By Robin Elliott
Deconstructing Myth and Reinventing Dance
It’s safe to say the image of the seductive bare-midriffed, chiffon scarf-wielding, coin-bedazzled belly dancer has infiltrated the western consciouness over the last hundred years. Most everyone can conjure up a mental image of a belly dancer on cue, whether from a Middle Eastern restaurant, the Arabian Nights, or an afternoon spent shimmying and undulating at a dance studio. But through most of history, in the countries from which what we call “belly dance” originated, this sensual social dance was performed in near-private, out of site of any but a dancer’s closest friends and family, or partner, and most often out of sight of the opposite sex.
Armenian-born Armineh Keshishian, Artistic Director of Toronto’s Awareness Unlimited and belly dancer extraordinaire, uses this theme of segregation of the sexes and her experiences growing up in Iran, amid the cultural traditions of Middle Eastern social dance and social mores, as a jumping off point from which to examine mythology, male/female power dynamics and women’s community across eras and cultures. Evolution… of the human kind, her latest multi-disciplinary performance piece, features more than 20 artists, combining modern, jazz and belly dance, along with storytelling, to explore these themes through movement and music
A reprise and expansion of a critically acclaimed 2006 performance, Keshishian’s Evolution features dancers not only of Middle Eastern descent, but with roots in the cultures and dance traditions of the Caribbean, China, Greece, Scotland, Ukraine and Poland and England. Their collaboration endeavours to “lift the veil off ancestral traditions as it travels through the ancient times of the Pharaohs to the present day; exploring relationships between men and women, the power of self and the impact of societal norms on humanity throughout history”.
The two performances of the programme, this Friday and Saturday evening, will take place at the stunning Winter Garden Theatre, with its magnificent trompe l’oeil paintings and hanging garden décor. Between the Edwardian surrounds of this National Historic Site, and Keshishian’s choreographic artistry and performative interpretation of history and myth, you are sure to be transported