-- Dead Can Dance, The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove
Last night's excitement comprised of my second attendance at the Cell.
Madame Deidre Anaid, as before, was a lovely hostess - a porcelain doll of delight.
And the venue - the Vagabond Ballroom - part combine-communal-flat, part mini-theater - is still just as awesome as it was before.
Now, onto the evening's performances, shall we?
Raven & Erin - These two lovely ladies specialized in a kind of metal-fusion belly dance for the evening for both of their performances. And, in both cases, it felt a little like watching an old music video in the wee hours of the morning on Headbanger's Ball - y'know, back when MTV used to show videos. For example, both of them dolled themselves out in the sexy-trashy look of the classic metal-moll (yeah, I just invented that term, but it works) and swung their hair around in a fashion that would have made Tawny Kitaen jealous.
But, and here's where the differences kick in, they both actually know how to dance.
In their first performance, they combined their metal-head sensibilities and their belly dance quite elegantly (I acknowledge that as a weird word-choice for a metal-based performance) in a way that made it hard to tell when they were doing one and not the other, moving seamlessly back and forth. And they took solid advantage of the asymmetrical structure of the guitar-riff-heavy music to combine entirely contrasting non-parallel movements into something that defied the conventions of synchronized dance, fit the frenetic mood and frantic style of the beat, and still looked good while doing it.
Their second act later in the evening comprised of a clearer division between the "metal" and "bellydance" portions of the performance, interspersing one with well-done-but-distinct changes to the other. Much more synchronized this time around, they still thrilled the crowd and made this audience member wish he was up there on the stage shredding away on a strat and banging his head to the beat with his hair down. Bravo, ladies.
IrinaXara (www.irinaxaradance.com) - This lady's two performances were a study in extremes.
Her first piece was billed as "an improvised performance". The music chosen was fractured, and, combined with the stark white-brick background of the stage, IrinaXara's performance had the feeling of an insomniac schizophrenic, trapped in an industrial madhouse nightmare. It was raw. It was exposed. And it was a bit uncomfortable. Fitting fare for a "dark dance salon" indeed.
Her second piece felt distinctly more politically-loaded. With a burkha covering her face, but dressed in a tight-fitting and tummy-baring pant-suit, this piece was distinctly more "belly dance" than the first. Backed with the solid beats of what sounded like a Middle Eastern female-vocalized hip-hop piece, IrinaXara showed off her fusion chops and fine lines. At the end, she stripped the one-piece to reveal a crescent-and-star stuck to one breast, a star of David stuck to the other, and an American flag covering her pelvis.
Combining art and politics is always difficult to pull-off well, and, while I'm not entirely certain she earned it here, I'm still thinking about the piece, rolling it around in my head, and contemplating the statement she seemed to be making - so she certainly succeeded in putting it in my head and keeping it there.
Shondell - Shondell's piece was accompanied by the musical talents of Levitating (her husband).
Combined with her petite stature and her gossamer-pink outfit, this performance started out feeling like I was watching a fairy princess elegantly combine bits of belly dance, modern dance, and ballet into something... fascinating.
The first portion of her performance struck this viewer as delicate, classical, sweet, and a little sad, with lots of ballet-sensibilities. Then the music shifted to a discordant harpsichord synth, and, while still very ballet-informed, her moves shifted from delicate to bold and sweeping. With the next shift (this time to a hard-beat new-wave sound) our "fairy princess" donned a crown, turning her "bold" into "saucy and playful", direct and with a hint of the sexual, transforming from "fairy princess" to "prom-queen-gone-punk" as the ballet elements disappeared.
And finally, for her grand finale, a harsh thumping beat kicked in and Shondell popped her groove. The "saucy" became "outright sassy" and the last bits of the fairy princess dissolved entirely to the rhythm with modern dance and belly dance elements strongly in the fore.
A statement on a girl growing up; innocence disappearing to be replaced by sexuality but also self-assurance and power? Am I reading too much into it? Probably. But this was my favorite piece of the night - so I can't help but analyze it over and over.
Blackhoodygrrl (www.blackhoodygrrl.com) - Blackhoodygrrl came out dressed in a fairly traditional looking belly dance outfit, complete with the "little vest/bodice". But it was distinctly informed by a gothic aesthetic, with dark colors and her a-frame haircut. Which, actually, sums up her performance pretty well, really.
She started off very traditionally, with a softer musical touch, the dangling lace from her sleeves making her look like an elegant gothic butterfly as she started with strong baseline belly dance moves. But then the next portion busted out a savage bass and she responded with razor sharp dancing - clean-cut, solid lines, well-defined, and no nonsense whatsoever in her steps and maneuvers and gestures.
And while I liked Shondell's piece the most, overall, Blackhoodygrrl's performance was bold, beautiful, and I couldn't take my eyes off of her the entire time. The lady had some undeniable presence on the stage, and it was a delight to watch.
All-in-all, I think these ladies were an awesome second experience for me at the Cell - just reinforcing my previous good opinion of this monthly event.
Also, further good news from the front - its sounds like next month's installment of the Cell will be featuring the wondrous dance-stylings of two particularly special ladies - the Unsinkable Molly Mitchell and the Cell's own promoter/mistress-of-ceremonies Madame Deidre Anaid. That being the case: I know where I'm going to be on September 1st, my little darklings.
What about you?
-- Mr. M.