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Amara Presents
An Evening of Experiemental Middle Eastern Dance

Amara PresentsI recently was in LA and a friend urged me I must buy a copy of this video program! She knew me to be a woman who would appreciate and applaud the power of creativity and freedom of expression for all women. So, I bought it! I got home and put it in my VCR and I was really moved by the performances of these artists. So moved, I decided to make it available to you on our web site!

Here are the liner notes from the back of the box:

An Evening of Experiemental Middle Eastern Dance is a forum for Middle Eastern dancers to perform their controversial works. The performances, all based in some aspect of the Middle Eastern dance idiom, make current borders and standard representations visible by playing with and pushing past them.

Dancers bring to light some issues that are covered up and neglected, such as gender roles, eroticism, sexuality and desire, spirituality, cultural appropriation, the role of the audience and stereotyping.


This video contains nudity, cross-dressing, violence, spirituality, cultural imperialism, stereotyping, expression of feelings, manipulation of audience members, talking and eating food on stage!

Support the Arts, buy this video! See our Performance Videos page to order.


Soul of a Dancer
Created by: Marula
Performer: Marula
Words by: Jeffrey Fiske
Music and narration by: Shannon Nowell
Inspired by a segment of "The Wanderer" by Khalil Gibran.

Dream of Tara
Created by: Marguerite
Performers: Marguerite and Art Kusuhara
Music: "Tara Shakti Mantra" by Oliver Shanti and Friends
Marguerite's costume: Hallah Moustafa; Art Kusuhara's: Inner Mongolia.
A wandering mendicant/spiritual practitioner dreams of a dancing deity as a vision of light and healing. Many thanks to Shahrazad's School of Cologne, Germany, for music and inspiration.

The Lotus and the Cross
Created by: Anaheed
Performers: Anaheed and Siegfried Heep
Music: "Sacred Stones" by Shiela Chandra
A meditative interpretive piece reflecting western and eastern spirituality.

Performer: Tatianna
Music: Signal
Modern interpretive bellydance fighting for life.
This is dedicated to my mother. I will always love you.

Face It
Performer: Jheri St. James
Music: "Mish Mish" from Dahlena's Middle Eastern Music for Belly Dancing Vol. 1.
How the body dances differently with different faces...

Created by: Amara
Performers: Ya Helewa!
Music: "Ditma" by Ekova
Feeling a bit abstract, awkward, and uncomfortable.

Envenomation - For you or nothing
Performer: Sa' Elayssa
Music: Excerpts from Lisa Gerrard, The Fifth Element, Gladiator, and Stromkern
Produced by Joseph of Windows to Sky

The Harem - Part 1 - Painting
Created by: Amara
Performers: Harem ladies: Amara, Cassandra, Jheri St. James, Layla, Marula, Tawni Tyndali, and Tonda Kubena,
Woman Orientalist: Marguerite;
Orientalist Painter: Tristan V.

Part 2 - Seraglio Interlude

Choreographers and Performers: Tandemonium
Music: "Coffee Song" from The Nutcracker and "Aria" by Yanni
Intermixing with a self-realizing commentary on the harem and
Orientalism is a Persian Fan Dance and a modern Persian interpretive dance.

Part 3 - The Letter

Bare Essences
Created by: Anaheed
Performers: Anaheed and Amara
Music: "Egypte" by Cirque du Soleil
Foregrounds the form and shape of dance without the distraction of the flesh.

Take A Tip
Performer: Jheri St. James
Music: "Saidi Suite" by Bert Balladine
The round basket, a symbol of woman, but... what's in it?

Undulating Through the Cacti
Performers: Desert Sin - Djahari, Tatianna, Cassandra, Tawni Tyndali, Tonda Kubena, and Sa' Elayssa
Music: "Love Is" Produced by Giac Belli. Excerpts from Juno Reactor, Natasha Atlas, and Ekova
Produced by Joseph of Windows to Sky, Western Eastern synergy.


The Soul of a Dancer Lives through Experimentation
by Melissa Crandall

The second annual An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance took place at Highways performance space on September 28, 29 and 30, 2001, in Santa Monica. Laura (Amara) Osweiler has produced another conglomeration of captivating and provocative dance pieces with L.A.'s talent. Amara says she produces the shows for the fun of working with other creative performers, and is impressed by the quality of participants in the show. In addition, the timing of this year's production, just under 3 weeks after the terrorist attacks, is a show of support for the Middle Eastern community, and a harmonic blending of cultures with a positive spin.

