“When I did the first Halloween show in 2005, the concept of doing a Halloween belly dance show was unheard of,” says Belladonna. “Halloween and belly dance have nothing to do with each other.”
Yet greater appreciation for the art of belly dance in the last decade especially has helped increase the popularity of such events, including Raven’s Night, organized by Bella, a local belly dance instructor, and her wife Kendra Kuliga, well-known as her alias, Ken Vegas.
“When we first started the show, we wanted to have a steampunk, goth, witchy, belly dance, queer blend,” Bella continues. “That was revolutionary then. Ten years later, belly dance has more exposure, LGBTQIA+ has more exposure, the Wicca world has more exposure. Everything’s a little bit more normalized. The world is a tiny bit more progressive.”
Raven’s Night was created as a safe space for everyone “to come out and play together,” says Bella. “To dress up and have fun and explore the facets of ourselves. Just celebrate being creative humans at a really amazing music venue.”
This year’s Raven’s Night is being organized as a special “10 Year Anniversary Show” at The Birchmere in Alexandria. It’s also special for being the rare in-person event from the production duo during the pandemic. “Kendra and I used to produce five shows a month locally. And in the last year and a half, we produced one live show for Pride.”
This year’s Raven’s Night might have gone the same all-virtual route were it not for The Birchmere’s strict policies mandating vaccines or negative COVID tests, as well as mask-wearing, for all guests and performers.
“We don’t want an entertainment spectacle that’s going to potentially put anyone’s health at risk,” says Bella. “We chose the theme Coven for this year because it’s really about what we can do together, being stronger.”
This year’s Raven’s Night will also mark the couple’s seven-year anniversary. They surprised the crowd by getting married on stage during the show’s closing number. It’s now a tradition for the two to perform together at each show, with Ken donning drag as Vegas.
“It’s awesome that I still get to perform with Bella at a belly dance event,” says Kuliga. “Everybody’s been very welcoming and supportive, which is amazing. One of the cool things about Raven’s Night is that it is very queer-positive.” –Doug Rule
Raven’s Night is Saturday, Oct. 16, at 7:30 p.m., at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Va. Tickets are $29.50. Call 703-549-7500 or visit www.birchmere.com.
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