Friday, July 9, 2010

Shimmy shimmy bop

The inaugural New York Theatrical Bellydance Conference (July 8-12) is well underway with performances, workshops, classes, panels, parties, a brunch at Veselka and opportunities to shop 'til you spin and drop. Co-directors Ranya Renée and Anasma haven't left much room for lovers of this apparently infinitely adaptable art form to be bored. Just look at some of these workshops and master classes:

"Silent Film Starlet: How to Give Great Face While Bellydancing"

"Hot and Heavy Humor: Bellydancer Meets Shamanic Clown"

"Eerie Serpents and Ethereal Grace"

"Juicy Egyptian Technique: Make Friends With Your Abs, Butt, And All that Other Stuff in There"

"Snakelike Hip Hop Bellydance Liquid Fusion: Hissing Choreography"

As a dance student back in the '70s and later, I was brought up pretty squarely in Serena Wilson's venerable, if deliberately vanilla, cabaret style.

Today's dancers rock the very notion of raqs sharqi, producing all kinds of hybrids suitable to a variety of audiences--from dance-theater fans to Goths.

The conference's curated shows, running this week at Dance New Amsterdam, provide a survey of this contemporary development--in some cases, over-development. After seeing the opening-night show--two hours, 14 international acts, no intermission or intentional pause--I find myself unreconciled to the overlay of broad comedy, the deployment of large, synchronized ensembles or anything having to do with masks.

But there were some true gems in the hip belt:

Zahava, creating a laughing meditation on erotic power, a bellydance in (embodied) spirit only, danced with delicately free and rapturously free gestures along the floor and through the air

Sarah Johansson Locke, as solid and mature as an earth goddess, scooping and gathering energy to her in an introspective solo, with subtle, shifting moves like the gentlest stirrings along the surface of a pond

Aszmara, profoundly soulful and open, a blend of proud gypsy and transported dervish in her generous, ethnic-style dancing

Samara, whose old-school cabaret-style act closed the show with elegance and jubilation

Two completely different line-ups will take the stage for tonight's and Saturday's 9pm performances. But you might find some dancing that's intriguing, fun and maybe flat-out beautiful. And maybe you'll witness a master in action.

For complete conference schedule and event ticketing, click here. Sign up for workshops online or at 718-706-0037. Tickets may also be ordered at 800-838-3006.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a beautifully written review. Thank you for your honest words about the Theatrical Bellydance Conference. It is remarkable what the creators offered the dance community.

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