Memories and the Meaning of Family
If you were to ask me, “What does 50 years of Bal Anat mean to you?” The answer is simple: Bal Anat means family. I don’t remember a time in my life without having the family of Bal Anat.
I first performed with Bal Anat at the Northern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire when I was only 2 years old. The beat of the drums and the sound of the mizmars persist in my memory, forever deep in my marrow. There, I was surrounded by women in rich costumes, dripping with coins and jewelry, all under my mother’s careful direction. While she was always my mother, she was also our matriarch.
Even today, when I hear that first mizmar of the Bal Anat procession, I close my eyes and I can still smell the dust and the incense. In my mind’s eye, I see the stage and the colorful crowd in the audience. Instantly, I feel connected to a long line of ancestors who have danced, celebrated family, and even in the face of great hardship, persisted.
A Vision of Tradition
And because of my mother’s vision, Bal Anat is more than a memory. It is alive today, being the longest-running belly dance company in the world.
It’s also a tradition that my mother passed on to me, and that I am eternally grateful to now pass on to my daughter, Isabella. And with that tradition, comes a lineage of powerful dancers, ancestors, and matriarchs.
Just as it has made an indelible mark on me, it has made a permanent mark on belly dance as we know it today.
From My Family to Yours: Bal Anat at 50
The stage will come alive once again, with dancers from all generations. The passion our dancers share for living the Salimpour legacy connects them across borders, languages, and ages.
And I want to recognize the sacrifices they are making to make this show happen. They’re continuing to train, learning new choreography, making new costumes, organizing travel, and taking time off from work to make this celebration a reality. It’s a testament to how much these dancers value their extended Bal Anat family.
And while Bal Anat’s 50th anniversary celebrates a legacy that has touched all of us, it still my family. It’s my mother, her friends, my friends and mentors. People who have shaped me and who I am as a woman today. And if you have felt the influence of Bal Anat, they’re your family, too.
In 2018, we will honor them, and of course we’ll honor my mother. Jamila Salimpour created this revolutionary show that changed the path of belly dance forever.