Monday, June 12, 2006

Dancerpades Part III - Fusion Confusion

And now … drum rolls … we have the fusion segment of the Solo competition. I knew this would be the most interesting segment because the organiser’s school is infamous for their myriad attempts at fusion. I was also curious as to how the Alhambra group would handle Fusion because of their usual focus on traditional dance.

I was in for a shock and a nasty one too and here are the reasons why.

Fusion Confusion
Shireen returned to the stage in a black and silver bedleh. She again chose to wield the veil and her fusion was to a remixed version of Sarah Brightman’s Harem. It was unfortunate that Shireen chose to use a veil again as she needs to gain a better control of this prop first.

The interpretation of the music was very poor where the veil was swirled wildly in response to the fast-paced chords and poorly executed spins demonstrated a weak sense of timing and rhythm. There was a lack of real fusion and again, Shireen appeared very uncomfortable with this genre and her own performance.

I gave her a 5.5/10 for presentation & framing; 3/10 for fluidity of technique; 4/10 for expression; 3.75/10 for originality & creativity; and 3.75/10 for rhythm & musicality. Overall, Shireen scored a 4/10.

Anyone who knows me knows that Tarkan is one of my least favourite singers. Shayna sashayed into the stage dressed in a tragic costume of gold and yellow. No, those colours are not tragic, but the dangling strands of beads protruding from her nipples and middle of her top were. The look was ridiculously tacky and cheap and reminiscent of burlesque skits – I half expected Shayna to begin twirling the dangling strands a la stripper tassels and suspected that Janet Jackson was reviewing her costume malfunction tapes.

Matters were not helped by her choice of music. Tarkan’s Come Closer made me feel anything but that. She showed some nice camels but she kept posing throughout the song and unfortunately, these poses were as tacky as her costume. I found the choreography discordant and strange but the ending truly made an average performance into a travesty. Shayna’s ending pose was a side lunge, facing full frontal. Which meant her skirt split opened to reveal a tremendous amount of leg and a very undesirable crotch view.

Second time in a row today! Have the gods no mercy???!!

I have only seen this incredibly vulgar move once when her teacher performed at a concert last year. When she performed this move in panoramic view of a middle eastern dignitary, the poor man averted his eyes, made his apologies to me, immediately called it a day and left the building. That they have not realised just how offensive this move is, is a mystery to me.

Having heard of this infamous move but never seeing this for herself, poor 3A was horrified and hysterical with laughter. I was so embarrassed for Shayna I could not even look at her as she left the stage oblivious to her huge faux pas.

I gave her a 3.5/10 for presentation & framing; 4/10 for fluidity of technique; 4/10 for expression; 3/10 for originality & creativity; and 4.5/10 for rhythm & musicality, making that a 3.8/10 for Shayna.

Thankfully, the next dancer was Maia. With her hair pulled back, a dramatically simple and tasteful orange, yellow, silver and white bedleh, Maia was a welcome return to common sense and classy style. When the first strands of Ancient Ruins by Issam Houshan drifted through the auditorium, I turned to look at 3A, who has been choreographing and teaching to this piece of music in the last month.

We were both eager to see Maia’s interpretation of this beautiful piece of music. While I thought it was not as well interpreted as it could have been, there were some elements which I rather liked. Maia’s natural lyricism and fluidity were much in evidence and I found myself rather enjoying the performance as she demonstrated a musicality and appreciation for her song choice that none of her schoolmates had shown as yet.

I was not fond of the over-use of pharoanic arms and she fell prey to her school’s predilection to standing with their legs too wide, resulting in a rather unattractive stance. Her taksim was quite lovely, as well as her shimmy undulations. I particular enjoyed a combination of exaggerated semi hip circles and heavy hip drops that she executed flawlessly.

Again, I noticed her weak interpretation of drum accents – something she might want to improve on so that she can be a more well-rounded dancer.

I was not sure if Maia had a hand in the choreography or if this was, yet again, another lifted piece from some master teacher. But I sensed that she did put in a fair bit of herself in this dance item. She had a grace and true feel of music that was quite rare in this contest, prompting me to mentally place her in the top three pending the performance of the rest of the contestants.

I gave her a 7/10 for presentation & framing; 7/10 for fluidity of technique; 7/10 for expression; 6.5/10 for originality & creativity; and 6.5/10 for rhythm & musicality, giving her a well-deserved 6.8/10.

Joey returned in a flash of gaudy gold and iridescent beads. While the costume was eye-catching, I did not think it flattered Joey as her earlier costume of bright red did. Since she is such a tiny dancer, it almost looked like the costume wore her instead of her wearing it.

