Cobbles and Bits

Belly Dance   Opera   Fur Trade

Blessed Beasts, Furred People

This area is just starting to take form, but one thing that is ready now is a list of the charities and advocacy groups that concern themselves with the rest of the planet's inhabitants.

Belly Dancing and the Dancers

In Memoriam: All those old men who lost their heads over sweet young things...

I have "collected" belly dancers for more than twenty years. It is an art form that fascinates me, and I had the great good fortune to live more than ten years in a hotbed of belly dancing, the Salt Lake Valley. For my thoughts on the discipline and a homage to the best of them all, try "Zahirah: Walking on Water"

I once had a fascinating argument with an articulate man who thought belly dancers were Arab strippers. Eventually I said equating belly dancing to burlesque is like equating making love with screwing a prostitute: If you don't understand there's a difference, that is your loss. So what is the difference?

A word on terminology. For me, it's belly dancing, ladies and gentlemen.

The Art of Middle Eastern Dance

If this is not the definitive site on belly-dancing, it's in contention. Shira combines a solid knowledge of all facets of her hobby with some professional skill as a web designer/developer, and the result is a huge, encyclopedic site that is easy to use. You want links? Go to her links page. You want information on dancers in your area? She's got a great list. History? Got it. Art? Covered. Fabulous.

Middle Eastern Dance Resources Guide

This site originally at the University of Arizona is still linked all over the place; it has moved, however, to the link provided above. The site is easy to navigate, pleasant to look at, readable and informative. One section reprints an excellent history of the dance.

Omphalo Stepses

A site with real character. "The Shan Monster" is a dancer, writer, and computer maven with a resident techie on hand; her site is easy to use, amusing, and informative. Look at the huge archive of belly dancing pictures, "Bellydancers & Harem Girls," she has collected. And for a real treat, check out the rest of her site, which pretty much takes the crown for "personalization."

Yasmina's Joy of Belly Dancing

Another comprehensive site, with a small but impressive collection of vintage photographs. Yasmina is an articulate dance instructor, so there is emphasis on educational topics, including "How to Belly Dance" (actually a list of resources for learning to dance). She also covers things as arcane as recipes, a set of plays written "for" belly dancing, and a whole section on the historical stars of belly dance. A lot of everything, and well-organized.

Dancing Badger

The Bay Area Belly Dance Page

A gorgeous and content-rich site with a local focus is Tracy Miller's at Berkeley. Like any good site, it is a living, organic, constantly changing. And getting better with age. Nicely linked, very navigable, no pie in the face backgrounds, animated cartoons, or puce on chartreuse text. Whew!

A Living Language

A good essay on belly dancing by Zanne Miller, featured in the online version of the University of Oregon's Influx magazine of student writing. Pictures and links. In a sidebar on the history of the art form, Miller makes the point that the dance is for women, quoting one of herw subjects: "... this empowers women as women, not as imitation men."

Fat Chance Belly Dance

Who can resist the name? They are fine dancers I had the pleasure of seeing once at the Belly Dancing Festival in Salt Lake City. (Yes, and don't ask; it may be the belly dancing capital of America.) Their site, interestingly enough, is understated, almost muted, with black and white photos of the troup and links to a variety of related topics.

Kismet Dance Company

Yasamina and Jason. Their history in Salt Lake City would make interesting reading. I first spotted Yasamina in 1980, when she was a young dancer in one of the most respected companies, Aziz in Salt Lake. That was my first Salt Lake Belly Dancing Festival, and I was hooked. Yasamina was one of the best performers there, vivacious, pretty, supple: an extraordinary blend of talent and technique. And, it turned out, a wonderful teacher.

Soon after this, she founded Kismet; later, a man named Jason joined her troup. He would perform male ethnic dances as interludes while the women were changing. Then they married and he became Jason Rocque and, I think, invented a new form of belly dance, a dance of men for women. In addition to being, like Yasamina, a fine teacher, he rivetted female audiences with his masculine variant of this feminine art form.

Their school trained and polished some of the great dancers: Zahirah, Rahsheema Sha, Alexandria, for example, and then trained some of them again as instructors who now have their own schools. And their sponsorship of the Belly Dance Festival simutaneously promoted understanding of feminism and Middle Eastern culture, an uneasy alliance at best.

Yasamina remains, in her semi-retirement, one of the great dancers, fleshy and supple, amusing and sexy. A serious artist of great talent, she doesn't take herself seriously; her performances tease and joke with the audiences, then suddenly she is doing some move so extraordinary one is speechless. To look at her offstage, a man might dismiss her as overweight and plain. Poor fool. When she begins to dance, hands stop midway carrying food or drink to the mouth. Zagareets, Yasamina.

