From diverse styles, Portland’s belly dance community plans family-friendly weekend

 

Each year, Rosa Noreen of Bright Star World Dance brings an internationally renowned belly dancer in for a workshop weekend.

“While she's here, we put together a professional variety show featuring music and dance of all different genres,” said Noreen who co-founded BSWD four years ago and moved to her High Street location last year. “This year, it’s Princess Farhana of Hollywood.”

Farhana, according to her website, is an acclaimed belly dancer who “has appeared in Egypt, Turkey, Hong Kong and Australia; toured several times across Europe and The United Kingdom, as well as throughout North America.”

The event in Portland features dance, music, food and drink. There have been five of these held at OLS. The first one was at Empire Dine and Dance; last year it was at SPACE Gallery. “We love One Longfellow’s cozy listening-room environment,” she said.

Victoria Broshes, Vivian Vice, Hannah Harleen and other dancers will join Noreen.

Broshes, a contemporary ballet dancer who hails from Urbana, Ohio, has been dancing since she was 2, “although I didn't get serious until age 12,” she said. Her mentors include new ballet teacher Lori Commons from the Gary Geis School of Dance in Springfield.

“She taught a lot of the company ballet classes. I looked up to her in terms of how she presented dance as a more contemporary ballet,” she said, appreciating a dance that was freer in terms of movement whereas classic is more set. “A lot of moves you shouldn't do in classical ballet.” She was also inspired by Geis, the studio owner, and Mark Cummings, their artistic director. “They gave me a good foundation and inspired my love for dance.”

On Saturday night, Broshes will be dancing a number called “En Passant,” French for “in passing” and more often employed in chess. Broshes just moved to Maine last October from Ohio. The title of her original choreography represents change.

“For me, it’s about moving here and moving from student to dancer,” said Broshes, who graduates in June from Portland High School. In the fall, she’s planning to attend Southern Maine Community College for culinary arts.

Another of the evening’s dancers, Vivian Vice, is originally from California and has been here for 15 years.

“I’ve always loved dancing,” she said. “I took classical ballet classes when I was a kid, and got into belly dance when I was in my early 20's.” Her first teachers were Jessica Means, the founder of Nayas Trance Belly Dance Troupe, a Portland-based movement.

“I took classes from her, and also learned from Josie Conte (a local belly dancer), and Jamilleh (a Portland belly dancer of Lebanese descent).”

Vice is into vintage burlesque and belly dancing, and elements of the Golden Era of Dance, the 1940 to 1960s, noted for Rita Hayworth (a dancer before an actress) and Samia Gamal, an Egyptian belly dancer from the times.

On the night, Vice will be dancing with feather fans, “very glamorous and flashy, with the old Hollywood glamour.” This show is for all ages, even though Vice also dances burlesque in other events. She had a vintage burlesque company called Whistlebait Burlesque, which she co-founded with Jolene DiVine. The performance dance company won Portland Phoenix's Best Dance Performer from 2010 to 2012.

Hannah Harleen always loved to dance, but never did it seriously until college.

She went to local universities — Orono and Southern Maine — study sociology and theater, respectively, but she always danced on her own, just for fun.

“I took a few belly dance classes with Rosa,” Harleen said. “I had taken modern dance classes but never for very long. In college, I was always interested in hip hop dance.” Five years ago, Harleen learned Bhangra while she was in the San Francisco Bay area, working with Bhangra Empire, a dance team there, and Vicki Virk, the founder of DholRhythms, an all-women's Bhangra dance troupe.

Harleen and Aisha met each other recently. “She's Punjabi; I'm not. We connected recently and are both interested in the dance form. I wanted to learn about her culture.”

They host a radio show on WMPG (90.9 or 104.1 FM) called “DholVibes.” A dohl is a Punjabi drum used in Bhangra music. “We play music and talk about culture,” Harleen said. The show is on Thursday mornings, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Noreen just returned from Egypt last month, where she was studying belly dance with Leila Farid, an American and “one of the biggest belly dancers in Cairo” and other well-known Egyptian teachers.

On the night, Noreen will be performing her uniquely elegant brand of belly dance to a song dating to 1940s Egypt.

“Belly dance can be a very self-contained world in the U.S., where only belly dancers go to shows. I wanted to expand the audience, so I brought together dancers and musicians of all different genres so the audience for each can be exposed to all different entertainments forms. It's cool that, in Portland, there's a lot of crossover between audiences.”

On the musical front, globetrotting musician Samuel James, has MC'd the show every year, and he will carry on the tradition this year. James is fresh from a tour with The Moth, a storytelling show that is featured on NPR, where he told his original story in New York and Toronto. He comes from a musical heritage that goes back many generations, and he has forged his own style of acoustic guitar, blending pre-war blues, hip hop beats, and heart-pounding lyrics.

Axiom is a unique collaboration by belly dancer Heather Powers and musician Andrew Patterson. They have worked together to develop original music and choreography that will be performed live at the show by three dancers, two musicians, and a computer with electronic beats.

Monique Barrett has created a name for herself in Portland as a silver-voiced songbird and community linchpin. She has pioneered a regular open mic event at b.good, reviving the scene that birthed musicians like James many years ago. Monique will be playing a solo acoustic set of her insightful original songs.

Eighth annual Springtime Spectacular at One Longfellow Square | Saturday, April 25 at 8pm. | For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.brightstarworlddance.com or www.onelongfellowsquare.com; or call 761-1757. For more about the headliner, visit http://www.princessfarhana.com.

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