When the Rev. Armen Hanjian of the Chilmark Community Church suggested belly dancing for an Martha’s Vineyard Clergy Association fundraiser to aid the homeless to his friend and colleague, Father Chip Seadale of St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown, Father Seadale was a bit taken aback, but open to the suggestion. The Rev. Hanjian had a close relative, Betsy Smith, who is a core dancer of the Karam Belly Dance troupe. He said, “Don’t worry about anything, we’ll set it all up.” Once the decision was made in January, things came together quickly.
Co-directors of Karam Belly Dance, Amy Reda Kurth and Betsy Smith were thrilled to produce the event, called Nomad’s Oasis — a benefit for the Island Homeless. As a member of the New England Belly Dance Association, the Karam (Arabic word for “Vineyard”) troupe is accustomed to performing at shows and benefits both on- and off-Island, and for this performance, their first fundraiser for the Island homeless, they would be joined by guest dancers from Vineyard Belly Dance and Revue.
The event was hosted last Thursday, March 23, by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, and the community generously showed its support: 38 local businesses donated products and/or services for a silent auction; more than 30 volunteers offered their time, including Liz Villard of Chappaquiddick who acted as the light designer, Sheila Rayyan of West Tisbury who engineered sound, and Caleb Enos, a student at Bridgewater State University, who filmed the entire performance. Six members of Monday Night Drum Circle energized the lobby during intermissions. “We were asked to fill in some sound between dance performances,” said Scott Hershowitz of Oak Bluffs. Other members of the drum circle were Paul Thurlow of West Tisbury, Chris Buehler of Edgartown, Mark Herwitz of Chilmark, Sara Nevin of Edgartown, and Whit Griswold of West Tisbury.
Master of ceremonies Kevin Ryan of Edgartown, encouraged the audience to clap along as the dancers moved to the music, and as the evening drew to a close, he exhorted everyone to continue bidding on the silent auction items.
On Monday, the Rev. Hanjian reported that the receipts from the silent auction and the box office totaled $4,100. “One hundred percent of these donations will go to the Island Clergy Emergency Homeless Fund,” he said. The fund is held by the Permanent Endowment and used to pay for expenses associated with running the Houses of Grace Overnight Winter Shelter Program, and for individual and family assistance throughout the year specifically related to housing issues.
“This came out of the blue as an idea, and we’re tickled to have the dancers’ assistance to do this,” said Father Seadale.