Friday, August 7, 2009

Jewels That Raq review, by Jheri St. James

The "Jewels That Raq" dinner show has returned with a five-show series at Tapas Restaurant in Newport Beach. The first show, on July 26, kicked off the series, and it will continue on Aug. 16, Aug. 30, Sept. 13 and Sept. 27.

Veteran dance instructor and performer Jheri St. James attended a show, and I'm thrilled to be able to share her review.

Dancer Aziza Said once said that audiences only remember three things about a belly dance performance: 1) if there are costume problems, 2) what props were used, and 3) if they experienced an emotion.

Seven gorgeous dancers wore a luscious menu of costumes with nary a problem in sight at Tapas Restaurant, 4253 Martingale Way #A, Newport Beach, California 92660, on Sunday, May 17. “Jewels That Raq” (“dance” in Arabic) featured most dancers named for a jewel—Emerald, Citrine, Ruby (Perizad) and Pearl. Edenia and Pilar were guest artists of “Jewels That Raq” that night.

Meliza, principal dancer, opened the show with a classic, highly polished and articulate Orientale performance. Emerald danced with the Isis veil—huge gold lamé sparkling and swirling wings. Citrine followed with a traditional taxim veil dance, and then Ruby gave us a powerful drum solo exhibition, feminine and athletic. Edenia entered as a Tribal Fusion-style dancer wearing a collage of black textures and a lovely smile. Pilar presented a Spanish-flavor number, and Emerald swirled and shimmied to a veil/drum solo. Meliza then closed the first act doing amazing, lithe floor work with two serpents around her neck, creating a compelling aura of friendly danger. One of my students reacted to the snakes. We will both remember that dance, but for different reasons. This is belly dance never seen in restaurant venues.

The second act began with Pearl doing a veil dance to the masmoudi kabir rhythm. Citrine twirled a very heavy ornately fringe-beaded cane. Ruby veil danced in an accomplished Turkish style, then came Edenia, our friendly tribal dancer, followed by Pilar dancing to a favorite Lebanese song of mine, and Emerald doing salsa style. Ruby gave us a brisk finger cymbals dance, and Pearl came on again with a smashing drum solo, which brought the solos to a close. Meliza and the entire troupe then came out and invited birthday celebrants up to dance, and all the dancers’ invited others throughout the room to join them onstage, and extensively for photo ops with the dancers.

Overall, this evening presented the audience with an opportunity to see belly dancing performed with enthusiasm in the styles of many world cultures—Spanish, Egyptian, Turkish, Lebanese, Salsa and American. This evening’s entertainment met all of Aziza Said’s criteria. The costumes were dazzling and problem-free. The props were a satisfying variety—cymbals, veils, cane and snakes. People obviously felt happy for an evening out in such an artistic Bohemian environment, and the sparkling “Jewels That Raq,” who really rocked Tapas in Newport Beach that night!

Your fan,
Jheri St. James

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