Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Dancerpades Part V - Where Have All The Winners Gone?

It was a curiously sanguine crowd that returned to the auditorium. Perhaps it was the weather, which was hotter than a witch’s t… er, headlights, but everyone was strangely subdued and the was a lack of the excited buzz and whispers one might expect at the results announcement of a national competition.

The unfashionably hot weather had given me a bit of a headache. Perhaps it was in sympathy to 3A Gurl’s migraine which started up at the end of the last set. I decided to take my hair down to relieve the tension and as I was chatting quietly with 3A and some other dancers, I caught a glimpse of a black-clad figure striding purposefully in my direction. Please note I was in the same seat the entire day.

Power Deranger!
It was the PowderPuff Girl. And bless her delusional little heart, she was sporting a smugly sanctimonious and militant expression again as she neared me. Seriously, the lights were not that dim and I had not gone for a costume change or applied more make-up … all I did was release my mane from its chignon.

In the clichéd words of a credit card ad … cost of hair clip – SGD6 … cost of PowderPuff’s expression as she realised it was me – priceless. Fortunately, she did an abrupt about-turn and disappeared back into the dark shadows again before I had time to develop a dangerous gleam in my eyes.

Drama over, it was a protracted virgil as we awaited the return of the judges. I can only assume they had gone for a leisurely lunch because it could not have been to deliberate over the results. According to Nur Shiblie and Tama Goh, the only local judge in the panel, the judges handed their scores in fairly quickly after the end of the performances and all collation were done without their aid.

Young Girls, Get Out of My Stage …
During the wait, the MC tortured us with the same jokes and lame puns as the first and second sets. Actually he used these throughout the two days. However, the one bright thing he did was to invite three dolled-up kids, who were evidently one of the winners from the Children’s Troupe competition held earlier that day, to dance with him on the stage.

This was evidently not a planned event as the little girls were delighted and proceeded to upstage, outclass and outdance the rotund clown. I’m not a rugrats fan but even I had to admit these girls were darn cute.

Bet That’s How They Felt When Reagan Won …
At long last the judges returned and after some miscues, the results were announced. These were –

1st – Jamila
2nd – Sha Sha
3rd – Joey

There was a short pause before the applause and the sibilant whisperings started. Everyone was shocked. Jamila???!! Are you kidding me???

No offense to this statuesque beauty but she was nowhere in the top three in anyone’s estimation. Frantically rifling through my notes, I scanned them to check if I might have missed something. Nope. By no stretch of the imagination could Jamila have been the winner.

What happened to Rani? Everyone was stunned and I turned to where Nur Shiblie had been seated to check her reaction. I did not see her but we were all agog with curiosity, shock and sympathy. Frankly, we felt that Rani had been robbed. There was no way she did not win the solo competition and I am not speaking out of friendship or bias – since I have only ever spent minimal time with Rani (I think I wandered into their dressing room by mistake while trying to remember mine) at the Hossam Ramzy concert and even then I was always in solitude backstage trying not to get lost, and at a master teacher workshop years ago.

While I could accept the fact that Sha Sha and Joey were the top 3 contenders, the appointment of Jamila as the winner was beyond belief.

It also begged the question of what happened to Maia. Even if you accused the organiser of rigging the results such that all three positions were accorded to her students, it was bizarre how Maia was overlooked. She definitely outshone her schoolmates and I was immensely puzzled at this turn of events.

My heart went out to Rani and Maia.

As I left the museum during the intermission, I encountered a former student of 3A’s school who is currently a student of the organiser’s. Curious as to the insight of an insider, I asked her views on the results. At first reluctant to voice her opinion, she finally, grudgingly, divulged that the results were “surprising”. Further probing encouraged her to opine that she would not have picked Jamila as the winner. I did not want to put her in a more difficult position but it just proved that even within the organiser’s camp, bewilderment ruled the day.

I would have really liked to see Rani, Maia or Nur Shiblie to offer my sympathy and assurance that they were winners in my books. However, I did not catch sight of the Alhambra gang and Maia was preparing for the Troupe contest.

During the break, I spoke to a few more people who all expressed their amazement and in some cases, derision. At this point I still did not know about the organiser’s involvement in the scores tabulation process nor of another incident that occurred after the announcement of the results.

