Karen McLane’s “Crowning of the Woodland Queen” – Beautifully Danced, with Grace and Power

Karen McLane’s The Crowning of the Woodland Queen – A Suitable Repertoire Work for Any Dance Company

The Crowning of the Woodland Queen, choreographed and produced by Karen McLane, Founder of the Ancient Rhythms Dance Troupe, introduces a powerful, versatile, and beautifully effective full-length work that can be used, adapted, and performed by a wide range of dance schools and troupes throughout the world. A lovely Youtube Teaser effectively captures the spirit of this performance.

In structure, style, and format, this work is similar in many ways to the much-loved Tchaikovsky Nutcracker:

  • Seasonally-themed, centered on spring instead of winter. (This alone makes it a useful construct for many dance companies who present a dance recital or major work each spring, highlighting their dancer’s talents.)
  • A few main powerful characters, supported by a dance troupe with diverse performance abilities. The all-female cast relieves many dance directors of the need to scout for male dance talent. (If such were available, a “role” could easily be created and inserted into the work without greatly altering its structure or theme.) Three strong dancers are needed to carry the named roles.
  • Adaptable vignettes showcase individual, duo, and small group performances, fitting well into the storyline of the woodland spirits, nymphs, and sylphs dancing before the Woodland Queen. Essentially, within a dance theater group, all dancers worthy of performing can be cast into at least one role, satisfying the Dance Director’s need to provide performance venue for all of her troupe members and senior students.

In short, this work is a Dance Director’s dream; a cohesive and magnetic storyline, adaptable enough to be worked within almost any substantial troupe’s size, stage, and budget. The opening dance vignettes can be altered nearly at will to accommodate available talent and to showcase their strengths. (Or to hide their weaknesses, as necessary.) To a reasonable extent (and as evidenced in Ms. McLane’s choreography and production), a diverse range of dance styles can also be incorporated. (We again can thank Tchaikovsky for inspiration along these lines.)

To be effective, this work does require at least three very strong female leads. In this performance, these lead roles were capably and beautifully carried out by dancers strong enough to give their characters power, meaning, and depth.

  • The Shadow Queen, danced by Charise Hoge,
  • The Moon, danced by Troupe Director and Producer Karen McLane, and
  • The Woodland Queen, danced by Giulia Prati.
Ancient Rhythms Troupe Soloist Charise Hoge
Ancient Rhythms Troupe Soloist Charise Hoge, who danced the role of ‘Queen of Shadows'”

The most challenging and exciting role is actually not that of the Woodland Queen, bur rather that of the Queen of Shadows. It is always more difficult (and interesting) to portray a villain! Charise Hoge’s interpretation drew on her core strengths; she infused her role with powerful elements reminiscent of warrior-movements from kung fu and T’ai Chi forms. Deep plies, low-to-the-ground weight shifts, and a strong whole-body connection all gave Ms. Hoge’s character the requisite feeling of “dark power.” Her background in yoga, modern dance, and jazz was readily apparent – all these were necessary to carry out a role that would have been diffused if the dancer had only classical Oriental dance training on which to call. Ms. Hoge’s compelling portrayal brought the Queen of Shadows to a real and menacing life.

Giulia Prati, formerly with Columbia University, graciously and gracefully danced the role of the Woodland Queen. Ms. Prati’s background includes Jazz Dance, Modern Dance, and African Dance. While the majority of her moves were lyrical, in the last-to-final Transformation dance with the Queen of Shadows (Charise Hoge), she proved an able match for the Shadow Queen, in both the deep work and the more flowing movements that ensued as the Shadow Queen was brought into alliance and integration.

Najwah, Founder and Artistic Director
Najwah, Founder and Artistic Director of Ancient Rhythms Dance Troupe

Finally, Karen McLane’s performance (under her dance name, Najwah) lent a delicate surreal nature as she portrayed the Moon. She was lyrical and graceful, shimmering in flowing gold sequins as the Moon come down to earth to bless the now-integrated (and thus more powerful and knowing) Woodland Queen, who had just healed the Queen of Shadows and brought her into her “Woodland” retinue.

Numerous other dancers, from both the Ancient Rhythms Dance Company and troupes both local and farther afield, enriched the Crowning with lively and beautiful performances.

Tiraz Dance Network Hosted Superb Belly Dance Convention, Saturday, May 20, 2012

Tiraz Dance Network Hosted Excellent Belly Dance Event with Most-Ever Dancers and Vendors in May, 2012

The Tiraz Dance Network held its sixth annual Belly Dance Convention yesterday, Saturday, May 20, 2012 at the Frying Pan Park in Herndon, VA. Congratulations to the Tiraz Dance Network’s Board of Directors and convention organizers for bringing together the biggest and best event that they have hosted to date, with the most dancers (about two dozen performers) and an increased number of vendors.

"Passage Through LIght and Shadow"

Children of Ararat

Produced and directed by

Anahid Sofian

I got back late last night from a trip to New York City exclusively to see Anahid Sofian’s latest production, “Passage Through Light and Shadow: Children of Ararat”.

This extraordinary tour de force, the culmination of over fifteen years of research, is a masterpiece effort and should be seen by all serious students of Oriental dance who wish to broaden their horizons of dance as a production art.

Without losing any of the intimacy inherent in the dance form (The Theatre at St. Clement’s, in NYC, is a perfect venue for such a work), Mdm. Sofian’s latest work is inspiring and informative to all of us who explore new directions for our dance.

In my Unveiling blog, I review the work as an artistic accomplishment: both a show and as a cultural landmark for the Armenian people. In this blogpost, I’ll discuss how this current work is the capstone (to date) of Mdm. Sofian’s continual evolution as a dance artist, a choreographer, and as a producer of every more complex, richly layered, evocative, and inspirational works.

This evolution is, in face, precisely what Mdm. Sofian has been doing in the last several years. Those of us who have been privileged to watch her unfolding into the full glory of her creative genius can take her path as an inspiration, and as a call to similar growth within our own endeavors.

Fabulous Show last night – WAMEDA Members Showcase!

June, 2010 WAMEDA Members Showcase – Great Performances!

We had such a great time at the WAMEDA (Washington Area Mid-Eastern Dance Association) Annual Member’s Showcase last night! First, congrats to Verna and Jerry Thompson of Dancer: The Unusual Store, for hosting such a fine event. Verna did a beautiful job of creating an excellent stage; lovely backdrop and plenty of room – also room in front for dancers who wanted to get close to the audience or take more space for a larger-format dance. There was a cash bar, and WAMEDA provided us with an array of light refreshments.

Verna, I love that you organized a great combination of skilled sound techs and video crew – the two factors most important in making a show go smoothly, and helping it be memorable later! I’m SO looking forward to seeing the DVD!

As usual, Gerson Kuhr (the Fitness Pharaoh) was once again our gracious and impressive host – and a walking testament to his physical conditioning regime. You looked gorgeous, Gerson! And put many of us dancers to shame – we should all be getting coaching from you, or at least working out regularly with your DVD, Core Training for Belly Dancers!

Cleopatra’s Closet was our vendor, and provided a lovely and intriguing array of scarves, hip belts, and jewelry, along with CDs and DVDs. Thank you, Carmen, for giving us such luscious shopping options! And it’s good to know that we can shop online with you as well.

Dancers included Amustela, Jaka, and others from the WAMEDA community.

I had a chance to close the show with a Candle Dance, which is part of my summer curriculum.