Yanis Marshall, Ya Cheb! Admiring Men in Movement

Yanis Marshall in Atlanta with the Glow Studio Team

Yanis Marshall in Atlanta with the Glow Studio Team

Sometime last year a notice went out that Yanis Marshall was coming to Atlanta. It sort of zipped through our email like a flameline on a race track. I don’t think I even read the whole event description before my paypal account had already deducted the money and I was ready to go with ticket in hand. I couldn’t believe it! My heart just collapsed and I sat dumbfounded that this gorgeous, beyond talented specimen of beauty was coming not just to Atlanta but to visit our quaint dance cirlce…to teach and entertain us! Between that time and the day he arrived I could barely continue my weekly look at videos of him online because the anticpation and excitement was just too much. I could barely handle it!

Workshop Day II

My hands shook as I drove around in circles trying to find Glow Studio where the event was to take place. The day before he had taught  two workshops. I was there for day two. I wanted to go to both days but  I knew that would look “stalkerish.” I was so nervous about seeing him in the flesh. We were not going to see him perform but we did have the option of being observers…no pictures, no video allowed without his permission. I arrived 10 minutes in advance of the 11:30am doors call time. He got there about 2-3 minutes after. He wore big sunglasses, his gorgeous brown hair with natural highlights/flecks of gold were swept away from his face. He laid down near the mirror, face toward me. He may have been staring at this big haired girl in white frames with their tint of blue thinking, “surely, you’re not going to attempt to do this…” or maybe his eyes were closed and he was resting peacefully with his beautiful assistant Khadeejah by his side (I think that’s her name). Either way they were both an image of perfect health, gorgeous and sunkissed…fit! Very fit! Stunning! I admired him laying there without staring too hard but it was difficult. I wanted to go over and touch him…just run my hand over his arm and pet him like a living doll. He was just THAT gorgeous.

Within seconds of my last glance, as not to be rude and stare a hole into him, Sabeeya and her team jump into action with an amazing warm up to one of Punjabi MC’s classic hits in a remix. It was quite impressive how dedicated they were to that piece of music as if she starts her day with that on full blast (I know I used upon its original release). I enjoyed watching them. Their Bhangra-pop warm-up was cool!

As soon as the song finished she turned to Prince Yanis and said, “we’re all yours, it’s all you now.” And he automatically snapped into it. As he made selections on his computer you could hear what he had stored on it…a wide variety of music from just about every genre imaginable. People scurried to the floor, slipping on the appropriate gear to handle the extensive warm-up and performance style sequence to follow. This particular day the attendees were learning a lyrical piece. The warm-up was long and rightly so…it wasn’t until toward the end that I realised he was still warming up the group. The way in which he warmed them up was so beautiful I thought, “he’s created his own warm up choreo?! Clever!” But certain warm-up moves that I was instructed to do during my two years in ballet and modern dance revealed that he had only just begun…and the way in which he led the class in these movements was soooo beautiful. Everything, every second was just breathtaking to the point I began to cry. I held back my tears for about 20 minutes and then the pressure and emotion from watching the warm-up just got to me. I grabbed my bag, searched for my tissues. I was so overwhelmed. I was fearful of closing my eyes because I knew the tears would just pour like it a river followed by sobbing. I feared I’d become disruptive…the struggle was real.

I will not give away his secret sauce or explain the details of the post warm-up sequence but the music, the moves and what I think were impromptu choreos just…melted my superfan heart. I looked at him thoroughly. I absorbed every turn, every sweeping hand movement and level change. From the moments where he was on his feet to the eye-catching, heart-stopping floor work I just didn’t look away. I even moved into a different seat so I could admire his flexibility and the way he presented his art to the class. He corrected people with gentle nudges and touches, it was just so lovely. My word, I’ve never seen anything like it. At one point he did the moves without them and we all just swooned with admiration for his talent. Then he separated the room into groups and each team did their level best with much success. It was admirable to just see everyone push through these non-raqs beladi moves. For a group of people who have been presenting fusion and bellydance for the past few years it was a far cry from our current norm and they mastered it beautifully. There was a young man in the group who teaches hip hop and he, too made, it through the class with passion and determination, everyone did.

Yanis and new friends/students in Atlanta

Yanis, Khadeeja and new friends/students in Atlanta

Our afternoon concluded with lots of warm hugs and pictures. It’s rare that I take photo but I did that day. This was a moment I wanted to remember forever and I believe I will. I can still feel his energy and spirit. Heaven help me I could barely speak English around him, most of what I said dribbled out in French. It took me an entire week to get over his departure back to his country and life. I all but cried again.

