Belladonna’s Raven’s Night

Belladonna’s Raven’s Night

Bella and Ken - Founders of Raven's Night

Raven’s Night, Metro DC’s most unique, hedonistic and artistic Halloween event, ushers in the season on October 21, 2017 at The Birchmere. Now in its sixth year, this sensational modern take on the traditional masquerade ball celebrates every devilish trick and sexy treat of Halloween. The theme for 2017 is Ghosts of La Belle Epoque…so get ready to be transported to another realm where other-worldly beings come to visit and entertain you.

As with past years, Raven’s Night’s: Ghosts of La Belle Epoque 2017 includes three distinct events woven into one: mesmerizing world-class dance performances at The Cabaret Macabre; a dinner concert featuring live music at The Salon Lunaire; and a pre-show event combining an alternative World’s Fair-styled exposition and sideshow, including Tarot card readings, Palmistry and games.

Belladonna and Ken Vegas present a new page in macabre entertainment, as the sixth annual Raven’s Night comes to the legendary Birchmere music hall. With something for everyone and a great way to kick off the Halloween Festivities! To get tickets and learn more visit ravensnight.com

How did Raven’s Night get started?

I guess the thing with Raven’s Night is I really wanted to do a professionally produced and themed theatrical show, and make the best use of the amazing venue.

I used to co-produce an event called Belly Horror and it was the first Halloween belly dance event that we, in DC knew about. In 2005 I called together the collective of dancers that we had here in D.C. (D.C. Tribal) and proposed a Halloween themed belly dance show. We were all Halloween fans, and everyone in D.C. Tribal was like, “Yeah, that would be so cool.” I produced the first show by myself and realized it was a lot of work. In 2007 I teamed up with my dance partner at the time and co-producer of DC Tribal Café, Mavi. Together we produced the Belly Horror for four more years.

Ebony at Raven's NightIn the mean time Ken Vegas entered my life in a big way in 2008 and joined us in helping the Belly Horror. Ken was a local producer of the DC Kings and was creating opportunities and making events for Drag Kings parallel to what Mavi and I were doing here in DC with tribal and fusion belly dance.

Ken and I also began producing a variety of shows every month at a circus bar that we had here in D.C. back in 2008 and 2009. One of which was called the Vixen Variety Show and we were the first show in D.C. at that time to do themes. Over the two years we were there we had an eclectic variety of themes. We had everything from a “Hat Full Of Vixens” (Dr. Seuss theme) to fairytales, villains, “Star Wars A Gaga” (everyone was a Star Wars character and performed a Lady gag song). We even had a Clue show where each of the performers were characters from the game and the audience played the game. These themes just something that really inspires me to want to create something. Mavi and I were invited to bring the Belly Horror Show to the Birchmere, a legendary music hall in Alexandria Va in the Fall of 2009.

Due to the challenges of scheduling and busier schedules The Belly Horror Show came to a close in October of 2011. At that point I though that after 5 years I would have my Octobers free from producing a big event. Ken and I were surprised and honored when the Birchmere approach us and ask us to create a show for them. We had been playing with the idea of creating a slightly more interactive event in which we could explore themes and bring together our different interests such as Goth, Steam punk, Art, Sideshow etc It was such an exciting prospect to get to continue working with the Birchmere as we really loved working with their staff and the quality of lighting, sound and atmosphere that is created there.

So that’s pretty much how Raven’s Night was born. The venue wanted us to bring something and we wanted to bring something that wasn’t happening that we thought the community would like, and that people would want to come out for.

What is the concept behind Raven’s Night?

Raven’s Night is a time to go out with your friends and dress up and celebrate fall and get out of the house having fun and just be happy to be alive.

The concept is that it’s three events in one night.

Our goal is to keep people entertained from the time they walk in the door until they leave. The Birchmere is old school in that all of the seating is general seating. People still line up outside before every show in order to get a good seat. They have a system where they give everyone a number when they pick up their tickets at the box office. And then they allow folks into the main hall to select their seats according to that number. It definitely pays to get there early! With that in mind we have entertainment that happens from the moment you walk through the doors until you walk back out. It is our goal to create an annual holiday event that people look forward to attending. We encourage everyone to dress up and leave their mundane worries at the door. We maintain the theme through out the evening. Often now our audience members dress up according to the theme.

The evening begins with the All Hallow’s Eve exposition. Patrons to the show are greeted in the lobby with games, live entertainment, divination and more. There is a bar for cocktails and a shop for venue and event specific merchandise. This is a great opportunity for people meet and greet their friends, grab a drink and perhaps take a few selfies!

