So this pastpast weekend (Oh, how time flies!) I had the pleasure of attending An Evening of Dance and Live Music: Mardi Love & Friends. The show was hosted by Mat Jacob, a Canada-based dancer, at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and while the show’s hosts, Fritz Donnelly and Christina Ewald, were a rather alarming pair (there might have been a failed jump over the hostess resulting in her getting struck in the head), the dancing was a pleasure to watch. The show’s line up featured performances by:
- Alchemy Dance Theatre (Sarah J. Locke, Renata, Irina Kom)
- Dhyana & Irina Kom
- Irina Akulenko
- Jeniviva and the Mystical Hips Tribe
- Lauren Jeanette
- Lauren Robbiani
- Mat Jacob
- Sarah Hassan
- and Mardi Love (obviously)
Coming into this show, I was above and beyond excited. By some miracle, I’ve been able to see all three members of The Indigo’s Le Serpent Rouge tour (Rachel Brice, Zoe Jakes, and Mardi Love) this year. These women and their YouTube videos are responsible for my love of bellydance. They made me see its full potential and inspired me to try and make a career out of it. For that, I am forever indebted to them which makes what I’m about to say all the more difficult.
As much as I love her and as much as the community rants and raves about her, I was disappointed with Mardi Love’s performance. Particularly in her first piece, she merely stood center stage and did some slow, gooey hip-work with pretty arms. While at first it was aesthetically pleasing to watch, when the piece ended and I realized that that was ALL she had done, I felt gypped. Here is one of my bellydance idols who rarely comes to the East Coast and who has a huge technical vocabulary at her disposal, and she performs a decidedly monotonous piece. She redeemed herself with her second piece which featured some wonderful zill work, but I left the gallery feeling slightly shaken. Maybe she was just having a bad day or was exhausted from traveling, but she seemed somewhat uninspired, and it hurt me to see that in her. However, choreography aside, her stage presence was delightful to behold. She has an extremely powerful and penetrating gaze that makes you feel like she’s dancing for you alone. It’s a skill I hope to cultivate in my own performance work and a skill which I encourage all dancers to master.
On a positive note, I was pleasantly surprised by both Irina Akulenko and Mat Jacob. I’ve always had great respect for Irina’s work, but seeing her share the stage with Mardi Love made me realize what a world-class dancer she is. Her stage presence easily rivaled Mardi Love’s, and her bellydance technique is flawless to boot. She performed a Classical Indian-inspired Tribal Fusion piece, and while the accuracy of her technique in Indian dance is debatable, she certainly understood the aesthetic and strove to respect the movement’s cultural roots. Mat Jacob’s work featured subtle technique with a high degree of musicality–not unlike Mardi Love’s brand of Tribal Fusion. She also did an admirable job of captivating the room and developing a character on the stage. Her piece was very humorous and full of personality, but without being a hackneyed imitation of The Indigo or Zoe Jakes. It is a rare thing when I bellydancer can effectively stick out her tongue and make the whole room genuinely laugh out loud.
Other notables of the evening were Alchemy Dance Theatre, Lauren Jeanette, and Lauren Robbiani. While the dancers of Alchemy Dance Theater aren’t highly trained Contemporary or Modern dancers, their deep understanding of movement and absolute commitment to the emotional direction of their work left a lasting impression on the audience. Lauren Jeanette gave a wonderfully warm and joyful performance while wearing my favorite costume of the evening. And Lauren Robbiani presented an intriguing but extremely short piece. While the variation and musicality of her choreography worked well, she couldn’t have danced for longer than two and a half minutes, and toward the end of her piece, I felt that she was eager to get offstage. It was a little strange, but I hope to catch her live in the future to see what else she can do.
All in all, it was a strong evening of Tribal Fusion dance, and I was so proud to see so many New York dancers hold their own against Lady Love. Here’s to having more evenings of Love, music, and dance!