DeAnn of Light Rain
1949 - 2000
Known for her beauty and talent, DeAnn was Miss Sonoma County in 1968. Driving through San Francisco one night in the late 1970s, a young DeAnn heard the exotic music of Fadil Shaheen on the radio. He was playing at a club called The Casbah on Broadway St. She found her way to this club and her destiny changed as she walked through the dark doors. She saw a dancer and decided right there…”I have to do that.”
Within a week she was taking lessons in Santa Cruz, California where she lived. It wasn’t long before she heard of a teacher in San Francisco named Jamila Salimpour. De Ann started going to San Francisco regularly to study with the famous teacher. Jamila gave DeAnn the dancing name, Zainah, and encouraged her in a special talent; sword dancing. It wasn’t long before De Ann was a featured soloist with Jamila’s troupe, Bal Anat.
Her dance journey actually took her back to The Casbah, where she had originally first heard the sounds of Arabic music and became a featured dancer… finally fulfilling her fantasy.
In 1974 she started working with Doug Adams, a musician from Texas whom she would later marry. Complimenting the flower-child era in San Francisco at that time, Doug, his musicians, and DeAnn mesmerized many tourists in the carnival-like atmosphere of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf with their street art. Passing the tambourine for coins, DeAnn became the 70s poster girl for her dancing. She also danced one night a week at a club called The Holy City Zoo, a venue for folk-singers and songwriters. Says fine artist and long time friend, Hal Marcus: “The Holy City Zoo was where De Ann really began to develop her own style and following. In the safety of the small hot room, filled with her peers; artists, musicians, photographers, writers and other dancers, she began exploring a new level of sensuality; there where it could be appreciated as the high art that it was.”
It was during this era that the haunting music mix of Arabic, Spanish with a hint of the Southwest, that the band Light Rain was born. Both DeAnn and Doug were inspired to compose music which would become classics for many dancers of that era. The first album was called Dream Dancer. This was the first album of Belly Dancing music composed entirely by American musicians.
DeAnn and Amaya were long time friends and Amaya was her student and follower for several years. DeAnn and Amaya spent one hot afternoon in a recording studio in Austin, TX recording their zagareets (voice trills) in the song, “Women of the Well” and also Amaya got to shimmy her Indian bells in the song, “Spirit of the Wind” on the Dream Dancer album. DeAnn went on to co-produce three more Light Rain albums, which have become classics in the dancer’s music collection. They are “Valentine to Eden”, “Dark Fire” and “Dream Suite.”
A career highlight came when Gerald Arpino of the Joffrey Ballet discovered Light Rain and DeAnn. He observed her dance style and today it is clearly reflected in Arpino’s signature choreographic work entitled Light Rain.
DeAnn was the original fusion-style choreographer and performer at a time when many dancers were afraid to break out of the traditional Arabic box. Her troupe, The Dream Dancer, were known for pushing the envelope and being innovative in a style way ahead of the times. Many can never forget a particular troupe entrance where they entered in huge, colorful full gypsy skirts doing cartwheels across the floor. She inspired thousands of dancers, including Amaya, through her teachi Amaya remember her wit and her signature spins. Her statuesque body and golden long hair were to be envied. Amaya recounts, “I remember sitting with her in a bar in downtown San Francisco when a Texan cowboy sauntered over and asked, “’Xuse me, ma’m, but are you some kinda’uva movie star or sumthing?”
Sadly, during the peak of her dancing years no professional videos or films were made of De Ann’s performances. Doug’s explanations for this loss: “It was before video was so common; film was very expensive and we were always so broke, putting everything into the Light Rain recordings. But mainly, we were young; we thought we would go on like that forever.”
DeAnn and Doug did produce a compilation of her work, a video entitled “DeAnn’s Dream” shortly before her untimely and early death in 2000 at the age of 51.
“One could believe that she had danced this dance in other lifetimes” Doug Adamz