Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dancerpades Part VII - Groundhog Day?

I was going to post this later because it is that kind of week which is so chaotic on so many fronts I was going to take my time doing this. But the comments and actions of some really mature individuals prompted me to lay fingers to keyboard so here you have it …

By the time the Fusion section of the Troupe competition rolled up, everyone was a little jaded and a lot disappointed. Frankly, to have only two truly worthy groups was below expectations.

Since Fusion is always a controversial bug bear and most of the contestants in the Solo category had massacred it, I was truly fearful. Yet something told me that a gem or two would be found in this segment. For once, I am so glad my intuition did not play me false.

I Hear The Sounds of Afrika
The first troupe back for the Fusion segment was the misnamed Troupe Malik. Dancing to the really hackneyed Simarik or Kiss Kiss by Tarkan, this threesome interpreted the song as mostly chest shimmies. In fact, it was all shimmies throughout the song. Worse, these shimmies had limited or no accents, pauses or variations, making for a dull choreography with little imagination. There was a strange pelvic movement in this piece, which made 3A and I furrow our brows and look at each other in askance, and of course, the ϋber tacky kissing motions that usually accompany this song … sigh.

Giving them 5/10 for presentation & framing; 3.5 for fluidity of techniques; 4/10 for expression (they looked happier here than in their Traditional piece); 2.5/10 for originality & creativity (you will know why shortly); and 2.75/10 for rhythm and musicality were the best I could give them. Overall, Troupe Malik received a score of 2.85/10.

Shocker! The next troupe was Just 3 who performed a highly original piece – the same Kiss Kiss by Tarkan piece as the group which just vacated the stage!

What on earth possessed them or their teacher??? Surely common sense would tell you this was a disaster? How can you put two teams into the competition dancing to the same song and same choreo? Obviously when she devised the judging criteria to include originality & creativity, it was a display of a sense of humour.

So it was not just one time the pain but two times the suffering as we had to endure a bad déjà vu of a poor choreo and even worse performance. Just 3 made their schoolmates look good with an even poorer execution and technical ability. Now we know why snakes have no arms … they bit them off in mortification after witnessing Just 3’s.

I was glad when it was over and tempted to give them a point for releasing me from the torment. Instead, I gave them 4.5/10 for presentation & framing; 2/10 for fluidity of technique; 2.75/10 for expression (one of them really looked like she would rather be home washing her hair); 0/10 for originality & creativity; and 1.75/10 for rhythm & musicality. Overall, they scored 2.2/10.

This was beginning to be painful for us and I groaned when I heard the next song - Alabina’s Salma y Salamah, a song I am very familiar with since the first song I performed to in Singapore was Dalida’s version. I braced myself but fortunately, Nerferteri’s stronger technical ability made this performance a welcome change from the previous two troupe’s disappointing turns.

These five ladies performed better in this segment than their Traditional performance and the choreography featured a little more attention to formation. Their timing was much better but their fusing of samba movements was a little weak, making this choreography rather wishy washy. All 5 seemed to have problems with their stomach pops and the timing was suspect.

I gave them 5.5/10 for presentation & framing; 4.75/10 fluidity of techniques; 5/10 for expression; 4.75/10 for originality & creativity; and 5/10 for rhythm & musicality, giving them a well-deserved total average of 5/10.

The next group, Fusion de Estellos, came waltzing in in modern looking costumes that looked more disco than middle eastern. Silver chain mesh halter tops combined with vividly coloured skirts and long tassels gave the impression they would break out into a MTV number so it was a relief to hear the dulcet tones of Pascale Maashalani belt out Nouri Sham.

There were a few cute moments in this troupe’s performance as they obviously made more attention to formation than in their Traditional number. However, they unwisely incorporated some movements which are more suited for partner dancing than troupe numbers. I know, I know … it’s called creativity but it just looked inappropriate for a middle eastern dance number, even if it is Fusion.

These four ladies displayed a rather unfortunate propensity towards the infamous “chicken neck pecks” and they kept performing the Barry Manilow forearms rolls which cracked 3A and I up something severe. Timing again was an issue which manifested when they performed a back heel kick at different counts.

For their attempt, I gave them 4/10 for presentation & framing; 4/10 for fluidity of techniques; 4.75/10 for expression; 4. 5/10 for originality & creativity (at least they tried even if it was a little inappropriate in parts); and 4.25 for rhythm & musicality. Their performance garnered them 4.3/10.

I hate to be negative but the next troupe should have paid better attention to their costuming. Rhythm of Life was made up of three rather heavy set ladies who unwisely chose bra-tops and harem pants which made them look manly and a little rough. More flattering costume choices might have improved their chances.

Dancing to a remixed version of one of Khaled’s song, which I believe could have been Wahrane Wahrane, these three ladies chose a vaguely hip hop fusion interpretation. I think it was an unfortunate choice as they just did not have the flair or training for hip hop and combined with their weak middle eastern dance techniques, made this a very poor performance indeed. Their hands were literally all over the place and they displayed weak shimmies. The dancer in red had problems with her undulations, the shortest dancer in the middle could not get the timing right and the tallest dancer was very rough and had almost no control over her movements.

