*Dedicated to Preston Vance for his amazing job as Master of Ceremonies during the show. He helped make the event great! Thank you Preston! 🙂
This has been the hardest recap of any weekend I’ve had to do since Black Orchid 2010 – the year Tito Seif arrived in Atlanta for the first time and we all nearly passed out from excitement each time he walked by. I have struggled to get my thoughts together, to find a moment where I didn’t just melt into a puddle of swoon and tears over Andrus Ramir. I mean, how could I have possibly forgotten his affect on me? Maybe because this time it was double the amount of amazing? In the past, his workshops have been very clean and elegant with layers of cultural influence from greats past and present such as Randa Kamal or Tito to name a few. This year it was all that and heaping dose of “oohhh yaaaasss!” He has a real “presence” on stage and in class. It’s so unassuming due to his humbleness and gentle manner. He’s not walking around wearing a crown but he is certainly royalty in this raqs world. I’ll try to explain…but words will never be enough. Andrus Ramir is …an experience. You need to experience “Andrus” for yourself.
Day two of workshops began bright and early on Sunday morning. People trickled into the studio tired but excited about what had been nicknamed the “Dirty Sha’abi” workshop he was to teach. After the warm-up, things just got real…I mean, the movements, everything just, yeah… he…um… he werked it. He created a piece of material specifically for these attendees that was useful for the stage yet also very “real.” One issue I’ve had with some performances of Sha’abi is that it looks manufactured. Andrus’ approach to this was again to make sure the dancer learns how to “make it their own” vs. copy his every single move in “his way.” There’s influence and then there’s carbon copy. We all know carbon copies never look like the original…the print is a weaker hue. In this workshop, the dancers learned how to make the dance bold with vibrant movements of their own. In turn, when they danced you could see each person’s personality and I loved that. I almost wished they had performed as a group of “teacher and students” for the show. That’s how enjoyable it was to watch them.
After lunch the Saiidi workshop took place. Attendees took their canes/assayahs and went over a lot of information. Sadly by this time I was just too mesmerized to focus on anything but him. I had a severe “case” of superfanitis. It was pathetic really. All I did was watch and swoon. I have no idea what he said. I just enjoyed watching them spin the cane and dance around. And at this point I wanted to apologise to the very hard working Jenny who pretty much spent her afternoon handling show logistics, peeking out from behind her computer to enjoy the workshop all while trying to keep me from dying of superfan overload. I don’t know how she would ever want me to volunteer with her again because I was a bundle of “messed-up” from the excitement of watching this man. Isn’t that sad? I didn’t want to write it but honesty rules the day in my world. My admiration for him is also my weakness in that I’m useless when he’s around. Superfanitis 2, AA 0. Just take his workshops, I can’t describe them, they’re just outstanding and he’s worth it…
Behind the Scenes – Before the Show
We got ready for the show at the studio due to lack of time to run back to our homes. I ran out and got a cake because it was Jacques’ birthday and if he showed up I wanted to be prepared. When I came back, Jenny, Andrus and Heleshia were all dolled up to the max…glitter, lashes and all. The swoon continued, my poor heart was on its last beats. I became nervous as I do before most shows. I couldn’t eat, I could barely drive to the venue. I was a complete bundle of nerves and excitement. It was so intense I actually wanted it to just “be over.” It was a true case of “I’m so excited, I can’t stand it, make it stop.”
I arrived early enough at Steve’s to get a nice parking spot. That’s huge for that venue because shows there are quite popular and the overflow of fans is pretty intense. Tonight, the line-up included mega stars from the Atlanta Bellydance community, people that are usually dancing at various restaurants and are unavailable, in Egypt or finishing up their degree in dance at local universities.
Saniyah, Julia, Maiea, Lady Morrighan, Jaki, Dujanah “The Du” and Andrus were the first act. The second included Zeina Dance, Dahne, Evadne, Maddie, Heleshia, Karma and a closing number by Andrus that nearly sent us joyfully into bankruptcy court and the local ER.
