THE STAR of the “bellydance” (otherwise Oriental dance) performance at Tzavta II on August 18 was, of course, the visiting celebrity from New York called Morocco. She had enchanted audiences at last year’s Israel Festival in Jerusalem. She has come again to give a seminar and appeared on the little Tzavta stage in Tel Aviv with the flash of a star in her movements, in the swish of her dazzling, befringed dress as she swung about, and in the amazing activation of her body from head to heel.
It was only at the very end that she removed her tinseled veil and performed actual bellydancing as it is popularly expected to be, her jeweled belt hugging her just under her gently rounded belly and her soft sides. Her skill was staggering. She even managed to look larger than life on the tiny stage and give it the illusion of space with her sweeping turns and with the splendid jolts and jars of her dance.
Earlier she had performed more modest-looking but no less glamorous dances, one with a cane that she balanced on her head. Another was a rather sinister Saharan ritualistic dance, during which her face was covered for a time and witchery was in the thrust of arms and fingers.
Yet not all the allure belonged to her. Rachel Milstein and Yael Moav contributed their share of glitter, in dances drawn from many Oriental sources including a lovely folkloristic Bukharan dance, a Kurdish dance from Turkmenistan, an Iranian classical dance and another from Upper Egypt. In Jerusalem, at the Pargod Little Theater (August l4), they had exerted the Oriental magic on their own. In both places, the performances were given added interest by explanations (mostly by Dr. Milstein) in Hebrew and English in Tel Aviv, and in Hebrew only in Jerusalem — but no doubt when they appear again with Morocco at the Pargod (August 24) they will be given in both languages, in deference to the visitor.
Above all, the performances show that bellydancing can be beautiful without lasciviousness and that it by no means takes only the form with which it is popularly associated. Naturally it is sexy, but to one extent or another, so is all dance — ballroom and disco, modern and jazz, tap and even ballet and folk, not omitting Hassidic dance.
The dancers did agitate their abdomens, swinging and jerking their hips, shivering their shoulders, undulating their midriffs, vibrating their busts, rotating their waists, rocking to and fro in the camel step. Yet they kept the dancing at the center of interest. It is an art dance form when done with the elegance of such dancers.
Ultimately, the fascination is the same as that of acrobats. The attention is riveted on the skill. Whereas in other ethnic dance — Spanish, Indian, character, folk — there is a meaning beyond the technique; in these, at their best, the technique is primary. The emphasis is entirely on the skill of movement. That is its limitation and its appeal — like acrobatics. When as well done as by these experts, it inspires admiration — and deserves it.