Bellyqueen

Oct. 5th, 2008 09:18 pm
alonewiththemoon: Drumlin Farm Banding Station 2016 (shinymaia)
I wasn't sure what to expect from the Bellyqueen show last night, having heard from people whose opinions I respect that it was a bit shaky the last time they were here.  But I respect their talent and hugely respect that they are promoting and touring with their own company, so off to the show I went.  And I was very glad I did!  It was really a show put on by belly dancers who also do many other forms of dance; there was a backbone of belly dance, but a lot of other stuff was layered on top and packed around it.  I don't have patience for a lot of fusion, but while the skill levels varied, I felt that all the non-belly dance stuff presented was done with care for what was being presented and without being forced.  I also really admired the flexibilty and design of the costuming.  Several costume pieces reappeared throughout the show but looked different every time.  For example, the bras and belts the dancers wore for the saidi piece were the same as the ones they wore in the homage to tribal piece, but accessorized so differently they had an entirely different look.  (though we did see dramatic proof that nobody should ever be changing too quickly for that security safety pin...)

The opening number pretty much let us know what was coming, with the entire company on stage as mechanical dolls dressed in various styles and performing various dances.  Amar Gamal was the most adorable cowgirl ever, two-steppin' along.  I had no idea she was such a physical comedian.  Particular highlights for me were the Quentin Tarantino-esque girl gang fight, with its slow motion comic book action; Kaeshi and Amar's duet as dueling disco divas; the city streets lost Asian woman bit--I still am not at all sure what exactly it was about, but it affected me and I'm still thinking about it a day later; the insane ab work by the woman with the long blonde pony tail, she has yogi abs; the dancer who sang Batwannes Beek, turning the stage into an Egyptian movie nightclub; and a number that I thought embodied a lot of the spirit of the show, the raqs sharqi-tribal-Indian dance-flamenco number done to Frequency.  I didn't think the Indian dancer and the flamenco dancer were quite up to snuff, but the idea was there, and when Amar Gamal and the tribal dancer (Elisheva, maybe?  I'm not sure) performed the chorus of mixed movement vocabulary together, it was breathtaking and honestly brought tears to my eyes, thinking about how rich a tradition dance is, in all its forms.  Throughout all the numbers, I greatly admired the choreography and the use of space/formations.  In the Frequency piece, there was one point where the four dancers were walking in an intricate box pattern--we did something similar in Sarab and it is much harder than it looks!

Perhaps strangely, my least favorite pieces included the saidi group number.  Or maybe it's not that strange, as that's where I'd be the toughest critic.  I didn't think most of the dancers really had that saidi folkloric feel internalized--one or two, maybe, but that wasn't enough to lift up the entire piece.  Also those heavily decorated canes might look all cool and shiny, but they just don't fly like the plainer ones do, like 747s next to the Concorde.  The piece was low energy for me.  I also didn't much care for one of the modern dance-y veil pieces set to Chinese (I think) music, just more proof that you really can do veil to anything.  But even the pieces that didn't rock my world weren't *bad*, just not as strong as the others.  Throughout the show, there were places that I thought could have used more work, or the dancers more polish, but overall I was impressed.

I was already sad about missing out on an Amar Gamal workshop, after the workshops were cancelled, but after watching how Kaeshi and the company used popping and locking etc, I'm actually sorry to have missed out on Kaeshi's hip hop fusion workshop.  I think I would have learned some useful stuff there, for gothic belly dance at least.  Hey, that's the one major fusion they were missing!  Somebody with more gumption and ambition and time than I should approach them about that.

It was also great to see Mira Betz in person, having just seen her do very different material on the By Dancers for Dancers DVDs.  Her 20s thing was well done (and the ivory and antique gold costume just stunning), but I felt like jumping up with my Tempest Nouveau Noir flyers and yelling hey, come take a workshop with the lady who frickin' started this!!  I might even include words to that effect, only nicer, in my advertising.

All in all, I would very much recommend the show to anybody.  M really enjoyed it too and I think there's a lot of general public appeal here.  I wish Bellyqueen loads of success as their tour continues!
 
alonewiththemoon: Drumlin Farm Banding Station 2016 (shinymaia)
Really excellent panel discussion on fusion and Middle Eastern Dance held at the Carnival of Stars festival in CA last November, transcribed at the Gilded Serpent.  There is a lot of food for thought here, and I was really pleased to see these very influential and scholarly dancers say a lot of what they said.  If only everybody could be so rational!  And Gothic belly dance gets a nod from Debbie Lammam:

"Souhair Zaki, to me, is the exemplar of a fine Oriental soloist. She has the emotional nuance, the technical control, the eternal femininity the the dance represents at its best. So, as long as we keep Souhair Zaki in our minds, then no matter how far we go into Gothic Belly Dance or Randa Kamal doing a Brazilian shimmy, we’ll remember that, and that’s our responsibility. It’s all we can do to be as educated as we can about the historical record."

Amen!

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