Saniyah was a POWERHOUSE at this show. She did a sha’abi number that featured some of the modern moves currently popular on the streets of Egypt right now. In a cute beladi pants ensemble Saniyah proved that she pays attention to the culture far beyond the basics. She made a lot of people VERY proud that night and was a perfect open to the show!! Perfect open! She set the stage for what was expected the rest of the night.
Julia from Global Dance performed and her costume really sold the set. It was a fusion piece full of grace and elegance. She’ll do well in her pursuit to join a modern dance team when she graduates. And yes, we all loved that hat!
Maiea was grace for days and days…and days. She is such a natural at this art. She wore a beautiful bedluh and mastered the art of “performing” without it looking like a “performance…” I can only guess who her influences are. She was just really “giving” it to us that night and it was most appreciated.
Mina tore up the stage! I don’t know any other way to put it. She was so into her set that she nearly shook every bead off that hipscarf. Her costume stayed in tact though parts of the belt we scattering far and wide with every shimmy of excitement. She too was very generous with a double dose of raqs sharqi; a beladi set and a little extra. One of the students that travelled two hours to be there was noted as saying how much they enjoyed her. She was memorable indeed! Thanks Mina!
After the floor was swept from Mina’s love and energy, Lady Morrighan graced us with what I feel she does best, the vintage bellydance that we used to swoon over as kids in our expat community stores and homes. I can remember watching old movies and VHS tapes in tea shoppes featuring dancers from the 70s and other eras (when dancers were in films). She embodied that era perfectly with her costume and excellent raqs skills. She’s one of a kind and if that’s what she presents on her DVD then it’s worth buying it. Check her out!
Jaki and Tarabiya Music Group were an EXCELLENT example of ATS. Theirs was a revved up classic piece that was energetic yet suave. Jaki did floor work as part of her entrance and continued with her dance partners in full American Tribal Style glory. It certainly swept us away, it was just beautiful! Helowa yani…helowa!!
The Du (Dujanah) was what Tarik would call a hot pepper. She was twice her own energy and I can only hope others can appreciate that much emphasis on moves. That’s some hardcore raqs hafla material that I haven’t seen since 2005 when I was in Nashville’s International community visiting my fellow expats at an Sha’abi Masri filled hafla. Her style looks like a mix of Turkish and Egyptian. You could just see her joy overflowing and we were swimming in it. She’s a real crowd pleaser and deserved every bit of the praise she received. Big thanks to her for participating the entire weekend and being so supportive. She also won the veil fans during the MBD trivia portion of the show.
We needed an equally energetic number to follow that and boy did we get it. Andrus Ramir!!!! He rounded out the first half of the show wearing a stunning rhinestoned, canary yellow ensemble with a matching rhinestone belt and “Saudi thobe white” colour pants that were so stylish Ryanne and I both acted out scenes of ourselves wearing such a dynamic fashion in wishful thinking. Despite looking like he owned the House of Raqs Couture, Andrus’ fashion did not overshadow his performance, but instead complimented his outstanding skill. He made great use of the stage with incredible travelling steps and graceful turns, elegant spins and level changes that often touched the ground and sprung back up. There was so much “goodness” in his work. I…I can’t even begin to do justice to his performance with these petty words. Not to mention he danced to music that featured parts of the song from the darling binti raissa that did the killer raqs moves as a kid. I used to watch her videos on repeat and that’s kind of what I wanted to do that night and the days that followed. I wanted so bad to record his performance and watch it over and over again.
