An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance
EEMED Audition

A Review of “An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance”
- by Heather Hoxsey

Printed in Jareeda Magazine, Oct./Nov. 2005

This year's EEMED was held, once again, in the theatre space of the Electric Lodge. It is a beautiful venue (for those of us who share that peculiar penchant for the intimacy of a Black Box Theatre). And what's more, their shows are powered solely by solar energy, collected via panels that line the rooftop of the theatre. EL is its own powerhouse, and thus a fitting space in which shows of great power may arise.

EEMED is just such a show. It breaks us down and builds us up, we its tender little audience. The performers take us down those darkened roads of suffering and loss. Of confusion. Of madness. They are not gentle guides. At the inception of each piece, a sacrifice is asked of us: another assumption left behind; one more piece of our judgments on What Should or Should Not Be Danced relinquished. We are left barren. But the intention of the show was not to leave its watchers in total ruination. We are led to that aching place of openness, not to be abandoned, but to be filled. And they do fill us. Redemption comes to us in the form of the stories that have sculpted humanity since the dawn of time: Adam, Eve, and Lilith; animal kings and tortured souls; Pandora and her box of horrors and hope. All we had to leave behind was our bias and our doubt. The particular emphasis of this year's EEMED upon epic storytelling plucks those primal chords that lie dormant, put to sleep by the potent drugs of technology and television; cell phones, instant messaging, and the growing urgency of an instant gratification lifestyle. Suddenly we find ourselves at the foot of the storyteller's fire, a great darkness at our backs, and the most powerful thing in the world standing before us, dancing, singing, teaching.

Eden stands head and shoulders above the others in this respect. It is not the quality of the dance alone through which this is achieved. Amara, Brandon and Djahari are not simply gifted dancers; they have an intrinsic understanding of how to speak without speaking. They use their bodies to convey the story of Adam, Eve and Lilith in a way that few others can. Each movement is taken to its farthest point, and thus digs those few inches deeper into the minds of the audience. They create the story, then let it go, a spirit left to hover about us after the dancers themselves are long gone. Their salvation is the sweetest, and the most heart-rending. It is the oldest story. It held us in the quietest goodbye.
Redemption carried us through each piece of this evening of experimental dance. Was it intentional? We aren't told, but it nestles deep inside the heart long after the lights go on and we disperse into the night. Humanity's salvation lies in its great capacity to forgive—each other, our gods, ourselves. These pieces spread this truth at our feet, a gift and an askance: remember. I left a little changed, reminded that, along with all the plagues that lived within Pandora's vessel, hope resides there too. That we can and will celebrate at the drop of a hat. That vampires make for very silly dancers. That we are compassionate beings, and ugly beings, and wounded beings—that our salvation from such things comes as much from ourselves and our community as from our faith in the Powers That Be. Movement became words. Dancers became heroes. And for one bright evening, time slowed down, that our hearts could once again open to the songs of our ancestors.

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