Turquoise restaurant is kicking things up a notch with bellydancing performances every Wednesday night this summer.
Located in the Sea Colony Marketplace, the Greek and American restaurant will feature dancer Viviana Matthews at its weekly Greek Night, with special menu items and performances.
In the main dining room, Matthews weaves her way barefoot across the floor. Her two-piece costume is a rich purple, flashing with gold and glass beading.
Some people have a misconception of what bellydancing really is, Matthews explained. It’s not about bachelor-party strippers in genie costumes.
“She’s very professional and authentic,” said Lisa Welling of Turquoise. “She’s not sleazy.”
Customers seemed to agree that Matthews’ performance was tasteful and family-friendly.
William and Rita Bauhof of South Bethany said the 25-minute performance was more than they expected. The family was still practicing their own moves and discussing the performance long after Matthews left the floor.
“She’s very authentic,” said their daughter Nicole Sewell. “Fantastic.”
“I really liked it,” said granddaughter Caroline Sewell. “I want to come back and dance.”
Patron Gina Donati planned to celebrate her mother’s birthday at Turquoise, but the entertainment cemented the deal.
“We saw the bellydancer, and I was like, ‘Oh, heck yeah,” said Donati. “She’s awesome.”
The ladies crossed from the bar area into the dining room to watch Matthews perform Greek-style dances, shaking, shimmying and skirts swirling.
Matthews’ husband and drummer, John, accompanies her at performances, adding a layer of hand drums to her music.
“She’s just a hit wherever she goes,” John said of Viviana. “She a beautiful person inside and out.”
Matthews flowed from table to table, chatting with customers and even balancing someone’s walking cane on her head.
“That’s part of it,” she said. “Dancers were originally hired for weddings. Traditionally, they were there to loosen people up.”
Dancers also told jokes and got people moving at birthday parties, so “the belly dancer is the alcohol,” Matthews explained, especially in cultures where alcohol was prohibited.
The art of bellydancing has roots in the Mediterranean and Middle East, so Matthews actually trained with Arabs. Professionally, she has danced ballroom and bellydance in Washington, D.C. After two years of classes, an instructor recommended she go professional. Ten years later, she’s still performing and teaching in Delaware.
“I’m in love with it. I can’t help myself,” Matthews said, although she jokes that it’s great exercise, because she hates working out.
Although Matthews used to be shy, bellydancing helped her open up. Women can embrace their femininity, “even just dancing in front of a mirror for yourself,” she said. “You don’t have to fit into a mold.”
Turquoise had featured bellydancing during the winter holidays but increased to weekly performances due to popularity.
“I love it here. Usually the audience is very accepting. It’s great,” said Matthews. “The owners are great. They’re very good to me.”
Viviana Matthews performs for Greek Night, every Wednesday, at Turquoise restaurant and bar at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Turquoise offers special Greek dishes, in addition to the regular menu each Wednesday. Customers can enjoy sampler platters; braised lamb shanks; stiffado, a beef and onion stew cooked for hours with red wine and rosemary,; a classic chicken, lemon and egg soup called avgolemono; hummus; and feta-spinach pies. For dessert, diners are tempted with homemade baklava or a walnut cake called karidopita.
“The more the merrier,” said drummer John Matthews. “We have a lot of fun.”