Dance of the 700 Veils

Middle Eastern style takes many forms in lengthy event

By Margaret Putnam, Special Contributor


GRAPEVINE – Five hours is a long time for a dance show. No wonder then that “Yaa Halla, Y’all” sparkled, slumbered and crackled Saturday night at the Grapevine Convention Center. In pace it resembled a summer parade: spectacle and flash alternating with slow, winding processions.

          Sponsored by Isis and the Star Dancers, the program brought in exceptional Middle Eastern dancers from around the country along with raw students and promising local talent. Except for a single male, women of all ages, shapes and styles, in outfits modest and plain, outrageous and stunning, entered behind an alcove and glided onto the stage, scarves trailing over outstretched arms.

          They had names like Azar, Sa’diyya, Cyra and Jewel, and with few exceptions, let their long, straight hair fall down their shoulders, the better to whip and churn. Most of the performers danced barefoot, a few in high heels. Some, like Bahaia, moved with leisurely grace, wafting scarf overhead, then changing gears abruptly, with a flurry of gyrations and shimmies and a sudden backbend. Each part of her dance had its own mood – sunny, serene, impetuous, fierce – impelled by the swift shift in the music.

          Cara and Aziza stood out among the many dancers. Cara, clad in stunning gray and silver bra and form-fitting dress, twisted and turned as smoothly as smoke rings. Aziza, in crimson velvet, proved just how complete belly dance can be. She glided across stage as though on invisible skates while isolating every part of her torso in a constant wave. Warm and radiant, she cast a golden charm on the audience.

          While solos dominated, ensembles – mostly students and semi-professionals – sallied forth, too. Egyptian Connection featured a slew of percussion instruments. The 74-year-old Tambra and two others brandished swords overhead.

          More drama followed as Isis, the flamboyant leader of this enterprise, took up swords – first one, then a second – spinning and spinning, sliding down to a leg split, then back up and beckoning for more swords. These she draped across her shoulders and continued spinning. It brought a rousing cheer.

          For spectacle, nothing could match the wedding procession of 10 women in long, dark blue dress, preceded by eight drummers, who appeared from the rear of the auditorium to the stage. On their heads, they supported tall, golden candelabras that flickered with the light of nine candles. It was magic.