Dances for a Peaceful Land at War

  • Gina Capossela leads her Raqs Salaam Dance Theater into Lebanon Opera House for a performance of traditional Middle Eastern dance on Saturday night. (Courtesy photograph) Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/15/2017 10:00:56 PM
Modified: 11/16/2017 11:19:06 AM

Raqs salaam translates from the Arabic to “dances of peace and greetings.”

Peace has been hard to come by in the war-torn parts of the world between Egypt and Afghanistan, but Raqs Salaam Dance Theater hopes to introduce the Upper Valley to a different view of the region with a performance of traditional Middle Eastern dances at Lebanon Opera House on Saturday night.

“Our finale is a line dance/circle dance from Syria,” Gina Capossela, the South Royalton dance instructor who leads the 70-member company, said this week. “Part of the point is to show that there’s more to the country than a civil war. It’s the aim to bring forth the beauty and the art of that culture — not just the strife. It’s the same thing with Iraq and Afghanistan. When people think of these countries, they think of unwanted immigration. They think of war. They think of soldiers. They think of our people who have died over there.”

In preparing for Raqs Salaam’s 13th annual showcase of belly dancing, Capossela’s students — ranging in age from 8 to 69 — learned via Skype about the dances of Iraq’s Kawliya tribe from choreographer Assala Ibrahim, who is living and teaching in Switzerland. The dancers also have been working with Iranian-born, California-based dance teacher Shahrzad Khorsandi on two classical Persian dances, and with an expert on Saudi Arabian culture on a dance from that country.

“Our first few years with the showcase, we didn’t have to worry about accuracy so much,” Capossela said. “There’s stronger roots of authenticity in the show now. We really want to get the styles right, because if we don’t it’s tantamount to racism.

“We try to do our due diligence.”

Raqs Salaam Dance Theater performs on the theme of “East of Egypt,” on Saturday night at 7:30 at Lebanon Opera House. Christopher Louras, who as mayor of Rutland worked to resettle refugees of the Syrian civil war in his city, will talk during the performance about the importance of cultural exchange. For tickets ($25 to $30) and more information, visit or call 603-448-0400.

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