Review: UNMATA in Atlanta

imageLocation: Red Light Cafe
Sponsored by: Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance
Featuring: Amy Sigil of UNMATA

*Review are always my sole opinion and views (AA).

This was a difficult week, Cheb-i-Sabbah had passed on and I was in no mood for trying to fake a smiling face and pretend I was okay to cheer on anyone for anything. But if I’m not mistaken, UNMATA had performed in front of sweet Chebiji so I felt this would be a part of the mourning, a way to keep going and do what I know he would want us to do…which is keep dancing, steep ourselves in good energy and take a piece of his inspirition with us. So, when Faaridah sent me a text about the show I made every effort to be there.

Waking up at the crack of dawn I headed out to the gym to start the day’s waking. While the supporters of the event were drilling and working with UNMATA, perfecting their technique and getting certified, I was thinking of the long history between dancers and musicians and how hard everyone trains and prepares for nights like these. So much goes on behind the scenes, well in advance of anything we see. That 1 hour of absolute amazement was made up of perhaps 2+ years of planning, scheduling and so much more. I salute everyone involved and gargantuan thanks from me as it’s nice not having to travel too far to see legends. Though I miss travelling like we used to, a 30-minute ride in heavy Atlanta traffic is tolerable compared to 3000mile round plane-trip, hotel, etc to feed a raqs obsession not to mention the constant sacrifices and $avings that go into the extra expense of “getting there.”

Speaking of getting anywhere, I got there very early, perhaps 6:20pm sharp. I expected a long and difficult line in the cold. However, everyone was friendly and tame, speaking to each other and sharing what body part was more sore than the other after the days’ workshops. The doors opened promplty at 7pm and I found a seat in the front along the side directly in front of the stage. Just before showtime, I, wearing an Alice Bunny Loli coord, drifted to the back of what looks to be a sort of mildly rennovated Red Light Cafe to clean my hands. “We’ll start as soon as Andye comes out of the ladies room,” Faaridah said. “I’ll be quick!” I laughed.

As I made my way back to the front, Ziah and Banat Almeh follwed behind me as they were opening the show. They looked beautiful in their mix of truly ethnic tribal style costumes including two members in bits and pieces from, how awesome! That’s one thing that stood out in this show, the visuals…the elaborate and intricate details of costumes, hair, makeup and more. Very impressive.

Show Highlights:
I won’t go into detail on every single dance but I’ll touch on the highlights…
Line-up/Who performed:
Banat Almeh
Sabeeyah Sun
Luma Medha
Ana Karina and Kameece
Khayal al Amar
Oleandra and Lacy Perry
Jendayi Dance Company
Ziah (opening act II)
Barbara Smith
Jahara Phoenix
Dana, Leena (AFBD), Lesyle, & Pamela (Leena danced with the AFBD Students)
UNMATA (closing both the acts of the show)

imageHere’s a short summary of some of the performances:
Ana Karina & Kameece

These two ladies walked out wearing gas masks that sort of matched their black and red ensembles of mesh, lace and a corset. They wore fitted outfits and really nice hair styles. It was a dynamic set that was strong and in sync. It was said that they performed this piece at an earlier show that had a Halloween theme but it fit right in tonight as well. I look forward to seeing what else these two do. image

Khayal al Amar
Again, their costumes stood out. They were wearibng a new set from and they wore them very well. I also liked their passion and though there were some tech issues they jumped right back in there and kept going. Very nice job! This looked like modern fusion to me, a sort of standard fusion troupe set. Again, very nice.

Oleandra and Lacy Perry

Oleandra and Lacy Perry

Oleandra and Lacy Perry
Though I have no idea what was going on here, I have to say it was one of my favourite pieces in the first half for the sheer fact, they put so much emotion into it. Their costumes were absolutely outstanding. Oleandra was dressed in blue fabric (one skirt looked to be MBD and fit her so nice), she had blue makeup and it was very intricately done). Her chemistry with Lacy (in a red almost…I don’t know, representation of the underworld?) was amazing. Both women were in sync, their music enhanced their movements and they just did a great, visually exciting number with raqs technique flowing through it. I gave them a standing ovation. I really thought it was very powerful.



