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REVIEW: Fusion Intrusion (+ Ultra Fusion) At Louisville Fringe Festival

Fusion Intrusion

One of the great things about the inaugural Louisville Fringe Festival is that in true fringe-y fashion, it’s bringing together diverse and eclectic performances from a broad range of performance genres. One of those genres is belly-dancing, with the intriguing promise of blending with sci-fi.

When Fusion Intrusion was announced at Thursday night’s Four Pegs performance, the emcee was delighted, and surprised, to share that there were not one but two performance groups Friday evening; joining the aforementioned and promoted Fusion Intrusion was another group. We later were told that their performance was called Ultra Fusion, but the two performers seemed coy about identifying a group name.

Despite the performers’ intent to lift up fusion, for me the highlight of the evening was the solo by post-announced guest artist Daisy. Her music, to my ears, appeared to be what we would identify as ‘traditional’ music for belly-dancing (whether or not it was a classical or contemporary piece.) Dressed in red and black accented with metallic accessories and sultry make up, Daisy’s technique and presentation was much more sophisticated than the other dancers. She confidently filled the space with impressive movement large and small, particularly the detailed hand gestures.

Over on the ‘fusion’ side, Fusion Intrusion gave us a fun interpretation of the 1950’s American hit, Istanbul (not Constantinople), with one of the dancers taking up the clarinet to augment the recorded sound. Here we have an American composer picking up Middle Eastern musical motifs to create a swing number, with clever lyrics commenting on a political happening, being reinterpreted through a traditional dance form that also nods to the moves of swing.

After the intermission one of the two Ultra Fusion dancers performed a solo to a piece of music with Irish melody. She donned a pearlescent cloak which shimmered green as she twirled – and, in the final moment, also lit up with hundreds of small LED lights for a dazzling final pose. Again, this piece fused familiar Gaelic turns and footwork with the undulations of belly dance.

I will confess that I wasn’t sure what to expect with the fusion of belly dance and sci-fi. But I will also confess I was underwhelmed by the two pieces that leaned in this direction. The first piece featured two of the Fusion Intrusion dancers moving to a track that could have been the intercom/log of any generic starship bridge (apologies if it was specific to a particular movie or TV series, it was challenging to hear the words over the room’s fans.) At times one of the performers mouthed or spoke over the dialogue, for which there seemed to be no intentional purpose. In the second piece, this performer danced solo with a vaguely out-of-this-world creature’s headpiece adorned with color-changing lights. Again, some of the lyrics were mouthed and sung over the track.

Ultra Fusion provided two of the most impressive sequences of the evening, one solo and one duet, dances with a scimitar. A purely American addition to the repertoire for women dancers (in Middle Eastern dance men perform with swords) it definitely fits into the evening’s realm of fusion. Both dancers were impressive in the way they balanced the scimitars on elbow, shoulder, head, between toes while still swaying in different directions and changing levels. These two dancers also performed a piece carrying tennis-sized balls which changed light color as they moved. A charming sequence.

The six women who took the stage in Thursday night’s performances demonstrated varying levels of experience with the signature isolation moves of belly, hips, and torso in belly dancing (there was no program, hence no performer names.) They appear to be from various backgrounds and spanned several decades in age. And that’s exciting – there are enough studios in Louisville giving belly dance classes to a wide range of people interested in the form. At this stage of this dance form in Louisville these two troupes might consider more joint work so that all the performers can benefit from shared knowledge and experience, and audiences can experience the breadth and complexity of this dance form.

This program will be repeated Friday, July 20 at Kaiju, again as part of the Louisville Fringe Festival.