Arabian Nights: A Belly Dance Spectacular is the second show mounted by local belly dance troupe Sisters of Salome in the Toronto Fringe Festival. This show, a retelling through dance of the classic collection One Thousand and One Nights, is a tour de force, and a stirring demonstration of the remarkable performing skills of the troupe members. Arabian Nights is an innovative new take on some very old stories that works wonderfully.
The action begins with the intimate dance of a queen with another man, an infidelity discovered by her husband the king. The king slaughters everyone involved, and then goes on to marry one woman after another, killing each after only one night has passed. Finally, the king is left to marry a crafty woman, Scheherazade, who entrances her husband with an unending stream of stories. By keeping the king in suspense about the story’s ending, she keeps him from killing her.
The audience of Arabian Nights sees three of these tales of the One Thousand and One Night reenacted in dance set to music: “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad”, and “The Serpent Queen”.
Arabian Nights is a remarkable sixty minutes of highly capable dance. The sheer ability of the dancers was wonderful to watch: agile, expressive, and very well-coordinated, Sisters of Salome’s dancers were able to tell multiple without having to say a single word. I was very impressed by Sarah Skinner’s skills as a choreographer, and as a dancer in her own right as Scheherazade.
I also quite liked the evocatively sensual and violent choreography of Mentor Sejdiu in the opening orgy scene, and the performance of Kevin Fox as the hapless straight-man porter. Everyone involved in Arabian Nights shone. Even the selection of the dancers’ music, a collection of Middle Eastern electronica, was inspired.
Arabian Nights is an artistic success, deserving of the standing ovation they received from the audience at their opening performance. Judging by the long line I saw stretching around the street corner, tickets for future performance may be difficult to buy at the door.
Arabian Nights: A Belly Dance Spectacular plays the Tarragon Main Space. (30 Bridgman Avenue.)
July 03 at 06:30 PM
July 05 at 01:45 PM
July 07 at 04:30 PM
July 09 at 09:15 PM
July 10 at 04:00 PM
July 11 at 11:00 PM
July 12 at 12:30 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online online, by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Photo of Sarah Skinner, Amoura, Balkis Catelin, Sahar, and Zoe Smith by Kevin Fox.