During the 20th Century, people were fascinated with the future and the past. On the verge of moving into outer space, humanity ostensibly needed to recover its roots. From an Oscar Wilde play based on the Salome Bible story, an accused spy named Mata Hari, and other misrepresentations, belly dancing began its transition from mysterious Middle Eastern folk ritual to becoming an international art form. Oriental dancing, Raks Sharqi, Dans du Ventre, or as it's commonly called, belly dancing, has a more colorful history than most people realize. Scattered evidence points to origins in antiquity when fertility cults were all the rage. The characteristic movements, however, weren't so much intended to make men randy. Instead they served as exercises designed to strengthen the muscles of the belly so childbirth would be easier and pregnancy more successful. In remote areas the dances continue to serve women who lack modern medicine and "natural birth" classes. Women are said to dance around expectant mothers while they are in labor as an encouragement, a method that might surpass Western birthing techniques for many women. The dance evolved and was used for other celebrations, bonding, exercise, entertainment, and perhaps a little bit of goddess worship. Indeed throughout much of the dance's history, women performed only for other women. Good, wholesome family entertainment! Unfortunately this family tradition has also been transformed into burlesque and screwy gags for sitcoms.
On the other hand, more people can now enjoy the art than ever before. Tonight the Kasbah Dance Troupe presents one of a pair of 27th annual shows at the McMillan Middle School auditorium (13100 SW 59th St.). Each of the dancers will interpret this year's unifying theme: belly dancing in the jungle. The performances will run the gamut from traditional dancing to contemporary fusion with a little bit of comedy thrown in. The show will start at 6:00 and be followed by a reception featuring food and door prizes. Donations that will benefit the Wildlife Rescue of Dade County are suggested. Call 305-253-4321.
The good vibes hippie atmosphere at cozy Luna Star Cafe (775 NE 125th St., North Miami) is ready for a little shake-up. Not to worry, Starbucks hasn't bought the place. We're referring to a musical change. Most often the home of art shows, regular folk concerts, and acoustic open-mike nights, the cafe, beginning tonight at 8:00, will host a monthly bluegrass night, the second Friday of each month. If the only grass you're familiar with is green or illegal, bluegrass is a fun, fast-paced style of string music that fuses country, gospel, blues, and Appalachian mountain tunes tracing their roots back to Great Britain. Popularized by Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Lester Flatt, and Earl Scruggs (the latter two famed for their theme to Sixties sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies), the sound features high-pitched harmonies, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, dobro, guitar, upright bass, and sometimes even the harmonica. The New River Boys open the series. Who knows, maybe the creepy kid from Deliverance will show up. Cover charge is $7. Call 305-892-8522. -- Nina Korman
Classical duo dazzles
Most 19-year-olds are probably not spending the summer touring the world, as is critically acclaimed concert violinist Shunsuke Sato. The young musician has left a trail of praise from Japan to Germany to Seattle for his meditative and lyrical virtuosity. Now add Miami to the list with a program titled Four Strings & 88 Keys: A Night of Music for Violin and Piano. The keys portion will be handled by Tao Lin, a former student at Shanghai Conservatory who moved to South Florida in 1990 to continue his studies at the University of Miami. The two will perform Mozart's Violin Sonata in F, Beethoven's Sonata No. 3, Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, and Kreisler's Caprice Viennois, while Sato will perform two solo sonatas by Ysaÿe. The concert begins at 8:15 p.m. at Bet Shira Congregation, 7500 SW 120th St. Tickets cost $20. Call 305-238-2601. --John Anderson
The youngsters who compose the Miami Children's Theater might be more fit to have lullabies sung to them instead of them belting out Broadway standards such as "The Lullaby of Broadway." But that's exactly what they'll be crooning, along with other memorable tunes including "We're in the Money" and "I Only Have Eyes for You," when they present the hit musical 42nd Street. Based on the 1933 movie of the same name, the Michael Stewart/Cy Coleman show revolves around clueless small-town gal Peggy Sawyer, who arrives in New York all set for her big break on the Great White Way. Of course things don't go smoothly for the starry-eyed, would-be starlet. Just like other showbiz wannabes, she has to pay her dues as a faceless member of the chorus. Ultimately Peggy gets her chance to shine when she is given a mere 36 hours to learn the entire leading-lady role of a big-budget Broadway musical. Meet those dancing feet at 9:00 tonight and 2:00 p.m. tomorrow at the Russell Theater, 11155 SW 112th Ave. Tickets cost $12. Call 305-233-2206. -- Nina Korman