Bellydance Time Capsule – Celebrating The History of Raqs Sharqi

*As always these comments are all mine and do not reflect the views of any organisation or team with which I am affiliated. These are just the thoughts of one international community member. I speak for myself and not the entire expat community of Atlanta or the Southeast.

Raqs Al Seniyya - Maghreb tea tray dance, beautiful addition to the historic show

Raqs Al Seniyya – Maghreb tea tray dance, beautiful addition to the historic show

The theme was ‘time capsule’…and the brilliant minds made this into a true Raqs Theatre style show on par with the ideas and programs that are done in Raqs Theatre in Egypt and beyond. So I was very happy that there was a context versus a bunch of beautiful women appearing on stage out of nowhere and just doing their thing. This allowed for those who are not from or familiar with the culture to understand what was being presented. So there was Faaridah and Maeia preparing for the show and they stumble upon this treasure box. The box contained items from every era of Raqs Sharqi since B.C. The intention was to feature each prop and then present the dance that matched it? I think they decided at the last minute not to do that as it would take up so much time and there were already…what? 27 performers? I don’t know. But…each piece had an outstanding historical intro so that was really all that was needed. I would like to see this done again but perhaps video taped and sold as “The Best of Raqs Sharqi…a time capsule” and include the historical skits and settings. Then, distribute it globally. If any of the producers are interested in doing that let me know. We can discuss it…then work out the funding and get it done.

Highlights
Here are just *some* of the amazing performances from that evening. There were more than 12+ sets, so the show was exceptionally long but very nclusive!

Jendayi and her team presented the B.C. style of Raqs featuring the series of Goddesses that are often referenced in this era. It was a very nice opening to the show. What stood out for me were the costumes. They featured a lot of the era’s script and symbols in a very tasteful way. It didn’t feel kitschy or silly. It looked good. Congrats to this team for thinking about their music, fine details and respectful choreography void of stereotypes.
Again, excellent opening. I wish this had been presented at the Fox with bold lighting striking down like lightening highlighting each person’s moves. Very nice piece…

imageTallita’s Meleya Leff routine was awesome! I really wish we had more Egyptians in the audience and fans of this genre with which to get into it. I was ready to get up and wiggle around like my uncles (and bold aunts) would do for this one. She wore a red dress with the traditional flower accents on it and a black meleya with which she spun around playfully. Meleya Leff is one of my favourite dances from our industry and I’d happily have that piece presented at important milestones in my life. Tallita did a fantastic job! Mabrook wa shukran.

Aziza Nawal’s raqs team presented a piece from the Mazin family (Egypt). I won’t go into historical facts about them because that would require a publisher and a summer for readers to finish it due to their vast history in the region. In short, the Mazin sisters were very well known in their area and would put on shows in house and at functions. This performance by Aziza the Great!! 😉 and her team brought me to tears. This family has experienced some great challenges of late and their surviving sister still faces opposition in various ways due to the “times.” It’s nice to see someone celebrate these ladies for the simple fact they are a huge part of Raqs history that gets pushed aside and overshadowed by the commercialism by which our culture has been touched. So, shukran Aziza and team for being so inclusive. The whole presentation, from zills, to their signature formations was just gorgeous.

Culturally accurate Ghawazee - Mazin family salutes

Culturally accurate Ghawazee – Mazin family salutes

Diane Coriani, founder of Zeina Dance Company floored us with a very authentic and passionate Karsilama. I just need a minute, I might start crying again… whew…mercy. It was so good. When I was a little girl, I used to love to watch the men dance and I still do. This is where I learned the art of our cultural entertainment. The men were so spirited and would leap into the air with kicks and spins. They would put their heart and soul into any space that let them and at the Turkish festivals, Greek fest and other programs you’d see those guys shoulder to shoulder, line dancing til nightfall. Drenched in sweat and still looking ultra amazing, they’d pause, clap and one person would go to the center and tear that dance floor up!!! THAT is what Diane did last night. Like a member of a male trio, she got out there with her footwork and fierce energy to bring to life what few get to see outside the international community. She later said that she wished she had been able to really bring it forth or something but I think what she presented was enough to get the point across. Her silk road suit and regional kufi cap was a thing of cultural couture. I was there when she bought it and I was wishing they had one my size because I wanted it too. It really worked well for this set and I do want to see it again. If I was in good health I’d go out and do it with her, I absolutely miss this so much and, much like what Aziza and her team presented, felt like this is a part of our industry’s history that isn’t presented enough to western audiences. As we see more of the cultural dances of the people being put on stage, I’m sure that Karsilama and other regional line dances -plus some- will be embraced. Mabrook Diane!

Samora started off ACT II which pushed us into the most modern eras of our art. Having a raissa at a wedding is now a staple, not a luxury or an option. If you don’t have a dancer, then you might as well have not gotten married in my culture. I did expect Shemadan but going along with the modernity of our time, this was a typical scene that could have played out in a non-hyphenated American home. A couple stood before us, Ryanne was the officiant and the two got married. They threw the bouquet, Leizel caught it, knocking me down in the process (just kidding, it legit landed at her feet, I guess she and her husband can renew their vows for fun. xoxoox Hire Samora for the ceremony!!), and then they sat at the wedding table. The decor, while minimal was so perfect. Orchids in vases, white decor highlighted with cool lights. Samora’s costume matched the setting and she danced to a modern Egyptian song which talked about the singer’s passion and feelings. It was quite lovely. She did an amazing job, you could really feel the emotion and sentiment. Not everyone can master songs like that but Samora did and did it very well. At the very end she placed the veil around the groom and exited the stage just as the lights dimmed. THIS is theatre raqs and was perhaps the most beautiful scene of the night in that it literally looked so real I’d say that couple can just consider it legit and go buy a house. It’s done! Loved this!!!

