Belly Dance Superstars is a cheesy name for a polished, flashy, almost-ready-for-Vegas spectacle.
This harem of 13 women, with one enthusiastic Syrian drummer, Issam Houshan, shimmied and undulated into the hearts of a large crowd at The Egg on Saturday night. These all-American dancers demonstrated that the Middle Eastern arts deserve our respect. But mainly, they made sure that the Middle Eastern arts get our attention.
Who can ignore the glamorous Sonia in sequins and fringes as she bumps her hips at each beat of Houshan’s drum? Or how can one turn away from Bozenka, in a red skirt that is slit to her hip, as she jiggles her bosom and shakes her shoulders? And what could be more mesmerizing than the spinning Petite Jamilla and her dance of the veils, which swirl around and frame her smiling face?
It’s impossible to not stare in awe at these Superstars, as they are sensual creatures who have command of every muscle and sinew in their curvaceous anatomy. Both men and women appreciate such beauty and finesse.
It’s all dressed in some sparkling fashions. Few shows can boast as many lustrous costumes. And no show, I’m certain, travels with as many beaded bras.
Interestingly, the Superstars started out as a vehicle to promote Middle Eastern music, a genre snubbed by most in the West. But what has since happened is the dancing has overtaken the music. The exotic sounds that often draw from gypsy, Latin and hip-hop influences, are almost incidental once the dancers tiptoe on stage.
But for the dancers, the music, its tone and temperament, is the foundation for their movement. It surges through their torsos and radiates from their fingertips. They are the music.
INSPIRED BY FUSION
Obviously, these belly dancers embrace fusion. The dancers pop and lock to a song that incorporates rap. And the rhythms of a Polynesian melody inspire a grass-skirted, hip-thumping dance that is distinctly Hawaiian. In one number, a dancer pirouettes en pointe. That’s not easy when your tummy is rippling. And in yet another, the dancers hold hands like a chorus of Irish step dancers.
Less ingratiating are the tribal dancers whose bodies thrive on the more foreign sounds. Though just as adept in the movement, their earth-tone, multi-layered pantaloons, and their Goth adornments and tattoos make them look cheap and dowdy, especially when positioned next to the classy and more colorful cabaret dancers.
That said, the dancing and music, along with the psychedelic video projections that swirl behind the dancers, are enchanting.
But the Belly Dance Superstars aren’t ready to break box office records just yet. They still lack a clear vision choreographically. Jillina, the belly dancer who choreographed the show, is successful in making each individual number attractive. But she needs to create a singular focus. If that’s achieved, Belly Dance Superstars will be filling arenas.