For 12 years, the Hawaii Belly Dance Convention has brought dance teachers and enthusiasts from around the world to Honolulu to share the art of Middle Eastern dance. Among the visiting instructors this year is Frank Farinaro, who is part of a growing cadre of male belly dancers. Based in Colorado Springs, he is known for what he calls his Hammerhead Sharqi dance technique, which melds global dance styles (from hip hop to hula) with body conditioning and meditation. Farinaro took some time to discuss what Middle Eastern dance means to him, and what guests can expect at this year’s show at our Doris Duke Theatre Oct. 13 and 14.
Can you tell us a little bit about how your shows? Essence and The Reveal have evolved over the years—what makes this year’s shows different from the years before?
In the past, Hawaii Belly Dance Convention had one gala show to kick off the weekend—The Shimmy Showcase. As the convention grew, Malia thought of a creative way to expand the show: Instead of one all-encompassing show, it was divided into two themed shows. “Essence” features performances that highlight the cultural essence of belly dance, with many different examples of styles and regions being represented. “The Reveal” is a show that celebrates the art of belly dance as a modern medium. Performances in this show will explore the theatrical, sensual, modern, and cross-cultural. It’s not often that audience members get to choose what type of experience they get to have when seeing a show. At the Shimmy Showcase, they can choose “Essence” for a classic experience, “The Reveal” for a contemporary experience, or come for both to get an in-depth look at the many facets of this art form.
How does the art of Middle Eastern Dance empower you?
Middle Eastern dance has empowered me both physically and mentally. Athletics, academics, and art have all been lifelong passions of mine. But not since discovering Middle Eastern dance in 2005 have I experienced a physical program, academic subject, or creative outlet that feeds all of these passions at once. I get to work mind and body while getting to learn more about the world in a fun, challenging, and progressive multimedia outlet.
What is it like being the convention’s first and only male dancer?
It has been an honor to be the first male belly dancer featured at the convention, and a dream to come back for my third time now.
Could you tell us about your Hammerhead Sharqi dance technique? How does it differ from traditional dance techniques?
My technique differs from more traditional practices because it is designed to turn technique into instinct. I love plays on words. “Sharqi” comes from “Raqs Sharqi” (Arabic for Middle Eastern Dance), and Hammerhead comes from the shark. When I first started belly dancing, I had a hard time understanding “fluid movement.” After a lot of struggling, I thought, “What has better fluid movement than something that lives in the water?” I looked at a lot of marine wildlife, but found the perfect combination of aggression and grace when I started researching hammerhead sharks.
What are the similarities and differences between traditional and contemporary belly dancing techniques ?
Traditional and contemporary styles of belly dance both tend to come from much of the same foundations. The traditional styles tend to be viewed as more of a cultural archive, whereas contemporary styles are fusing in forms of other dance and music. It’s similar to how ballet has remained the same for centuries, but gave birth to modern dance, which continues to evolve today.
This convention gives dance lovers the opportunity to work closely with the teachers, what do you hope people will learn during this convention?
During the convention, I hope that people take away a great sense of connection between old Middle Eastern culture and modern Western culture. And with all the visitors that we will have attending the convention, I hope they are able to take some time to learn about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture as well.