monique ryan & laura selenzi

Mesmerize, presented by Cabaret Serpentine, is a really flamboyant and impressive showcase of the belly dancing techniques and talents coming out of Halifax’s Serpentine Studios (1668 Barrington Street).

The eight dancers, Laura Selenzi, Monique Ryan, Elinor Crosby, Scarlett Sparks, Sophie Fong, Lucy McColl, Karen Holmans and Jennifer Prescott all exhibit dazzling dancing technique (and many show off impressive contortionist talents as well). Each dance is expertly choreographed and they make great, dramatic use of colourful scarves, fans, candlelight, swords and exotic costumes that evoke numerous folklores from different cultures and traditions. Scarlett Sparks is especially endearing and captivating in the First Act as a clown character. I know that Sparks performs doing Burlesque in Halifax as well and I hope that there will be more opportunities to see her clowning and otherwise on stages around the city again soon because she really is wonderful and has delightful presence. Monique Ryan is a wonder in her mastery of the hula hoop, which takes this busking favourite to even more thrilling theatrical limits.

Undoubtedly Mesmerize will appeal ardently to anyone interested in belly dancing and also those who enjoy the spectacle of dance performance. I couldn’t help thinking, however, that for a Festival like the Fringe, it may have benefited this piece to have given some unity and sense of cohesiveness to the individual dances. It would have given a nice sense of tension and urgency to the piece if there had been some kind of narrative, not necessarily a linear one, but something that could build and grow to an apex. There were also so many different elements at work, from circus imagery to political overtones and clowning that it could have been interesting instead to arrange the dances as variations on a theme. I would have liked to see more of Sparks’ clown throughout the show and more interaction with her and the other dancers. Ultimately, I think these eight performers have a great deal of potential with this material and their own individual uniqueness and talents that this magic could be harnessed to create something even more spectacular for the future.

Mesmerize plays at Neptune Studio Theatre, 1593 Argyle Street as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival at the following times. It is $10.00.       

Saturday September 3rd, 8:00pm

Friday September 9th, 10:30pm

Saturday September 10th, 8:45pm

To book advanced tickets please visit Neptune Theatre’s Box Office, 1593 Argyle Street or call 902.429.7070 or visit

Same Day Sales are available at the venue (Neptune Studio Theatre) From 1 Hour Before the First Show of the Day.

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