Evidently pop fusion is Joey’s thing - she looked more animated than in her Traditional segment as Shakira belted out another of her Latin fusion songs into the room. Still, Joey did not appear to be in full form as she lacked the passion and energy required for a Shakira song.

Her chest accents were wobbly, which is unlike her, and these were noticeable as the choreography over-used them. Joey’s reverse camels have always been impressive and here, she did not disappoint. During her salsa fusion dance, I noticed her strangely floppy wrists and am still wondering what that is all about. Her hip accents were better executed this time but something must be up with Joey that day as she repeatedly displayed a lack of power and energy in her arms.

Again, her disturbing facial machinations detracted from her performance – pity.

I found the choreography competent but uninspiring and not particularly interesting. Therefore, I accorded Joey 5.75/10 for presentation& framing; 6.5/10 for fluidity of technique; 4.5/10 for expression; 5.5/10 for originality & creativity; and 5.5/10 for rhythm & musicality. This stronger performance than her Traditional piece garnered her a 5.55/10.

The next review hurts me more than it hurts the dancer. It was obvious Veira was performing a flamenco fusion number with her skirt and de rigueur flower in hair. What was odd were the two sandalwood fans clutched in each hand, which looked like made-in-Taiwan souvenirs.

She began the performance with a dramatic bent position still with the two fans, closed, in each fist. My hope that one was a backup was dashed. Someone please tell her we do not dance with two fans in flamenco. I expected a dramatic start to her interpretation of yet another Shakira song. Instead she gave a flick of both wrists to open up the fans, rose to upright position, braced the fans against each inner wrist after some desultory flurries and proceeded to continue to dance pretty much in that open-fans pose the whole song.

There are so many things wrong with that that I do not even know where to start. I was only glad that Antonio Vargas or any one from the flamenco community was not there. What was the point of the fans if Veira are not going to use them for anything other than directional devices? I was tempted to call her in for illegal abuse of props

It was less dance than posturing and except for her costume, there was really no flamenco fusion of any kind. A contestant had approached a flamenco dancer/teacher friend and former teacher of mine for a private lesson a week before the contest. I wondered if Veira was the contestant as I was embarrassed that my friend would assume that all middle eastern dancers would disrespect his dance form thus.

Fusion is harder to achieve because you need to be proficient in not only one but two dance forms in order to fuse them seamlessly. There must be a balance between the two and you have to observe the fundamental principles, spirit, soul and rhythm of both. Simply using a prop (and a wrong one at that!) and wearing a couple of accessories does not a fusion piece make.

I was so troubled I was almost reluctant to give Veira any points but I forced myself to be objective. She got 4/10 for presentation & framing; 3.75/10 for fluidity of technique; 4/10 for expression; 2/10 for originality & creativity; and 3/10 for rhythm & musicality. Overall, Veira received 3.35/10.

The moment Layla entered the room, I knew she was doing an Indian fusion piece. Her perky self was dolled up in braids, shocking pink choli and harem pants with gold trimmings. Frankly, she looked like a Chinese Barbie doll in Indian costume. Very cute.

When the music began, I knew immediately it was Rose Ottaviano of Perth’s Bhangra fusion choreography, which she taught at a workshop here last year. Same music. Same choreo. Again, it irked me that she was not attributed or acknowledged.

Layla’s natural effervescence gave the performance a nice energy and she made good use of the stage which was something that was lacking in many of the contestants.

However, while Rose had a certain edginess and dynamism when she performed this number, Layla was just too cutesy and bouncy to make this dance truly memorable. She also messed up the two fingered hand gesture that Rose choreographed and made it look more like a fight sequence in a bad Chinese kungfu movie … you know the ones where neon pulses of coloured beams shoot out from the ubiquitous two fingered stab of the usually mustachioed villain? Rose’s cheeky but controlled bhangra hand flicks also ended up looking like a drunk gay guy trying to flick flies off his head.

Personally I rather liked Layla’s performance even if it is not one of my favourite Indian fusion numbers, with much respect to Rose whom I adore and respect immensely. Layla’s energy and perkiness are always pleasant to watch and it was a pity that the audience was so lukewarm towards her performance. Again, I believe it was due to her over-use of facial expressions, moues, pouts and various artifices that distanced her from an audience who may have found this artificial and contrived.

I gave Layla a 6.5/10 for presentation & framing; 5/10 for fluidity of techniques; 5/10 for expression; 2/10 for originality & creativity; and 5.5/10 for rhythm & musicality, giving her a total average of 4.8/10.

