Friday, June 16, 2006

Dancerpades Part Illusion - Curry Confidential

The reverberations of the Solo segment results continue to sluice through the industry like virulent, inky, toxic waste, emitting negative side effects that may take a while to realise but when they do, might damage its ecosystem permanently,

Something shocking apparently happened at the end of the results announcement, of which I was completely unaware of till a week after the event – which is why this update took so long.

Please note that all the statements posted here are, as yet, unproven and the person who divulged the information may go back on her statement when the proverbial shit hits the fan. But it is truly so reprehensible, if it is indeed true, that I could not sit on it anymore. It is too incendiary for me to cast any judgements but I sure have a lot of questions …

A week or so after the entire competition, I finally called Nur Shiblie to offer my condolences and to respond to her invitation to visit her home. The instant she heard my confession that I had pegged Rani as the winner, it released a diatribe from the irate dance teacher.

Apparently, immediately after the results were announced, Nur Shiblie approached the judges to question them on the decision. She rightfully insisted on knowing how they could have overlooked Rani. And here is where it gets controversial.

When Nur Shiblie demanded an answer from the organiser, the latter tried to appease her by saying that “the judges don’t know”. What this could mean leads to speculation. Does this mean that the organiser is inferring that the judges are wrong and ignorant? If so, why were they appointed in the first place? Does it mean that the judges do not know what the results are? Is this the desperate answer to ward off an irate teacher? What does this all mean??? Speculations are riff but answers are scarce.

Nur Shiblie swore (no, I did not take down a written affidavit because I have not had time to meet with her yet. I only managed to obtain her vehement affirmation that this was the truth via the telephone so she may come back and recant, in which case I will remove this entire post and have to make a statement of apology – but till then just read) that she approached the Chinese judge, which would make that Wen Kexin, who revealed that the judges gave the “blue girl”, referring to Rani, the highest marks but “what can they do?”

No one saw my face when I heard this revelation over the phone. Good thing too because I must have looked moronic with my jaw on the ground and my eyebrows up to the ceiling. I was shocked and appalled. If this is the truth, it goes way beyond the “kelong” that we suspected.

Admittedly, at first we harboured unkind and unjust speculations that the Chinese and Taiwanese judges may have chosen “winners” of a weaker calibre in order to give their own students a better fighting chance at the International contest the next day. Yes, yes, that was very small and devious of us to even think that but we were desperate for answers as to how the judges could have been so blind! Look, when unwarranted decisions are meted with no apparently fathomable explanations, it in turns invites unwarranted and unfathomable speculations!

Nur Shiblie also informed me of the two-person tabulation system – only two persons were allowed into a small room without the witness of the judges or any other officials to tabulate the scores. And that one of them had been the organiser and teacher of 11 of the contestants.

All these do not add up to a pretty picture. While we all harboured ambiguous feelings towards the organiser for her affronts and double-talk, we would never have ever suspected her of such blatant fraud. I was truly flabbergasted.

When Nur Shiblie heard the Chinese judge’s comment, she lost it. She began to harangue the organiser and anyone who looked twice at her to protest the decision and alleged fraud. When I expressed bewilderment as to how I could have missed this, she told me that this happened during the break between the Solo and Troupe segments when everyone had been herded out of the room. I was amazed and disappointed that I had missed the big hooha.

Shiblie apparently searched the room for me or 3A or anyone who could have supported her or, at least, be a witness. But according to her, she did not see any of the established dancers among the stragglers. She demanded to speak with A, the main organiser, who apparently was not present that day. In embarrassment, the organiser/teacher began to leave the room to avoid Nur Shiblie, who was now entreating innocent audience members still remaining in the room, to witness this alleged injustice.

No one came to her aid, so Nur Shiblie began to trail the organiser out to the lobby where she began to call out to the latter that she “was cheating”, that “this is unfair”, "this is cheating" and “how can you cheat like this”. Shiblie told me that passerbys were giving her amused and pitying looks in turns while the organiser climbed the escalator with a beetroot red face but did not turn to acknowledge Nur Shiblie’s shouts.

