Dancers use torsos, sign language to tell tales

A Turkish folk tale, Iraqi music, Lebanese dance steps and American Sign Language will combine to create a unique night of Middle Eastern culture during "Cairo on the Kaw VIII � Tell Me a Story."

Troupe Raghsidad, directed by JoAnne Zingo-Hargis, has incorporated storytelling and sign language into its annual dance performance.

"Cairo on the Kaw VIII � Tell Me a Story" will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. July 14 at Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 N.H.Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for students with an ID and senior citizens, and $4 for children ages 6-11. Children 5 and under are free.For reservations, call 842-3010.

"We will have the story on one side and the ASL translation on the other," Zingo-Hargis said. "I'm really excited. I've already gotten some reservations from hearing-impaired people."

"Raghsidad" is the Persian verb for "they dance," and members of the company do a variety of Middle Eastern dances, said Zingo-Hargis, who began belly dancing in 1977.

After years of practice and consulting with professionals, Zingo-Hargis has the fluid, rhythmic movements of the dances mastered. She chose to put words to dance as she planned "Cairo on the Kaw" this year. The folk tale she chose centers around two cousins � one beautiful, good girl and one ugly, evil girl.

"In the beginning of the story, two women are having babies," Zingo-Hargis said. "We chose it because the movement of the dance is more or less related to birth."

Ellen Vagner, who danced in six previous "Cairo on the Kaw" performances, will play the part of one of the women in labor.

"I'll use sway movements used to comfort women giving birth," Vagner said. "Some of the movements in belly dancing imitate movements of contractions."

"Cairo on the Kaw VIII" will feature 18 people, ranging in ages from early 20s to mid-50s. They are not all dancers, however. The cast includes actors and a storyteller.

Zingo-Hargis said the stories are not all that makes this year's performance different from past years. Because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, she is afraid people view Middle Eastern people in a negative light.

"After the towers incident last year, I've been trying to decide whether to say anything at the program," she said. "This culture has a gentle side, a beautiful side."

People who come to Raghsidad concerts usually leave satisfied, she said.

"People do have a preconceived notion of what belly dancing is," Zingo-Hargis said. "They are surprised both visually and musically. ... There is an element of surprised and pleased in the audience."


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