Strictly Belly Dance Celebrates the Style That Never Goes Out Of Style At Rogue 2014

Feb 15, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Arts & Entertainment

by Annette Federico

Between now and Rogue Festival 2014 we will be featuring several of the performers who will be at this year’s festival, so keep watching for more! Also, next week we will have a preview of the Festival itself, and if that wasn’t enough we will have show reviews and video interviews during this year’s Rogue Festival.

Belly dancing is the oldest form of dance, dating back thousands of years, although it has only been known in our country since the late 19th century. The solo form, or Cabaret style (also known as American Cabaret Style), has its roots in the 40’s and 50’s casinos and supper clubs on the banks of the Nile River. Egyptian belly dancing stars, such as Badiaa Masaabni, Samya Gamal, Tahiya Karioka and Naima Akef’s talents spread to American shores via Egyptian movie musicals that sought to mimic popular Hollywood films. Thanks to talented dance “pioneers” who studied the films mimicking what they saw, belly dancing took root in the trendy Arab-themed nightclubs of Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 60s and 70s. This alchemy resulted in a cocktail of Egyptian Raks Sharqi and Turkish Oryentale, the excitement of improvisation, finger cymbals (zills), the multiple-part routine and the various accoutrements or props, all adding to the experience and audience engagement. American Cabaret Style is still practiced and performed by dancers all over the world.

The Cabaret routine, performed by a solo dancer, consists of several pieces of music of varying length, speed, instrumentation, and mood. The audience is most often seated, eating and drinking during the performance that may or may not include a stage; venues were intimate in nature allowing for audience interaction. Traditionally, the dancer wears a flashy, two-piece costume called a bedlah over a very full skirt, and always plays zills, except while handling a prop such as a sword or cane. Improvisational in nature, this freestyle dance form reflects the soloist’s skill in interpreting the music through her movement and imparts a sense of intimacy to the audience, much as a jazz musician’s solo would.

The dancer’s solo consists of an opening, or greeting song, then moves on to a veil piece followed by another fast number or a drum solo. For longer programs, there is music for a slow, standing piece called a taxsim, or floor work that might incorporate props such as a sword, tray, or lighted candles. The dancer ends her routine with an exciting finale.

During the Rogue Festival, Studio 74 Art Gallery will be transformed into an intimate cabaret setting reminiscent of those clubs where this style had its beginnings. This multi-media homage to “Vintage” American Cabaret belly dance explores its origins as well as showcasing the talents of dancers who keep this art form vital and thriving.
The show features Fresno area dancers Annette Federico and Michele Jackson. Annette, who has danced professionally and taught dance since 2001, developed the show to give attention to American Cabaret which she felt had been largely overlooked in the Rogue Festival, presenting it in a setting more germane to its roots. “Strictly Belly Dance” is in its third year at the Rogue and Annette feels that this year’s show is the best yet. She says, “Besides the entertainment experience for the audience, we wanted to give a little history and convey a feeling of the hospitality and audience engagement which is a big part of the dance’s tradition. In the last 20 years, a movement toward ATS (American Tribal Style) and Modern Egyptian-style belly dance has rendered Cabaret the label of ‘retro’ or ‘old school’ belly dance. Those of us who love this style, who perform it and teach it, who love playing zills and dancing to music that tells a story, prefer to call it ‘classic.’”

The performance dates are February 28 at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, March 1 at 12:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Friday, March 7 at 8:00 p m . The $5.00 admission includes a complementary beverage. Come join us at Studio 74, the official art gallery of the Rogue Festival, transformed into Fresno’s very own Casbah!

Studio 74 is located at 1274 N. Van Ness Avenue, (north of Olive in Fresno’s historic Tower District) Fresno, CA 93728.
For more information on all things belly dance, see

To learn about the history of the Rogue Festival check out this KRL article from 2011 and keep an eye on our Arts & Entertainment section for more Rogue articles in the next few weeks.


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