David Hernandez-photo credit
Luna, 2nd Runner-up

The Gilded Serpent presents...
Fusion Category added to Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition
by Luna

On February 15, 2003, I competed in the 13th Annual Bellydancer of the Universe contest in Long Beach California, produced by Tonya and Atlantis.

New this year was a "Fusion" category, created to recognize dancers who innovate by combining styles.

When I arrived at the venue, I felt a little nervous walking into a whole new scene of dancers, but almost immediately I recognized Linda Kitiara, another Roma (Gypsy) fusion dancer. We had never met, so I introduced myself and I can say that Linda is as gracious as her dancing is beautiful. After talking with her, I felt much more at ease. Actually, all of the contestents were supportive and sharing, cheering each other on as we each walked out the door to perform. Most were from Southern California, but a few were from Northern California and one woman made the journey from Colorado!

Linda remarked to me, "You know, we're really making history here, as the first ever fusion dancers to compete at this event." She had a good point. Although we all had thoughts of taking home a trophy, I soon realized that just being a part of this historic competition and meeting the other dancers was worth the journey.

We agreed that it was encouraging--the event producers and judges were acknowledging the innovations of fusion dancers and our contributions to bellydance.

Ten dancers competed in the Fusion category. As far as I could tell, there were four "gypsy" dancers (including me), one "tribal" style dancer and the rest were more "cabaret" fusion dancers. I was inspired and pleased to see so many dancers creating their own unique fusion styles using a myriad of influences, from ethnic dance to modern, even using gymnastics.

Since I was the sixth dancer to compete (we drew numbers to determine our order), I was only able to see a handful of the competitors (the rules prohibit you from watching the dancers in your category until you are finished dancing). But I did see most of the dancers running through their routines in our huge dressing room during the long hours we had to wait to compete. Apparently the competition took much longer than anticipated. The fusion dancers were scheduled to begin competing at 9:30pm, but I didn't compete until well after 11:00. This was not a good situation for many of the dancers. Since we had to check-in at 6pm, by the time we had to dance we were hungry and tired (my husband and I had driven hours that day) but at least we were all in the same boat.

As I said, I'm not really the best person to review the other dancers since I was competing myself (I suggest you purchase the video when it comes out at www.tonyaandatlantis.com), but I can tell you a little about the winners:

David Hernandez-photo credit
The photo of the winners, from left to right:
Luna, 2nd Runner-up, Linda Kitiara, congeniality and Jayna, 1st Runner-up.

First Place: Prince Andrew - yes, it should be encouraging to all the male bellydancers out there that first place went to a man! He was very dynamic--his persona radiated from the stage. His costume consisted of a vest, pantaloons and hip belt and he also used a sword and did impressive floor work and isolations. The last part of his performance was the most "fusion" in that he combined Indian hand mudhras and foot work to his bellyance moves. Definitely a crowd favorite, Prince Andrew also tied with Jayna for the People's Choice Award.

First Runner-up: Jayna was dressed in a cabaret style bra and belt, but wearing stretch pants instead of a skirt. During her warm up she included gymnastics in her routine including walkovers and splits.

Second Runner-up: Luna! My costume consisted of pantaloons, gypsy skirt, under the bust vest and top. I danced with a fan and a shawl, did skirt work and danced balancing on three overturned wine glasses.

Not surprisingly, Linda Kitiara won the award for congeniality in the fusion category.

It was a pleasure to compete with so many talented and gracious artists. Thanks to Tonya and Atlantis for creating the opportunity for fusion dancers to express their art.

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