The walls were shaking, the sound system blaring, and the energy in the place had the hair on the back of my neck standing on end.  The whole experience was amazingly surreal and powerful.

What am I describing?  Saturday, January 23rd at the Art Bar/ East Coast All-Star Belly Dance Showcase.  It was truly the most amazing night of the year.  And I dare say it will hold up as the top show of the Columbia Art Scene for all of 2010.  This is no disrespect to any of the other fabulous art shows that have gone on so far this year, but the bar has been set very high by Natalie Brown and the Delirium/Alternacirque crew. 

Natalie put together a show with some seismic talent, amazing for such a “small” market as Columbia.  The list included:

Ananda Dance Company (Knoxville, TN)
Mahsati Janan (Asheville, NC)
Awalim Dance Company (Atlanta, GA)
Fierce Fusion Dance Company (Augusta, GA)
Asim (Greenville, SC)
Asharah (Alexandria, VA)
Devyani Dance Company (Birmingham, AL)
Mab, Just Mab (Washington, D.C.)
Ashley Bennett (Columbia, SC)


Delirium Tribal and Columbia Alternacirque (Columbia, SC)

Awalim began the night with a bang.  They threw down one of the most powerful pieces of belly dance that I have ever seen.  And the performance challenged the rest of the acts to step up to the plate.  But each act seemed destined to outdo the one before it, causing some epic performances to be put forth.  My personal favorites included a tremendous piece by Asim (which literally had the hair on my arms standing up), the sword dance piece by Fierce Fusion (all I can say is “holy cow”), and what seemed to be a battle between the ladies from Awalim and Devyani (they each pulled out all the stops and threw every maneuver they knew).  And of course, not to be outdone, Delirium and Alternacirque stepped up and delivered their signature talent that we are so blessed to have in Columbia.  To be honest, there was not a bad performance in the bunch.  And every act provided a ton of inspiration to the audience.  If you weren’t moved by the talent and the beauty that was on stage, I would question if you were actually watching the show.  It is a rarity to be a part of a show (and yes, the audience was a part of the show) that has that much energy and impact.

And that is why I am calling this the top show for 2010.  It is my belief that people want to be included in a show.  To feel the energy and be impacted by the art that is laid out in front of them.  It is one thing to hang art on a wall or stage a performance piece (or do them jointly together), but to engage the audience in a way that draws them in and impacts their lives is truly otherworldly.  And yet, isn’t that what every artist strives for?  I was completely engaged with this show.  Each piece of music that rolled out of the speakers began a new journey, and a journey that I wanted to take.  Each act led me to a different part of myself, some that I hadn’t visited in a long time and some that I never knew existed.  By the time the show was over, I was wondering when I would get a chance to take that journey again.

Amazing, truly amazing.  I can’t wait until next year to see how Ms. Natalie is going to top this.

If you were not there for the show, I would suggest finding and talking to somebody who experienced it (especially those in the art scene with a show planned for this year).  And most certainly would put it in your calendar for next year as the “I can’t miss this show” entry.