Andrus’ work feels like the raqs magic of so many greats with his own signature touches. He puts it all into one set followed by a drum solo. It was so sleek and I dare say sexy that I thought, “Well, what else can he possibly do better than this? What is he going to do for a second set to top this off?” I mean…sigh. If you were there at Paris on Ponce 2007, Black Orchid 2009…and numerous other shows (especially the one in Vegas) YOU KNOW how he is on the audience…there are “reactions” to him. Those performances were talked about for six months! Those shows BROUGHT him back to Atlanta because we couldn’t have a show without him in it…it was THAT crucial. I dare say as great as those performances were, they were NOT the one he did this night. He perfected perfection…it was so good it was scary…ridiculous even…it brings me back to the time a woman smeared her lipstick by accident when talking about a show. He was SO good, the microphone dropped itself and rolled out the door. You know honey…you know! I’ve not been “right” since…
After intermission and giving away some trivia prizes to our smart crowd who answered questions about Africa and Middle East, our very knowledgable Diane Adams and her Zeina Dance Company graced the stage. Their opening was awesome featuring a trio of ladies with colourful veils. It was something straight from the theatre as they whisked themselves away midset and out came the troupe in a Flamenco fusion number. Let the video speak for itself. It was genius!!! Sometimes I just want to get married so Diane and her team can dance at the ceremonies. I’d get married every weekend if I could have performances like those of Zeina Dance.
Dahne followed with an energetic set that you’d see at parties back home. She too embodied the modern styles we see in Egypt at the moment as well as some of the costuming. Hers too was a canary yellow with rhinestones and very fitting for the genre she represented. I really loved having her represent that part of our culture as it’s usually only seen by those who “know where to go” to have a true hafla masri. Shukran Dahne!
Evadne’s set was perhaps my second favourite to the flamenco inspired number she did at Global Dance’s fundraiser some years ago. Wearing all white and her husband on the drum, she mixed so many African, Cuban, Southern European and Middle Eastern influences that it was a struggle to not jump out and join her. Had I been wearing a skirt I might have lost control and done so. Loved her energy and the fact that she “represented” so many cultures that are bypassed and overlooked in our dance world. Beauty for days! Gracias y shukran Evadne!!! Hugs to your husband for his contributions and driving such a long way to be there with us!! It means a lot! 🙂
Maddie was simply “mad” in the best way. Her costume was perfect for the set she did; a black and white checkerboard pattern with red panels and straps. It was very unique and quite nice! She really threw herself into this body and soul. All of the technique and skill of a good dancer were present in her set. Oftentimes joy and skill are hard to mix without looking manufactured; she mastered the art of “realness.” For Maddie it was second nature. I’m very appreciative of her participation in this show!
Heleshia… how do I set the mood for what she did? Years ago in Egypt, Dina did a set where she was very subtle with her moves yet you felt every single one of them, felt them deep down in your soul… Though she barely moved two inches in diameter she knocked the audience down and was met with hails of praise. This was Heleshia tonight. She was raqin’ it out in a very subtle way. Wearing a long black off-the-shoulder dress with a slit that touched her legs mid-thigh, she was well aware of what she was doing, puttin’ a hurtin’ on the folks. I saw you Heleshia, I saw what you did there. Well played ya jamila, well-played. 😉
Karma’s performance was better than THE BEST. She nailed it! From her dynamic entrance where she whirled around the stage in a graceful manner while wearing a long cloak that matched her costume, to the powerhouse pose she gave at the end…her signature of strength; she KILLED it. I mean she laid down the raqs law. She is another that is just a natural when it comes to raqs sharqi. She has certainly had some amazing influences. As I said some years ago, Karma will give a lot of other professionals MAJOR competition. She just brings it like no one else. It’s all her, unique yet traditional in the sense that her style is a coveted gem in the region, you can’t find it on just “anybody.” We are very fortunate to get to see it here in Atlanta. Gargantuan thanks, Karma!!! *Did you know she made that costume…all by herself?! Ya Whhaaat ya whaaat?!
