Review by Yasmela
May 15, 2007, in Bellingham WA.
Photos by Lynette of performance on May 4, 2007 in
Although I am not quite sure of the connection with the mysterious poem
of the same name, the appearance of Rachel Brice
and Le Serpent Rouge in the City of Subdued Excitement was more than a pleasant surprise. The group
rolled into Bellingham, Washington, for a show on May 15th at the Nightlight Lounge
and nearly filled the joint. I braved a thicket of hair extensions
sporting pincushions of floral and metal ornamentation and planted
my time-worn carcass in a cushy lounge-chair provided for those
of us who no longer care to park it on the cement floor. The management
would have done well to provide some supplementary seating as
they have in the past, but I have a feeling there was some perplexity
as to the nature of this performance. Would spectators dance? Would
they sit? Whaaaa? There really isn’t a bad seat in this house,
and I was very happy with mine even though I wasn’t sitting much.
As an “old curmudgeon and floor inspector” (thank you John
Compton), I am not given to easy compliments.
However, for this performance I suspended my expectations and
prejudices, and I’m glad I did. I haven’t enjoyed a “belly dance”
performance this much in years. I must say that I would only
call this belly dance as a nod to some of the dances’ origins. Rachel
Brice, Zoe Jakes and Mardi Love
have moved beyond the somewhat self-absorbed, audience-oblivious
hocus pocus that marks most of what is offered in the name of
three ladies are not only lovely but also abundantly talented
in several cross-discipline styles and are fully aware of their
responsibility as performers on stage.
show was well paced. The evening began with the Inkwell
Rhythm Makers – imagine a ragtag jug band-skiffle band
meets the tattoo piercing parlor. They turned out to be a group
of talented musicians and singers who provided a flow to the show
that allowed the dancers to change costume and pace without abandoning
the audience to uncomfortable silence. The band set the tone for
the evening: fun, irreverent and a little bizarre. I was surprised
that the interspersing of canned and live music worked so well.
The ladies opened with a trio that was beautifully choreographed
and included a masterful display of finger cymbal musicality.
From there, the set moved rapidly through a series of skits
and dances that demonstrated a smooth professional competence
in the art of slapstick humor. The blending of theater and dance
was really outstanding with broad comedy moving seamlessly into
The second set was a little disappointing. It started slowly and didn’t
really pick up until the finale. The inclusion of two of
my favorite songs, Little Egypt and Lydia
Oh Lydia, while perfect for the temper and tone of the
show, but didn’t quite work. I wonder if the costuming might not
have had something to do with that: the crinolines were a little
overwhelming. These songs could use just a little more punch
and broader acting.
Roberson began the finale with a very hot
drum solo. I thought Tobias was underused. Aside from being
easy on the eyes, his musicianship is quite brilliant. He was
infrequently on stage even though the audience was completely
taken with that him; it was a shame not to hear more of his playing. Rachel
came out for the by-now-obligatory drum solo, and while she is
also brilliant, I think drum solos are a little overdone. The
community as a whole, whether Tribal or American cabaret, seems
to feel that the drum solo is the defining characteristic of our
dance. I disagree, but that’s just my opinion and we could (and
probably will) debate this ad nausea. Rachel has such excellent
control of her body that it almost kept me engaged. If
it was all choreographed, it was well done! So much of our dance
has become nothing more than a predictable series of moves, as
if we have lost forever the art of true improvisation and spontaneity.
Le Serpent Rouge is a funny, clever, innovative, ambitious and
smart show. It was not stale and over rehearsed, although it
was obvious that a lot of hard work had gone into the timing
and choreography. The clever use of theatrics and dance with
good musical interludes was delightful.
