From City Pages VOL 19 #918 . PUBLISHED
The Wedding Present
ICE SCULPTURES, PUFFY-sleeved gowns, white
limos, and dinner for 300 close friends: These are the things of a wedding
planner's dreams. But with or without Martha Stewart's seal of approval, most
Western nuptials pale in comparison to the elaborate week-long celebrations
This tradition provided a novel challenge for
"Our perception of Saudi women is that they are downtrodden," observes Shore--and in many ways they are. In bringing a normally private occurrence to a Western audience, though, the choreographer hopes to dispel narrow preconceptions about the lives of Saudi women. "There is no religious connotation here," she continues. "Normally you must have a special entrance in Saudi Arabian society to hear women's dance and music. Even Saudi males beyond age 8 don't see it."
While women in Saudi Arabia have realized some educational and employment opportunities in recent years, the Saudis' customary adherence to Shariah law still bars women from activities most Western women would consider routine, like driving a car or traveling alone without permission from a husband, father, or brother. Shore recognizes the gender separation inherent in Saudi life, yet returns to the notion of the wedding party as a source of creativity and liberation for women. "Without men present they can do whatever they want," she explains.
Although Shore has traveled extensively
Shore has considerable experience with Egyptian belly dancing, which tends to rely heavily on the pelvis and utilizes more percussive musical accompaniment, yet she discovered that women living in the Gulf region move quite differently from their counterparts elsewhere. "We have a monolithic perception of the Arab world but the accents, the traditions, are completely different," she explains. "Most of the women's dances are united by rhythmic isolation, but style and sophistication varies from country to country. In Gulf dances, the movement has more to do with the manipulation of the dress, and they also dance with the hair."
Like her local choreographic colleagues Susana di Palma of Zorongo Flamenco or Ranee Ramaswamy of Ragamala Music and Dance Theatre, Shore has made a considerable effort to "contemporize her work," while staying true to its traditional components. This challenge is particularly prevalent in Shoma, a work that will raise discussion on Saudi women's lives beyond the veils. "I want this piece to have meaning to me," says Shore, "but I really want it to say something to both cultures. I want to show the things that are attractive to the Saudi Arabian community and the American community as well."
Shoma runs Thursdays through Saturdays at and Sundays at through July 19 at the Southern Theater; call 340-1725.