So we’re picking our chins up off the floor from Karma’s performance when suddenly the music changes and here comes Andrus in this hat…a rhinestoned hat…and this super cute jacket. In this too cool of an ensemble, he elegantly runs through the audience like all the mega stars. He raqs down the center lane and onto the dance floor revealing this…coordinate… that was all kinds of “Ima leave you speechless.” Though the music was awesome, I was not familiar with it because I don’t listen to a lot of pop music but it was so fitting of his set that I want more. It was Yanis Marshall meets Middle Eastern Dance complete with glitter heels. I was done. My poor chin fell off my face and just rolled under the table and my heart ran around the room while my soul attempted twice to leave me. I’m not joking. He got about 30 seconds into that set and I felt the heart palpitations. I said to myself, “This is it…I’m going to die. This is my last night on earth. I’m done. G-d is going to let me pass away watching something and someone I truly love.” I’m not in the least bit joking. I was literally trying to prepare myself for “the other side” while enjoying this last set. Normally I’d have stood up and carried on but I was fearful any sudden movement and I might snuff out a lot faster than expected. I was just like…I can’t even discuss it. That performance was sick…sick in the omigah, you just made the earth stop rotating for 15 minutes sense. Insane in the “I’ll drink your bathwater” sense. It was as bold and daring as raqs sharqi can be and he made it look SOOOOOO ****ing good!!! Andrus said he was bringing scandal…and he brought it…a whole cargo load worth of scandal and the crowd. went. absolutely. WILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There was a lot of fumbling behind me, a wail of screams and zaghareets at their highest pitch plus hands flailing. When the first song ended, I looked out into the audience at all these shocked and beyond excited faces. People were still screaming and to my right all I saw were hands filled with money. I was so happy to see that others were feeling what I felt and that justified me (and others) reaching for wallets. As I began to fumble and flail trying to grab random cash in my bag, I watched him unzip…wait for it…unzip this jacket and reveal yet another stellar ensemble. He turned around, did some kind of elegant drop and ended up in a Yanis style glamour stretch on the stage, leg up honey…ohhh…more screams filled the room. By this time, dollars were brushing my ears as people were lining up to get close enough to shower him with dough. It was effin mad in there. We might as well have been “in da club.”
But wait, there’s more… Andrus continued his set with all kinds of outrageously amazing material. There were raqs infused walks and level changes, floor work that Mr. Marshall would have certainly appreciated. The money was just flying. Bills all over him. I threw in mine when the area was clear enough to bless him with it. It was over the top and too much goodness for our souls, we weren’t ready…we. were. not. ready. for. IT! NO!! We were not! I’m still not ready. I didn’t know what to do with myself for dayyyyyyyyys after that show. I didn’t sleep til Thursday morning and the show was on Sunday night! I was a mess!! He not only stole the show but stole our hearts, our minds and sanity. We were gone!
We want more!! So much so that three, COUNT THEM, three people came up to me after the show and demanded to get his contact info so they could book him immediately for various shows. Our Sable has already staked a claim on him for a private soiree at her south Atlanta castle. Who can blame her?! I thought to just bring him up here just so he can attend Essence for fun and perhaps perform if Faaridah is open to it. He has done more than taken his raqs game up a notch, he is standing above it staring down saying, “Baby I’m worth it…” And HE IS!!
I can’t write much more about the performance because my health isn’t too good. He put a hurtin’ on me from which I can’t find a way to heal. We went to dinner that night and I all but proposed. I just want him around all the time. I was emotionally distraught after his performance as much as I was healed by his continuous hugs that weekend. Ohhh that Andrus….he is SOMETHING!!! OUTSTANDING is a petty word…petty! And knowing him, he has only just begun.
Big thanks to all who supported the weekend. Dancers remember you get 10% off orders at MissBellydance.com for the next two months. I owe all of this to Jenny as I was too starstruck to be of much use the entire weekend. Big hugs for Faaridah who took a chance on a whim idea to “…bring Andrus, let’s reignite his Atlanta fans.” Jenny and Faaridah laid out the candles and he lit the flame! Thank you!!!!
Much appreciation for reading!
*Many photos were taken by the very talented http://www.fergsunderground.com – check out his other work as well. Great photos from the show are on Facebook!
*UK version for blog