Beyond

Review: Raks Inferno is a Lot of Fiery Passion in an Intimate Space

Dawn Xiana Moon, Raks Inferno @ Under the Gun Theater. Photo: Marielle Shaw

Lee Na-Moo of Raks Inferno @ Under the Gun Theater. Photo: Marielle Shaw

If you’ve been around the performing arts scene in Chicago enough, you might have heard tales of a bellydancing Wookiee. We certainly had, and found ourselves mesmerized by the fun and talent of the Raks Geek troupe, who marry our love of nerdy things with our love of fantastic dance performers. And while troupe leader Dawn Xiana Moon’s signature Wookiee dance is truly something to see, it’s far from all they offer. In fact, every other month at their new home at Under the Gun Theater, things get even more interesting when bellydancing and fire art combine for Raks Inferno.

We attended the December show to get a first taste of what this fiery lineup would be like. Under the Gun provides a great theater space with intimate bar style seating, and though small, packs in quite a lot of good seats. One great thing we saw carry over from Raks Geek shows to Raks Inferno shows was the sort of “family” feeling to it all. Raks’ audience always seems to have an element of familiar faces who keep coming back, and it creates a warmth that’s hard to reproduce, and welcoming if you’re a first-timer like we were.

 

Performers for the night’s show included dancers Dawn Xiana Moon, Kamrah Raqs, Gaea Lady, Lee Na-Moo, Michi Trota and a guest perfomer, Phaedra. The show we attended was a special “Holiday-Ish” edition, so some of the performers took the chance to do a holiday themed number. Even at Raks Inferno, not all acts involve fire, but that doesn’t mean you’ll feel you’re missing out at any point. Each of the dancers has a unique style they seem to have completely mastered, with a unifying flow between them that’s stunning. In fact, our only criticism of the show on this evening was that the guest artist, Phaedra, though talented, had a style which seemed a bit incongruous with the troupe’s–a little more traditional, but perhaps too academic. That said, she brought a fun, fiery spirit to her dancing that made us smile.

As for the troupe itself, Moon, for example, has a sultry, smoky air about her on stage, while Michi Trota’s fire acts convey confidence and power. Kamrah, one of our favorite performers from the first time we saw them at the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival, continues to bring a fluid grace and undeniable power to their performance, all within the same piece. Gaea Lady displays a similar sultriness, with a careful skill that makes her fun to watch, effortlessly spinning a literal flaming hoop around as elegantly as a scarf. Lee Na-Moo, meanwhile, packs so much elegance, grace, and even aspects of traditional Oriental dance into his work that he at times seems surreal, and certainly meditative, when moving across the stage.

This is a troupe that doesn’t have a filler act, and whose consistency and flow between performers means that guest acts need to step up. The show has both humor and heart, and in an intimate atmosphere like Under the Gun, the fire acts literally heat up the room. In my eyes, it’s a caliber of show you could easily be paying more money for in a bigger space, but have a chance to see up close and personal in a much cozier, more easily accessible space.

If you missed Raks Inferno in December, they’ll be back at it with a Love edition on February 8th. If you’d like to see their alter egos, show up tonight at Under the Gun for Raks Geek, which this month will feature a Klingon bellydance, and, if this show holds true to its predecessors, a whole lot more geeky fun and great dancing. Information and tickets for tonight’s show can be found here, and if you’re waiting for the inferno, you can find information on the February show here.

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