Fantasm: 1001 Nights | Bellydance Evolution & Hathor Dance Studio

The tales of Sinbad the sailer are known the world over for the fantastic adventures and creatures he encountered. Bellydance Evolution, touring from Los Angeles, recreates the famous legend with a unique fusion of bellydancing and other dance styles, including breakdancing and ballet.

Sinbad’s (Kapua) adventures are framed by another story of King Shahryar (Ruslan Kurlovic) and Scheherazade (Maragarita Kamjaka). King Shahryar’s wife falls in love and begins an affair with another man which enrages the King and begins his murderous rampage. A classic patriarchal story of hyper-masculinity, violence, and control meets the power of Scheherazade, who convinces the King to let her live in exchange for the story of Sinbad. Over the course of her story-telling, the King becomes disenchanted and Scheherazade must seek the advice of the Icon of Wisdom (Jillina Carlano), the Icon of Creation (Luna Poumian), and the Icon of Love (Jrisi Jusakos) who help convince the King to let go of his anger and fall in love with Scheherazade.

Putting aside the misogyny, this production is big and beautifully done. The costumers are spectacular with their glitter and glam and the clever ways they create scenes of underwater worlds, forest creatures, and Sinbad’s famous ship sailing the seven seas. Having to costume so many dancers and recreate the elaborate lands of the legend included making jellyfish, a mermaid, duelling horses, an island warrior, a flock of giant parrots, a den of snakes, and more.

The ensemble was captivating in their synchronicity with plenty of personality to convey their story clearly. Direction from Carlano and the choreography team meant the stage always felt full of vibrancy and movement. This contrasted very well with the stand-out solos from the character dancers. Carlano and Poumian, in particular, performed excellent solos with some accompaniment from featured drummer Khader Ahmad, who kept the beat heart-stoppingly quick. While the majority of choreography focused on Middle Eastern and bellydancing styles, there was some unique integration of breakdancing, ballet, and contemporary dance that added an extra dynamic to the performance.

As part of Bellydance Evolution’s tour to Sydney, the company held a competition to allow local and international bellydancers the opportunity to perform in Fantasm. The winners were featured in this performance as an additional ensemble which added to the supportive community atmosphere already strong in the audience enthusiasm. For a modern and unique performance of the classic Sinbad legends, Fantasm: 1001 Nights was a glittering spectacular with fun and entertainment for bellydance connoisseurs and amateurs alike.

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