Jendayi Dance Company
Well, as expected they stole the first half of the show for troupe performances, have mercy they came out in black and silver modern raqs club wear… outfits that bring to mind the phrase, “Like A Boss” if I had to describe how they took the stage. It was 5 minutes long and nothing shy of a something that should be on TV in a music video. Featuring a dynamic mix of music one song seemed to mesh into another, there were scene changes and all kinds of fascinating work. It was impressive, truly entertaining! Wow!

imageUNMATA’s first set…
was indescribable…a sort of cues/ATS routine, with classic tribal (one leading the other in intervals). That’s always fun to see. The music mentioned something about needing weed and a good woman…anyone know that song? It was interesting and tongue-in-cheek for the first part of this piece. After having studied them (not with them, but instead reading about them extensively and going to see them in Toronto when they danced during the IBCC Gala show hosted by Arabesque -the year Tito & Aida were there…yeah that EPIC year that went down as one of the best shows ever) they really could have done just about anything and I would have admired it DESPITE it being rather far from the Middle Eastern and African Dance I grew up with in the expat/international communities. Their second set was a powerful piece and I tell you, if you haven’t seen them and you enjoy fusion and modern dance (can appreciate a variety of visual art in movement) you will fall in love with them. I still think what I saw from them in Toronto helped me appreciate their art and those who attempt to do what they have mastered. Needless tos ay, It was a gift to have both here in ATL.

Ziah -Veil Fans

Ziah -Veil Fans

Act II
Began with Ziah.
..she did a fan veil set in a lovely crimson bedluh and bustled skirt…ohhh it was truly beautiful and strong. Very quick turns with sharp yet flowing fan veil work. It was a perfect opening for a program and further demonstrated the quality and top talent we have in this town. Such leaders we have…she is one of them and she is stunning!

…did a take on Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and wore his signature ruffle neckwear with purple choli tops. It was very cute and well executed.



As expected, she did a set that was fused and flawless.
..such a powerhouse she is… Tonight’s performance was nothing shy of engaging. You could have heard a pindrop as we were fixated on her moves. You just didn’t want to look away. She had us enraptured. Big hugs for her! Always a pleasure to see that woman on stage.

UNMATA’s final piece of the evening was filled with all kinds of visually stimulating imagery and the set took us on a journey through many things. The one part that really took us and added an almost theatrical spin on their presentation was “The Scream” that lasted more than a few seconds…omgah, how captivating! The ladies have always worn a sort of urban, modern and muted fatigue type ensemble since I first saw them. In Toronto I believe they wore short jackets that had hoods on them. Now that was 2008…and many years have passed, these women have not deteriorated from their vision but have instead surpassed it with all sorts of additional items and more. Something about this group just keeps me fixated and I do compare so many troupes who wish to be called urban tribal fusion to UNMATA. Of the techniques I’ve seen from UNMATA, I don’t even know how people wouldn’t want to study with them first before presenting any sort of replica or “creative” inspired piece of one’s own. I do not really know how to sum up anything they do and I don’t think it really can be “summed.” It’s just darn good…or “bada$$’ as some say… again, thrilled to have them with us. May they live long…and next time I’m gettin’ a hug…fear of being called a fangirl be damned.

I know this was not raqs sharqi…there was no khaleegi, no Nigerian salute, no Maghreb anything for the most part. There were hints of this and a hip drop here and there with very few troupes doing anything truly “hard core sharqi” that you see in the international community but it was certainly entertaining and I liked it. I’m pleased to see a mix of genres available to us in the city and I’m looking forward to watching these teams grow and gain fans who are willing to travel near and far to be close to what they love. Big thanks to Faaridah and AFBD, I’m forever indebted to their amazing choice of talent and for the invitation to the show. I’m such a crazy fan… xoxoxoxo

Cheers! Thanks for reading.

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