Nyssa revels in the unexpected

Goodrich Hall played host to an entirely new brand of talent last Friday and Saturday evenings with the premiere performance of the College’s new belly dancing club, Nyssa, founded earlier this semester by Anshita Khandelwal ’14. On a lively stage overflowing with colors and movement, the performers danced for an enthusiastic full house, who were curiously eager to see what the College’s newest group had to offer.

The show kicked off with “Fiza,” a hypnotizing, serpentine number, which met the audience’s preconceived notions of what a “belly dancing” performance would be. The seven performers served the crowd a taste of what they were to experience later in the night, with flowing, gyrating moves in addition to swaying scarves, jangling coin-and-loop hip belts and of course, belly shirts.

The second programmed number of the night, “Sounds of Africa,” was, due to unforeseen circumstances, replaced on Friday night’s performance by an impromptu but polished piece called “Angel,” featuring soloist Joy Jing ’13. Energetic and at times even frenetic, Jing’s dance saw her typical scarf replaced by “wings,” or pleated scarves attached to sticks, which she whirled around briskly.

Special attention to showcasing different variations of belly dancing was apparent in the show’s next dance, “Niñas de las Flores.” In an obvious nod to traditional Spanish flamenco dancing, the two performers wore red and black floor-length pleated skirts in lieu of leggings or harem pants and used them in lieu of scarves, incorporating in the style of a few flamenco moves.

In a surprising twist of genre, the show’s next number, “Bellylicious,” was reminiscent not of a certain culture’s dance, but rather that of the dramatic burlesque scene. In fishnet tights and black stilettos, the four dancers circled, climbed and straddled the four chairs on stage in what was described as a “contemporary-fusion-chair dance.” Though some may have found the sultry fusion piece too heavily fused for a belly dancing show, it was an admirably bold move into riskier artistic territory.

After a lengthy intermission, filled with words from emcee Omer Khalayleh ’13, the show continued with “A Night in Bollywood,” another creative spin on “belly dancing.” Khandelwal, along with guest performers Chetan Singhal ’15 and Hamza Farrukh ’15, acted out what was Khalayleh prefaced as a “typical Bollywood story” to the tune of modern Indian music. The foray into narrative dances continued with the next piece, a guest number again by Singhal and Farrukh, who performed not belly dancing at all but rather Bhangra, in “Bhangra Boys.” A clean and playful performance with an unmistakable and easy-to-follow sequence of events, the dance was a refreshing and lighthearted break between intricate gyrations and flamboyant pivots.

The penultimate dance “You Wanna Move?” was another solo by Khandelwal, this time to highlight some special moves and styles of belly dance that had not been incorporated into earlier numbers. Accompanied by a short medley of different song clips to usher in each different style of dance, this sequence clearly showcased Khandelwal’s standout performance and ability, and exposed the audience to some prime examples of belly dancing’s extensive range of moods and techniques.

The show’s finale was a rousing accompaniment to Shakira’s “Whenever, Wherever,” tying with the earlier “Queens of the Nile” for incorporating the most dancers. A satisfying way to round out the program, this last piece was most reminiscent of the show’s first piece, in a bustling return to “traditional” belly dancing, though now with the twist of contemporary music.

A surprising range of words could be used to describe Nyssas breakout show – robust, vulnerable, unexpected and subtle are just a few. It is clear that special attention to variety was paid, in both techniques and styles, to keep the audience on its toes and stretch expectations of the performance. For a group so recently established, the dances were remarkably cohesive and accomplished, especially considering the ground-up beginner status of many of the performers. Nyssa can be sure of its very own place on campus in the future.

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