While I was happy for Jamila and her euphoria was evident (3A told me she posted her delight on her blog that very weekend), I secretly thought I would have questioned the decision if I were her. Guilt would have niggled at the back of my mind that more worthy peers had been shafted. Yes, blame the Catholic upbringing but obviously Jamila does not labour under such an over-endowment of guilt complex. And of course I am not Jamila – or even an iota close to her mind-numbing gloriousness.

Carding Jamila
Let’s review my scorecard again just for kicks.

Hmmm, Jamila ranked 5th in the overall category at a more than 2 full points behind Rani. Surely I could not have been that wrong? While I have never adjudicated a belly dance contest, I have been a judge at a dance contest before (and strangely enough, a bikini and talent contest) so I do not think I could be so blazingly wrong as to miss a complete winner!

Even when I sneered at Clay Aiken, I still unwillingly spotted him as a winner from the beginning!

Reviewing my notes, based on just the Traditional segment, the comparison between the winners and my picks were –

Let’s see, in every category, Rani was the clear leader with a head start between 0.25 to 3 points. Even if you argued that Jamila might have won if I had not penalised her on originality & creativity, she would still have had to score 8.2 or more in that category in order to beat Rani. That would have been impossible as, even if her choreography was her own creation, the maximum marks she could have garnered would have been 5/10.

In presentation & framing, she was second to Rani but that was only because I managed not to be besotted with her beauty and realised that Rani’s costuming and overall presentation were more appropriate for her particular choice of music, props and style.

In fluidity of technique, Jamila was the weakest link. In expression, she tied with Sha Sha for third placing and in originality & creativity and rhythm & musicality, she was clearly way out of her league.

Only in the categories of presentation & framing and expression did Jamila even manage to secure a place for herself. In all the other categories, she was consistently the weakest.

Why was Maia who consistently ranked either second or third in all categories not place? And even if by some fluke Rani & Maia did not compete, Sha Sha and Joey both out-performed Jamila.

Before you ask if the judges were males - that is unkind. There was only one male among them. I was truly baffled. Still flogging a dead horse, I pored over the Fusion analysis.

Alright, so Jamila tied with Rani in the presentation & framing category but with the exception of expression, she was again the least impressive. Apparently Jamila once complained on her blog that she faces a lot of discrimination and jealousy because of her beauty and in fact, she has been anointed the “China Barbie Doll”.

I feel for her but as someone pointed out, she probably would not welcome or even understand why I would harbour such feelings of sympathy. Which emanate from greater pride on her behalf than she possesses to want her to win by pure merit and without derogatory naysaying. In fact, it would be my wish for anyone who won this competition.

However, this is not the case as the industry is now riddled with questions, scorn, doubt, ridicule, speculations, bewilderment, surprise, pity, glee and a whole myriad of emotions and opinions.

The unfortunate result of this is that many people are now patting themselves on the back in affirmation of their wisdom in not participating in this mockery. Jamila’s win may seem to come on the back of validation of everyone’s fears and derision.

For that I pitied Jamila for a rather hollow victory in the local solo competition segment of the Asia Global Competition. Jamila allegedly once declared on her blog that she wanted to be a Belly Queen. I congratulate her on achieving her aim. Wishing her all the best, I hoped she would adequately represent Singapore in the international segment the next day against China and Taiwan.


Blogger Suzie Wong said...

Still reading.....

Sigh! Now you know why i have kind-of switched to...... pole dancing.......less least for now.....

11:44 am  
Blogger MM said...

You are so patient! LOL. I am trying to get the Troupe & International reviews out pronto.

Well, I have a feeling that your segment might not remain untouched for long too. Knowing some of the behavioural patterns here, you might find some mini-yous popping up. Sorry to be such a pessimist.

But guess what? You'll always be the first and the most unique in Singapore!

1:03 pm  
Anonymous Diane said...

This has been a fascinating series. I know nothing about dance (aside from liking to watch it), but have found all the politics of this interesting.

So sad that the deserving contenders didn't win! And what's up with having one of the teachers of most of the contestants be a judge? That's enough to make you question the whole thing right there.