This complete shut-out spurred Nur Shiblie to threaten to go to the police, a threat she was going to follow through until her friends advised her against it. Apparently, the reason is that it will not benefit her and would create a scene. Frankly, we think she should have if a fraud had indeed been committed.

Since she was not privy to most of the dancers’ contacts, Nur Shiblie had no one in the industry to air her grievances to, so she had to fume and sit on her rage a full week or so before I made my innocent call to her.

During our conversation, she made a few observations, some which I thought valid, others humorous but most of which I found controversial. I warned Nur Shiblie I would quote her in a public domain and that the possible repercussions may be more trouble than she anticipated. But she was adamant that someone should speak out about this, and stood by her statements even after my obligated advisements. So here goes …

Mustafa Chin
When she was informed that the judges were the Chinese and Taiwanese teachers for the overseas dancers competing the next day, she asked why a middle eastern judge had not been appointed. In Nur Shiblie’s words, it is almost like this …

“How can a Chinese medicine man sell Indian curry?”

Honestly, that cracked me up so hard I had tears in my eyes. It also made me suddenly crave prata.

January’s Child
Remember how many of us were miffed we only received an email blast about the competition application in May? And how we found out, from the organiser’s mouth, that she had informed some selected teachers and dancers of this earlier in March/April but not all? Apparently, according to Nur Shiblie, another dancer/teacher who participated in the troupe segment inadvertently revealed that the organiser had informed her of the competition in January. Sigh.

Shiblie Get Your Gun
And the classic quote is the next, which threw me into such hysterical convulsions I almost twisted my back. I liked it so much I made Nur Shiblie repeat the statement three times. Three times the convulsions! Fun …

“If there was a gun that can shoot people and they don’t die, she [the organiser] will be the first one I shoot!”

Classic! Pure gold! What a soundbyte!

While everything that is written in this post is a minefield that can, and probably will, blow up in my face, just the two quotes from Nur Shiblie demanded an airing.

All these are, of course, hearsay and pending a written affidavit, cannot be proven or even verified. But something interesting happened the next day. I mean the day after the Solo segment, not day after the the phone conversation.

3A had gone to the National Museum very early in the morning to obtain the International segment tickets for us. No one other than the organisers were there but 3A saw an altercation between A, main organiser, and the alleged cheater, the organiser/teacher in full view of all the festival employees. Perhaps Nur Shiblie’s scene had reached the attention of A as A was incredibly incensed with the organiser/teacher and was giving her a real bollocking.

In the midst of this, A was apparently demanding that the organiser/teacher account for a number of things, one of which was to produce the scorecards. Since 3A was too well-mannered to lurk to witness the organiser’s humiliation, she did not stick around to find out the outcome of this heated dressing down.

So we may never know if the horror story of scores manipulation, alleged fraud, bias and other nefarious activities are true, will we? It was clear that Nur Shiblie was beside herself. Did this rage colour her judgement? Could her ire misrepresent a set of perhaps totally innocent circumstances? Are there some logical and totally plausible explanations behind all this supposed infringements?

I wouldn’t know as every time I requested the organisers’ time to speak with them about the competition, they pleaded lack of time, exhaustion, made some perfunctory lip service or simply avoided me. When I asked to interview the judges, they actually asked me not to as the Taiwanese judges may not be supportive (the reasons why would become clear later) and were generally rather unhelpful. I basically had to hunt down the judges individually to seek an interview. Unfortunately, because of my uncertain Chinese, I did not get the opportunity to interview the Chinese and Taiwanese judges or contestants. A drawback the organisers realised and were slightly amused by but never offered a solution even when I offered to find an interpreter pronto. In fact, at one point, one of them even asked me why I would want to! I don't know ... maybe because this is supposedly an International contest???

So, although I would like to present their side of the story, the complete lack of disclosure and assistance has made this challenging.

Read quick as this may be shut down when the legal beagles and irate and supposed maligned individuals call a jihad on me.

