Troupe reveals art of belly dancing

The Garden Nile Belly Dance Troupe will be presenting “Arabian Nights 3” at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Lihu‘e Parish Hall. This belly dance extravaganza will include traditional Middle Eastern dance Raks Sharki (also spelled Raqs Sharqi), American cabaret, dances with wings, veils, zills (finger cymbals), sword, fire and cane. In the past, “Arabian Nights” shows have delighted packed audiences with original choreography and costuming. All ages will enjoy this presentation of Middle Eastern dance.

First attracted to the art of belly dancing during a trip to Egypt in the 1970s, board member and dancer Dixie Prichard, is excited at the growth of The Garden Nile dance troupe over the past few years. “Now we are focusing on community outreach and education. We’ve performed at senior homes and plan to visit schools. Through teaching and performing we hope to become much more active on Kaua‘i,” said Prichard.

Nina Kirby, trained on the Big Island, has steadily choreographed for the troupe for five years. In tomorrow’s show, Kirby has choreographed all group dances, including a few with beginning and intermediate students (the first time the troupe has had students perform).

Featured at Saturday’s performance will be soloist Leila Katrina from Maui. “We are very excited to have Leila joining us for this performance,” said Prichard.

Since the group’s forming in 2001, dancers have come and gone, but the troupe has evolved and now has a cohesive company dedicated to performing together. “We recently have become a non-profit with an emphasis on education,” Prichard explained.

Raqs Sharqi is an Arabic term meaning “Eastern Dance.” Translated across cultures and through many individual dancers, the term is used widely throughout the world. Dance and music are vital aspects in Egyptian culture and despite the rise in Islamic fundamentalism causing more modest social barriers to be accepted by Egyptian women, the dance remains a cor- nerstone at family events and inside the home. It is common in Egypt to hire professional dancers to perform at special occasions such as weddings or birthdays.

According to the International Center for Arabic Studies in Oxford, England, there are three forms of Raqs Sharqi originating as early as the 10th century in the Ottoman period. While the three forms of Raqs Sharqi, Sha’abi, Sharqi and Baladi — share this basic dance vocabulary, they have markedly different conventions — of musical instrumentation, range and quality of movement, and dress reflecting their different origins.

According to Ali Jihad Racy and his report Music in Cairo, “although these musical traditions are quite distinct, they are not completely separate because there is a degree of overlap and interaction between them. This deepens the subtlety with which a knowledgeable and accomplished dancer can interpret a piece of music.”

Because many westerners have become fascinated by the ancient Eastern dances, it is expected that the hybridization and evolution of the form create a new dance with old roots — The Garden Nile Belly Dance Troupe is Kaua‘i’s own version of an ancient Arabian art.

Want to go?

When: Saturday 7-9 p.m.

Where: Lihu‘e Parish Hall

Tickets: $12 in advance at Nina’s Boutique or by calling 639-9980, $15 at the door; Children $8

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