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November 5, 2008 > Carnival of Stars

Carnival of Stars

Belly Dancing and Comic Book Convention

By Vidya Pradhan
Photos By Michael Baxter

"Belly dancing is the best-kept exercise secret for women," says Pepper Alexandria. Alexandria and her friend Latifa have been belly dancing in the Bay Area for almost 30 years. "Regular exercise can be so boring, but getting together with friends once or twice a week makes for a sense of community. This is an exercise that strengthens the arms, legs and keeps your posture great, and it can be so much fun. Besides, it is great for any age, any body type and all cultures."

There are almost 2,000 belly dancers in the Bay Area alone; the best and most talented of them come together to entertain and amaze guests at the annual Carnival of Stars. This event, put together by Alexandria and friends, takes place every year on the second weekend of November.

This is the sixth year for the event, which features not just the dancers but also well-known cartoonists (cartooning is another passion of the talented Alexandria).

For two days, Centennial Hall in Hayward will be transformed into a venue for two off-beat talents as cartoonists show off their artistic skills to the backdrop of belly dancers on stage. Nonstop professional belly-dance performances are interspersed with live musical performances, panel discussions and a costume contest, complete with prizes.

Performers from all over the world converge on stage while audience members are free to peruse an eclectic mix of items on sale at vendors' booths that fill the hall. The international marketplace will include arts and crafts, dance costumes with accessories, jewelry, comic books, artwork and gifts of all kinds. Visitors can also savor delectable Near Eastern cuisine at reasonable prices.

Cartoonist Mark Bode, will be making a guest appearance on Saturday, Nov. 8. Bode worked on The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series and has a movie coming out next year. Ernie Chan, who worked on Conan the Barbarian and the Incredible Hulk for Marvel Comics will also be at Carnival of Stars to display and sell his work.

On Saturday; a costume contest, emceed by John Stanley, beloved horror-show host from the Bay Area, will be held at 6 p.m.; throughout the day professional belly dancers will conduct two-hour teaching sessions in rooms adjoining the hall. Some well-known dancers attending are Lotus from Pennsylvania, Astrid, who teaches in Egypt, and Malia from Honolulu.

Another treat for visitors is a presentation of "psycho-tronic" movie clips from different eras, hosted by Sci-fi Bob. This presentation starts at 6 p.m. in Room 6 and concludes at 10 p.m.

On Sunday, Nov. 9, the event continues with plenty of belly dancing, good food and gift vendors.

Carnival of Stars promises to be an unusual and entertaining indoor event that sparkles as days turn wintry grey. Visitors will be treated to the best of belly dancing to not only Middle Eastern songs but experimental forms set to American music as well.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the Berkeley Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter.

Carnival of Stars
Saturday, Nov. 8 - Sunday, Nov. 9
9 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Centennial Hall
22292 Foothill Blvd., Hayward

Adults: $15; Seniors: $12; Kids under 12: $5
Free parking

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