Belly Dance in Never-Never Land

Belly Dance in Never-Never Land

A New Interpretation on the Boy Who Never Grew Up


For director Sadie Adair and the members of Desert Darlings Belly Dance Troupe, producing their version of “Peter Pan” on a theater stage this month is a hard-won prize.

The group saved up tips from the past year’s performances to create their new vision of the old children’s story.


Adair started the Desert Darlings in 2010 when she moved to Albuquerque from Santa Fe. However, the Egyptian and American cabaret style that was popular locally wasn’t her cup of tea. Adair was more interested in the earthy, improvisational style of tribal belly dance, and began the difficult task of promoting and booking her own shows. The group grew from two dancers to seven, and gained an Albuquerque following that often commuted to Santa Fe to watch their performances in warehouses and breweries.

Adair, a former film major, and artistic director Lauren “Lorena” Martinez-Burr, who studied theater, infuse the Darlings’ choreography with modern, hip hop and flamenco styles, setting their work to electronic beats and world music. For “Peter Pan,” they stage their choreography within the context of a popular story.

“We feel like we’re doing something with the art form that isn’t something you see every day,” Adair said.

The play’s theme of adolescence is relatable as many go through the experience of either not wanting to grow up or wanting to grow up too fast, she said.

In the Desert Darlings version of the boy who never grew up, Adair will perform as Peter. She said she identified with his position as a leader as well his mischievousness, though she struggled to make Peter a more likeable character because he can be mean-spirited and selfish.

“He wants all kids to have fun and never grow up, but doesn’t think about whether that’s best for them,” she said.

A villain-lover through and through, Martínez-Burr will play the dastardly Captain Hook.

“It’s easier for me to tap into places where I have to be ugly or strange. There’s no pressure to try to be beautiful,” she said.

The Darlings also made significant changes to Tiger Lily. The Neverland native is no longer Peter’s love interest, but is instead a mother figure.

“In our version of the story, Tiger Lily is a grown woman who looks after the Lost Boys, despite their belief that they don’t need looking after,” Adair said.

Dancer Ally Lowry said her version of Wendy Darling will be a little more mature. Although there are some unfair stereotypes associated with Wendy’s character, it is also a strong female role as Wendy defies her father’s expectations and stands up against the pirates.

“What I like about Wendy is even though she gets pushed around and bullied a lot by the other characters, she never really loses her sense of adventure or her good-heartedness,” Lowry said.

Desert Darlings will premiere “Peter Pan: A Theatrical Belly Dance Adventure!” at South Broadway Cultural Center on April 1 at 7 p.m.

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Sara MacNeil is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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