“The center is held tight, controlled and cautious though the movements reach out assertively and confidently. Small, sharp joint isolations punctuate the viscous circular motion of the arms, torso, head. The Fosse-like joint pops are like valves opening to release their charged energy, tempting us, reminding us of their potential. Then, as quickly as they open, they are locked off again leaving us wanting more. Their faces display sultry other-worldliness, the vampiric femme fatale. Ripe with sexuality, these young women seduce the watchers into their dark dance where life and death are at play.” Fieldnotes 2003
Next week, Didi “Doreet” Gordon and Deidre Anaid present a three-day celebration of Dark Fusion bellydance. Lumen Obscura II returns to Santa Cruz with a line up of workshops and performances that feature some of the leading lights of Dark Fusion style: Ariellah, Sashi, Bex, Aepril Schaile, Unsinkable Molly, Dawn O’Brien. Not familiar with Dark Fusion bellydance? Let me try to describe it.
First of all, of all the dance I have observed in the last 10 years, nothing, NOTHING, moves me as much as the American bellydancers performing tribal-style fusions. The first time I saw American tribal-style bellydance, I knew instinctively that this was something new, something completely fresh to the world of dance. Although I knew I was watching bellydance, I saw this as more akin to the Modern dance impulse. Something about its professionalism, the strong technique of the dancers, the power and intensity of a group of women dancing…how could I not recall the group dances of Graham and Humphrey?
Then I saw Raqs Gothique, a fusion of Gothic underground culture, Egyptian Raqs Sharqi, and American tribal styles. I was hooked…I loved its dark moodiness, so different from the uplifiting joyousness of traditional bellydance. Dark Fusion, diverging from its strictly Gothic aesthetic, addresses a wider-range of human experiences and emotions than its predecessors. The Dark Fusionistas, like the early Modern dancers, explore the “inner landscape” of the self, posing questions about universal human experiences: love, loss, life, death, pain, ecstasy.
“Dark” in this style refers to more than death, vampires, and 19th century Gothic iconography, though these are central influences. You can expect to see sultry, dangerous moves, black costumes with bones, skulls, and bloody reds, tattoos and piercings, and hear spooky techno music. But even these will be in service of the evocation of an idea. When, for example, Crystal Silmi taught a Dark Fusion master class in Santa Cruz recently (2/25/12), she taught a “romantic dark combo” originally performed at Gothla Espania. Her theme was “temptation” and she expressed this appropriately with oppositional movement: reaching out and contracting in; crisp, percussive locks and liquid rolls and undulations; tension and release; hard and soft. Not only did these moves reflect her theme of temptation, but also they play within the Dark Fusion style.
Although founded on traditional and contemporary bellydance techniques, Dark Fusion delivers a highly theatricalized experience. Steeped in occult and mystical imagery, the dancers mesmerize and hypnotize us. Fascinated with burlesque, steampunk, and the femme fatale, they seduce us. It can be dramatic or romantic or demonic or parodic. It can be percussive or lyrical; evocative or provocative. Its never boring.
Lumen Obscura II offers us an opportunity to study the art through workshops as well as to see it in action in a concert setting (The Rio). The names of the workshops are tongue-in-cheek but reveal the many moods of Dark Fusion. You can become a Layer Slayer with Dawn O’Brien or Invoke the Dark Goddess with Aepril Schaile. Like a flirty Burlesque? Try Bex’s Boo-Burlesque: Creepy-cheeky Combos. You can receive Cataclysmic Combos and Apocalyptic Accolades in Sashi’s Cannons, Consorts and Cohorts. These teachers are among the thirteen (did they do that on purpose?) dancers performing at the Saturday gala, including the producers, Deidre Anaid and Didi Doreet, and our own Aruba and Raks Hakohaveem.
Bellydance in America has become an idiom through which to express what dancers have always expressed: life. I know it is Didi’s hope to demonstrate that Dark Fusion bellydance is a sophisticated and serious form of dance—“Its not just I Dream of Jennie” she laughs. Whether you challenge yourself to a workshop (and believe me, these girls don’t mess around—Dark Fusion ain’t for the faint of heart) or join us for the Gala, I hope you will give Lumen Obscura a try.
You can find all the details on their Facebook page or website.
Big thanks to Didi for helping me understand the deep meaning of Dark Fusion. XOXO