6th Annual Evening of Middle Eastern Dance
Despite my being fagged out from a week of long days and flying home
that day, Georgie and I nevertheless went out Saturday night, April
4th, for the 6th Annual Evening of Middle Eastern Dance. Our friend,
Julieann Hunter was performing with her group, Denai's Dancers, and we
believe in going to take in our friends' concerts and performances
(hey, people come to see ME act--). We were very glad we did, since
there were some wonderful performances.
A large and lively audience filled the ballroom at the Tripoli Shrine
Center, which is, as the announcer noted, a perfect venue of this
event, with its Taj Mahal architecture and Moorish decorations.
Dealers selling dancewear, music, and accessories were ranged around
the walls and gave us some interesting things to look at before the
show and during intermission.
The show was opened by "Zahira and Helen," two members of the Jawaahir
Dance Company out of Minneapolis, performing a dance to "Ya Ain
Moulaytein," which involves balancing a platter of lighted candles on
one's head while dancing, which was quite impressive, especially when
I discerned that the plates were NOT as, I had suspected, affixed to
the headscarves they were wearing. (Note: It seems that any prop used
in a Middle Eastern dance will, sooner or later, be balanced on the
dancers' heads. Canes, swords, water jugs, candles, you name it.)
Kimhari, a dancer from the Chicago area, followed with a solo on "Fi
El Awal" and "Rythmn of Cairo". The first was a sprightly cane dance,
and both showed off her dramatic black velvet and silver Cabaret
outfit to good advantage. Added to her slightly Asiatic/exotic looks,
Kimhari is a very attractive performer.
Next, came the Safar Dance Company, one of the two "sponsoring"
troupes for the event (Denai's being the other), who did a very nice
and traditional sword dance to "The Light".
Denai's Dancers followed with "Men Awwal Merra," a tambourine dance.
Denai's was by far the largest group performing, and they filled the
stage with good cheer and very nice Tribal dancing.
(Note: There are two basic styles of costuming for Middle Eastern
dance. A "cabaret" costume is what one tends to think of when the
phrase "belly dancer" is used: heavily decorated ornate bra top,
mostly bare or mesh covered midriff, coin belt, bare legs and feet,
although in these days lame and lycra skirts have pretty much replaced
the multi-layered gauze or harem pants of the past. 'Tribal" costumes
are more full coverage and like ethnic costume as might be worn by
theoretical Mid-Eastern women. However, even these tend to be glitzy
these days. The Trisha Company's "Tribal" costumes are fuchia lame
with blue sequin detail--.)
Mirah Ammal, artistic director with Al-Bahira Dance Theatre, also from
Minneapolis, followed with a very pretty and classical solo dance,
enlivened by her bright yellow cabaret outfit (soloists tend to wear
cabaret outfits, groups are more often tribal, though not always--).
The Trisha Mid-East Dancers, another larger, local group, followed,
performing "Women of the Well," which was well done and good fun. I
had noted the audience for the show was in the majority women, and of
all ages, sizes, and ethinicities. The Trisha company, in particular,
shows why. Middle Eastern dance is truly every-woman's dance. You can
be tall, or short, thin or fat, young or "of a certain age" and still
present as strong, graceful, beautiful, and proud. There were a number
of women in the Trisha troupe who would definitely be considered "old"
yet they were up there doing as well as any of the younger women. I
was both impressed and pleased.
Then Zahira returned, doing a solo veil dance to "Ya Amarti"--very
nice. (I know these music titles don't mean anything to most of you,
but there's at least one reader out there who's into it, and I thought
she'd like the details--.)
Amarain Belly Dance was next, with "Nightmare" a dance to a
post-Industrial instumental, referred to as "dark cabaret fusion,"
which brought Middle Eastern Dance into the 21st Century. I was
curious to see how the audience would receive it, as "tradition" is a
very big thing as I understand it, but the perfomance by Jenn, Linda,
Nancy and Zafirah was enthusiastially received. We thought the dance
was very cool, and joined in the applause gladly.
Dona Saidi of the Oriental Festival Dancers performed next, dancing a
veil dance to "Set El Hosen," and making good use of her attractive blue
cabaret ensemble and matching veil.
Tamarind Tribal Belly Dance was next with "Caravan." I awarded this
larger group "Best Use of Zils," since they were very musical and
precise with them.
Samantha Fairuz, the leader of Safar Dance Company, wound up the first
half with "Dina." She is a fine dancer, and I admired her simple but
glamorous green and gold costume.
After intermission, Ala-Bahira Dance Theatre opened with another candle
dance to "Shamadan". The company apparently had a scheduling conflict,
so only one of their dancers appeared, but did a nice job.
Denise, the director of Denai's Dancers, took the stage next, with
"Sahara City" followed by a drum piece. Denise did the most controlled
sword dance I have ever seen. Even on her turns and stops the sword
never wavered or got out of synch with her. I was very impressed.
Then, Safar Dance Company was back with a very enjoyable, energetic
dance to the rock beat of "Power".
Raksanna, who has taught in Egypt, gave a very high-energy performance
to an R.E.G. medley, demonstrating her impressive array of shimmies and
ability to move across the floor apparently by sheer vibration alone.
Siempre Flamenco was another unusual addition to the program. The two
women in Spanish costume danced tango steps to "Tangos Y Bulierias," and
I was interested to observe some possible connection between the sinuous
moves of the tango and the Middle Eastern Dance. They were also warmly
received by the audience.
Helen came back for a solo to "Magical Bellydance" and "Desert Queen,"
making very good use of her bright, multicolored veil.
Denai's Dancers filled the penultimate spot with a cane dance and "Ala
Shat El Nill," all of which were fun for both the troupe and the
The feature of the evening was the performance by Faten Salama, who is
from Egypt, having been a member of the Egyptian national dance
company since age 5. She is now living and working in the Washington
D.C. area. From the moment she stepped on stage it was obvious why she
is a star, since her dazzing smile captivated the audience at once.
She wore a comparatively simple and modest white ensemble with gold
accents that displayed her grace and skill to best advantage. In about
twenty minutes of dancing to four pieces, she demonstrated a far
greater variety of moves and steps than anyone who had gone before,
showing a depth of repertoire worthy of a very expert professional.
She also used a much greater variety of facial expression than any of
the other performers, ranging from the joyous grin that started the
performance to faces of deep sorrow.
All in all, we had a very enjoyable evening, and it was very interesting
to see such a number of dancers and different styles.