• ‘Dancing Darkly’ draws fans from Rutland and beyond
    CORRESPONDENT | November 25,2013
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    In two hours, Shelby Jones was a zombie, Catwoman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a bebop cowgirl. It sounds like a busy Halloween night, right?

    Actually, Jones’ costume changes were part of the fifth annual “Dancing Darkly,” a belly dance/fusion event which began as a Halloween-inspired evening, eventually morphing into a dark night held in November. This year’s theme, and a first for the event, was “Night of the Living Geeks,” featuring performances inspired by “Star Trek”, “Doctor Who”, and “Game of Thrones” on Saturday at the West Rutland Town Hall Theater.

    Chances are when you think about belly dancing, the last thing that comes to mind is geeks and superheroes. For creator Joann Larson, who dances with Rutland’s Sisterhood of the Silk Road, the event was a way to incorporate her love of industrial/gothic music and creative ideas through costumes. Larson, better known as “Malice” while dancing, encouraged the large crowd to participate. She says crowd involvement adds to the sense of community felt within the dancing culture.

    “We really enjoy feedback and noise, so when it moves you, you can zaghareet (a high-pitched trill),” she said. “We love that.”

    The night featured dancers of all ages from across New England, many returning to the annual event they’ve grown to love. The event showcased several different dance styles, from cabaret to tribal.

    A fan favorite of the night was the Bennington-based Sahidi Sisters, who performed American-Tribal style to music from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The performance, featuring group improvisation and hand bells, had individuals out of their seats dancing along in the back of the auditorium.

    Rob Zombie wasn’t the only thing the speakers were blasting, though. The night also featured live music by local artist Kris Collett on guitar and vocals, along with Gary Meitrott on the djembe, for Shelby Jones’ performance of “I am Catwoman. Hear Me Roar.” Jones has been dancing since she was 3 years old, she said, which inspired her to open the Cobra Gymnastics and Dance Center three years ago. Jones used her gymnastics background in many of her performances throughout the night.

    Jones wasn’t the only performer influenced by flips and twists. Reed Byg, a Steamboat Springs, Colo., native, was a gymnast until age 15, she said. After enrolling in Green Mountain College, she began dancing with the Shakti Tribe, which “rekindled her love for dance and performance.” Byg was ready to give up her love of gymnastics though, and found a way to incorporate the two. She had the crowd in awe Saturday with her Lord of the Rings-inspired performance using aerial silks.

    “Aerial silks has turned out to be an incredible way to integrate both gymnastics and dance,” she said.

    For Jones, one of the proudest moments of the night came from watching Troupe Tazelik. The group is comprised of Cobra’s younger girls’ belly dancing class, who dressed as super-heroines for the night and showcased their newly learned talents. Jones said the characters are “empowering” for the young girls she teaches.

    Individuals interested in learning to dance can contact Cobra Gymnastics and Dance, Green Mountain College, and Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center.
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