An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance
EEMED Audition

RX For The Jaded Bellydancer
By Laurie Buenafe

Cymbal Fall 2000: 20.

During our Middle Eastern dance careers, it is perfectly natural to go through a belly slump, to feel stagnant, even jaded. Even the dramatic opening of Warda's "Harramt Ahebbak" now makes you want to gag on a Madame Abla bead, and not even Latin bellydancing songstress star Shakira can revitalize you.

Laura Amara Osweiler had the solution! On August 11-12, 2000, an eclectic concert featuring creative works by Middle Eastern dance performers was showcased at Highways (Santa Monica, CA.) "An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance" was a pleasurable medley of talents; artists included Anaheed, Djahari, Marguerite and Art Kusuhara, Daveed, Ya Helewa!, Troupe Desert Sin, and Amara.

What made this event so uniquely engaging besides the creative choices in music (Nine Inch Nails, Natasha Atlas, Prodigy and Tori Amos) was the concept behind the choreographies. Every dance was an imaginative "danse du ventre" joyride, anchored by the solid backbone of strong concept. "The Jelly" (Amara) paralleled the beautifully strange undulations of a jellyfish with that of a belly dancer. "The Lotus and the Cross" (Anaheed and Daveed) juxtaposed Eastern and Western spirituality through costuming, dance, and recognizable religious gestures, to the appropriate fusion music of Sheila Chandra.

Abstract and narrative structures of dance broadened the variety. The modern dance influenced "Volatile Bodies" (Ya Helewa!) was a stark essay on the power differential and identification of roles. "Of Flesh and Spirit-The Oriental Feminine" (Marguerite and Art Kusuhara), a two-part dance drama woven with magic tricks conjured up ancient fables and folklore. Like a "Dark Angel" episode, "A Love Story." (Troupe Desert Sin) took the traditional sword dance and spun it on its moody black head with an industrial! neo-gothic twist.

One of the most amusing dances of the evening was "Instant Review." While dancing the traditional Egyptian drum solo, Amara began to reveal those unspoken thoughts that go through every dancer's head: ("Enough Already!" as the tabla begins the umpteenth false ending.) Finally, she grabbed a running video camera and turned the tables on the audience; filming a humorous exploration of the audience/performer relationship.

The exquisite Anaheed performed a daring and crystalline work in the buff. In "Bare Essence," she danced behind a lighted scrim so that only her dark silhouette was seen. Anaheed's upswept hair and dangling earrings were the only decorations needed for a body that moved with snake-like, graceful ease. It was a breathtaking and unapologetic tribute to the human female form in motion.

Bravo to all the dance artists involved in this thought provoking, entertaining, and imaginative evening: this show contended that the belly dance world has something more to say than "ya habibi" - and what they have to say is strong.

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