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Spooky charm: ‘Halloween in Summer’ belly dance show pays homage to Tim Burton

A performer with the Desert Darlings dances as a skeleton reindeer in a “The Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed skit. (Courtesy of The Desert Darlings)

The imagination of filmmaker, animator and artist Tim Burton comes to life through dance interpretation by the Desert Darlings during a virtual performance celebrating his work.

“Halloween in Summer: The Tim Burton Edition!” will feature theatrical belly dance performances by members of the Desert Darlings. The dancers will pay homage to Burton’s iconic characters from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Corpse Bride,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “James and the Giant Peach” and more.

“We are just a fusion belly dance style company, for the most part,” said Sadie Adair, co-director of the Desert Darlings. “We’re taking out most elements from more classical styles of belly dance, and then we do use other styles, like flamenco. You’ll see some pop and rock elements. You’ll see some modern dance stylings as well. We feel that our style complements theatrical dance well, because we’re not exactly tied down to particular movements, so we can sort of adapt to what is needed. We’re going to be dancing to a real eclectic variety of world music.”

The performance can be viewed beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, on Vimeo. Viewers can rent the performance for $10 or purchase and download it for $20.

The Queen of Hearts performs a solo during the “Halloween in Summer: The Tim Burton Edition!” virtual show on Sept. 12 by the Desert Darlings. (Courtesy of The Desert Darlings)

“Soloists will all do their own choreography or partial improvisation,” Adair said. “In terms of choreography, it’s mostly myself and Lorena (Martinez Burr), who are the directors of the Darlings and Wicked Muse.”

The Wicked Muse Dance Project, which will be joining the show, is the Sirena World Dance Studio’s student company under the direction of Adair and Martinez Burr.

“For some of that stuff, we were able to film together,” Adair said. “With the Wicked Muse piece, we actually have a set up in our studio, ’cause they’re doing the bugs from ‘James and the Giant Peach,’ so we filmed them all. They come in and we film them individually, and then we edit them all together later.”

The dancers did their best to exercise COVID-safe practices while filming.

“We really won’t shoot together unless we’re outside and in masks,” Adair said. “Otherwise, it’s just split screens and editing so it looks like we’re dancing together.”

Before the pandemic, the Desert Darlings performed regularly at Tractor Brewing Co. and had other performances at locations including the South Broadway Cultural Center. The dance troupe has performed Tim Burton-inspired shows in years past.

“We do have some theatrical bits throughout the show,” Adair said. “With this whole theatrical belly dance, we really emphasize acting and becoming your character and studying video clips of these characters before we dance so that it’s not so much just a costume but actually embodying these really fun Tim Burton characters. I’m super-excited. Our last show actually went really well, so that’s why we’re doing a Part 2. We’re pumped.”

Adair said inspiration for the choreography stems from traveling and continued education. Movies, music and theater also contribute to her creativity.

Dancers with the Desert Darlings portray characters from Halloween Town featured in the film “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” (Courtesy of The Desert Darlings)

“We spent a lot of time traveling to study with other dance artists who are considered masters in their area, so I feel we’ve grown a lot from our travels and our studies,” she explained. “We all continue to learn. Right now, I’m taking online courses to continue learning, which I think is really important, especially for us as instructors, so we don’t get stagnant. We need to keep up with all things as artists.”

Sirena World Dance Studio, where Adair teaches and which she helps run, offers a full online schedule of classes for all levels of dancers.

“For now, people can study with us from the safety of their homes, which is really fun,” she said. “There’s definitely some moves that I’m, like, this has to be cardio. My heart rate’s up. It’s a fun way to exercise, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people. We’ve definitely built a really sweet community of people that are supportive of each other, and we’re just trying to learn more about this art form and innovate. It’s a blast.”

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