The Maine Events

The first and only time I have ever seen the aurora borealis (aka the Northern Lights) was in Maine. I've also had some of my best night sky viewings of constellations, the Milky Way, and meteorites up there. So it's not surprising to me that there are also some star-studded happenings in the Maine belly dance community. Your editor has been making the trek Down East on a number of occasions to see what's going on up there.

Most recently (April 8), I ventured to the Bayside Bowl, in Portland. Yes, it's a bowling alley. Yes, there was a belly dance event there - Raqs Borealis, sponsored by Rosa Noreen. Raqs Borealis is a quarterly event, featuring Rosa, special guest dancers, and live music by Okbari.

The space really works, believe it or not. The Bayside Bowl is easy to find and has ample parking - two home runs right there. The dance event space is buffered from the lanes by the bar. Seating is casual (picnic benches) and limited (first-come, first-served). Food and beverages are available. The floor is a dancer's happiest dream - well-maintained wood flooring, not highly polished.

The April 8th show's guest dancer, Jeni, recently relocated to Maine from Los Angeles. (Before you question her sanity or familiarity with New England, you should know that she is originally from Lowell.) Jeni's impeccable dance credentials include a stint with Jillina's Sahlala Dancers.

The Raqs Borealis program was concise and perfect for a Friday evening. Okbari played a set, and then Jeni and Rosa each did a show with recorded music. The band came back on and Rosa led the audience in a folk dance lesson. I was happy to see that most of the audience participated. Jeni and Rosa then each did a show with the band. While this is not a review, I want to say that if you have not seen Jeni and Rosa perform, you should make the effort to do so at your earliest opportunity.

The cost for all this fabulousness? $8.00. The experience? Priceless. Get yourselves to the next Raqs B.

By the way, we were out of there by 10:00 pm. Event producers take note: the audience was primarily civilians. Rosa told me this was the typical crowd for Raqs B., which is very cool.  I think a short program like this works really well for civilian audiences. Just sayin'.

In other Maine news, Rosa and her business partner, Jan Hanseth (aka Jaiyana), opened their dance studio, Bright Star World Dance, this past January. I attended the grand opening on January 23rd. The studio is a bright and pleasant space, with smooth wooden flooring, lots of mirrors, a small powder room, and a curtained off changing area. It is located in downtown Portland, easily accessible from the highway. It's on the 4th floor of the building, and there are no elevators. Let me just say that getting there was a good warm-up for the day's workshops.

What is most cool about this professional partnership is that Rosa is an Oriental dancer and Jan is an American Tribal Style dancer. Allow me to trot out some fun (and impressive!) credentials: Rosa has been invited to teach at the Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive in September. Jaiyana and her tribe, Magnolia Devi, is the first and only certified Fat Chance Belly Dance Sister Studio in Maine.

Rosa Noreen and Jaiyana, proprieters of Bright Star World Dance Studio in Portland, ME. Photo by Jon Reece.

Rosa and Jan each taught a workshop on grand opening day. Rosa taught "Delicious Pauses" and Jaiyana taught "The Balancing Act", a class on sword dancing. The evening's event was a hafli featuring dance performances and live music by a new group, Spoonmaker's Diamond. The turnout was excellent, the show equally so. Great to see Lindsey Feeney, Anabee, Samira Nour, Naya's Trance, and so many more!

I don't know what's in the water up there in Portland, but that city sure does turn out great musicians. Okbari is on the fast track to "legend" status, thanks to their impeccable music lineage, dedication to tradition, and impressive scholarship. I have no doubt Spoonmaker's Diamond will be following in their footsteps. This group does not have a CD or even a Web site, but you can like their Facebook page. You will also like their repertoire - a good mix of traditional and kef-style music.

And I recently learned of an Iraqi duo, Al Sayab, who has started playing out in Portland. No details yet about this team...stay tuned! (Portland peeps - if you've seen/heard them, write something up for "Tasseltown"!).

The next big event for Bright Star World Dance is a weekend with Tamalyn Dallal, June 10 - 12. BDNE is looking for someone to review the show. If you are interested, please email us at sequins@bellydancenewengland.com. - Amy Smith