Kalinka and Tallita presented a Khaleegy and Kawleeya mn al Emirates (Em-ir-ahts vs Emir-aHtees). Tallita appeared first and did a very beautiful and well executed Khaleegi piece that suddenly paused. She slowly turned around to find Kalinka coming out to the dance floor with powerful steps and footwork that eventually led to a grand set of Kawleeya moves. That, too, stopped and suddenly the music changed as the ladies exited…beladi masri music blared and out they reappeared in white thobes with hair ties styled just like Aida Nour and Tito’s duet from the International Bellydance Conference of Canada. How am I supposed to stay seated during presentations like these? It’s not possible!!! I struggled!! omgooooodness, aiewwaaaaa! yani, helowa!!! Merci mamnoonam, it was incredible!!!! Muito Obrigada ladies!! Next time, make it longer!

Jahara Phoenix appeared next with American Tribal Style pieces that would have made Carolena Nericcio quite proud. (Out of respect for this lady, I hope everyone learns to say her name correctly. She has influenced us greatly in one way or another…so…yeah, I’ll get a recording of her saying her name so we can publish our salutes and have precise pronunciations) Basket, swordwork, zills and floorwork were first presented and followed by iconic ATS raqs transitions. It was amazing as expected. JP really know how to become favourites and household names. I was completely swept away, so much so that when it was over I sort of “realised” ohh, I’m in a theatre…this was not a dream. Yeah, it was THAT good.

imageThe Golden Era was first presented by Lady Morrigan who presented a flawless set representing the great dancers of film (both Hollywood and Egypt, but more Egypt). There is an old recording of shows featuring Nadia Gamal and several others…Naima Akef? I can’t remember but it’s out there and the cover features one of them with a simple bedluh – in this case a bi-quarter skirt and bra top, matching shoes and an expression to die for. Lady Morrigan nailed that entire image. Not only did she master it with physical features, she matched the moves as well including the fleeting vanish at the end so known to many films when the dancer leaves the stage or exits the scene. I was mesmerized, I was taken away…we were immediately transformed back in time and it was spectacular, I felt like I was in my uncle’s old shoppe near the university, drinking strong coffee with a stack of old VHS tapes of movies. It was perfect! If you love historical representations of the Egyptian film era, you would have loved this…awesome, awesome, awesome!

imageBeth Mendez’ piece was another impressive one. Her opening was the strongest of the routine and her costume realllllly took us to a new place in raqs couture. She made it herself! Find the photos, it’s to die for…that thing was some intricate piece of work. I loved it!!!!! And that ruffled veil…oohhh honey! I’d wear that out on the town! This set was a fusion of Flamenco and Raqs Sharqi. It was not the fusion we’ve seen with big huge commercial steps and kitschy choreography. This was a truly hardcore solid set that featured music from the region…the classic material. The music won me over in this case and the next time I see it, I hope it includes a troupe or maybe two others to give it a really strong feel. It was a lovely piece that should be celebrated by more than one. Very nice material, really impressive.

Northside Tribe presented Gothic Bellydance – that Lacy…man she sprinkled some seasoning on that troupe, they were hot! They looked gorgeous, sexy even. I think I said that Lacy’s recent performance at EOB14 was one of my favourites since I first saw her perform but this was even better than that one. Their whole troupe was insync and you could feel their fondness or maybe even attachment to this genre. Very nice presentation!! That could easily be placed in a film project or some sort of scene in a modern movie. A-grade material right there! Congrats!!

Awalim in Time Capsule show

Awalim in Time Capsule show

Awalim performed one of my favourite pieces in their repertoire. It’s rare that I don’t see Ziah with this team but they held their own out there and did a fine job with it. Every single second of that routine looked flawless as if they just break this out at random any time and any place. I also enjoyed hearing the history of East Coast Tribal/ECATS. That was a great compliment to Awalim’s contributions to this region. I do feel they are quite a powerhouse in that genre and remain a staple on the scene. What a great achievement!

imageShahrzad was the final performer of the night…and when she entered the stage in that gorgeous solid gold pailates costume I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Sure enough, she again, jussssst blew us away. I couldn’t even write anything about it. I just put my pen down, put my phone for taking pictures away and just sat there bracing myself. I can’t even speak on this…I just cant. You had to be there to see this. From deluxe, supreme tummy flutters to flawless travelling steps and regional moves that can only translate well on someone who bathes themselves in the Arab world to the audience interaction, it was allllllllllllllllllllllllllll flawless. ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL OF IT!!! CADA MOMENTO!!! TUDO, TUDO, TUDO!!!! I. CAN. NOT. STRESS. ENOUGH. HOW. INSANELY. AMAZING. THIS. SET. WAS.

The show…was great!!! There weren’t any bad, boring sets. Everyone brought their A+ game…they were on it! I was so glad that I had been able to make it. I was so happy to support the project and huge thanks to Faaridah for wrangling this together alongside all of the others. It was an enormous task that came together beautifully and I’m so happy that we can do things like this here in Atlanta…the southern gateway to the world!

Enjoy this great video of Shahrzad

*Full review on Raqs Atlanta – Yahoo!

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