Street

Raks whips up a sandstorm

Performing in the spacious Richardson Auditorium could have gone one of many ways for the dancers of Princeton’s belly-dancing troupe, Raks Odalisque, and the audience. Not only are there many more seats than in the Frist Film/Performance Theatre, but everything is larger and grander. The sheer amount of space could have been an obstacle, but instead, it adds a dimension that is rare in a student dance company performance.

Indeed, it would have been a shame to observe the regal but sensual beauty of belly dancing in the rectangular confines of the Frist Theatre. The original and historical belly-dance setting demads to be performed somewhere with more grandeur.

Richardson, at first, may not seem to be that ideal space – the classical architecture is far from a luxurious Arabian palace. It does, however, lend an Old World sensation to the performance, and the gilded images of classical figures give the dances a kind of mystery infused with the past. The effect is simply enchanting.

"Balagan," choreographed by Belinda Slakman ’10, had a Latin feel to it, set to Latin-Middle Eastern fusion music. The costumes were very fun and quite creative – the skirts suggested those of a flamenco dancer, while the tops were traditional. The choreography was also cleverly upbeat and lively, which the music complimented well. 

"Through the Ages," which Jacquie Nesbit ’12 choreographed, is rich in color and features a diversity of choreographic elements, all set to refreshingly traditional music. The dancers had an opportunity to display their excellent technique with some rather impressive feats of shimmying. Look out for a gorgeous ending pose.

"Club Underground," choreographed by Diana Vall-llobera ’10 and Sari Sanchez ’11, was very well executed, though it could have been more in the reggaeton style. The dancing was perhaps more traditional than the musical style called for. Don’t be misled, however – the piece was very enjoyable, and the fierceness evident in the last few measures managed to redeem it.

"She Wolf," choreographed by Shannon Mercer ’11, was something quite different from the rest of the show. The dancers entered in sweatshirts and sweatpants, though, of course, the sweatshirts came off soon. As a big fan of Shakira, I was particularly excited about the choreography. Technically, this was a belly-dancing and hip-hop fusion, but it brought to the table that earthily sensual quality which only Shakira and Raks Odalisque know how to pull off.

The show’s strength comes from the level of skill of the dancers, but the elements of reggaeton, hip hop and African dance also work to make it a success. The level of technique is, as always, notably high, and the dancers looked very well rehearsed. It is also worth noting the amount of detail and diversity among the costumes. Ultimately, the combination of clever choreography, excellent dancing and rich colors found in costume, lighting and set make for an exquisite performance.

5 stars

Pros: The colorful costumes, diverse choreography and grand space all work to make this production magical

Cons: A couple of dances aren’t quite as creative as the others and rely too much on more traditional dancing

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