Atelier Orientale

Anahid Sofian Studio
29 W. 15th St. New York City
Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Review by Virginia Dillon

New York City is full of sub-cultures, and the atelier at Anahid Sofian's studio drew a group from the belly-dancing coterie. For the occasion Anahid had transformed her studio into a performance space, which quickly filled up with a cheerful group who all seemed to know each other, and who set the tone for an afternoon of supportive viewing.

Anahid welcomed us and also performed a solo midway through the program. It was a lovely, dignified piece called One Who Plants A Tree. Clad in black pants and a black top, she moved in soft round forms, and at times the dance reminded me of Israeli folk dance, as it mimicked some of the planting gestures. We also saw her in a video done in 1984, which was probably very avant-garde at the time but now seems nostalgic.

Nadia Maria Michaels performed the first dance on the program. Her long black hair (which she used quite a bit) and red traditional belly dance costume let us know the subject for the day. She was one of the dancers who made eye contact with the audience, and it created an intimacy to which one is not accustomed in concert dance but let me know that she had performed in nightclubs.

Manhattan Tribal, a quartet of women who also made eye contact with the audience, was a fun group who smiled throughout their dance, and I loved it. They wore flowers in their hair and pompoms on their skirts, and balanced bowls on their heads and danced with finger cymbals. They had fun and so did we.

Siri Melikian was the strongest performer on the program, and her choreography for Tarab: A Journey into Musical Ecstasy and Trance was the most complete. It was also the longest piece, created in three sections, all of which successfully built on on another. She did not make eye contact but seemed to be totally involved in the work. As did many of the dancers during the evening, she used her scarf a great deal in the first section, abandoned it in the second section, and was on the floor by the third section, performing some of the traditional movements we associate with belly dancing. Her movements incorporated sharp gestures and was more rhythmic than the other dancers.

Azza Amon, who with her red hair might be a reincarnation of Loie Fuller, was the dancer to use her scarf the most. In her first dance, a solo, she used a large gold-colored scarf, but she did not use her torso very much, which is odd since it was highlighted by her costume. Her second dance was a quartet for four women who all worked with aqua scarves making movement patterns and exchanging them at times.

Aszmara performed Las Cuevas, an Arab Andalusian piece that reminded me of the cultural affinities between the Arabs and the Spanish. Her main prop was a fan and her perfomance became stronger as the piece progressed, till at the end she was swept away as were we. A less emotional piece was performed by Jean Musacchio who danced in dark blue veils covering her face and body in Spirit at the Well. It was a quiet exploration of shapes and arm gestures and came at a good place in the program.

Atelier Orientale was a very pleasant summer Sunday afternoon, which I hope Ms. Sofian continues to offer.