Nonstop Art, Belly Dancing, and Cosplay in Berkeley

Carnival of Stars takes place on July 30-31 at the Finnish Hall.


Pepper Alexandria will perform.

Courtesy of Pepper Alexandria

On its way south, from Richmond, where it has been for the last 13 years, to Alameda, where it will put down roots next year, the Carnival of Stars will stop at the revitalized Finnish Hall in Berkeley at the end of the month. Carnival is the love child of Pepper Alexandria’s two passions: belly dance and cartooning. She is the creator of Belly Dance Comix. The latter is expressed in cosplay, or costume play, a performing art in which participants dress up as specific characters.

Both art forms will find ample expressions in this two-day, family-friendly event that features lots of dancing, music, and mythic characters as well as a chance to taste Mediterranean foods and meet vendors of sundry items related to both dance and fantasy play. Both also will feature competitions to find the best of performances.

Each day nonstop belly dancing starts at noon; over 100 performers usually sign up. You can take in almost as many styles as there are practitioners. Some will be folk-oriented, others in the cabaret style, some are modern, some traditional. While belly dance is primarily associated with Egypt, it also has found its own expression in Turkey, Lebanon, and North Africa, as well as Europe and the United States. Alexandria’s Ghawazee dancers practice a now very rare form (often involving couples) of a sumptuously costumed genre that originated in Upper Egypt and still survives in Luxor.

This year, the belly dance competition (4:30-6:30 p.m. Sunday) focuses on Traditional Classical Raqs Shargi (belly dance) as performed in Egypt from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

For cosplay, participants are encouraged to remember that Carnival has family-friendly audiences and keep modesty in mind. Otherwise, anything goes. You can invent your own character or come as a favorite one from history, mythology, science fiction, fantasy, anime, and fairy tales. Weapons can only be make-believe and will be checked as such. Each performer will have a moment in the spotlight on stage. This year’s contest (2:30 p.m. Sunday) will again award trophies and cash. A costume needs to be at least 50 percent handmade to win first prize.

Carnival of Stars, noon-9 p.m. July 30, and noon-8 p.m. July 31; doors open at 11 a.m.; $15, available day of show only ($6 for kids under 12); the Finnish Hall, 1970 Chestnut St., Berkeley,


Editor's Note: This story appears in the July edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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