Hitting All the High Notes – AFBD Anniversary Show 2020

Last week, Atlanta Fusion Bellydance hosted their annual show. I’m so glad they were able to do this incredible anniversary showcase as it has become one of those events we look forward to attending. Still, I worry, how can we do all of these online events with ease? Faaridah mentioned after the show, that putting that all together via Zoom wasn’t the easiest of tasks. But she sure made it look that way!

The AFBD Anniversary show was an online spectacular that was a cut above the other shows I have seen so far. They were very creative with hosts and MCs. They gave background about the dancers and had history interwoven in their presentations. So, in turn, you got a lot more and were able to connect with the dancer on a different level vs. the constant stream of dancing. That’s not to say that all the other shows aren’t valid, I’m simply noting that, THIS SHOW raised the bar on how to present an online raqs showcase.

AFBD’s show opening was their version of the trending transformation videos where each of the participants goes from their “everyday” to their dance persona. There’ve been a lot of them in circulation but this one was very thorough with longer segments than most of the transformation videos one sees in the newsfeeds. It showcased all the ladies and those involved with AFBD over the years.

I won’t go into detail on all of the performances but I would like to highlight some that really STOOD OUT.

Beatrice’s abbreviated version of the Salimpour family’s work was incredible. She wore a stunning costume that allowed her to salute the family and still put her own personal touch on it. Suhaila’s moves are not easy to mimic or emulate. You have to really study for a good few years to capture her intricate work and Beatrice seemed to do this with ease. Of course, Beatrice has been a student of Suhaila for a very long time and that’s perhaps why she is able to do such a phenomenal job. But it’s important to note that one has to have some dedication and skill to pull that off and she did that! She did that! Thank you, Beatrice for such an incredible performance!

Troupe Mumtaz has a habit of delighting those of us from the international community with legendary songs that are staples at our parties. They used several traditional pop pieces including a classic from Moein of Iran. I think the video insert for this was from the Wizard of Oz showcase, the opening act or preshow extravagnza to which we were treated? Again, they always represent the region so VERY well! I was full of tears and can feel them swelling up now as I type. That was such a joy. I want to also note that their transitions between songs is spot on and to be admired. Watch how they segue vs. stop and start again, now that’s a troupe under excellent direction. Aziza knows how to put on a presentation. Mabrook wa Masha’Allah. Loved it!! That’s worth hiring for a wedding.

Lotus Fusion Dance Ensemble performed one of Faaridah’s choreographies in Brady Bunch Screens. The only other troupe I’ve seen pull this off so well is Yasmina’s troupes in Toronto. To get so many dancers to look so insync under these circumstances is a feat! There were lots of visual screen transitions that aided in the polished look of the set. I was quite impressed and enjoyed that so much!

I especially loved the Nicola Ayoub salute at intermission, you can’t have a good show without him! If you don’t hear his voice during the show you just don’t really have a show. That’s my opinion. He needs to be a paid guest at every event. I hope whenever he chooses to retire that he will be the guest of honour front row. He provides a comfort and ambiance that no one else does. No other member of the international community is as marvelous as that man – especially when it comes to show support. He is IT!

The Salimpour Collective is another one of my favourite dance troupes and they did Shik Shak Shoq, justice. It was perfect! I had to go back and watch that again because it was THAT good! They used a remix of the song and the video was edited so that each dancer’s unique sets were included at just the right time. If you watch LBC and some Egyptian TV networks, the pop music videos are produced in the same fashion. It was so spot on. It made me wish they had a show called The Real Bellydancers of the United States of America…because that’s what AFBD is. I see a lot of troupes and have travelled for so many years to find a group that truly moves me and this piece right here reminded me of why I love Atlanta’s raqs scene so much. Outside of Toronto, London and the region itself, you will be hard pressed to find another team so polished and dedicated to creating visually stunning presentations that make you happy to pay whatever price the ticket is to be present! Thank you, Salimpour Collective! You kept it real!

Heidi was phenomenal! To the naked ear, her music sounded like a mix of Eastern European meets Cuban rhythms. Think of the early days of Balkan Beat Box minus the beatbox and in its place absolutely soul snatching melodies that make you want to get up and join her. This was complete with costume changes on her transitions. Loved it! The exact music she used is noted in the video. So be sure to take a look. She’s another that really made it her own and added in “herself.” I’m going to watch her again.

Rafiah Dance Company’s early work was also featured. I have said this many times, they have been stellar from the start. I remember AFBD’s first beginnings in 2009. This was the year Atlanta had gone full pro for so many groups and teams. Across the board, you went to a show and it was in a grand ballroom, it had all the accoutrements of a show in Egypt with all the enthusiasm from the crowd. It was probably the birth of MUST SEE raqs comm as it would become known for its professional presentations for many years after. Amar Gamal would soon come as would so many others and thus we are who we are today because of great teams like AFBD (and TribalCon) because they knew the standard to bring to the city. There are some shows you just can’t miss and AFBD’s conferences and events are certainly on that list!

The show ended with a piece from last year’s anniversary show which was Aziza Nawal’s amazing choreography put to one of Issam Houshan’s incredible pieces that can be found on his CDs as well as one of the BDSS’s early collections. They did it justice, hit every note and really made a great closer for the evening.

If you enjoyed the show as much as I did, I suggest you tip those ladies. If you enjoyed reading this review tip those ladies. If you love them just because, tip those ladies! They deserve it! This is the 11th year that they have bedazzled us with professional bellydance and Essence of Bellydance continues to bring in top stars from the region so we don’t have to dish out thousands of dollars and go there ourselves. While we should all be making trips to the Middle East for a variety of reasons, AFBD and Essence has helped us save a lot of money by bringing the Middle East to us in its modern form. For that I am super grateful! If you haven’t had the chance to see the show, please do that now hereTroupe Mumtaz (2):

$FaaridahTaylor (find this profile on cashapp and tip to your heart’s content)
Big thanks to those wearing MissBellydance.com! Hats off to Orlando and his amazing work on the production! Huge thanks to all those who tuned in and left some love in their pockets!

Thank you for reading!

Sincerely,
Your raqs obsessed Nigerian-1st gen Am International Commty Member, A. Andinha.

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