I spend my days working, volunteering and spending time in the company some very talented musicians. I A good deal of my life is following bands and working with fanclubs; all of those experiences are life changing and lovely. This one, in particular, left a big footprint on my soul. Even as an observer I felt every bit of what he taught the class and I know we were extremely blessed to be in his presence. Baraktohi ya Yanis, G-d bless you for days, your time and kindness were more than appreciated!

Thanks for reading,
AA

Many thanks to Glow Studio for bringing him to Atlanta!!
To learn more about Yanis Marshall’s extensive background click here

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Anxiously Awaiting Andrus Ramir!

image After an amazing weekend observing Yanis Marshall, I have a double helping of extra appreciation for the men in the global dance community. It’s rare that I am suddenly bragging about anything but I made Mr. Marshall’s arrival very public on my social media pages and the fact that I was going to get to see him. I would have happily paid $100 to just to watch him. He is so worth it. So when Andrus Ramir told me that Mr. Marshall is one of his inspirations I just beamed. Two people I absolutely admire coming through Atlanta is a dream come true. Where Yanis Marshall is a bright and shining light for contemporary, modern and a multitude of dance genres, Andrus Ramir is our Raqs World Diamond! His presence lights up a room in ways I’ve yet to have seen from other dancers. I can’t help but put him on a pedestal.

I first saw Andrus in 2006 or 2007 during the last part of the summer when one of the former Bellydance troupes, The Fates, hosted one of the incredible conferences we have in our gem of a city, ATL. At Paris on Ponce he was walking outside and just his walk alone made me turn my head and I completely froze in my tracks. Surely the heavens laughed saying, “AA’s life is about to change.” Unable to speak for a few moments, I finally asked others around me, “Who is that beautiful person?!” No one from Atlanta seemed to know at the time but as soon as he got on that stage with those veils and tummy flutters that define perfection we all wanted to know who he was…the rest is history. He won us over within seconds!!! He began to get invited to Atlanta annually and in the three years he’s been away learning from the greats and further developing his signature style, his craft has become incredibly seasoned with even more amazing fluidity, class, beauty and the trademark Andrus Ramir awesomeness that we crave uncontrollably. He is …everything! I could easily write a book about this man…and I might!

Whether you’re a long time fan or new to the Andrus Ramir kingdom of crazy shimmies and ta’arab for days, you’ll be pleased with the upcoming workshops taking place next weekend hosted by Atlanta Fusion Bellydance, World Bellydance Alliance and their partner MissBellydance.com. Andrus is teaching three courses and one of them is Sha’abi. There’s also a show on Sunday night at Steve’s Live Music featuring some of the International Raqs Community Members who have moved to the states as well as some of the areas top stars that often work on Saturday nights (i.e. Karma); so it’ll be a treat to see them in show on Sunday where they can give us the gold! 😉

I certainly plan to be in the audience, savouring every second of Andrus’ outstanding work and performances. Go ahead and join in on the fun. You can register here. MissBellydance.com is giving away some cool prizes to troupe leaders who bring in 5 students or more. If anyone even tweets @missbellydance w/any of the blogs, event flyers, links to the event, etc. on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts their store automatically enters the profile to win cool prizes. It’s gonna be awesome!!! Looking forward to seeing everyone!!

Cheers!
AA

Fractured Fairy Tales, Better Than the Originals …a Review

*As always, these are just my opinions. image

Finally a moment to sit down and discuss my love for the Fractured Fairy Tales show that happened last Saturday night, produced by Jendayi Bellydance Company and her extremely talented and creative friends! I admit I was a little frightened because fairy tales (when one reads the originals) are kinda scary. All those kids meeting odd strangers and animated characters as they try to go see their grandparents or when they’re just trying to get to the market for their parents. Then I thought…”nahhh, it’ll be okay. It’s raqs infused, it’ll be elegant…safe to watch. No nightmares…” hmph…I was wrong. These ladies took these things seriously, bringing the sweet side and the horror to life in the most elegant way! I enjoyed every bit more than I ever imagined!

I arrived on time after a winding route on a backroad. My goal is to find an easy way to get there. If you avoid going to programs in this area because of distance, take my advice, 400N exit 7… make a left and keep going, it takes you right to the place. Atlanta, I have learned is like an old tree. It’s made up of lot of rings. There’s the inner ring which is Metro Atlanta. Just outside of it is a new ring forming called “The Belt Line” and outside of that is 285 which connects all of the neighbourhoods (i.e. Smyrna, North Buckhead/Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Tucker, Decatur and so forth). After that, Marietta and Alpharetta, Stone Mountain and South Atlanta …all of this is in a circle. You can see it on a map. So with that knowledge let’s try to pack that show next year. While it was well attended I was missing some familiar faces…people that would have appreciated this type of creativity and may want to get on board next year’s theme which is “Super Heroes.” If it plans to top this year, then I want to buy a ticket now… Speaking of tickets I want to thank Jendayi for her generosity and inviting me to the program. It was a wonderful welcome back to Atlanta treat as I decided recently to make the city my home base. Much love to all who have welcomed me with open arms. Now…where do I register as a resident? The DMV? Anyway…

Heidi was featured in several pieces in the show and did a great job transitioning between characters for the different sets.

