Glasgow’s Panopticon music hall will be shaking its shimmy this Saturday when a troupe of belly dancers come to town to put on a show.

The Raqs-Option Revue is being staged as part of the Merchant City Festival and ongoing efforts to raise funds for the historic music hall. The show will offer a world of belly dance in one show present by Sarasvati Tribal, from ancient to modern, traditional to contemporary, east to west, and everything in-between. All of the dedicated dancers taking part are keen amateurs with day jobs and stage names and come from all over Scotland.

Belly dance has many facets, some of them not quite what you would expect in the world’s oldest surviving Victorian music hall, the Britannia Panopticon on the Trongate. Often belly dancing gets a bad rap, ooh aar missus, and is seen as somewhat louche in popular culture but it is highly disciplined with stamina that athletes would envy. It even has Biblical connotations – think of Salome demanding the head of John the Baptist.

But in Glesga terms, it’s a bit more intricate than dancing around your hand bag. Moves include percussive staccato movements in the hip region used to punctuate the music or accent a beat.

One of the dancers appearing at the show is Serafina of Scotland.

“I first started in 2003 – it’s an ongoing process with lots to learn and there is a great belly dancing community in Scotland.

“People seem to think it’s what they’ve seen in James Bond movies, but we actually showcase a lot of different styles. It’s not about being erotic and performing wearing a bra and a skirt. Costumes are important and we participate in a variety of events and bring in a lot of historical knowledge.

“And there’s a huge variety in age range. I’ve seen some great belly dancers in their sixties.”

ALL IMAGES: Malik Tajamul

As well as the obvious abdominal movements belly dancing features hip drops and rocks, shimmies, and shivers.

Belly dancing also has mental health benefits.

“Obviously it is toning,” adds Seraphina “But you also become more aware of being centred and being part of a dance community which is great for mental health. In fact when I moved from Fife to Edinburgh to be with my partner and didn’t know anyone else I knew I was part of a community.”

Judith Bowers Director of the Brittania Panopticon Conservation Project is delighted that the show is coming to the historic theatre.
She said:

“This is an ongoing conservation project. We are involved in a lot of fundraising as the Panopticon is one of the rarest buildings in Europe. We don’t want to pickle it in aspic but move forward. This should be an exciting show.”
The event is being organised by Sarasvati Tribal.

They are excited:

“Tribal Fusion Belly dance is a constantly evolving contemporary form of belly dance, taking elements of traditional belly dance from various Middle Eastern, North African, and Turkish countries, and fusing them with a variety of influences and inspirations from around the globe, both old and new.”

Well, that’s a wee change for the Trongate!

Tickets are £5 (plus booking fee) with all proceeds going to the conservation of the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall. Full info HERE, and tickets on sale from Tickets Scotland