The Perfumes of Araby dance troupe has gone through many "undulations" since its inception in the Los Angeles area in the mid 1960's. The group began as an outgrowth of the Southern Renaissance Faire dance shows, produced by performer/actress/teacher Diane Webber. She chose the name from the Shakespeare play Macbeth, in the sleepwalking scene "...nor all the perfumes of Araby shall sweeten this little hand...". Somewhat melancholy, but appropriate to the Renaissance spirit. For several years Diane coordinated outdoor performances with up to 40 Middle Eastern dancers! The Faire's entertainment policy changed around 1973 - "There shalt be only English Entertainment at the Faire!" - and the Perfumes moved on to the Calabassas Pumpkin Festival for the rest of the 70's. There, during the month of October, twice a weekend in often 100+ degree weather, 12 dancers and assorted musicians put on an hour ong show before quite a lively audience! (We remember a fellow who wanted to be our "snake"... or the photographer who crawled across the stage to get a better shot!) The shows included many group choreographies, authentic and interpretive, as well as unique specialty numbers such as snake, sword, balancing on glasses, and one of the earliest candelabra routines. Then, as now, most members worked individually in nightclubs, and thus brought a strong entertainment background to the performances.
From 1980-1994, the Perfumes of Araby (or "P of A") concentrated on self-produced annual concerts and working with agents at various private engagements. Some of the "party jobs" included a birthday for the usual Arab Royal Family member, to a plumbers convention at the Biltmore Hotel! Concerts incorporated many of the former faire choreographies, as well as new creations, to complete a two-hour or more dinner show. Pieces ranged from classical music ("Samson & Delilah," "Aida," Holtz's "the Planets") to traditional live Middle Eastern Orchestra numbers ("Ya Bint al Beledy" or the "Debki!")
In 1998, Anaheed realized a long-term dream of producing a Belly Dance concert in a beautiful theatrical setting. Located in the Nazemi Parsart Center in Van Nuys, California, and christened "Café Beledy" to encourage a casual feel, even in stage surroundings, the bi-monthly event is a wonderful outlet for Perfumes of Araby members and other outstanding local talent.
The new century of Perfumes plan to continue efforts to entertain and elevate the public's perception of American-style Middle Eastern Belly Dance.
Below are photos of the troupe with various members. Click on a thumb-nail to get a larger view of the picture.