Heidi was featured in several pieces in the show and did a great job transitioning between characters for the different sets.

The Show

The magnificent and darling Kyle, Jendayi’s other half (I adore them both as they have grown on me like Georgia’s Kudzu – I can’t get enough of these two, they are so much fun) opened the show with…wait for it… the song, “Pure Imagination.” She killed it! It was better than Willy Wonka’s…my 3rd favourite movie EVER!!! The original one, not Mr. Depp’s (you all know I can’t watch movies but once every 7 years because I’m easily traumatised). I’m still trying to get past scenes from the latest version so it was thrill to see Kyle make a new memory of this. She put a little flavour in it and it worked very well. In a long red cloak she embodied the idea of a fantasy for all of us. It was truly creative and a savvy way to open this show! LOVED IT!!

One of Jendayi’s sisters, “Minnie Mouse The Host” from 2014, returned this year as a gorgeous Goddess. Throughout the night she read from her big book of fairy tales and added in a bit of humour here and there. With her drum head clapping ornament she praised the visitors to her mysterious land as they danced for us, telling their side of these classic tales.

Heidi followed and performed a piece that was rather an Ode to Kaa from the Jungle Book. It was all kinds of awesome…from the costume to the choreography (which was probaby improv…you know her talent allows her to miraculously mold into anything as if she was born from whatever region the song originated). She looked great and her performance was quite eye catching and held our attention like a charming sweet serpent.

Asmak’s Cinderella piece has stayed with me the entire week. I find myself singing the song selections they chose. This set included the funniest, saddest and most creative of the musical selections of the night. Cindy walks out in the exact adult replica of Disney’s Cinderella cleaning clothes…the whole thing, the brown skirt…all that. She dances around to Lorde’s “Royals.” Now, Lorde has a little place in my soul for her very nice rendition of Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World (yes, I just got off that tour and I’m dying to go back). Then BOOM! That guy I met at Conan’s show…what’s his name? He sings that song “Thriftshop”… Macklemore! His song explodes from the speakers and outcomes the fairy godmother with Goodwill bags. Cinderella runs off with the thriftstore clothes, comes back and is beautifully dressed in a sort of Japanese Kawaii Cinderella Coordinate made for bellydance. Talk about fusion, it was perfect! Then they did a cute duet and bowed away. Awesome!

Sophistique’s Voodoo was a very intense and complicated piece that looked more like it was designed for a New York art showcase than anything. It had modern, jazz, a lot of cultural influence and much more. I have no idea how they find the energy to bring that to life and then head off to do more at another venue not long after the show. We got a treat experiencing such professionalism. They are certainly a dance company on a mission and they will go far. Enjoy them while they are here… Remember your friends Jenny…remember your friends. Dear Almighty Creator, look after Jenny, she’s doing big things and we don’t know how much long we’ll have her with us…

Tinkerbell was performed by Leizel and one of the dancers from her company I believe. There was a great deal of ballet in the opening and that segued into a double sword routine. That eventually turned into a bit of Fusion complete with spins. It was very clean and captivating.

Rumplestiltskin was just freakin scary…but BRILLIANT all the same. The costuming, the creative use of gold clothing border as the spinning straw…and the choreography; it was a set certainly made for the theatre and “BIG SHOW.” Mina and team really set a new standard for theatre work in this genre. It was so visceral it scared me senseless. I almost had to close my eyes and just not watch because it was so realistic and frighteningly perfect. That is one of the most horrific fairy tales ever …imagine having to give your first born away because some scary man did you a favour…and she brought every bit of the fear to life. Nice job! My horror genre adoring cousin would have loved it. I was highly impressed but I’m also looking forward to my therapy session to blot that Rumpestilskin realness out of my brain…it was THAT real. Mercy! ::shudders:: image

Act II brought us a mixed version of The Wizard of Oz…and The Wiz (both of which also frighten me to pieces). AFBD did an incredible job portraying each of the characters. Faaridah’s Tin Man was so life like. Leena’s Cowardly Lion was worthy of an award and the entire crew really put on a show that would make any director of the shows’ replicas past and present quite proud. They took this seriously, making this set a hard act to follow. It was great!

