I was greatly saddened to hear the news that John Compton passed away this week. He had a long and prosperous belly dance career, and I want to share my story of how I first knew him.

John had seen Bal Anat perform at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire and wanted so badly to study with my mother. She taught in San Francisco, and John sought out her studio. My mother’s classes were for women only, so she did not allow him in class.

I was quite young at the time, but I still remember John — with his long hair nearly reaching his waist — sitting outside the door of my mother’s class, listening to the music and whatever instruction he could hear. I was struck by John’s persistence and commitment. I was there the day my mother finally swung the door open and told him “Okay fine! Get in!”, thus allowing John to attend her class.

John was Jamila’s first male student, and the floodgates were then opened for more wonderful male dancers to study with my mother. With Bal Anat, John first dressed as a Moroccan female impersonator and dancing girl; you can view his related performance in the Bal Anat documentary below (around 8:50). Later, he performed as one of the tray dancers; if you look at the picture below with me and John, you’ll notice his belt buckle. Jamila gave him that belt buckle when John first starting performing, and as far as I know, it’s the only one he ever wore throughout his career.

I will always remember John from his beginning belly dance days, and I will remember him as that young man so fascinated with belly dance and so eager to learn everything he could.