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Live Active Cultures

Seth questions the Third Golden Age of Arabia and seeks a missing camel

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OK, so I’m an arts observer, not a film critic, and the movie was a travelogue, not a muckraking exposé. I wouldn’t expect an Imax movie about my home state, New Jersey, to center on Camden’s slums. But the unease I felt exiting the film was only intensified by the party upstairs. Again, authenticity is in the eye of the beholder – but the blond, blue-eyed dancers of Orlando Bellydance Performance Company gyrating in spangled harem pants to bass-heavy Arabic hip-hop didn’t scream “traditionally Saudi” to me. Neither did the abundant alcohol,though the bars appeared to be the main draw for many of the attendees. At least the free hummus and grape leaves from Tony’s Deli were authentically delicious, if generically Mediterranean.

And the camel? Sir Gus, the friendly kissing camel cared for by the Bahia Shriners(the guys with the fezzes and midget cars) was supposedly there posing for photos. But he must have gone to bed early, because by the time I went looking, there wasn’t a dromedary in sight.

Instead, I made a late-night swing over to the Florida Tap Room, where Skill Focus Burlesque presented “Sci-fi Vixen” stripteases to a bar full of screaming fanboys – and fangirls. Skill Focus’ pseudonymous sirens (you may recognize several as local theater stalwarts), who recently sold out a superhero-themed show at downtown’s Blank Space, combine classical burlesque gestures with creative pop-culture costumes. Unlike the evening’s earlier events, there was nothing apologetic or artificial about this display: The spectacle of Mass Effect’s Commander Shepard shedding her space armor or Alien’s Ellen Ripley rocking face-hugger nipple pasties should fuel local fan-fic for years to come.

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