*As always these are my opinions as an International Community member having grown up with Raqs Sharqi and its sister dances. I love this art and cherish those that present it in a beautiful and respectful way…honouring the past and the present.Global Dance of Atlanta is a force…no questions asked. This dance school is really working hard to make sure its graduates ‘know’ the art of Raqs Sharqi and its sister dances inclusive of Flamenco, South Asian popular culture/Bollywood and most impressive traditional and pop versions of African dance plus fusion.
Tonight I was a patron at their 2nd annual fundraiser titled, “Inter-Continental Cultivation.” It was $25 to attend. From what I understood, for an additional donation of one’s choice, one could enjoy a nice reception at the start featuring a full spread of appetizers. So one could say the show was roughly $30-$35. I paid $25 and left the good eats to the great guests…and I must say this was one supportive crowd from start to finish.
The show began at 7pm with Atlanta star Jendayi, founder of Jendayi Dance Company as our host. I felt she was a great pick because she too is known for taking on new dancers and led them to explore all sorts of exciting ways to present the art of Raqs Sharqi. She has often offered a little bit of everything and that’s what we were seeing tonight with Global Dance.
The program was full, featuring over 20 dances…many of the sets featured dancers in cute MissBellydance.com oufits, veils and costumes. I can certainly say that the company was proud to hear that their clothing would be featured in such an important show.
The show included cultural facts about the dance, origins, etc and were all delivered in a fun way that kept our attention. Instead of reading off the entire history for each performer and the part of the East they were representting, the hardline facts were added as tidbits at the end of the piece.
The diverse crowd was loud and supportive THROUGHOUT the night. Sometimes a bit over the top with their own versions of zaghareets and modified versions of Eastern praise. I saw a number of parents, aunts, uncles and other relatives in the room. This was a completely different crowd from what we’re used to in the bellydance community where it’s often dancers, their hardcore fans and students. While that is changing and more people from the public are coming in, we still see the faithful faces of our longstanding dance teams in this town. Global Dance hosted what felt more like a family night. There were bouquets of flowers in the hands of just about every person there, ready to be presented to their children and performers. It reminds me that we need to start doing that more in both communities…
Annnd, it was held in a church! How long has it been since we went to churches and places of worship to learn ethnic dance? Some of my fellow internationals may remember Arab Christian churches and how the basement of those churches, had big vast open spaces with prayer rooms, a gigantic commercial kitchen and long tables for extended family meals/entire community dinners. If you were fortunate, Aunty so-and-so would teach a raqs class on a Tuesday night after language courses or something…just to keep us from losing our traditions and cultural pride. There the hyphen in your nationality was dropped and you were just Philistineeya vs. Palestinian-American or whichever nationality the foreign born parent originated (because we’re always our cultured selves first in our community and we’re proud of it). And the cultural pride was flowing like the wine as the young ladies of various ethnic backgrounds danced in unison to music from all over Africa…from Cairo to Cape Town, so much history was in that room and this was the result of it…a new generation of raissat ready to raqs!
Memorable Performance Highlights
Egyptian Folkloric – Saidi
Featured two dancers, one seasoned, one brand new (a child). They started out together, the young girl extremely shy, both dressed in assuit fabric. They danced as individuals with the seasoned dancer doing her own passionate routine. When the seasoned dancer completed her set, the young child stepped forward and began to dance. She even spun the cane, an exceptional technique usually mastered at a much mature place in one’s dance education. Both were a delight to see.
African – The Click Song
In East Africa, there are languages in which there is a ‘click’ sound. It’s usually identified in writing with an exclamation point ‘!’ and it was nice to see this included in the presentation. The outstanding Margaret Phiri of Zambia was the lead teacher in this choreography and song presentation. She clearly did a great job working with these children and proved that she is a treasure in the International Community of Atlanta.
Lacy Perry – Fusion
I’ve seen Lacy perform this piece on multiple occasions. It’s the routine to ‘Crystalize’ by Lindsey Stirling. She really puts her mind, body and soul into ths presentation and it always a crowd pleaser.