Note: Their web site is more elusive that a Bedouin tent. Don't shout at me if it's moved again, Ok?

Utah Raks

Rebecca Habtour's Middle Eastern Dance site, Utah Raks, is a good source for information about the Belly Dance community in Utah and the Great Basin. Elegant design, attractive graphics, and simple navigation make it a pleasure to browse. She also maintains a personal site to promote her dance career. Both sites offer useful links to other local information.

Virtual Belly Dancing

Finally, a shameless plug. My review of a set of costumes and poses for adding a "Fantasy Dancer" to the Poser 3D toolkit was fun to write, offers some beautiful images, and includes on the third page a set of 50 dance poses that could be used in a classroom. Enjoy.

Shira, Miller, and Cyr link you around and through all sorts of other stuff, most of it predictable: cyberads for performers, mostly in Los Angeles, club things, and so forth. Chances are, you'll find what you're looking for if you check them out. And you won't come away vertiginous....

Fur Trade, Mountain Man Rendezvous

Free Trapper

The Mountain Men. They were the Hell's Angels of the Rockies a hundred and fifty years ago, but we've transformed them, just as we transformed the cowboys and Indians and the heroic cavalry, into what they should have been — Romantic dreamers and rugged individualists rather than sociopathic misfits.

Rendezvous (the plural? "Rendezvous', of course) are great fun for kids, adults, a kind of Wild West version of a Renaissance Fair. You'll encounter New Age hippies and survivalists, history professors and our own current Hell's Angels. (If that aspect of the crowd worries you, go to Fort Bridger on Labor Day weekend, where they behave themselves, courtesy of a squad of mounted Wyoming police).

You'll find some of my observations on the mountain man, more specifically Vardis Fisher's novel of that name, at "Four Ways of Looking West," the bibliography for a reading group I led in Boise, Idaho for the Log Cabin Literary Center.

Museum of the Mountain Man - Pinedale, Wyoming

Not to be missed online, considering how hard it is to get at geographically. I've been to the museum four times. The first two, I couldn't find it. The third time, I found it, but it was off-season, and I ended up driving to the top of a hill, on a dirt road, to see the vista Alfred Jacob Miller painted at a panoramic Green River Rendezvous in, I think, 1823. Then the fourth time, you guessed it, closed. One of these days....

The Wolf Trader

Also not to be missed, mainly because the home page will startle the bejabbers out of you.

The Mountain Man Web Ring

A quick way to find everything you ever imagined on Rendezvous, Mountain Men, and the Fur Trade. For a historical take on the period, see Dean Rudy's archive of the Fur Trade. I'm sure you're capable of making your own decisions, but be warned that the 'American Mountain Man' fraternal organization may be more than you bargained for.

Opera and Classical Music

For starters, Santa Fe


There may be better opera companies in the world, but there is nothing like seeing the opera in the hills above Santa Fe. I remember a Tosca when there was a lightning storm over the Los Alamos mountains, visible through the back of the stage. You expect to be rained on, cool desert rain, and if you can't afford anything but the cheapest tickets, you gamble on the slant of the rain and buy seats on the edges of the open center. (I haven't been back since they redesigned the building, so the open center has changed a bit from my recollections.)

They premiered at least three operas I'll never forget: Hans Werner Henze's The Bassarids, Gian Carol Menotti's Help, Help, the Globolinks, and Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. The Globolinks starred an unknown young soprano named Judith Blegen. It was there I saw my first Electra and Salome; there I saw the extraordinary Carmen with choreography by Maria Benitez. I nearly went to New Mexico last summer for no reason but to attend their new Les Dialogs des Carmelites. No other opera quite like Santa Fe.

I was coming home from the opera on that night in August when they found Sharon Tate murdered, possibly from the Menotti. Whatever that means.

The Santa Fe Opera has its own home page.


It will come up in English, but they are multilingual and multinational, a huge data site. Some quirky limitations (Henze and Goldschmidt don't make their comprehensive list of composers, but Andre Gretry [?] did). The limitation seems to be modern opera. Go straight to their "corpus" page for a ton of organized links, though.

Opera News

The essential magazine for opera worldwide is online. However, they charge $21.95 a year and 'throw in' the printed magazine. Take a look.

Buying Classical Music?

Go to for Opera and Vocal Music.

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