Just when you think that you might have seen the best of the night, here comes The Saturnalia Project with the East’s “Baba Yaga.”  I think this was my favourite of the whole night. And guess who slayed… BJ! I loved seeing her in these pieces. It brought out her grace and beauty. I wish we could see more items like this from her, simply beautiful! Robyn’s contribution to this was also outstanding and the entire group really meshed well, representing all of the facades of this intriguing being. If you’re not familiar with the story, please look it up and also see if someone has a video of it. It’s worth watching to truly understand why it was so nice. Kudos to this team for going outside the norm by picking a tale that touches a region of the world where Raqs Sharqi was present centuries ago. Really great connection! Step aside 1985’s “Masalaama Cinderella,” there’s a new tale in town.

Snow White Meets Maleficent was very sultry and beautiful to watch. The characters themselves were just so pretty it was distracting (if that makes any sense). They were just so gorgeous and thus truly “looked the part.” I’ve always thought the Evil Queen was rather stylish and Snow White was extremely cute …and these ladies were just that in addition to completing a well coordinated choreography. They didn’t sing along with the music so you were able to focus on the “art” vs performance. I really liked this piece. One lady beside me said, “I want to be just like them when I grow up.” I totally understand…I want Snow White’s cute hairstyle and grace. Nice job! Kodi (of whom I met ealier in the hall when her cute top decided it was going to start sliding and she caught it in time; saved by Heidi’s awesome mum who double knotted it for her) portrayed “The Wolf.” There was one line that stood out in the intro of this piece. It was something like, “She knew she had nothing to fear but herself.” And that line sent her dancing as one of the few soloist of the night. It was a fusion set and she was very graceful and lovely.

For me, Brownielocks was perhaps the most frightening behind Rumplestiltskin. Brownielocks (portrayed by a girl with brownish-blonde hair) comes skipping out after the three bears finish a raqs trio routine (big shoutout to the young lady wearing the MBD bra top, that was cute). The sweet little bears are sleeping and wake to find that ol’ brownielocks is sweetly resting in the front of their den with one of their dancing bowls on her tummy. Well…instead of nudging her, waking her gently or any other polite thing that sweet little bears in fantasies might do… they eat her! Right there on the stage, they tear into her like one of my uncles and I on the one night of the year my adopted Persian side of the family serves Kashk bedamjoon with Samak. There were fake blood shards all over the place. It was quite horrific to watch. Of course, I’m the only one not laughing, I was shocked. Good job ladies. Creatively frightening…therapy session here I come.

The Prince rounded out the evening. I wasn’t sure which Prince they were portraying as there have been so many throughout the long history of Fairy Tales. There is one novel, “Le Petit Prince” featuring my first animated crush, who lives on a small planet. I used to watch him on Nick Jr. back in the 80s when I was just a toddler. I loved him. He was a doll with his full head of blond hair and best friend named Rose, a lone flower.  The Prince in this story was sort of like that…you know, gentle and cute! But there was another Prince, the one who never got married. I’m going to assume that this was the one Jendayi’s young daughter portrayed given the storyline…in the form THE ARTIST!!!? That’s right! Le Prince was Prince, the man of whom I ran from my dorm room to go see in the middle of the night, fangirling him as he walked past us in a white robe with “that symbol” on the back of his garment. It was a wild time at the University Stadium’s concert venue door. Yes, this darling played up “the” PRINCE of whom I spent one of the craziest nights of my life dancing near at his afterparty back in 1998…the only person for whom I ever skipped class because I was so worn out from the concert and party. And this performance was as exciting as being there again not to mention seeing his then wife swinging happily from a ceiling swing of that fun venue, fallen shoe and all. What a fun man and a great entourage he had. Jendayi and her own entourage did a marvelous job bringing that same amount of excitement to the stage as they portrayed the tale of both men. The Prince had a cute sky blue guitar and kindly turned down several young women who were interested in him…and threw a party in the end which sent all of the night’s characters to the stage. The music was a mix of Prince’s hits which just brought back a ton of childhood memories and those from college. It was a lot of fun and made you feel a part of the show. They hit a good nerve!

It was a night of explosive creativity! Even the cool pink lights were coordinated with the performances. Every set was enjoyable to watch and you could see that a lot of thought went into every set. I have an elevated amount of respect for the performance teams and I really hope I’ll be able to see the show next year as well. Kudos Jendayi!! You ALL stole the show! Bunch a’ Bada$$es! Raqin’ Fairy Tales like a boss!

Thanks for reading! AA

*Pictures are online by a photog onsite: https://m.facebook.com/155952171129140/albums/900059940051689/