Lori Frame Baumgarten calls herself "The Clark Kent of bellydance," and its no wonder; once she takes off her glasses she's like a different person. Off the dance floor she's one of the most approachable, laid-back people you could imagine; once she's on the floor, in the zone, she literally becomes Badriya. Her expression retreating into a trancelike gaze, she's regal, majestic, the soul of the dance. Dale Langdon is a drummer with Hafla.
Baumgarten, a local bellydance instructor and professional dancer, organized the recent dancing at the Hafla at United States of Mind, a collection of bellydancers, drummers and dance fans coming together in celebration of the ancient art. Hafla is an Arabic word meaning "celebration," and it was certainly the appropriate term for this event.
"It's a really great place to be, a really great vibe," said Helger Oomkiss, a drummer and employee of USM. "I've been here for two years and it's literally something different every night. There's always something new, always a different experience."
The evening progressed through a combination of group improv dances and individual showcases to both live and recorded music. The half-dozen individual dances included raucous high-speed spinning moves; delicate, exquisitely precise slow-motion maneuvering; and everything in between. Elaborate veil routines, finger zills and lots of Xena-style yayayayayayas punctuated the ongoing proceedings.
Diana Eckart danced with a heavy Moroccan broadsword, every bit as real as it looked, performing a complex pas de deux with the curved blade balanced on her head and stomach.
"It's the dance that will get you respect!" Eckart said. "If there's a guy out in the audience that's giving you a bunch of crap, you bring out the sword and that'll shut them up! I dance in restaurants a lot, and sometimes I have guys who'll say, 'That's not real, it's plastic,' right up until I set it on their head."
It was a journey to an indistinct place and time, the kind of event you do not watch so much as you experience, as far away as the desert sands and as close as a dancer's enigmatic smile. For the moment, the here and now, it is hafla, it is celebration, and that is enough.