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H.R. Giger's Xenomorph from 'Alien' As Belly Dancer!: Exclusive Interview with Gothla US Performer Asharah

Check out more photos from Gothla, and the Gothla afterparty at Malediction Society, in Shannon Cottrell's photo galleries.

Asharah is a belly dancer based out of Washington D.C. At this year's Gothla, she performed for the annual gothic belly dance event's gala show as a xenomorph, or alien, from the movie Alien. Taking her costume cues from H.R. Giger's design, Asharah incorporated elements of the film characters into her choreography and set it to Autechre's "Second Bad Vilbel."

H.R. Giger's Xenomorph from 'Alien' As Belly Dancer!: Exclusive Interview with Gothla US Performer Asharah
Shannon Cottrell

We asked Asharah for some insight into the performance. Full interview, after the jump.

What motivated you to portray the Alien?

My motivation to portray an alien (the aliens are also referred to as "xenomorphs") from the Aliens movie franchise, came to me in a flash during dinner with a good friend of mine. Basically, she and I were talking about what sort of performance pieces we'd be auditioning for the annual Belly Horror Show, produced by Romka, which takes place in Washington D.C. at the end of October every year. I don't remember exactly what sparked the idea, but I remember saying that I had this one song that I wanted to use for something, and I couldn't figure out for what.  Then, in a moment of sudden realization, I thought, "This music is perfect to play H.R. Giger's alien!  That's it!"  And from there, the whole piece fell into place.  

The art of H.R. Giger, the artist behind the alien creature design, has fascinated me for a long time.  His biomechanical paintings and sculptures have inspired my own art and dancing in a less direct manner; I've been attempting to blend mechanical and organic elements in my dance since 2004 or 2005.  

And coincidentally, I actually had a chance to visit the H.R. Giger Museum in Gruyéres, Switzerland, this past weekend and see his original Alien concept art up-close and personal. Seeing his art in person was an amazing and inspiring experience.

H.R. Giger's Xenomorph from 'Alien' As Belly Dancer!: Exclusive Interview with Gothla US Performer Asharah
Shannon Cottrell

Since the Alien is a predator, how did that influence your musical choice and your choreography?

The Alien creatures are, indeed, predators, and I also see them as warriors.  The aliens also have a sort of feminine quality, particularly in Giger's early concept art, which really appealed to me.  In my performance, I took the point of view of the alien herself, protecting her home and her domain from Ripley (Sigourney Weaver's character) and her crew.  I also spent a lot of time researching the alien creature character.  I studied the their movement in the Aliens films: they keep low to the ground and have an almost feline-like quality.  I also referenced images of the aliens--concept art, finished paintings, and movie stills--in my costume design.  The only thing I couldn't figure out was how to create a tail!

I was also very inspired by the music video for the song that I used for the piece, "Second Bad Vilbel" by Autechre, directed by Chris Cunningham.  The director's cut of the music video features a mechanical insect-like creature viewed through what looks like surveillance camera footage.  It moves along with the music, and the "surveillance camera" cuts out when the music slows and changes to distortion.  The video itself is a little disturbing, just like the alien creatures.  

Stylistically, how would you describe your performance?

I'm not really sure how to classify the dance style of my Alien piece.  I created this performance for a particular show, so I took a lot of artistic liberty, drawing mostly from my interpretation of the original creature's movement.  It has elements of contemporary, modern, bellydance, and locking. Most of the time I perform a mix of tribal and cabaret bellydance with a dash of modern and contemporary dance, so this piece was quite a departure.  

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