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December 19, 2013

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Gesserit Spice and friends will warm up Barking Legs this Friday

TOO MANY RE-RUNS OF “A CHRISTMAS Carol" and “It’s A Wonderful Life” got you saying, “bah humbug?” We may have just the thing to put some shimmy in your holidays.

For thousands of years, mankind has recognized and celebrated the winter solstice, the time when in the northern hemisphere, the season begins to turn towards rebirth. For us this year, the solstice will actually occur at 12:11 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21. But you can celebrate the solstice eve at Barking Legs on Friday, Dec. 20 with a unique event created by tribal fusion belly dance troupe Gesserit Spice, along with quite a few of their friends.

“The Wheel of the Year: Exploring the Seasons Through the Performing Arts” will honor traditions and folklore of the eight ancient Sabbats of the European pagan calendar, including Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox and the Witch’s New Year through belly dance, poetry and music.

Previous Gesserit Spice shows have “focused on individual performances connected to a particular deity,” says Gesserit Spice’s Eliza Luminara. “This show will have an open focus on spirituality and its connection to the roots of these traditions.”

Gesserit Spice will perform both group and solo dances, as will Mirabai Belly Dance troupe and renowned belly dancer Paulina Fay will also perform. Spoken-word/poets Marcus Ellsworth and Melinda Brown are creating pieces for the event, says Luminara and folk songs associated with the Wheel of the Year will be performed.

The tribal fusion dance style is still not widely understood in the West, says Luminara, where most still associate belly dance with “a kind of cabaret/Hollywood performance that sexually objectifies women.” Tribal fusion, in contrast, is inspired by the dances of nomadic tribal cultures and was originally danced by women for women. “Inspired” is the key word, Luminara emphasizes. “We research and study what individual cultures do, and we end up taking from each of them and fusing the elements together. We don’t say that our dances are exactly what a traditional folk dance would look like.”

When the tribal fusion style began evolving in the United States in the ’60s and ’70s, “it was focused on the isolations of the body, while movement on and around the stage was limited,” Luminara writes on the Gesserit Spice website. “Now it has taken a life of its own, bringing beautiful locomotive moves to interact with the audience while dazzling with creative costumes. Antique pieces and vintage goods are what make up a TF belly dancer’s costume. We do love our tribal coins and pendants! Our dance bras and tops typically have the midriff exposed, are handmade, and sometimes flair a belly drape of chain with coins and/or pendants. We honor the female body by adornment and give support to our sisters (and a few brothers!) in dance with community.”

Luminara acknowledges that the dance traditions of generations are endangered in some parts of the world, such as Afghanistan. “We are trying to help these traditions live on,” she says.

“The Wheel of the Year” will be the final Chattanooga performance for Gesserit Spice as a troupe, because Luminara is moving to New England to be closer to her family, and she will take the Gesserit Spice name with her. However, she promises that remaining members of the group will continue to perform, keeping the tribal beat drumming at Barking Legs and other venues. 

“The Wheel of the Year: Exploring the Seasons Through the Performing Arts,” 8 p.m. Dec. 20. Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave., (423) 624-5347, barkinglegs.org. $12 advance, $15 at door.

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December 19, 2013

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