aloka- Excerpt from Chapter 28 – Call to My Soul –Dancing the Path to True Love

In 1984, … Aloka’s health started to go downhill. Her back legs became weak and she had to drag herself around. Finally, I knew I had to do the responsible thing and put her to sleep. Aloka had been with me for fifteen years and I did not want to let her go. When I got her from the pound in Taos, just weaned, she had fit into the palm of my hand. I had nursed her through distemper and felt her decide to live. We had been inseparable for years during my twenties and now my thirties. Other relationships had come and gone, but she was still with me, and when I was away from home, my thirteen-year old son often kept her company. She was a part of our lives and the thought of her death brought up pain. My heart felt tight. I didn’t know if I could do it. But I couldn’t let her suffer, and so I called her vet. 

©2022   Marianna Mejia 

Dancing with Snakes – Excerpt from Meeting Freddie –Dancing the Path to True Love

Dancing with snakes felt sensual, the cool skin gliding over my body, but I had to be careful that the snake didn’t get tangled in my jewelry or coil around my neck. Once, while I was Belly Dancing in a performance at the New Riverside Szechwan, a large and fancy Chinese restaurant in Santa Cruz, my snake, Julius Squeezer, wound the tip of his tail around the back of my loose-fitting necklace, twisting it around and around. As the chain tightened, I started to choke. Afraid I would pass out and no one would guess the cause and I would die, I felt a dizziness and was struck by the absurdity of the situation. Knowing that I had to do something soon, I danced up to one of the musicians and whispered loudly, “Break my necklace!” I lifted my hair seductively and turned my back to the musician, smiling at the audience as I undulated my stomach. Turning my head, I hissed, “Just yank it off,” briefly pivoting toward him when he hesitated. The chain finally popped and I inhaled a deep breath as I continued moving my body to the music. I lifted the snake high for the audience to see and then let him coil again on my arm and belly. I don’t think the audience knew what had happened, as I glided on the music through the rest of my dance, minus one gold colored costume necklace from Turkey. 

©2022  Marianna Mejia