Temples and Oases

I have, all my life, been an early riser. Early morning is my favorite time of the day. I do my best thinking and writing then. When I started belly dancing, and going out to see belly dance performances and live music with my teachers and classmates, I had to learn how to be a night owl. It was heavy sledding, but I've managed to strike a balance between my inner lark and owl.

So, when I decided to check out Vadalna Tribal Dance Company's inaugural "Temple" on March 23, I went into owl training. "Temple" is a monthly celebration of fusion and innovation. Created and hosted by Valdana Tribal Dance, it is equal parts performance and dance party. Performances include belly dance, burlesque, and circus arts, accompanied by music provided by some of Boston's finest world electronica, ambient, and down tempo DJs.

Lolli Hoops. Photo by Steve Wollkind, courtesy of Vadalna Tribal Dance Co.

Lolli Hoops kicked off this particular evening's performance lineup. She was incredible. Her hoops (lit from within) seemed alive and organic, constantly moving around and over her body. I've seen lots of great hooping, but Lolli has taken it to an art form. Aepril Schaile mesmerized the crowd with her boldly gorgeous and slightly sinister performance. The Vadalna tribe outdid themselves with a performance that had company members dancing on three separate stages - anywhere you looked, they were totally in sync. Sara Jezebel Wood was simply lovely to watch - so fluid and musical.

Aepril Schaile. Photo by Steve Wollkind, courtesy of Vadalna Tribal Dance Co.

Between and around the "official" performances, I enjoyed watching other Temple guests dance, as well as "ambient" performances by the Boston Circus Guild, such as the man on stilts who could really cut a swath in the crowd when he needed to. I have to confess that I didn't last til the bitter end (it was a "school night"), but the crowd was going full bore when I left.

Temple goers partied til the wee hours. Photo by Steve Wollkind, courtesy of Vadalna Tribal Dance Co.

You, too, can visit "Temple" every fourth Wednesday of the month at the Underbar at 279 Tremont St. in Boston. The party starts at 10:00 pm and goes to 2:00 am. The cover is not big money - in fact, give the level and scope of the entertainment, it's pretty remarkable. $8.00 and a 21+ ID gets you in. It's definitely worth the visit -  top-notch local and guest performers are featured each month, and you can dance til you drop. The next Temple on June 22 features belly dance performer and teacher Mardi Love, of Le Serpent Rouge, who is in town to teach a few workshops (see the Vadalna Web site for details).



"A Dancers' Oasis", on the other hand, is definitely more suited for early birds. It runs on the last Sunday of the month, from 6:00 - 7:30 pm. It is held at the Theodore Parker Unitarian Universalist Church at 1859 Centre St. in West Roxbury (NB: ample lot and street parking).  "Oasis" is hosted by Sabrina and Zehara Nachash, and its goal is to provide a safe space for all levels of dancer, but especially new and beginner dancers. The evening features refreshments, vending, and the occasional belly dance flea market.

The performance space is great. A small room off the main part of the church, it has a big stage and is light and airy. Performers have the use of a very large room next to this one in which to get ready. On the night I was there, I had the opportunity to pop my head in, and I could see that there was lots of room to spread out...always a good thing for dancers.

A typical "Oasis" program features between six and ten acts. On the evening I attended, the program was bookended by the Oasis hostesses, and the acts in-between ranged from someone performing for the first time, to polished professionals (solos and troupes), to student groups. I thoroughly enjoyed the show; all of the dancers did a terrific job. The audience, while sparse, was supportive and encouraging. I wonder if Sunday evenings are tough for many people, especially parents, who need to prep themselves and their offspring for the upcoming week. On the other hand, the time slot is very manageable for those who have to get up and go to work and school the next day.

The next"Oasis" takes place on June 26th, and then it takes a break for the summer. I definitely encourage you to check this out for yourself - it's so important to support venues like this for newer dancers. And you may be inspired to sign up to perform yourself in the fall.