Good night from your proverbially long-necked and feckless dancer/reporter, Machiam Malu for if the stories are indeed true, it is indeed our collective shame.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this contest had been a scam and a sham, I hope you find the evidence to expose it for what it is. I admire your dedication to getting at the truth. Best of luck, my friend.

4:32 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Thanks but I do hope it is not true though as the implications are not pleasant.

10:29 am  
Anonymous love_to_dance said...

hi, your entries on the competition was really interesting and as a novice belly dance student I am really impressed by your knowledge of bellydance. Especially as I sat through the competition not knowing some of the song titles being performed to.

I do wanna ask you why are u so critical of the dancers in particular from Bellydance discovery? Just to clarify, I am not from that dance school but to me, there is a lot of personal interpretation and expression involved in bellydance thus wat you like might not be to the liking of another person and vice versa. For one, I did like most of the dancers from that school cos I felt that they were really enjoying their dance which made me enjoy watching them dance and feel like going home and practice my bellydance techniques!

I feel that we should just view and appreciate the dances especially in a competition where the dancers must have plucked up courage to dance and be judged by a panel of judges. no?

It was the first time that Singapore had such a competititon thus i feel its understandable that there would be some hiccups along the way. I am sure that the organisers would do a better job next time round with the addition of relavant acknowledgements and stuff as well as better introductions on the dances performed? I sincerely hope that more dancers will join next year!

9:10 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Hi Love_to_dance, a well-thought out comment which deserves a well-thought out answer.

Firstly, do not be impressed. I know little in the whole scheme of things as there are much more knowledgeable people - you just have to know where to look. But thank you anyway.

I know it is terribly hard for anyone to read all the Dancerpades posts since there are so many of them and all lengthy ones too. But right from the start, I stated that it is my personal view with opinions from other dancers thrown in. You may choose to disagree or agree. It is all up to you. Just as I would not fault you for liking the expressions on the dancers I pointed out as excessive, likewise, grant me that same courtesy.

However, I am quite familiar with some of these dancers as I have seen them evolve through the years. One of them, at least, certainly did not use to employ these expressions and she was a much "realer" dancer then. Her immersion in her dance did not have to rely on artifice.

Just like it is hard to explain the difference between sexual and sensual or classy versus tacky ... so too are the expressions on some of the dancers' faces. Perhaps to the layperson it appears genuine but to experienced dancers who have seen these dancers grow, it takes away from their dance. Perhaps it is a case of those who went "awww" at Tom Cruise's performance at the Oprah show and those who wanted to barf.

As to viewing and appreciating, of course I appreciated their courage. But unfortunately, courage was not one of the judging criteria. Remember, this is a competition, not a dance demonstration. If they had performed at a dance demonstration that was free, I would not be as critical. But this is a competition to decide who should represent me and you ... all the dancers in Singapore. Just like if you chose a real estate agent to sell your house, would you choose one just because he was brave enough to stick his namecard in your mailbox?

Have you ever attended any real concerts in Singapore performed by established dancers? Do you realise how many amazing dancers we actually have in Singapore? Do you wonder where they were? Why were they not there? Mostly because most of them did not know about this contest till literally a few weeks before. In fact, some of them never received an invitation or even an email?

I call this beyond a hiccup especially as we asked that the organiser be fair and inform everyone. I shall not go into more details about all the "hiccups" but ... while I feel sorry that the organiser received so much flack and humiliation from the main organiser, I think the actions go beyond "hiccup" level. Still, I marvel at her attempt - I just wish she had not left everyone but her own school out in the cold.

And if I had been truly biased against her, I would not have tried to defend her when the main organiser blamed everything on her.

As to more dancers joining next year ... perhaps there might be but most likely they will all be from Bellydance Discovery again. Unfortunately, this competition has convinced few that the intentions and end results are worthy. And that is not my own opinion ... it is the result of a poll I took. I interviewed 10 established teachers/dancers (that's a majority of the community in case you are wondering) and all of them scoffed and, in fact, I had one almost laugh me off the phone when I asked if she would participate next year.

But thanks for your considered comment. I appreciate the maturity and intellectual thought you invested in it and hope you will continue to pursue your passion. Hope to see you around.

3:13 am  

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