An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance
EEMED Audition

An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance
by Meleah

November 2002 THE PAPYRUS: 28- 29.

On September 20, 21, and 22, Amara presented the third Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance in Studio City. Jasmina and I drove two hours to see this controversial showcase of amazing talent. It just happened to be one of the hottest days of the year and the theater was small with temperatures in the 90s and no air conditioning. As we melted into our seats, we looked at each other, silently thinking, "This better be worth it."

We were not disappointed. The show was one the best examples of creative interpretation of Middle Eastern dance I have ever seen. Amara is a brave soul, pushing the envelope to new levels.

Experimentation has always been a favorite topic of mine. I love to break rules and barriers. It keeps the "art" in dance. I am a big supporter of Marula's One Enchanted Evening, San Diego's experimental and interpretive production allowing creativity with Middle Eastern dance. Dance is a living, breathing art form and I like to see it grow and change.

Amara's concert was a series of vignettes, compiled and performed by a variety of dancers. The pieces pushed past the traditional borders and standard representations. They also brought into focus neglected and unspoken issues of gender, eroticism, sexuality, audience roles, and stereotyping. There was an audience warning for the faint-of-heart: "This show contains nudity, cross-dressing, spirituality, and expression of feelings."

The featured performers were Amara, Anaheed, Desert Sin, Djahari, Melissa, Sa' Elayssa, Tatianna, Tandemonium, and Ya Helewa! Each vignette had a theme and message. The music was fantastic with selections from rock, techno, futuristic, and traditional.

One of the memorable pieces for me was "Sacramental Skins," performed by two dancers in royal blue body paint with gold glitter. The body jewelry, hair, and costuming were incredible and must have taken hours to apply. The music was a mix of East Indian and raunchy techno-rock. The dancers appeared as statues; posing and dancing in beautiful harmony with unexpected moments of blatant sexuality. It was incredible.

Another piece dealt with the issue of women's oppression-not by men, but by other women. Two nude young nymphet dancers frolicked playfully with joy and abandon. The mentor women of the community gradually dressed them in progressively restricting costumes as the girls struggled to maintain their individuality. First as Ghawazees, they danced as instructed with teasing smiles; then, burdened with another layer of costuming, they danced with canes-this time with no smiles or spirit. They ended up fully covered in black Abayas --nameless, faceless women. It broke my heart to see them standing there in the end, barely able to move.

One of the most creative and progressive pieces was "Hypothermia." The star was a "robot" dancer who entered in darkness. All we could see were tiny blue lights moving in strange ways. As the stage lights came up, we saw a weather beaten robot with a wonderfully bizarre costume; the blue lights were her joint connectors and her eyes. She danced perfectly with articulated movements to futuristic music, alternating with beautiful lyrical movements and music. I felt she was trying to break out of her confines and become somehow more human. Her face was perfect, with expressions of emptiness, and then intense sadness and longing.

I highly recommend this show if you have a chance to see it next time. There are videos available of this show and previous shows at