Highways performance space is an eclectic mix of black box theater and art gallery, inside the 18th Street Arts Complex. The lobby area exhibits artwork which can be perused while waiting for the show to begin. The night of exciting dance performances began with an invocation and celebration of the "Soul of a Dancer" by Marula. Inspired by Khalil Gibran, Marula's evocative and graceful dance rang in more spiritual and lovely dance pieces celebrating the dancer's spirit. A late addition piece by Sa' Elayssa, whose Roma gypsy dancer grandmother passed away that week, was a beautiful tribute and sweet so-long expressed in graceful, flowing, dancing blue. "Dream of Tara" (Marguerite and Art Kusuhara) envisioned the dancer as the embodiment of light and healing. "The Lotus and the Cross" (Anaheed with Sieg Heep) juxtaposed western and eastern spirituality using music by the beautiful Sheila Chandra singing in what sounded like Sanskrit and Latin. "Face It" (Jheri St. James) played with masks and how the body dances differently with different faces. "Strength" (Tatianna) was a poignant piece, using stark colors, oversized veils, wind machines and intensely dramatic techno music to dance through the dark night of the soul as the fight for a life gripped by disease fights on. Moving the show into an even more abstract mode, the 3 figures clothed in white of "Ditma" (Amara and Ya Helewa!) explored the balance, or lack thereof, of the dancer when she is feeling uncomfortable
and awkward.

The second half of the show explored more of the earthly and sensual aspects of the dancer's soul. "Envenomation" (Sa' Elayssa) used the backdrop of a modern rave scene to explore obsessive love. A Gothic Princess from another world, Sa' Elayssa and her cameo'd cohort (bet you couldn't guess it was Djahari looking like a club boy as cute as ever) made us feel the addictive pull of sensual love, no matter what the consequences. "The Harem" (Amara dancers and 'Tandemonium' the Persian dance duo) took on the almost comical view of the Europeans' fantasies about what went on in the Eastern harems, and the 'naughty' goings-on that were speculated about! The women of the harem and how they relate and support one another was also expressed by the relationships of dancing together, sans les hommes. "Bare Essences" (Anaheed with Amara) used a backlit scrim and nude dancers' silhouettes to explore the form and shape of dance without the distraction of the flesh. "Take a Tip" (Jheri St. James) performed an expert ethnic dance where she balanced a round basket on her head, "a symbol of woman, but... what's in it?" Topping their epic success of last year, the Grand finale was presented by Desert Sin (Djahari, Tatianna, Cassandra, Tawni Tyndali, Tonda Cuvina,
and Sa' Elyassa). "Undulating Through the Cacti" was a piece of Western/Eastern synergy, combining country line dancing and bellydancing(!), which morphed into an exploration of how women can exploit and expose themselves and one another; we can take great pleasure in it, or we can lack comfort with our own bodies, this can cause repression of women by women, even in the name of Goddess. Desert Sin director Djahari had this to
say about the piece, "Yee f***kin' Ha!"

Amen, Sista!


This second concert production consists of vignettes, constructed, choreographed, and performed by a variety of dancers. The pieces, based in the Middle Eastern dance idiom, make traditional borders, edges, and standard representations visible by pushing past them. They also bring to light covered up and neglected issues of gender roles, appropriation, the ambiguity of eroticism and sexuality, the role of the audience, and stereotyping.

Several pieces deal with the spirituality often expressed through this dance. Though honoring all four elements which gives us the "Soul of a Dancer," the dancer "Dream of Tara" embodies the healing qualities of a goddess. A duet between a male and female dancer in "The Lotus and the Cross" differentiates and blends western and eastern spirituality, music, and dance into a smooth meditation. Other artists deal with the representation of the female body. In "Face IT," the dancer portrays how what we wear and look like affect our moves while "Bare Essences" explores presenting dance without the distraction of the flesh. Several pieces such as "Strength" and "Envenomation" deal with the struggle of life and the pain in finding personal meaning in creating and performance. Other performers work to break down the stereotype images prevalent in the Middle Eastern dance community. For example, dancers in "Ditma" express an uncommon facet in Middle Eastern dance - looking uncomfortable and awkward. While "Take a Tip" plays with typical audience and performer roles and expectations, "The Harem" portrays a stereotypical harem scene juxtaposed with a self-realizing commentary. Ever thought what combining Middle Eastern dance with Line dancing would look like? Then watch "Undulating Through the Cacti."

This performance is a wonderful opportunity to experience multicultural avant-guard events. Performer and audience can explore roles beyond the standard portrayals of Middle Eastern dance and deal with issues not often foregrounded in a Middle Eastern performance setting.

Performers include: Amara, Anheed, Arthur, Desert Sin, Djahari, Leyla, Marguerite, Marula, Jheri St. James, Sa'Elayssa, Tandemonium, Tatianna, and Ya Helewa!

Visit our Belly Dancing Performance Videos page or call 1-866-222-3557 or 206-632-2353 to order.

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