It's not easy to find dinner and a show in the Parkville area, but if you have a free Sunday evening you're in luck.
Bellydancers from the Towson-based troupe Aubergine perform at 7 p.m. weekly at Kitchen of India on Joppa Road.
Nina Rutledge, the troupe leader and a bellydance instructor, said she used to run a student show (called a hafla) at the restaurant and remembered owner Mohammad "Babu" Rahmen from her time there.
"Aubergine is my troupe and they started as a student troupe ... we'd do a performance at a nursing home or a local belly dance show," Rutledge said. "Slowly the group got better and better."
That's when she decided it was time for them to find a regular gig.
Now Rutledge, a Towson resident who performs under the "nom de dance" Nina Amaya, rotates Sundays with Parkville's Joanna Barnum ("Alizarin") and Hereford's Amy January ("Amy Fae").
"We dance ... it’s sort of hard to describe styles; we mix everything, which is American style; America being the melting pot. I might do Egyptian, Iranian, Turkish [style dances] in the same set. It’s a multi-faceted show."
She explained that bellydance shows tend to have a structure involving an entrance piece, finger cymbals, a "folkloric" piece (such as a sword dance, which is exactly what it sounds like), a drum solo (a dance accompanied only by percussion) and a slow song or two then an exit piece.
"Although there is a sort of structure, most of our dance is improv," she said. "Basically belly dance is going to involve shimmies, undulations, and circular movements and isolated movements."
Mostly, she said, her troupe is just there to have fun and entertain.
"There’s the beauty aspect—you’re trying to put on a beautiful art form," she said. "Of course there's the musicality of it, and then there's entertaining. [You have to] make eye contact, involve the audience, make people feel like they’re having a good time."
That's what's most important to her, and she said the feedback indicates they seem to be accomplishing their goal.
"That’s the feedback that we get. People say 'I didn’t think I’d like that but I did. You look like you’re just so happy and you’re having so much fun.'"
During the show, Rutledge said the restaurant offers a fixed-price menu that includes an entree, naan (Indian flatbread), salad and dessert for $20; kids under 10 eat for $10, and yes: it's a family-friendly show.
This coming Sunday, Jan. 27, a "foreign exchange bellydancer", Colombian Alejandra Baltazar, will perform in place of Aubergine—though you can bet Amaya will attend.
There won't be a performance on Super Bowl Sunday and then back to business as usual the following week.
Have you been to Kitchen of India? Caught a bellydance show? What did you think? Tell us in the comments.