Arts / Belly dancing wiggles its way to the surface

THERE’s a booming underground Canberra belly dance scene and amidst the stalls, the talk and the food of this month’s National Multicultural Festival there’s space to bring it to the surface.

Rachel Bond… a professional belly dancer and teacher from Sydney. Photo by Alma Sarhan

That’s the view of Rachel Reid, founder of #Jazida Productions, who’ll be staging the spectacular “Arabian Nights Belly Dance Showcase” in Civic on the first two days of the event.

“Arabian Nights” is already familiar to patrons of the Polit Bar, Manuka, where every three months Canberra’s top belly dancers interact with the audience in a small space. But now Rachel Bond, a professional belly dancer and teacher from Sydney, will join local teachers and performers, Kirsty Frances and the Buasavanh Tribal Belly Dance troupe, in taking the show to a wider audience on outdoor stages in Civic.

Bond is also planning workshops on Saturday where she’ll teach dance styles inspired by travelling up and down the Nile exploring the lands of the Saidi, Ghawazee and Nubian peoples.

The dancers are not the only people looking to the festival to open up a public space for them. This year’s program reveals a huge line-up of entertainment that begins with a ticketed “pre-opening” concert at the Canberra Theatre Centre on Thursday, February 15. In it acts will include sensational new Yolngu hip-hop talent from Arnhem Land, Baker Boy; singer Lucy Sugerman; Salsabor; the Sarv Ensemble; Revontulet Nordic Folk Dance; Rondanihan Rondalla Ensemble; Mudrakar Kathak Dance School and Zagr.

But the festival’s real opening concert is a free event on Stage 1 at Garema Place, 5pm-11.30pm, Friday, February 16, where singer-songwriter (and these days, Australian citizen) Leo Sayer, and Baker Boy will entertain the crowds.

Good news is that parents can seek relief by visiting the Children’s Sanctuary at Civic Library on Saturday and Canberra Museum and Gallery on Saturday and Sunday, where children and their families can rest and take part in art making, craft, music, drumming and dance workshops, as well as activities involving different languages and storytelling sessions.

TV presenter, cookbook and children’s author and artist Poh, for instance, will read her story “Sweet Petite” at Civic Library on Saturday afternoon from 3.15pm to 3.30pm.

Saturday’s back-to-back showcases, running from 10.30am to midnight, will include Happy Chinese New Year, US Showcase, Pacific Island Showcase, African Village, the Belly Dance Showcase as mentioned, ASEAN Village, India in the City, the Indigenous Showcase and the festival parade, while Sunday will bring the Greek Glendi, the Latin Quarter and the Celtic Tattoo from 10am to 5pm.

The 2018 National Multicultural Festival, Civic, various venues, outdoor stage events free. “Arabian Nights Belly Dance Showcase”, Multicultural Festival stage, 11am-2pm, February 17, no bookings required. Information at

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