Wow. Wow. Wow.
That's my three word review of the Bellydance Superstars "Bombay Bellywood" show that my wife and I saw last night at Salem's historic and marvelously restored Elsinore Theatre (a beautiful place that matched the gorgeous'osity of the dancers).
I love belly dancing. Whenever I can, I watch a live performance. These superstars lived up to their name for me. The two hour show was the most riveting display of belly dancing I've ever seen, or may ever see.
Yes, I readily admit that my male eyes were nearly popping out of my head during some of the most sensual, sexy, and scintillating performances.
But at the same time, I was fascinated by how natural it looked for women to be dancing with each other, and really, for each other -- not just for men (even though the times one woman danced to the beat of the excellent tabla player were the most erotic moments of the show for me).
Browsing through the Bellydance Superstars web site, I came across a review called "Belly dancing celebrates the beauty of femininity."
I LOVE BELLY dancing! I have always regarded it as a divine dance that celebrates the sacred feminine. Belly dancing requires balance, grace and strength, yet it is accessible for every woman regardless of age, weight or ethnicity.
Now, before you get your feminist panties in a bunch, belly dancing is not a dance to seduce men. That's a western-cultural misperception. To the contrary, belly dancing is one of the oldest-documented dances, and it was created by women, for women.
...Moria Chappell, 31, is one of Superstars' amazing dancers. She recently spent an afternoon with me, sharing her passion about this womanly art.
Q: Moria, many people have misperceptions about belly dancing. What are your thoughts on that?
A: It's a women's art. You dance more for yourself than anyone else. The audience can watch and be inspired. It's a sense of appreciation for women's bodies. It's a very different standard. It's a celebration of curves and how to move in a women's body.
Belly dancing is decidedly a woman's dance, so bringing it to the public sphere gives women a chance to be women in a place of power.
I can testify to that, since I was powerless to take my eyes away from the stage during the entire Bombay Bellywood show (the only thing that came between me and the dancers from our center section, Row K seats was the wide David Crosby'eque gray hair of the guy who sat in front of me, but at least he wasn't also tall).
Every dancer was transfixing, but one stole the stage in my utterly subjective Wow! opinion. Meera.
What she had was an inexpressible presence, a quality shared by the other Bellydance Superstars standouts. Skill and technique can only take a dancer so far, as the movie "Black Swan" demonstrated. Beyond that, some inner essence propels an artist onward.
Meera had it. She clearly was the most proficient classical Indian dancer, and the show's Bollywood expert. More importantly, she had a certain more.
Which was expressed on her face with every move. I loved how she could go in an instant from an engaging smile to a pouty compression of her lips, and then into another expression that somehow resonated perfectly with each beat of the music.
Less attractive to me, yet undeniably intriguing, was the only male dancer, the androgynous Samir. A few times I've seen men belly dance and this never seemed right to me.
It didn't last night either, though his contortionist abilities elicited a different sort of Wow! in my psyche.