Contrary to popular belief, belly dancing is not a dance of seduction but instead a dance for women, by women. "In ancient times, it was a method of helping pregnant women get ready for having their babies," professional belly dancer Dawn Askins says. "The dance incorporates muscles all over the body, but especially the abdominal and pelvic areas. When it was time for delivery, relatives, friends, and neighbors of the pregnant woman's community would dance around her and mimic the movements."
So put that in your hookah pipe and smoke it! Literally. At Leila, a Middle Eastern restaurant that opened last week at the corner of Datura Street and Dixie Highway in downtown West Palm Beach, you can head to the outside garden, pick up one of 25 hookahs, and select a fruity tobacco from the menu ($10 worth is enough for two people). Is it like a bong? "Exactly," says Syrian-born restaurateur Roy Assad, who is careful to point out that you don't get high, but "you do get a little buzz." If you're some kind of goody-goody who doesn't know how to use a bong and never listened to Cypress Hill, then just ask the professional tobacconist for help. Here, you can also sip on Turkish coffee and tea, listen to a professional musician play the ud (a fretless stringed instrument popular in the Middle East), and choose from the extensive menu of authentic Middle Eastern goodies, which are designed by Chef Alex Awad -- Assad's cousin and a Syrian native as well.
And then there is the entertainment. Twice weekly, Askins shimmies through the crowd during her belly dancing shows. She performs at both 8 and 9:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays; she will also start leading belly dancing classes there on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. beginning in June. Askins points out that belly dancing is sexy but not sleazy. "It's a dance art," she says, as well as a great way to exercise. So, once you've downed a few shish tawooks, you can work them off with Askins... or veg out back with the hookah pipe and a DVD of Dazed and Confused. Call 561-659-7373, or visit www.leilawpb.com. --Deirdra Funcheon
Queer as the folks
SAT 5/22 Even before Dan Quayle lambasted Murphy Brown for daring to show that single moms aren't all crack-addicted welfare smoochers, the term family values has been a favorite of sycophantic politicians who continue to push the hopelessly archaic, Father Knows Best image of the nuclear family. Everyone else -- gays, lesbians, single parents, and their children -- doesn't seem to fit into the political equation of actually mattering. Well, it's time the term family values included everyone. So, to fight the good fight, the Sunshine Cathedral (1480 SW Ninth Ave., Fort Lauderdale) is hosting a conference and celebration for South Florida's GLBT community. The event features several workshops focusing on families headed by a gay or lesbian couple, straight parents with gay or lesbian children, and gay or lesbian grandparents. Speakers include Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, and Sharon Gless of Showtime's Queer as Folk series. For kids, there are visual arts and poetry contests. The cost is $35 to $160. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. So, Mr. Quayle, are two moms better than one? Father may know best, but My Two Dads know twice as much. Call 954-462-2004. -- Jason Budjinski
Shakin' the Family Tree
Ryde to Rumba's
Ruff Ryders, a New York City-based, all-star, hip-hop collective, is a family business in a serious way. Founded in 1998 by siblings Joaquin, Darrin, and Chivon Dean, the record label is best-known for launching the careers of artists such as DMX, Eve, and Jin. But the family doesn't end there. The collective also considers its dogs an integral part of the family -- and recently launched a line of dog food, called Game Dog, to "optimize their pets' potential," according to www.ruffryders.com. The moguls have also founded a nonprofit organization (called Ruff Ryders to the Rescue, which funds programs for troubled youth), launched a clothing line, and spun off lifestyle/motorcycle clubs in 20 cities around the country. Whether you know it or not, you're probably related in some way. Somewhere in this extended family dwell DJs Bambino and Blackout, who perform at Rumba's Nightclub (5195 S. University Dr., Davie) on Friday, May 21. Join your brothers, sisters, and cousins and get the branches shakin' in the family tree. Call 954-434-2202. --Deirdra Funcheon
Divas All Day
When did diva become a good word? Nowadays, every girl and her mother is proud to cry, "Bring me my horny-goat-weed-infused mango lip balm... NOW!" Here at least are some ladies making their demands with a sexy Spanish accent and a multi-octave range. Fiesta! Fort Lauderdale is the monthly Latin-themed brunch that takes place along the Riverwalk (along the New River between Las Olas Boulevard and Fifth Street). This month features "Divas of Latin Jazz" and includes performances by women from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Check out Amereida, a Latina band leader with a Janis Joplin flavor; Yelitze, a J-Lo-ish singer who, unlike J-Lo, can keep a husband (who performs with her); and Jennifer C, who has the pop-tart looks down pat. Instructors from the Salsa Knights Dance Studio will be on hand offering complimentary dance lessons. Call 954-527-5346, or visit www.fiestafortlauderdale.com. -- Deirdra Funcheon