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Desert Sin’s Middle Eastern dance extravaganza unsettles and enthralls with its striking concoction of latex, glitter and pain. The atmospheric first act finds grim inspiration in a waxwork chamber of horrors, a merry-go-round of legendary women each trapped in her cramped cage. A ghoulish Ringmaster (Brad Miller) orchestrates the rotating stage, forcing each legend from her quarters. Middle-Eastern-style choreography is hypnotic even dressed down, as here — coiling, languorous and cruel. We see Mati Hari (Tatianna) get shot, the Snow Queen (Cassandra) raped (who knew?), and Joan of Arc (Djahari) enters burning. As the Ringmaster’s guest, the audience spends Act 1 feeling uncomfortably implicated in the tortures underscoring the stunning beauty and skill of Djahari and Sa’Elayssa’s choreography, and Jeremy Vargus’ superb technics. A briefer Act 2 finds the Ringmaster in Egypt where he promptly recovers from his slight pre-intermission comeuppance when a flock of sinuous sun worshippers reveals his divine origins. This tenuous narrative link sets up a rager between gods Ra and Apep, whose curvaceous minions shimmy and lurch for dominance under two massive, violent puppets. As they loom over the third row, one feels disconcertingly fragile — this spectacle has fangs. 

Desert Sin Dance Company at the Ivar Theater, 1605 N. Ivar Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru June 12. (866) 468-3399. 

Written 05/25/2005 (Amy Nicholson)

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