“Let’s do a show at the Birchmere—which is awesome—and lets fill it with fairy tales and make it all steampunk and belly-dance-infused.” That’s how MC Paco Fish described the moment of inspiration behind Raven’s Night, an annual dance review organized by DC’s belly dance queen, Belladonna.
The event pieced together ten sets by different performers and troupes. Each performance reinterpreted classic fairy tales, often in dark and disconcerting ways. In between acts, Paco Fish constructed a humorous fantasy setting for the entire event, inviting the audience to imagine themselves as a gathering of allied freaks trying to rebuild society on top of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
As a prelude to the main event, Wasted Wine (self-describe “Eastern European rock” band from Greenville, SC) played an opening set. Costumed in neo-Victorian style (also popular among audience members), the group married the dark and morbid with the goofy. The band featured a parade of instruments: guitar, bass, and drums as well as harmonium, celsta (the chime sounds in “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”), violin, and an old shouting horn. This is what I imagine Tim Burton listens to during writing sessions. It might also be fitting for a dirigible voyage across the Atlantic if such a thing existed. The first song, which was about cannibalism, gives a good sense of their style.
The main event opened with SuperKate and Alyssum performing a retelling of Poe’s “Tell-Tale Heart,” where the beating heart was actually a vibrating cell phone.
Claire Fenner then performed an ugly duckling dance, molting a black robe to reveal a silky and feathery white costume. Its folds flowed around her as she spun across the stage.
The DC-based Mortifera troupe followed with five belly dancers synchronized to contemporary electropop.
Aria Michaels Paradise (from Boston) performed a combination of ballet and contemporary dance. The act started with neo-classical music that morphed into slowed Shakespeare prose and finally roared into a Marilyn Manson song. Her sweeping arm motions were trailed by ribbons of fabric and she stopped occasionally to shoot a wicked grimace into the black depths of the audience.
Miss Joule, who Paco Fish described a “ruling over the DC burlesque scene with a Swarovski-encrusted gauntlet,” stripped down to underwear and pasties and rolled around on glass insexified rendition of “The Princess and the Pea.”
Belladonna took the stage in the guise of Maleficent, the dark queen from “Sleeping Beauty.” Her dance invoked a spell upon the spindle destine to put the princess to sleep forever.
The mohawk-clad Tempest took on the persona of Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.”
Troupe ‘Hip’notic, who certainly win for most inventive and elaborate costumes, performed a grotesque rendition of “The Little Mermaid.” The act featured a cameo from event co-producer Ken Vegas dressed in full sailor garb.
Bex (who traveled all the way from Birmingham, UK) mixed the creepy and the cheeky as a sexy lollipop-wielding witch loosely drawn from “Hanzel and Gretyl.”
Finally, Naimah & Troupe Amandari closed the show with a fairytale medley, including “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood.”