Your passion and respect for dance comes through in every sentence - thus carrying those of us along who usually don't know or care about this field.

11:52 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Hi Diane, thanks so much for visiting and commenting. I must commend you on your patience in reading it all! I thought only the die-hard industry peeps would bother!

I'm glad it gave you some insight into the event - I just wished it was a more positive one. Hopefully come late July I would have a better review of another event which will give everyone a better impression of our industry.

Also, to be fair, the organiser was not one of the judges. What she was, allegedly, was one of the two persons allowed to tabulate the scores from the judges. Which I personally think is worse.

Thanks again and do come back! :)

5:22 am  
Blogger dancefairy said...

Who are you to judge who is the winner or not? The subjectivity of one person represents the panel of judges? Stop wasting time writing blogs and start practicing, who knows you may win one day too, or may be never

1:25 am  
Blogger dancefairy said...

Who are you to judge who is the winner or not? The subjectivity of one person represents the panel of judges? Stop wasting time writing blogs and start practicing, who knows you may win one day too, or may be never

1:27 am  
Blogger MM said...

Ah, I was waiting for that. I knew that the students would appear and exhibit exactly the kind of maturity and behaviour which you have just shown, Dancefairy.

Thank you for helping me prove my point.

Who am I? The reporter who is writing the story on the dance community. One of the teachers your teacher asked to join the contest but refused because we did not think professional teachers and dancers should be participating so that you students can compete on a level playing field. The person who the other dancers asked to report on the event and to gauge the standard of the dancers and the contest.

And by the way, I did speak with the judges and have incorporated their comments and opinions.

And thank you for your constructive advice but actually, I am contracted to write a blog, although not this one, so unfortunately, I cannot take your mature and grammatically masterful comment into consideration.

And practisicing? LOL, my dear Dancefairy, I practise everyday but not to win competitions but because I actually love the dance.

By the way, so which one were you in the competition?

10:36 am  
Anonymous Gelek said...

May I have the link to Jamila's blog for future entertainment? I'm just a Malaysian fan of Middle Eastern Dance.

10:16 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Er, dear Gelek

Unfortunately I have a strange quirk. I actually respect other people's blogs and privacy such that I do not link them or reveal their addy without permission. I view it much like people's numbers. Do not give out unless they give permission.

Also, according to 3A, Jamila has restricted all access to her blog recently - reasons unknown! So sorry, mate. Good luck though!

3:17 am  
Anonymous gelek said...

hehe… quoting your friend 3A…

'We all know that a blog is essentially one's (private) soapbox accessible to interested Netizens.'

well, I'm just being cheeky…

12:11 pm  
Blogger MM said...

Gelek, you being cheeky??? I would never have guessed ...

Anyway, I guess the beauteous one may have good reasons for it. Maybe after her win and her pictures splashed on the papers and telly, she kept getting all these DOM's pervy comments and so she decided to restrict access to her blog!

By the way, are you the Malaysian who recently performed the tribal item at Impiana?

1:25 pm  
Anonymous gelek said...

Sorry to dissapoint you that I'm not the tribal dancer, but I was suprised by your sensitivity in the Malaysian scene as well. You can say that I was one of the spectators there. Would like to know your comments on the Malaysian scene though…

p/s: I thought the tribal dancer was interesting… although I'm not too sure Malaysians are quite ready for it.

2:42 pm  
Anonymous gelek said...

shucks! I found her blog!… too bad I can't read chinese :P

4:02 pm  
Blogger 3A Gurl said...

Looks like Ms Jamila may have opted to delete her blog. A search just now had no hits compared to a search just this morning - that brought up her blog but with entry by invitation only. Hope the info helps, Gelek.

12:10 am  
Blogger MM said...

Hi Gelek, LOL ... honestly I do not know that much about the Malaysian scene and am only familiar with a couple of dancers there like Sherlyn and Paola.

I think Naziera knew that she was pushing the envelop by doing the tribal fusion number. But I think she felt it was time ... would have liked to see it myself but I only heard about it and it seems the reviews were mixed.

And re the blog, if you need it translated, we can always try to help you out. :)

9:59 pm  

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