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Flash Review 1, 5-12: Hamsin
Lentini Brings New Wind to Ancient Dance

By Stuart Hodes
Copyright 2004 Stuart Hodes

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NEW YORK -- To encounter dance in a venerable tradition that is true to that tradition and also entirely new is a rare and exciting experience. In the somber celebrations of Elena Lentini Dance Theater at the Washington Square Methodist Church on Saturday, April 24, I saw Middle Eastern dance reborn.

In "Standing in Cave," six dancers, fabric-swathed from the tops of their high stovepipe hats to the floor, hover as if suspended in space to the mournful sounds of wind instruments that seem to be blown by dying breaths. No faces are seen, evoking, perhaps, the anonymity and loneliness of purdah.

Veiled throughout her solo, "On Being," Lentini whirls and swirls the fabric without ever exposing her face. In "Valor," Serpil Civan wears a metallic head dress that covers her eyes and nose, while each hand bears a similar headdress, to evoke the awesome presence of a three-headed divinity. In "Elementals," four dancers wearing silver-bangled black project defiant nonchalance as they execute moves suggestive of those that are still termed "belly dancing." Another solo powerfully evokes a woman's longing, which, to me, could be longing for escape from the seraglio. The riotous music, sumptuous costumes, commanding authority, and starkly individual sensibility of Elena Lentini reveals new depths in this ancient form, and a whole new world of possibilities.

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