Even the slow parts of the show were not boring. Some of the group
dances were so pleasing to the eye and heart that they took my
breath away. The dancers’ very clever play on cup or glass balancing
could be expanded and elaborated without loosing any of its charm. I
found myself wholly involved in the pantomime preceding the balancing
act and was delighted at the clever transition. Zoe Jakes
is especially adept at satire and quite the comedienne. She
and Mardi Love played the “competition dance”
to perfection, complete with asides to the audience and appropriate
facial clues. Old standards like this are used again and again
because they work, and this one worked for me. The costuming was
first rate. Who wouldn’t love those big overblown tribal skirts
with tights; and stripped tights are my all-time favorite. As
for the dancing? It was just fine. While it is strongly ATS inspired,
these dancers have obviously done their homework; a little break
dancing, some Can Can, a little flamenco and lots and lots of
arms. I do find myself cringing at the “chicken wing” effect
of hunched shoulders and I keep hoping it will just go away with
maturity. It’s nice to see a well-executed backbend. This
used to be a standard of most belly dancers. And the signature
Tribal side layouts performed as a trio made a lovely tableau. To
hell with the knowledge that in 20 or 30 years they’ll be grabbing
their ibuprofen, visiting the chiropractor and cursing the intemperance
of youth. I say if you’ve got it, use it. There will be time
enough to sit and nurse your wounds when the years catch up with
Zoe and Mardi balance one another well. Rachel appears to play
the straight man while Zoe and Mardi push the limits of slapstick.
The comedic devices came across loud and clear but were not overdone. On
the down side, I could barely hear Mardi singing He Needs Me
from the movie “Popeye”. As a dance number, it was pretty
flat, and as a vocal, it was tentative. Would it work better with
a different costume, with more pantomime? I don’t know what it
needs, but it needs something, and certainly needs louder singing.
Le Serpent Rouge pushes the envelope of dance show expectations. The show
has great potential and hopefully the numbers that dragged a little
or dropped energy will be reworked. All live theater is a work
in progress. This isn’t really a belly dance show and should not
be billed as such. It taps into the current popularity of small
circuses, touring vaudeville and burlesque troupes. If ticket
sales suffer, it is because of the stigma attached to belly dance
Despite what we may tell ourselves in the community, it’s still
mostly belly dancers and their friends and family who come to
see our self-important productions. Until more of us understand
the concepts of good theater and good entertainment, the situation
will stay this way.
I know many people who would have enjoyed Le Serpent Rouge, but they
would never pay $25-$30 to see a belly dance show unless they
were dancers themselves or related to one, even if the poster
advertises tantalizingly clad tattooed women billed as vaudeville.
Le Serpent Rouge was money well-spent. It was a SHOW. I never
thought I’d hear myself saying it, but I think Miles
Copeland has a winner here. I hope he doesn’t
muck it up. I am frankly put off by the electronic bludgeoning
of the Bellydance Superstars music, their glitzy-bordering-on-smutty
costuming, and their sterile, phoned-in performances. Le Serpent
Rouge, on the other hand, has a pleasing, tongue-in-cheek, in-your-face
attitude that is quite sweet. It has heart. And it isn’t
just one dance number after another.
THANK YOU! Bravo, gang, and thanks for the good time!
photos of the May 4th show in San Francisco
show in San Francisco was held at Broadway Studios.
This venue feels like a gold rush era saloon and is
located in the heart of North
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Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
The Bou-Saada Bus by Yasmela
single one of us could play an instrument, sing, dance, run a
sound board, set a stage with backdrop, lights, monitors and microphones,
plug them in, and put them away. We made our own costumes and
our own drums and used duct tape in a thousand creative ways.
While we never made a living from it, it was our way of life.
Our experiences will bond us forever.
Brice Goes Balkan: Pogonometric
by: Rebecca Firestone, Photos
by Brad Dosland,
March 12, 2006, CELLspace, 2050 Bryant St., San Francisco, Cost:
$15 and worth every penny
An Evening with The American
Bellydance Superstars, Reviewed by Sierra
Civic Auditorium, March 3, 2007. "Even though the dancing
from Egyptian cabaret to tribal and venues in between is incredibly
bold, excellent in stylizing and format… it truly is an
American tableau of how we represent this art."
Smokin' by Amina Goodyear (chapter
Now that I was legitimately part of the Bagdad family
and on the payroll, Yousef told me that all
the dancers had to split their tips 50/50 with the band. This
meant that I was making less money than when I wasn’t getting
paid at all.
Belly Dancer of the Year Pageant
2007 Saturday Photos, Photos by Michael Baxter, Photo Prep
by Michelle Joyce, May 26, 2007 Danville, California, Produced
contest includes Troupes, Duo/Trios, Grand Dancer, and Preliminaries
for Solo's, Sunday Finals Coming Soon
MECDA’s First 30 Years , The Middle
Eastern Culture and Dance Association's Changing Role in our Community
by Marta Schill Kouzouyan
however, often leads to dissention, and controversy flew regarding
the perception of the rather strict parameters of the Egyptian