Review – ‘Rak the Kasbah’ 5

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Absolutely stunning costumes on stellar dancers! Beautiful!

Summer of Sharqi has arrived all over the world with events heavy on the East Coast calendars. One of the shows I attended before heading up to NYC for an undisclosed amount of time (what I like to call the ‘back & forth’) included Atlanta Fusion Bellydance’s 5th Anniversary at the Woodruff Arts Centre.

The Venue
This is one of the best venues in Atlanta for celebrating art. I was more than pleased to see that the long years of hard work and sacrifice were going to have a decent stage with amazing lighting and just all around stellar acoustics and more. I know that these types of grand stages are not possible for everyone but they sure are an incentive to attend, raqs deserves a stage. If you’ve never been, understand that this theatre is adjacent to the High Museum, which may very well be one of my favourites on the planet.

Attendees
I was thrilled to see so much support from families and notable dancers and teachers from the Atlanta Bellydance Community and in particular our leader and great mentor Nicolas Ayoub mn al Lib’nan. Support was also inclusive of those who were literally running from their own dance shows to make it AFBD’s. In some cases, dancers were posting pictures of themselves at their Sunday afternoon gigs and then next thing I know they are standing in front of me waving and saying hi in the theatre…now that’s some love!!

The Show
I feel like the show started when we arrived. On a big screen were photos and videos of AFBD’s 5 years of performances…amazing memories as visuals. It was phenomenal! If you’ve been following them like I have then the memory reel brought you to tears. My superfanitis flared up, I had to go get a drink to relax…a double at that!

Performance Highlights…

Performers Included:

AFBD Students,
Shoshannah Estell
Aziza Nawal
Kalinka do Brasil
Hadil
Rafi’ah Dance Company
Ebony Qualls
Virginia Mendez
BJ & Olivia
Asuhndree Dance Troupe

 

Major contributors, principal teachers and AFBD’s famed students opened the show with several really beautiful ‘raqs vignettes’ that gave us a taste of what we were about to see. Much like what can be seen on professional DVDs of greats, this was a snazzy idea and a perfect way to start the night. Each one did what they do best such as a superb bit of tabla solo from Aziza and fusion from Faaridah and her students.

Shoshanna’s performances were spot on and the best I’ve seen from her yet. She had great music, a stunning costume (in both sets). Her group piece featured music that sounded like selections from the Roma groups in Eastern Europe. That’s not easy to use as it does require some research, you can’t just say, “oh I love this, let’s just put our own spin on it” without taking the risk of offending someone. This was a nice set and I’d like to know more about their inspiration for it.

The ladies performing to the song ‘Drama Queen’ did an excellent job. I believe the choreography was by Hadil? The performers were absolutely beautiful!

Aziza’s set was so good it was a pain to stay seated. I should have sat up front with Nicola so we could zaghareet simultaneously and carry on as we do. No better way to enjoy one of Aziza’s power packed raqsets than to have fellow Africans and Arabs with which to celebrate it! Loved her costume, her audience engagement and flawless execution of some of the top moves in the industry. Aziza is one of those raissat that just can’t be matched. So glad to see her association with this fantastic and talented group!

Kalinka and Faaridah's costumes were as awesome as their amazing choreography

Kalinka and Faaridah’s costumes were as awesome as their amazing choreography

Kalinka and Faaridah’s duet in costumes to die for was one of the best sets of the night. Their mix of raqs sharqi from various regions topped off with Samba Brasileira was stellar! Their choreography was that of Jilinna’s but they put their own spin on it and made it work VERY well. If you didn’t see it, you truly missed out.

The AFBD team’s Bollywood fusion was another amazing highlight of the night. It was inclusive of south Asian inspired costuming, diya candles and other visuals that really made this piece unforgettable.

Ebony, of whom we in ATL were introduced to via Black Orchid Dance’s Vegas tour, stole a chunk of the show with a fusion raqs piece so signature to her yet so outstanding. I don’t even know how to describe her. She is just a must see. She was recently at the Theatrical Bellydance Conference in NYC this past weekend. Had I not had an appointment on 56th I’d have run over to see her at the event. I hate I missed it, she’s one of those performers you just want to see over and over again. Kudos to her brother for flying in for the anniversary weekend.

Virginia’s performance was more than we expected. In stunning costumes that reminded me somewhat of Amani el Omr’s of Lib’nan, she raq’d the theatre with industry moves that she has clearly made her own. She’s a natural. Her entrances and stage presence reminds me of Dina in the late 90s. Eventhough I believe Andrus Ramir is her junior in the industry, she included movements that he used to do, the ones that drove us mad with excitement to the point we were on our feet (i.e. his first performance with Black Orchid Dance 2009). This drove me to bits, I was floored with admiration. Loved It!! Her second set had her out in the crowd and up on the theatre seats’ armrest much like Tito Seif did at the beloved IBCC 2008, who can forget that? All of this excitement and raqs moves that reminded us of the great dancers of our day made Virginia one of the most memorable of performances that evening. I am very sorry that we, in Atlanta, have not had her on our stages sooner.

Other great sets of the night included Fatin and Nahari’s duet. The beautiful Faaridah and Leena in sync with their team covered in my favourite colour, seasplash green…beautiful! The student pieces were also gorgeous, my favourite being the Saiidi cane piece with the assuit beladi dresses; this was one of THE BEST renditions of that style by a troupe that I’ve seen since I’ve been here with respect to those I saw from Company Zeina. Those ladies danced as if they’d been doing that number for years…it was perfect! I want to be friends with the raissa in the red. She really ‘brought it’ like the aunties and younger cousins back home! Stunning!

Lots of MBD looking HOT on the ladies that evening!

Lots of MBD looking H-O-T on the ladies that evening!

Lastly, I want to note the number of cultured faces that sparkled throughout each number. There were some stunning women including those with heritage from all over the globe and that is so important when representing cultural dance. I was thrilled to see so many regions of the world represented, that won me over. In a world where we are still made to believe (through various agendas) raqs sharqi is not an ethnic dance but instead a Hollywood invention for one size and bedluh clad dames only (men continuously excluded), it was great to see a diverse group of dancers throughout the show. Others in Atlanta have gone to great lengths to showcase culture as well so it’s nice to see that ‘culture’ and diversity is the norm for AFBD as well. Mabrook!

I wish this team decades of accomplishments and many fantastic shows ahead! Shukran for allowing me to be a part of it that night!
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Ready for more? Check out Essence of Bellydance in conjunction with Bellydance Evolution!!