They were obviously very raw beginners and again I questioned the wisdom of sending out beginners into an international competition. I felt sorry for Rhythm of Life but could not give them more marks than 2/10 for presentation & framing; 2/10 for fluidity of techniques; 3.5/10 for expression; 2.5/10 for originality & creativity; and 2/10 for rhythm & musicality. They scored an overall of 2.4/10.

And now to the contest proper. The first gander of the Bellydance Discovery troupe promised exciting things. Clad in tiger prints and black lycra, with matching hair bands, they heralded a professional and polished performance. And boy, did these five ladies deliver!

Bravo, ladies! Dancing to what I suspect is Afrika from Sayed Balaha’s Around the World CD, the group fused African dance into a well-thought out choreography. I thoroughly enjoyed the spirited performance which was aggressive, high energy, dynamic and featured a well-rehearsed team that produced a well-timed, well-executed and well-choreographed piece.

There were formations, there was expression, there was sound rhythm interpretation and while some suspected that the choreography was not an original piece from the organiser as they doubted her ability to produce a piece of this calibre and based on her history, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Ayana displayed some acrobatic and gymnastic talents while everyone of them showed they could be lyrical as well as energetic. The group cohesiveness was palpable and I commend them on a spectacular performance. Without even consulting my scorecards, I gave them the winning prize for best troupe.

Still, if you must be pedantic, here were their scores – 7/10 for presentation & framing; 7/10 for fluidity of techniques; 7.5/10 for expression; 7/10 for originality & creativity; and 7/10 for rhythm & musicality. A very impressive performance which deserved an impressive 7.1/10.

It was apparent that is was now a battle between the Bellydance Discovery group and the Sundance Troupe. Like their namesake, this troupe came to the stage guns blazing. While I was not as impressed by Sundance Troupe’s colourful, beaded butterfly camisoles, black jazz pants and hips scarves combination, their modern pop fusion piece made this costume selection a passable choice.

Relying on their lyrical jazz background, this group demonstrated their superior dance foundation with a strong performance that highlighted their excellent stage presence, good body control and fluid style. However, again, their middle eastern dance inexperience showed and they were a little noticeably raw in their basic movements.

I found their performance very Salimpour-ish with some lovely floorwork, which made sense since their coach, Belinda, is a die hard fan of this renowned dancer and teacher. Still, the Sundance Troupe did have some timing issues and nerves must have gotten to the dancers as they made some mistakes which marred the performance. The dancer in blue forgot her choreography and showed hesitation. The dancer in orange lost her concentration and almost keeled over while doing a standing leg lift.

Still, it was a very strong performance and we agreed that it would be a hard fight between the two groups. 3A, understandably, was more inclined towards the Sundance kids but I stood by my selection of the Bellydance Discovery Troupe as I thought their performance and choreography were tighter.

The Sundance Troupe scored 5.75/10 for presentation & framing; 6.25/10 for fluidity of techniques; 6.5/10 for expression; 7/10 for originality & creativity; and 7/10 for rhythm & musicality. Overall, they received 6.5/10.

Coming after two such stellar performances is hard, but worse when you are so out of their league. The next group Les Belle du Mirage lived up to their name with a wishy washy performance. Slithering onto the stage like characters from a Harry Potter movie, these clueless ladies were entirely shrouded in their colourful veils. Did they not know that this is actually rather insulting? I was once at a performance when some dancers shrouded themselves thus and when they entered and started writhing around, the entire middle eastern contingent I was seated with got up and left in a huff. Sigh. I stayed ... I’d paid for it after all ….

Anyway, this group chose the overplayed and hackneyed Desert Rose by Sting. I did like the synchronicity of their costumes and wished that they had not ruined it with their shrouded horror introduction as that impacted their presentation & framing scores. The performance was a little vapid with uneven and poor undulations, mediocre technical ability, and an awkward exit, resulting in a desultory and lukewarm response from the audience.

Overall, their performance was unremarkable other than the J K Rowling homage so I gave them 4.75/10 for presentation & framing; 4/10 for fluidity of techniques; 4.5/10 for expression; 4.25/10 for originality & creativity; and 4/10 for rhythm & musicality. Overall, they garnered 4.3/10.

The Troupe Fusion segment was very uneven. You had the really good and the really bad. It was as if there were two categories within this segment – the professional and the dismal. Again, it brought into question why there was no proper segregation of standards, which might have given the weaker dancers a better fighting chance.

Looking at the scorecards, we made a prediction of the winners and there was much discussion over the authenticity and originality of the Bellydance Discovery’s group’s choreography. There was the camp that thought the choreography was a little boring with too many repetitions of combinations. There was the camp that declared that the organiser/teacher was not capable of producing something of that lyricism and caliber. Whatever it was, I thought they were excellent and the scorecards supported this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Chicken neck pecks?" LOL!


7:28 pm  
Blogger MM said...

LOL, Paz ... you have to see it before you realise how apt that name is. Unfortunately, it is not confined to only beginners as some professional dancers fall prey to it too. Now you know why dancers so vain and are always looking at themselves in the mirror. It's to check out that we do not do stuff like that without knowing! LOL.

2:37 am  

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