They've got rhythm -- and cool moves

The evening will feature 33 dances of varied lengths.

Scene: Clubs, Bars, Nightlife

April 07, 2005|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

A fast moving Middle Eastern beat plays on a portable stereo and six dancers on stage -- all bearing their bellies -- move to the music. As they practice, other dancers wander in. Some carry colorful costumes, others have cakes and desserts.

The women are rehearsing (or preparing to rehearse for) Egyptian Sun Raqs, an annual belly dance recital.

All 30 members of the Egyptian Sun troupe, plus a few high school students from Friends School of Baltimore, will perform tomorrow at Shriver Hall.

The evening will feature 33 dances -- some solos and some group performances -- lasting between one minute and four minutes each.

Dancers will balance trays of candles, bowls of fire and flaming swords on their heads. Even some of the costumes resemble flames with full, layered skirts dyed red, orange and yellow.

Belly dancers move seductively to rhythmic music. They isolate their hips and stomach muscles and move these parts of their bodies in unbelievable ways.

"You are supposed to look like you are making the music with your body," said Dori Witt, one of the troupe's co-founders.

The Egyptian Sun troupe -- despite its name -- practices an intensely American version of belly dancing. The group's members roll their stomachs to punk, heavy metal and classic rock.

"Any song will do; there has to be a good rhythm to it," said Nikki Traylor-Knowles, the other co-founder.

Fascist Fascist, a hard core punk band, will play live for tomorrow's performance. Telesma, a tribal and rhythmic band, and Raquay and the Cavemen, a Middle Eastern metal band, will also play.

Traylor-Knowles and Witt met as students at the Johns Hopkins University, where Traylor-Knowles was studying cellular and molecular biology, and Witt was doing graduate work in physics. They organized the troupe in 2001, and it has been growing ever since.

"Anyone can learn," said Traylor-Knowles. "Some of our girls had absolutely no rhythm when they started, and now they are dancing with swords."

The sexy costumes also give some beginners pause. But any apprehension about baring so much skin is usually overcome quickly.

"You feel like a princess, and you never want to take it off," said Witt, who said she sometimes wears hers at home when she is cooking.

Shriver Hall is on the Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus. The campus is at 3400 N. Charles St. The performance starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission or $6 for students and children. Visit

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