Twirling above a stage suspended by only a gauzy length of silk fabric, Jenn Bliss, aka Miss Bliss, is sure to provide an elegant and awe-inspiring performance. But it will also be a little nerve-wracking.

“I’d say it’s a magical and surprising performance incorporating giant fabric that is hung from the ceiling and used as a flying apparatus,” said Bliss, when asked to describe her performance. But then she added: “And people can expect some death-defying tricks along with the magic and whimsy.”

Bliss will be among the 10 acts performing at Saturday’s Solstice Spectacular. Now in its fourth year, the annual variety show takes place at One Longfellow Square in Portland and brings together performance artists from Maine and across the country.

Bliss lives in Boston but grew up in Portland, where she was involved with the Children’s Theatre of Maine and still works with the Smoke and Mirrors Circus.

“I interact a lot with the silks and the audience,” she said. “I perform on a sling or a hammock silk, which provides a lot of creative ways to use the silk. Each moment is a surprise for people who haven’t seen it before. There’s a lot of anticipation of what’s going to happen next.”

Bliss will perform to the song “Start Wearing Purple” by Gogol Bordello. “I have purple silks and I will be wearing purple,” she said. “It’s a song about if you start wearing purple, all your problems will go away.”

While there’s no guarantee a ticket to the Solstice Spectacular will fix the leaky roof or stop your co-workers from stealing your lunch, it will give you a night of high-energy entertainment.

The show is organized by Portland belly dancer Rosa Noreen, who keeps busy teaching a full load of belly-dance classes at the Bright Star World Dance studio. For years, she’s also brought in leading belly-dance instructors from across the country to teach expert classes in Portland.

“Every year, I’ve brought in different workshop instructors from out of town, and when you do that, people expect you to have a show,” Noreen said. “There are a lot of straight-up belly-dance shows and I feel like the belly-dance audience tends to be other belly dancers, so audience fatigue is a danger.

“So when I put on shows, it’s my goal to put on shows that bring in people who won’t normally go to a belly-dance show.”

In addition to professional belly dancers, Noreen fills out the Solstice Spectacular with non-belly-dance performers such as Bliss and a sprinkling of musicians.

The formula must be working, because the show has sold out all three years it’s been held.

This weekend’s show will be headlined by Turkish-style belly dancer Ruby Beh from Las Vegas, who has a background in kung fu and pilates, and will perform twice during the event.

“She has amazing technique and is raw and elegant,” Noreen said. “And how someone can be both elegant and raw I don’t know, but somehow she does it. Turkish style tends to be very energetic and very much outward energy, as opposed to what I do, which is Egyptian influence and emotional.”

While she’s in town, Beh will deliver a series of expert-level belly-dance classes at Bright Star World Dance.

Other belly-dance performances in the show will come from Zafirah of Montreal and Cait Capaldi of Maine, who blends Middle Eastern dance with flamenco.

The show will be emceed by Portland-based blues musician Samuel James, who tours internationally. Noreen will perform to one of James’ songs, which he wrote for her.

The show will also include performances by the hip-hop group Sontiago, the Balkan music duo Cinder Conk, singer/songwriter Dilly Dilly and the Portland High School stepdance team.

“When I put together a show, it’s really important to me to have top-notch performers,” Noreen said. “Therefore, I don’t do a lot of shows. I pick and choose the timing as well, because I want people to look forward to my shows. My over-arching goal is to bring in people who wouldn’t necessarily go to a belly-dance show.”

But once you go to the show, you just might find yourself seduced by the belly-dance beat.

And if you really get into it, you might end up like Noreen, who admits: “Even if I go out to a club and it’s playing ’80s music, I belly dance. I no longer know how to do anything else.”

Rosa Noreen


Samuel James


Cinder Conk

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


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