You don’t think of the Eastern Shore as a hotbed of belly dancing, but there are nearly a dozen dancers and dance troupes dedicated to the dance of the Middle East on Delmarva. They are undulating their way to Ocean City this weekend for the Art of the Belly Dance Festival at the Carousel Hotel. They’re being joined by over 100 Belly Dance performers from as close as Princess Anne (Mystikal Undulations from Princess Anne) and as far away as New York (Sera Solstice), Georgia, (Lace Perry), and Phoenix (Ava Fleming). From 7 PM Friday until 7PM Sunday, there will be someone performing on stage.
The dance community is a surprisingly friendly group, given that artists are often accused of high-maintenance personalities. Even the true professionals like ‘Nefertiti’ from Delaware, who spends months every year studying in Egypt, is full of hugs and encouragement and advice to those dancers who are in it just for fun and, more importantly, who are trying to move up to the professional level.
Part of the fun is the role-playing. Most of the dancers have stage names: Roma, Janim, Chadia. It’s hard to project an aura of mysterious Eastern romance with a stage name like Martha or Caroline. The costumes take you someplace else. ‘Cabaret’ dancers are the ones with the barely-there, sheer skirts and bras adorned with so many sequins they can be seen from the space shuttle. ‘Tribal’ dancers take their inspiration from the cultural themes of the Romany (Gypsies) and the peasantry of Turkey, Tunisian, Egypt, and Greece. They improvise most of their dances, with the troupe clueing into a set of subtle cues the audience may never notice. That’s the form for those of us with bodies that should never be seen in Spandex. The costumes are a lot less revealing; not a lot of sequins in a Turkish village. Lots of flowing skirts and clunky jewelry. Then there’s ‘Fusion’ which mixes all forms of dance from a serious shimmy to a moonwalk worthy of Michael Jackson.
The shopping hall is like a Middle Eastern Bazaar. Coin belts slung with streams of jingling metal, cabaret costumes glittering on hangars, dangling earrings and necklaces studded with fake jewels, racks of dance music CDs and instructional DVDs, shoes and sandals, flowing cover-ups to hide and protect your costume before you perform, hair accessories – it’s a diva’s delight!
The show is open to the public and, yes, it is suitable for families. The image of the dancers as ‘exotic’ or ‘adult’ is a myth they’d love to erase! The Friday night show runs from 7-10; $12 at the door. Saturday is Noon-10, $15. Sunday is Noon-7, $15. www.artofthebelly.com