Once their number is called they can enter the main hall and find a seat. Seating is long community style tables. There is lots of opportunities to met new people and make new friends. Servers take care of the tables and they have a full menu and bar to choose from. The Salon Lunaire begins at 6:30, this year’s concert present the music of Maharal.

The main event, Cabaret Melancholia begins after dinner at 7:30. This is the belly dance show you have been waiting for. A fantastic spectacle with beautiful stage set, lighting, sound and some of the most talented fusion belly dancers in the world.

Any tips for anyone attending their first Raven’s Night?

Get there early! The box office and doors open at 5, but folks will be lined up outside before then!
You get a number when you pick up your tickets at the box office (purchase and will call). They open the dining hall at 6 and call by number so many people line up outside before 5 to get a good number. This is why we have the pre-show expo, to give folks something to do between 5-6

Dress up! We love to celebrate and encourage self expression and creativity Dress in your favorite formal wear, Halloween costume, Con character, Steam Punk duds etc. This event is for fun and to celebrate the season.

Have dinner there. The Birchemre has a full menu and bar so plan to eat at the event. http://www.birchmere.com/order-up/

This year there is no “official” after party. The cast comes out to the lobby to greet the attendees after the show but we have to wrap that fairly quickly. As we have workshops beginning early Sunday morning, to take advantage of the incredible talent in the show, and due to sound zoning laws. Also due to the fact that we do a full technical rehearsal the day of the show (cast gets there at 1pm) the cast and crew are exhausted. There are many pubs and watering holes in Old Town Alexandria and Arlington that folks can keep the party going with their friends.

Who is coming in from out of town to perform?

We are super excited about the line up! We have Maria Hamer and sister Christine Andrews joining us for the first time! We also have fan favorite Brenna Crowley coming from New York. Irina from Bellyqueen is also coming down from New York. We are stoked to have Jo Boring and the Lunachixs join us this year. My Skella partner in crime and another fan favorite Super Kate will be coming from Kentucky. Maia Alexandra is coming from Buffalo. Then we have local dancers. Dalgali, which are kind of a Turkish fusion, dark fusion dance company, and Jenna Shear. I have an exciting new piece I’m working on and we added the incredible Rosa Noreen to the line up.

Maharal as our band for the pre-show Salon Lunaire this year. Brett Zellweger and Arroh will be entertaining everyone as they find their seats and order dinner. He’s an amazing saz player and she’s a percussionist and beautiful dancer.

Can you apply to be in the show?

We do some invitation and we take applications. We usually announce applications in January or February. The deadline’s usually around the beginning of April, and then generally two thirds of the show I would say are application-based. The jurroring process consists of a set of criteria that applicants are scored on and then we invite the top applicants. The categories are originality, how well it fits the theme, technique, experience, costuming concepts and a few others.

We also invite people based on who we think would fit in well with the applications. We usually invite two people or two acts and everything else is based off of applications.

Except for me, because apparently I’m supposed to be in the show. “Now that I’m hosting that means I don’t have to perform right? I can just produce the show?” All my students said “No we’ll be so mad at you if we come to the show and you’re not dancing.”

How can people help pay for the show?

You can get tickets at the Birchmere website or box office.

We usually do one fundraiser a year, but this year we were not able to schedule it. Last year we worked with a new venue and we worked out really well. We did a D&D Vixen Variety and the audience actually played D&D. It was really fun. I love doing interactive shows.

There is a program that folks can advertise events, their business etc. in and the rest is a labor of love. Raven’s Night not something that Kendra and I do as a job for profit. It is more important to us that each performance spot is paid we want to bring a really great show. We get the chance to work with a really great venue and dancers to create pieces they wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to. Now, there’s a lot of theatrical stuff happening, so it’s not quite as unique, but before there wasn’t really the opportunity to explore a character in belly dance and get paid for it. Your paying gigs were teaching what people know you best for, or doing traditional belly dance. Artemis Mourat has done two of my shows now, and she said, “Bella I love your shows, because I never would have been the White Queen or I never would have been Selene the Moon Goddess. I teach Turkish belly dance.”

For us it is really just about providing a really awesome playground for dancers to think outside of the normal box. It’s one of the only queer produced events that is completely open to everyone. We don’t specifically target any one audience. We try to really make it a place where everyone can come together and just have a really great night, and I think that is kind of unique. We have gay people and straight people and Republicans, Democrats, dancers and people who come to the Birchmere just because they come to the Birchmere. We want it to be a magical annual event for everyone!