Chaloupee – Modified Version of Mira Betz’ Choreography
The students wore tribal fusion costumes and got this modern look down to a science, mixing modified melodia pants with maching tribal dance tops, their colours were black and white. It was one of the best salute’s to Mira Betz I’ve seen by a troupe. What a way to honour someone!
What followed were many dances by the children, longer choreographies than most kids can take on successfully. This is where it got really impressive. These kids were doing more than 1 set that evening. There were tons…and they were in 85% of the pieces, yet there were few mistakes. Most, if not all, remembered every step (at least from where I was sitting – on the very back row – it looked fairly flawless), without much prompt. Maybe Leizel was up front guiding them on what to do but they seemed to have it down. Again, very impressive. How many times have we seen dancers our age need to stop, watch/side glance at their troupe members the whole routine or something slightly disruptive? They in some ways put us to shame with their high energy and willingness to get out there and just give it a go. Yes, that’s a bit bold to say, but you had to be there to see it… it was unreal…and they did this wearing lots of MissBellydance.com costumes, too cute!!!
Roma (Gypsy) Flamenco
Another powerhouse that evening was Lady Evadne Medina… omg… whaat!? This lady commanded the stage, the audience clapped out the rhythm of the palmas while she danced and her choice of music was excellent. Where the heck have I been that I’m just now seeing her again? As if she were best friends with Aunt Rocky during the Aunty’s Flamenco days, she really gave us her heart and soul. There really is no way to describe this outstanding performance. It was moving and gripped my soul from the moment she got on the stage to the very end. Draped in red lace and a full cotton Roma style skirt she laid down the law and I loved it! It wasn’t overbearing with too many techical or theatrical steps, just a good solid Roma style Flamenco and I can appreciate that. Hugs for her! Masha’Allah wala helowa!!
There was a young woman who danced to a beloved piece by Oum Kalsthoum. I always get worried when I hear the music begin and see a cheery faced raissa ready to do his or her thing to this sacred music. Thankfully this young lady embodied the words and evoked the spirit of the song. It was quite lovely.
Bollywood Fusion by Christine Thompson
This was very well done…beautiful execution. She could have been a soloist in a film or easily a part of a large choreography.
Bollywood Dreams Suite
This was the most impressive of the performances. It featured the entire global dance school’s children doing a very intricate bollywood choreography with scene changes and group transitions. It was good enough to be placed on a Fox Theatre stage, I hope they keep this in their repetoire, quite amazing…stellar!
This was another popular African tune that I heard when I was a little girl as the song spread all over the contienent and well into the diaspora. It had already come out when I was born but it’s a classic and I was thrilled to see Generation Z embracing it alongside their awesome teacher, the honourable Lady Margaret Phiri. Very nice!
Jahara Phoneix aka Sweet JP also performed and did two ATS sets, both incredibly impressive as always. I particularly enjoyed their presence there. Their zill work and ability to keep everyone’s eyes glued to the stage is impressive. Very hard to have a ‘good show’ without them! Much love and respect!
Following JP were their little mini-me’s from Global Dance. These young ladies did their own sort of ATS fusion and they were absolutely awesome. I’m so impressed with this school and I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be a part of larger programs and conferences. I do hope that Leizel will take them to TribalCon, Third Dancers’ Intensive and not keep them just in the international community. It would be nice to see both skilled communities come together to do some strong programs featuring the uniqueness of both ‘brands’ so to speak.
As mentioned, the show was gorgeous. I didn’t include the details from each piece but these were the ones that stood out for me, featuring strong examples of the culture and its art. I was absolutely grateful to see that our international community youth are in good hands, learning ‘advanced basics’ of Raqs Sharqi and coming out like gems on stage. I pray the girls are able to stay safe in this dance environment as they are now on the world’s stage, meaning they will be judged for technique, they will be measured. I want them to know that they represent a very ancient and proud culture that loves them. I’m happy to see their progress as cultural ambassadors through dance. I certainly support their efforts and I wish them the strength and the resources to continue down a strong and successful path. Mabrook!