A couple of weeks ago, I attended the first Hayaam Belly Dance showcase! Spotting the event on Facebook, I was intrigued to see the mix of Oriental and Tribal dancers on the billing: as I had only just written a blog post about the unnecessary conflict between the two styles, I was excited to see both branches of Bellydance sharing the same stage.
The venue for the show- Jewel Piccadilly- was beautiful, although pretty surreal! Not knowing what a labyrinth the place was on the inside, my friend and I were were unwittingly given a tour of the building when the doorman misunderstood which event it was that we were there for. We were whisked through a series of dimly lit chandelier strung rooms with Moulin Rouge-like decoration, full of men in business suits and ladies in cocktail dresses, before eventually being directed upstairs to the right room (We were actually quite pleased to have gotten to explore the rest of the swanky club, as I doubt we’d normally be able to afford to get in!). The room of the showcase itself was beautiful, with chandeliers and a ceiling draped in red fabric. There were also mirrors on the walls (which I imagine must have been helpful for the dancers!) and it was a good small size, which meant that the event felt cozy and intimate.
The hostess of the event, Adriana Hayaam, was very friendly and chatted with us after we arrived. She was also extremely apologetic of the fact that there was burlesque dancing going on elsewhere in the club. I don’t personally have a problem with burlesque, but I totally understand her concern, as the Bellydance community wants to disassociate the dance with sex and to be seen by the general public as the art form that it is- as Flamenco or Ballet dancing may be seen now. As a side note, I read recently that Ballet was once seen as a bit raunchy due to the short skirts showing off the dancer’s legs, which were of course a major source of sexual attention for the Victorians, so hopefully it will soon be seen as just as inappropriate to stick money down a belly dancer’s costume as it is to put it in a ballerina’s tutu!
The acts themselves were gorgeous. The order of performance mainly alternated between tribal and oriental dancers, which really highlighted the contrasts between the two forms. The Oriental acts were fast paced, with dancers twirling around the stage in brightly coloured costumes and making lots of eye contact and interaction with the audience, whereas tribal acts that night tended to be more slow paced, thoughtful and introspective, often creating a feeling of suspense, and wearing more muted, earthy colours.
Left: Kathleen Pearson, Tribal Fusion dancer. Photograph from http://www.kathleenpearlson.blogspot.co.uk/. Right: Caasi, Oriental Bellydancer. Photograph from http://www.caasibellydancer.webeden.co.uk/.
Kathleen Pearlson opened the show with a gorgeous tribal performance: she made great use of a slow and suspenseful start to the routine leading into an upbeat section with lots of great turns- the room was so quiet for the slow section that you could hear the beading on her costume clack together. I also loved the oriental performance by Caasi, which involved finger cymbals- that was particularly exciting as I’ve just bought some myself, so it was brilliant to see them in action. Caasi had a wonderful stage persona, with lots of cheeky looks and use of facial expressions to engage with the audience, with parts of the routine almost feeling like little jokes. The American Tribal Style duet Apsara was brilliant- I do love that style of dancing as I mentioned in my previous post. They wore the most gorgeous ruffled gypsy skirts with lacy hip scarfs, and danced the second half of their routine to Jolie Coquine by Caravan palace, a song that I absolutely adore. Electroswing and tribal dancing are a match made in heaven.
Left: Apsara, American Tribal Style duet. Photograph from http://www.hayaam.com/. Right: Maëlle, Oriental Bellydancer. Photograph from https://www.facebook.com/maelle.bellydancer.
I was also pleased to get to see Maëlle dance at the event- I saw her performing at the quater finals of the Bellydance trophies, which she then went on to win. She has a lovely style that is energetic and yet laid back at the same time. She also started her second routine with some poi spinning, which I was pretty excited about as I’m an avid poi spinner myself. The spinning moves she chose were quite simplistic, but they worked nicely with her dancing, not restricting her movements too much. Possibly the most unusual and inventive performance of the night came from Rosie, who did an amazing pantomime dance dressed as a devil. Her performance was full of a great sense of humour as she mimed a story of the little devil, approaching audience members in a comical attempt to make friends, eventually trooping off sadly from the stage, dragging her pitchfork behind her. Though many of her movements were drawn from bellydance, it felt on the whole like a piece of modern cabaret dance, with large elements of mime and clowning involved.
The event was impeccably well organised- everything ran smoothly and started on time, unlike some other Bellydance events I’ve been to. I often write geeky little notes in my notebook between acts at the shows I go to (when you’re a scientist for your day job, it’s hard to break the habit!), which help inspire me for my own routines, but this showcase flowed so smoothly that I struggled to get everything written in time! The professionalism of the event was refreshing, and keeping the lengths of breaks between acts helped the show to flow well, and prevented the audience from getting fatigued.
Overall it was a lovely evening, showing off all the best aspects of the dance, filled with incredibly talented dancers, with a friendly and intimate atmosphere that made you feel a part of the belly dance family. I’d be very enthusiastic to go to future Hayaam Showcases, and would recommend the night to dancers and non dancers alike.
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