The belly of the beats

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Unlike most bands you’re likely to see at the Jefferson, Beats Antique’s live shows are not really all about the music. Making the festival circuit rounds this summer, the trio acquired a reputation for their energetic live performances, which are essentially constructed around one crucial element: Zoe Jakes.

David Satori, Tommy Cappel and the belly dancer Zoe Jakes make up Beats Antique, an Eastern-tinged electro act that played the Jefferson last week. Publiciy photo.

Jakes is a “belly dancer” and “dance counterpart to Beats Antique’s sound” (at least, according to the band’s website). Joining Jakes in Beats Antique is David Satori and Tommy Cappel, aka “Sidecar Tommy.” The group’s music is a conglomeration of middle-eastern rhythms, twangy banjos, morose violin movements and jazzy bass sections. There’s also the oh-so idiosyncratic buzz of the mizamir and the high-pitched cry of the zagareet and electronic alterations, all of which are layered into a global, hyper-modern and danceable mélange. The sound makes Beats Antique stand out in the landscape of electronic music.

Last week’s performance was a mixture of recorded beats and live accompaniment: against a backdrop of heart-shaking bass and electronic clatter, Satori switched off between violin, a cümbü (a Turkish instrument that figures between a banjo and an oud) and drums, while Cappel held strong on drums throughout the show’s entirety.

With the opening number, Jakes made a dramatic (and hopeful) entrance in a red mermaid skirt that when attached to her wrists, made her seem like a dramatic, winged creature, her famous pale stomach undulating with the audience’s excitement before disappearing, surprisingly quickly, backstage. A song or two went by before she reappeared for her most awe-inspiring moment on stage, this time with giant white feather fans, a crown of antlers, and a dazzling white costume that was connected nonetheless to her two back-up belly dancers, attached to her by shining fabric and chains.

Beyond the flashy accoutrement, Jakes seemed to rely too heavily on her objects’ glitter-factor to awe the audience. When she and her two back-up bellies seemed to be doing more hanging out backstage than dancing—and when on stage, doing more prop play than technically-complex movement—I was left to wonder: Where’s the action? 

Besides a few stomach flutters, the dancer that gives this group a leg up didn’t seem to be too concerned with actually dancing. Too bad, considering she has shown her belly dance talents with famous troupes such as Miles Copland’s Bellydance Superstars and Rachel Brice’s Indigo Belly Dance Company. 

With a surprise lap dance, derriere-revealing body suits, and a lot of standing around, she sure wasn’t like any belly dancer I’ve ever seen.—Sarah Matalone

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