The Tantalizing Tale of Bal Anat
Originally created in 1968 for the spectacle and wonder of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Northern California, Bal Anat is now the longest-running concert-length belly dance show in the world. Drawing from her experience as a performer with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, belly dance innovator Jamila Salimpour formed Bal Anat as a truly unique and exciting entertainment experience. She named it for “Bal,” the French word for a dance gathering, and “Anat,” an ancient Mesopotamian mother goddess: Dance of the Mother Goddess. Entering in a flurry of finger cymbals and richly decorated costuming, the ensemble features at least 25 performers, each performing a different dance, each with its own character and origin. Innovative from the very beginning, Jamila Salimpour’s groundbreaking presentation was the first to integrate dancing with and balancing a sword, a now quintessential belly dance prop. Bal Anat stands at the crossroads of tradition and fantasy, but is always rooted in the traditional dances and cultures of the Middle East, from North Africa, the Anatolian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, and the Levant. Middle Eastern audiences have praised Bal Anat for its sentiment, reverence, and nostalgia.
Every performance of Bal Anat is different, and you’ll never see the same show twice. You might see the fierce women of Morocco, the stately Ouled Nail from Algeria, the flirty 19th-Century Ghawazi from Egypt, or the coy water pot dancers. But you’ll always witness the masked dance of the Mother Goddess, the archetypal feminine creator and destroyer, a tribute to matriarch Jamila Salimpour herself.
Never static or stale, Bal Anat is ever-evolving. When Suhaila Salimpour, daughter of Jamila Salimpour, took over direction of the company in 1999, she overhauled the show for a new generation of dancers and audiences. She replaced the original dances with all-new choreographies, including the classic Sword Dance, Pot Dance, and dance of the Mother Goddess. She also invites dancers with high-level certification in the Salimpour certification programs to contribute dances to the show. Recent performances have included classical Persian dance, elegant Khaliji dance in elaborately embroidered gowns, and the exciting Salaam Allay choreography by Suhaila Salimpour. We welcome dancers in the Salimpour certification programs to join the global Bal Anat family. Dancers who hold certification in Level 2 in both the Suhaila Salimpour Format and Jamila Salimpour Format are invited to join. Its groundbreaking blend of the traditional, folkloric, and fantasy has inspired and will continue to inspire generations of belly dancers.
Bal Anat is the past, present, and future of belly dance.