by Shae Rossi
I should preface this review by disclosing that I was already quite inclined to fully enjoy this show. The Night Circus, by Eric Morgenstern, is one of my favorite books, and I was beyond excited that there would be a belly dance event inspired by this gorgeous, lush, and moving book. What I wasn't prepared for was how well the show was presented and executed, not to mention beautiful and exquisitely danced.
Creattuk presents: Tales Inspired by the Night Circus opened on the evening of December 6th, 2014. In keeping with tradition, the YMCA in Cambridge was a sauna, and I am convinced that there is just no good time of year to see a show there without being sure to layer in advance. Though I was wearing a skirt (black and white stripes in honor of the event's theme) and a thin, long-sleeved top, I was uncomfortably warm. The venue is beautiful, intimate, and a treasure, though, so you shouldn't let the heat dissuade you. Just do be sure to layer when you attend a performance there.
I arrived a bit early, and the audience was milling about, some taking seats, some talking with each other, checking out the raffle, or shopping at the various tables full of wares. I would have paid handsomely for a bottle of water, as I forgot to bring one. The tables were full of sparkly bits, masks, feathers, fabrics, and other treasures to entice.
Soon, the lights began to lower, and everyone took their seats. Music began to play, and voices began reading excerpts from The Night Circus. The detailed paper program we were handed on entry states that the voices heard throughout the evening introducing each number were “provided by the Staff and Leukemia / Lymphoma Patients at Tufts Medial Center Infusion Center.” There was also a dedication on the first page to the memory of Maren Falk and the many people affected by leukemia and lymphoma,” and a statement that all the proceeds from the show will go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Altogether, the night raised $1400 in donations for the society!
And the price of admission was more than worth it. What a variety of fun, beautiful, interesting, humorous, magical, and entertaining pieces. The show opened up with a huge number of dancers taking the stage for an American Tribal Style (ATS) piece. When I saw multiple small groups of dancers fill the stage I admit I was wondering whether this was going to be a chaotic tangle of arms and skirts, with way too much going on. I was so profoundly wrong. Instead, the groups wove in and out of the stage, each little cluster interpreting the music in a different way. It was beautifully done and a wonderful display of the many options you have with ATS. Instead of being too much to take in, your eyes traveled over the various groups, and it was like watching a kaleidoscope; the way they melted up and down the stage, with each new movement drawing your eye to a new place.
While all of the groups didn't have matching costumes, every single performer during the evening stuck with the book's theme of white, black, and red. However, there was such variety! Each costume really represented the individual group or dancer's own personality or performance, and you never grew tired of the concise palette.
The next performer was Jeffery Fong, who danced with poi as well as a glowing blue staff suspended on a invisible string. This was a nice deviation from a regular belly dance show, and lent an air of the circus to the evening. Fong also taught an Intro to Poi class during the day, though I did not attend the classes.
The rest of the evening was a black, red, and white feast of performances. There was a dancer with fans of tarot cards; a confectioner doling out treats to customers of the circus; sword dancers whose performances were an eternal battle; a mechanic with a traveling box that crashed and then sent her into isolations and some of the deepest and most amazing belly rolls I've ever seen; glowing sticks; a two-faced dancer with S-shaped buugeng staffs; a doll who simply wants to keep dancing; two dancers who acted out being mirror reflections of each other; and more.
There were also copious amounts of props! Brooms, umbrellas, boxes with flashing lights, canes, trays, huge mirror frames, swords, tarot cards, silk fans, and the mesmerizing and meditative buugeng. The sheer variety of acts made this such a pleasure to watch, which is in stark contrast to many shows where the only props end up being veils and you get tired as an audience member watching the same sort of performances over and over.
I would, however, have loved to have seen more of the local Boston-area circus folk participate in this show. I know that it was mostly an event put on by belly dancers, but our circus community is so varied and diverse and exploding with amazing performers right now that a couple more routines would have made this feel closer to a circus. An acrobat, balancing act, juggler, lyra or something aside from the dance-like performances that were amazing, but of a similar enough vein that the entire night was mostly dance. This is, quite possibly, just me being greedy and wanting more. The night, with two intermissions and sixteen chapters (performances), was truly not lacking in talent.
What I found most impressive about this event was that each dancer managed to select such unique and interesting elements of the novel to present. Not a single one dealt with the main story arc between the two magician proteges. Instead, the audience was taken to the Night Circus, and given a glimpse – sometimes of what a circus goer would see, but more often of what was happening backstage as well. This served to draw us into the magic of the circus, and include us in the wonder of it all.
The evening was a labor of love and a testament both to the novel and to the great cause that it was supporting. Everything was well-planned and ran smoothly. The audio, which seemed to be prerecorded, was great, and the musical selections were so good that I am planning to ask for a copy of the music so that I can make a playlist to revisit a delightful evening.
Shae Rossi is a writer and editor who has been dancing and exploring belly dance for nearly fifteen years. She is a teacher, performer, choreographer, troupe director, eternal student, and recent member of Vadalna Tribal Dance Company. Shae has a love for all forms and types of belly dance, though American Tribal Style is her deepest passion. When dancing as a soloist, Shae fuses her background in various styles of belly dance, along with many years of martial arts and body therapy training.