Ayana walked onto the stage and I groaned. After the travesty of Veira’s so-called flamenco fusion I did not think I was up for another attempt. At least her fan was more like it, I consoled myself. I rather like Ayana’s lines. In her poses, she showed an attention to posture, lines and details that translated well although she had a tendency to lift her chin too much.

And at least Ayana twirled the fan while dancing to the Alabina song. Except she did not stop twirling it for a very long time. That was all she did while doing box steps, pivot turns and traveling. It got rather monotonous fairly quickly. Fortunately, she offered a slight variation when she closed the fan and started swiveling it with the other hand much like the “Copacabana move” terrorised, I mean, popularised by Barry Manilow centuries ago. I made a note to ask Antonio when Barry Manilow became a flamenco dancer.

Probably sensing my waning attention, Ayana proceeded to execute an extended floorwork routine beginning with a well splayed frontal split. She balanced the folded up fan on her head and this would be impressive if the fan was actually longer by more than 1½ inch from either side of her head. Perhaps due to her intense focus on balancing the fan on her head, her shoulder shimmies were completely off rhythm and tempo.

There is not much to say other than she wore a nice red and black costume and the exit off stage at the end of the song was really weak. Let’s just move on to the scores … 6.5/10 for presentation & framing; 5/10 for fluidity of technique; 4.75/10 for expression; 3/10 for originality & creativity; and 4.5/10 for rhythm & musicality. Overall, Ayana received 4.75/10.

Nyssa performed yet another item from her hotel lounge gig. This mediocre pop fusion number was so memorable I cannot remember the song. But I do remember Nyssa’s extremely bad arms. She is the biggest culprit of the chicken shimmy arms among all the dancers I saw that day. She was also the fondest of the “come-hither” arms. As I promised myself, I looked for a penknife to stab myself with but luck was not with me.

Her Sohair hip accents were fairly well defined but lacked power. On a positive note, she looked quite pretty in her cobalt blue and yellow bedleh.

Nyssa’s excessive flogging of pharoanic arms coupled with her slight awkwardness made these look like she was either surrendering to some looming UFO or making a very exaggerated shrug at one. The other distressing arm movement was the one I termed as the “sha ji” or chicken slaughter move where she mimics the throat slitting of a chicken clasped above shoulder level. Actually I remember a taekwando movement that is rather reminiscent! Hey, maybe it's a taekwando fusion!

Nyssa received a 5.5/10 for presentation & framing; 4/10 for fluidity of movement; 3.75/10 for originality & creativity; 4/10 for expression; and 4/10 for rhythm & musicality. Overall, she scored 4.25/10.

At this point, I am developing a migraine much like 3As by the end of each segment. I will return when my battered senses and sensibilities recover from the latest onslaught.


Anonymous Matt Weber said...

But how can we read anything you have to write with any credibility when you say you don't like Tarkan? LOL

Musically you are veiled and in a desert with no where to go.

Obviously your roots prejudice you and you can't listen to anything with an open mind or heart.

3:52 am  
Blogger MM said...

Interesting that your profile leads back to Tarkan's.

Matt, were you the gentleman with the glasses seated across the aisle from me? Because there were only two Caucasian men at the event. No? Wow, amazing you can astro review then.

Just because I do not like Tarkan does not mean I am musically veiled. I prefer to be materially veiled. Who can I go to to talk about that?

I do not like Tarkan because I simply do not enjoy his vocals. Sure, he's cute but I still would not like his voice crooning into my ear. Even Mustafa Sandal I can only take in controlled doses. Hey, just like some people hate Black Eyed Peas but I actually like them heaps ... I even forgave them for Humps.

And being in a desert with no where to go ... actually to correct you, I do. It's the mirage over there filled with people who make assumptions about my "roots".

By the way, is that a hint I need to visit my colourist? That astro projection sight is whacked, dude!

Strangely enough, in case you are implying that I am Turkish music-biased and Egyptian culture obsessed, er ... no. I happen to have not a drop of Egyptian blood and woah! How weird! I actually have Turkish blood and started learning dance the Turkish way.

Gee, obviously I was not listening with any kind of mind or heart. Out of sight!

LOL, but thanks for commenting and visiting, Matt. I enjoy the "verbal" repartee. Do come back again and give me more of your scintillating views. But come on, don't be shy (sic), give us a proper profile and email so we can actually exchange comments without the cloak of cowardice.

By the way, you're not the music distributor for Tarkan or chairman of his fan club are ye? Because, can I get an autographed picture for a friend? He's gay, has an immense crush on Tarkan and convinced Tarkan is gay too.

5:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good comments on Maia. She was off the hitting the shimmies and beats because of a dislocated knee. She did put much effort and work into the choreography. FYI, the choreography is her own. I thought despite being influenced from the masters, she certainly did inject her own personality into it.

4:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I was actually there watching the competition on the first day for both the solo and troupe categories. I have to say you did a very thorough writeup.

However, I feel that u are bein over-critical abt Shayna's endin pose. It was not as vulgar as u have described as i was sittin in the centre of the auditorium,pretty near the judges and i did not see any exposure of crotch (i would have noticed!)

Btw, the song she performed to was "Jaleo" by Ricky Martin, the sexiest Latino dude alive(i don't care if u don't agree!)

1:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I was actually there watching the competition on the first day for both the solo and troupe categories. I have to say you did a very thorough writeup.

However, I feel that u are bein over-critical abt Shayna's endin pose. It was not as vulgar as u have described as i was sittin in the centre of the auditorium,pretty near the judges and i did not see any exposure of crotch (i would have noticed!)

Btw, the song she performed to was "Jaleo" by Ricky Martin, the sexiest Latino dude alive(i don't care if u don't agree!)

1:32 am  
Blogger MM said...

You know, if you have anything to say, it would be good not to hide behind cloaks of anonymity ... because now I have to call you guys Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2 just like the Bananas!

OK, Anonymous 1 - just wondering if you are the husband in which case, could you let Maia know I think she did very well and it was a pleasure watching her dance. I did know about her knee as she told us about it prior to the competition and we were worried that she might do herself permanent injury - especially with the African fusion piece.

Glad to know that her piece was original - being influenced by but not stealing from the master teachers is a good thing. I look forward to seeing more of Maia and am sure she will prove herself beyond the clouded judgement of this competition.

Anonymous 2 (you guys are evil as I now have the Bananas in Pyjamas song stuck in my head) - How can you miss it? 3A was further up than you and she was cussing as she now cannot buy lottery! LOL. Well, let's agree to disagree as I am stil traumatised by the sight and do not want to envision it in my little head again.

Also, I am quite sure it was not Jaleo as I would have taken note of it. And re Ricky Martin ... well, I do think he is cute and so did all the cute blokes who visited his suite when he was here. My gay friends want to do nasty and unimaginable things to him so I better go now to my happy place ...

10:47 am  
Anonymous love_to_dance said...

its me again. just came across the comments from "annonymous 1 & 2".

Yah I did like Maia's performances. Her's was definitely one of the best that day and I found out from reading your blog that she did so well albeit hurting her knee! I was very impressed! pretty disappointed that she din get placed in the first 3 though. Funny eh, if as speculated that the competition is not a fair one, why never let Maia win cos she really shined. Makes you wonder doesn't it?

As for Shayna, I don't really remember her whole dance but did feel it was repetitive cos she did a lot of shimmies and turning? I remember her cos she came right after the first dancer who was quite puzzling to watch. *blush*

Her song is the Ricky Martin one lah. dunno the title but the chorus goes something like "ole ole ole olah...." Hm, can enlighten me what you mean by side lunge? if not wrong, she leaned back and pointed when she end right? Is that considered a side lunge? sorry, don't really understand...

Anyway, I agree with you on their troupe along with Ayana, Zahira and Layla. I really really like both segments. They are so good and synchronized! I really think they deserve to win the local segment too! but well, i guess the Sundance was just that much more impressive with their acrobatics.

7:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rose Ottaviano is Perth's Foremost Bellydancer. I am an old intermediate student of hers. She is very at home on the stage. Rose is Original and is spinning with creative flair, and she set a whole new standard of professionalism. Unlike my first (outdated) teacher bellydancing teacher (unnamed for now) who once yelled out in a class "COME ON GIRLS!!! MORE SEX!!!" to supposedly "encourage" us to dance with more flair. CALM DOWN is all i can say!!! I am middle eastern, and I get upset and rattled when dancers (god forbid TEACHERS) in the West think bellydancing is just pole dancing to a Tabla. It is not. It is sensual, it is beauty, it is strength, it is technique, and its our old cultural art form. So, Rose, thank you for honouring an artform. Its too bad you were not duly acknowledged for your Choreography!! Shukran! Aiewa!! PS> Tarkan is a little erratic, but he knows what he is doing with Saeeidi rhythms ! He is big in Turkey when i was there in the summer of 06.

3:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rose Ottaviano Rocks. There is no other way to put it. She is Australias foremost Bellydancer! Wish there was an equiv in Canada! WE MISS YOU ROSA !

4:03 pm  

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