The Gilded Serpent presents...
An Evening of Experimental
Middle Eastern Dance

Video Review by Dhyanis

As the title suggests, this genre encourages performers to intermingle other dance forms with belly dance, to develop a theme or make a statement. Some of the resulting dances address controversial issues: e.g. sexuality, spirituality, stereotyping, cultural appropriation, etc. Many of the 13 pieces, presented by a talented group of women in Los Angeles on that evening in 2002, proved that this concept can succeed as a valid and sometimes moving theatrical experience. I will mention only a few here, for brevity's sake.

Highlights include a stunning duet by Desert Sin, "Sacramental Skins". described in a subtitle as "the absence of guilt and sin". The pair of blue-painted Shiva-esque bodies with bejeweled nipples move as one in a flawlessly danced portrayal of cosmic lovemaking, struggle and resolution, incorporating erotic Kama Sutra poses and strong MED technique. Also performed by another two members of Desert Sin, draped in sheer black veils over apparently lovely beledy dresses, is a synchronized candle dance which hints of guedra trance but which morphs into pure sensuality when they turn to reveal bare backs and bottoms adorned only with gold coin hip sash and tattoos. They continue with some tandem floor work taken to its animalistic extreme, proclaiming as they walk off, "I just want to be a woman!".

Humor is expertly interjected by Anaheed who appears with a totally '50s look (poodle skirt, hairstyle and earrings) and belly dances her way through "Rock Around the Clock" and into "Wipe Out" when she sheds the skirt for red strips of material (reminiscent of Tahitian with loads of "amis") and generally a stellar drum solo with perfectly timed single "glute" clenches. She reappears later as a hawker in the satirical scenario "Hoochy Kootchy Dancers" about the stereotyping of Little Egypt at the ChicagoWorld's Fair. On the serious side is a piece by Tandemonium, "Is It Safe To Dance?", dedicated to Mohammed Khordadian of Iran who was recently convicted for corruption of public morals for teaching dance. "Cry of the Heart", along a similar theme, is a slow lament for women's freedom choreographed by Laurel Victoria Gray for eight women dressed in chadors. In the piece "Inverse", Amara and Cassandra dance on stage nude and happy, but are dressed by other disapproving women by various degrees until fully covered, finally dancing their pain at their oppression by their own sex. In contrast, there are also the very modern cyborg effects in "Hypothermia" (Sa'Elyassa wearing blue lights, portraying the chilled and chilling experience after a break-up) and "Even" (Ya Helewa! troupe members representing the disruption of nature by mankind around "The Goddess" - a television screen transmitting a dancer throughout the piece).

Since I too have provided a forum for this type of creative hybrid dance/theater (11 years now) with my annual Summer Solstice "Living Goddess Show" in Marin, I appreciate the form and this, Amara's second annual production. The video quality is good, with well-edited multiple camera work. Something I have learned though is that "less is more" and dancers should learn to edit the music, since we can get our essential point across usually in less time than a whole song, avoiding "filler" (which happened here in a few instances). I also crave seeing more than just a typical belly dance with a new name, and most of these pieces fulfill that requisite, with plenty of intention and inspiration behind well-executed performances.

This video is available for purchase here:

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