Review of Visions: A Night of Dark & Theatrical Belly Dance (DVD)

Intrigue, mystery, and intensity: this is the essence of dark fusion dance, and Lumen Obscura Productions’ Visions DVD delivers eleven riveting dark fusion performances packed with theatrical drama, ritual elements, ethereal atmospheres, and compelling artistry.

In addition to the range of belly dance styles featured in this DVD – tribal fusion, American Tribal Style, American cabaret – the other dance styles and influences fused seamlessly together in these dark fusion dance performances include ballet, modern, jazz, butoh, and hip hop.

The lighting is excellent all the way through, setting the mood appropriately and highlighting the dancers’ movements in all the right ways. Fellow dancers will appreciate the camera work and editing as well: belly rolls are shown clearly, and facial expressions highlighted at just the right angle. Thankfully, there are none of those annoying moments where the camera cuts away abruptly while the viewer is left thinking: “Hey, I wanted to SEE that move the dancer did there! Why did you suddenly zoom in on her face and obscure her hips?”

And if you’ve ever felt disappointed when watching a dancer who seemed to be more interested in showing off their advanced technique than they were in using their dance as an art form (“hey, look, I can do a killer Turkish drop!”) you’ll be glad to know that you’ll find none of that ego-centric focus here.   You’ll see impressive technique, of course, as these are all advanced-level dancers, but the stellar technique never overshadows the expressive artistry or their obvious love for the music.

You’ll also see here that the love-your-body vibe in the belly dance community is not just lip service: dancers of a variety of beautiful shapes and sizes are featured in this DVD, much to my delight.

The performance that stood out for me was Kristie Lauren’s “The Fabled Statue.” I simply could not take my eyes off of her. The stellar atmospheric music she chose – “Sister Scythe” by Nezzy Idy – captivated me so much that I listened to the track over and over again, and tracked down the musician’s website so I could buy it.

Kristie is top-notch in musicality as well as technique: her movement accents are perfectly timed and executed, and she knows how to build anticipation in her audience. I watched this memorable performance multiple times in a row, in an attempt to absorb every possible nuance of the lighting, music, costuming, choreography, and atmosphere.

Paige Lawrence is sensational in “The Darrien Gap” – he’s been one of my favourite dancers for years. One of his many strengths as a dancer is his ability to dig deep and convey darker emotional states in a raw and honest way. There’s as much drama and intensity in his music as there is in his movement, and his facial expressions highlight this even more.

Katy Swenson gets high marks for her stellar costuming, perfect turns, and fluid-as-water undulations in her amazing sword performance to “Axarai” by Raquy and the Cavemen. I particularly love the ritualistic uncloaking in the veiled intro section, as well as the dramatic ending.

Ida Mahin’s first piece, “Unchained,” conveys strength and intrigue with its sharp staccato moves and skirt accents. “Kleid aus Rosen” (Dress of Roses) – her second and more ethereal piece – uses elegant ballet fusion to deliver an evocative lament.  There is a luminous mystery that takes over in both of Ida’s performances, transporting the viewer to another time and place through the magic of the dance.

Megz & Marjhani are gorgeous and brimming over with infectious attitude, and they seem ideally matched for their duet. Great musicality, costuming, and coordination. Tribal style belly dance and industrial music (“Hate” and “My Eyes Are Red” by HexRx) are a winning combination here – they pull it off perfectly.

Arcane Dimension’s ethereal “Shapeshifter” performance features two live musicians playing right alongside the dancers. I’d love to see more of this kind of collaborative effort between musicians and dancers happening in dark fusion dance performances. The beautiful fluttery veil work imparts a heightened sense of mystery and intrigue, and the choreography uses the space in ways that are complementary to both the musicians and the dancers.

Sabaku Fusion’s “Sandstorm” is a nicely creepy fusion piece which opens with beautiful and grotesque butoh-influenced movements to the haunting tones of “Eternal Imaging Patterns of Blossoming From Beneath” by An Exquisite Corpse.   Sabaku adds a touch of industrial scene insider humour and high-energy choreography to the mix with the second half of their performance, to Komor Kommando’s “Das Oontz.”

Deidre Anaid, creative director of Sabaku Fusion, delivers a unique short solo piece, “Otherworldly Wasteland,” with hip-hop flair, evocative music (“Relentless Drag” by Shigeto), and a combination of lovely costume elements that work together perfectly.  The light-hearted elements of this piece combine well with her nuanced facial expressions and choreography to impart a delightful sense of the unexpected.

Maureen’s haunting “Shadowed Red” piece to the Android Lust track “Stained” draws me in with graceful hand movements and innovative, unusual costuming, delivering an equally unsettling and captivating performance with a touch of the macabre.  There is a sense of reserve and control here that heightens curiosity and feeds the imagination.

Aepril Schaile’s “Landing Strip” brings to the stage a strong sense of depth and mystery. With her usual engaging, theatrical style, she takes us on a journey through heavily emotionally laden and unearthly terrain, each nuance of her dark tale shining with precision and beauty.

Bottom line: If you’re a fan of dark fusion dance – a style that was once more well known as “gothic bellydance” – you won’t go wrong with this DVD. It’s professionally made by insiders in the gothic-industrial music and dark fusion dance communities. The dancers are all excellent, the lighting and camera work are flawless, and the artistry is paramount.

In my mind, Visions even surpasses the gothic bellydance DVDs released through World Dance New York, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed and also recommend. I hope we’ll see future releases in a similar vein from Lumen Obscura Productions!

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