A Belly Full

As a member of the Bellydance Superstars, Ansuya makes almost inhuman use of her body, creating emotional expressions and musical interpretations via a softly gyrating belly and improvised dance -- often while crawling on the floor. Today, she'll come to town to perform Raqs Carnivale, an exotic, carnival-esque performance featuring acrobats, stilt walkers and, appropriately enough, lots of belly dancing. Ansuya will be joined by her fellow Superstars, such as Jillina, the troupe's master dancer and choreographer, and Stevie, who'll perform traditional belly-dance movement -- on stilts. Ansuya says she's happy to be ambassador for an art form that until recently got much of its exposure at bachelor parties and ethnic restaurants.

"In the past, it was disqualified as something inappropriate and not challenging," she says. "Now people's ideas are more healthy. It's one of the best examples of healthy and wholesome sensuality. We're saying our bodies are healthy and powerful." Um, yeah, that's putting it lightly. The Bellydance Superstars are pros -- some of the best in the art form. They maintain the kind of militant practice lifestyle employed by ballerinas and Cirque du Soleil performers. But hey, they're hot, too, and extremely sensual -- nay, sexual. "If we're sexual, it's with elegance and strength and not with degradation and shame," says Ansuya. "Especially when you compare it to a dance form like hip-hop. Everyone accepts hip-hop -- and they should -- but it's booty slappin'."

Belly dancing hails from a region that's not exactly getting the best PR these days. "There's always been religious and political fear of belly dancing," she says. "The Middle East is repressive, but belly dancing represents evolution. It's really female empowerment." The one running the show, in this case, is the one crawling on the floor.
Wed., Feb. 15, 8 p.m.


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