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Serena's Belly Dance Odyssey at the Pantheon Theater
-Onstage with the Dancers

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303 West 42nd St., 2nd Fl. NY, NY 10036
212.459.9620

Lighting Design, Charles Dexter
Stage Manager, Kelly McKinnon
Backstage Managers, Liz Frie and Johanna
Wings, by Stella Wings Costumes, by Laura Singh of Albany

Serena Studios
201 West 54th Street (Office)
939 8th Avenue (Studio) NY, NY 10019
212.247.1051
www.serenastudios.com
serenaw@earthlink.net

Spring Bash, March 1, 2003, at Serena Studios.
Call for information.

Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
January 26, 2003

Notes for background text based on information provided by Serena.

Serena was born into a theatrical family of opera, banjo, and vaudeville. She performed her first Belly Dance at the age of 17 at the Downtown Athletic Club. Her show was a huge success and she intensified her studies and danced in New Orleans and in New York. She formulated a unique technique, which was perfected with travel to the Middle East. She uses only movements that enhance the feminine grace of a woman. She captivates feeling in her Egyptian dances, and her dancers perform on concert stages and in cabarets. For the past 15 years, she has been the Choreographer for the lavish Egyptian productions at Club Ibis on West 44th Street. She also gives Master Classes around the world, as well as parties, trips to Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco, Seminars and Workshops, Concerts and Events. Serena also sells hand-beaded Belly Dance costumes in Serena's Closet.

The Egyptian Gardens
Dancers: Greek Dance (Peter Moraites, Zahraa); Candle Dance (Jenna); Turkish Dance (Zenaide). Musicians: Scott Wilson, Oud; George Vikos, Bouzoukie; Elektra, Violin; Rip Wilson, Drum. The Egyptian Gardens was at the center of "Greektown" on New York's 8th Avenue. The Clubs on the Street were owned by Greeks, and the dancers were Turkish and American. Music was Greek, Turkish, and Armenian, and the dance was Turkish style (The beginning of Belly Dance in NYC).

The musicians played in a Gypsy motif, and a man in the front row suddenly started a Greek Dance onstage. Jenna, as if possessed by demons, in dim, pink light, smiled through her porcelain features, with hips swiveling and candles carefully held in her arms (as if she were Serena in this dance, 30 years ago). Her stomach muscles were totally isolated, as she moved sensuously and dramatically, to the violin, oud, bouzoukie, and drum. Two of the instruments looked guitar-like, with some Gypsy sounds reminiscent of the Django Reinhardt Festival at Birdland.

Zenaide wore pink chiffon over her head, with a long, ruffled skirt and gold top. Every organ and muscle on this most talented dancer was isolated, as she effortlessly gyrated with tiny, hand symbols and many golden bracelets. Her silken skin and high heels enhanced this amazing performance, to the wailing Gypsy songs, sung by the musicians. She was a dervish of dynamic energy.

The Kooch Doll
Dancer: Serena. The concept of the Belly Dancer was celebrated on the canvases of the Orientalist painters of the late Nineteenth Century. In Carnivals, it was popular to have an animated statue of a Belly Dancer that gyrated in an alcove over the merry-go-round on the boardwalk at Asbury Park, NJ. Serena was affected by the sadness of this doll and created her "Kooch Dance". To a honkey-tonk tape, Serena stood barefoot in the midst of twinkling lights. In black and gold, she danced away from her Carnival pedestal, with superb grace as the music played, as she came to life, with the sound of her favorite symbols, and then stopped, as she regained her inanimate position, head lowered, so sad. Serena is a wonder to behold, with every bit of her belly and hips so well-trained to jiggle in tiny ripples, pulsating like a soft, percussive instrument.

The Cleopatra
The Dancers: Sahar, Dorit, Ayana (Dance Captain), Naia, Mimi, Naomi, Zahraa, Linda. Music: Egyptian. The original Cleopatra Nightclub housed a native Egyptian orchestra and an exotic atmosphere. With taped music, Serena's dancers, in red and black costumes, used veils as masks, in a most exotic display of virtuosity and technique. They were sexy, sensual, and sly. I am intrigued with these dances and would love to see them actually performed in one of the Nightclubs. Naomi, In gold Harem pants and ancient Egypt wings on her headpiece, and an Egyptian collar, was exquisite, as she possessed charisma and charm in this classic motif. Her Egyptian costume was reminiscent of the costumes and props in the Martha Graham Dance Company's recent season. In this presentation, swords were also prevalent, and, in addition, Ayana slithered through the orchestra, down a ramp, with a tray of flickering white candles on her head. These swords were mostly ritualistic, as compared to the symbolic swords seen in the Graham Company's works. As a closing number for Cleopatra, dancers with enormous golden wings, like those of the traditional Ibis, swirled and turned to extremely percussive and sharp music. These barrel turns, with wings gliding, were extremely effective, like swirling disks.

Palesteena
The Dancers: Amaya, Joharra, Sarah. Choreographer: Serena. Music: Original Dixieland Jazz Band. During the first years of the last Century, anything Middle Eastern was in vogue. Serena choreographed her "Flappers" as they might have danced back in the twenties. With red Harem pants and imaginative, mysterious head coverings, the dancers were at once coy and flowing with tremendous magnetism. This was a spoof on the twenties.

Sweet Little Angel
Dancer: Aquila. Music: Big Mama Thornton. The voice of Serena's favorite Blues Singer, Big Mama Thornton, was influential in the creation of this piece. This was a fusion of Jazz and Blues. However, every movement was in the vocabulary of Belly Dance. This incredibly soulful music married all the above styles. Aquila was costumed in black and silver. She has a tremendous background in Ballet, Jazz, and Modern Dance, and her technique was exciting and eclectic.

Alabena
Dancers: Naia, Mimi, Ariel. Choreography by Ayana, Sahar, Serena. The appearance of Shakira and her Belly Dance has created an interest in this dance by young Spanish women. Shakira's teacher was Serena's student. This dance was a fusion of Flamenco and Belly Dancing. With enormous Flamenco skirts and "cholis" (special tops) from India, with large exotic sleeves, these dancers were energetic and passionate.

Belly Dance 2003
Dancer: Dorit in her Own Choreography. Music by Musicians. To the background music of the live musicians, Dorit danced a traditional Belly Dance, in red with black. With an exquisite skirt, flowing sleeves, tiny symbols, and bare feet, she fell and collapsed onto her thighs. In fact, she appeared to elegantly move with her muscular thighs and swiveling, expressive hips.

See photos below of Serena's Belly Dance Odyssey.




Serena's Belly Dancers



Naomi



Belly Dancers and the Golden Wings



The Golden Wings



The Golden Wings



Serena



Serena



Flappers in Harem Pants



Flappers



Flappers and Scott Wilson



Belly Dancer, Zenaide with Marcia Ferber (Rising Star in the Belly Dance Community)
 

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net