Cairo’s Streets Come
Baladina Egyptian Dance Theater and
Sharia Mohamed Ali
Directed by Karim Tonsy
13, 2007, Chicago, Illinois
photos are by Adrian Fortis
second show in Chicago opens with a scream. Then the
chaos starts, with dancers overwhelming the stage in
a style now familiar to audience members who saw “Eden?”
at the Raven Theater in July. Seemingly magically, the
dancers resolve themselves from their busy activities
into a row and look into the audience as if into a mirror,
turning and preening, then breaking into dance in smaller
formations. Thus starts the single performance of “Sharia
Mohamed Ali” on October 13, 2007.
St. Patrick’s Performing Arts Center does not offer the
warmth and accessibility of the Raven Theater, with the
audience perched above the stage and behind a railing.
The backdrop of a rigid, lighted square was really effective
only at the conclusion of the first half of the show,
when it highlighted the dancers frozen in place on a
darkened stage. Some colored lighting could have taken
the harsh edges from the set. However, an opulent, low,
cloth- and- pillow covered table with a lighted hookah
at stage right provided some ambience and atmosphere
to evoke Egypt and the mythical street where one could
find anything for the right price, day or night.
was a theme throughout the eleven short pieces performed
by Baladina in the first half of the two- part
show. A modern temptress steals a man away from a traditional
woman, who then finds a new man of her own. Perhaps a
necessity for a dance company composed of mostly women,
men seemed a hot commodity in the performance.
by lacy half-masks, women teased the lone man, stealing
his fez and caressing him, then darting away. Lazy
observers smoked the hookah and lounged on the pillows
on stage, as rich men must have done since time immemorial.
slow-dance performance to “I Am Ready for Love” showed
side of the dancers and was nearly the only example
of the dancers physically lifting each other and doing
unlike Baladina’s first show. Three of the scenes
were reprisals from the summer show, including the 40s
racy cabaret with dancers doing kicks on chairs,
a 70s-inspired blaxplotation boogie featuring a boombox
and the ending,
“Bedouin (I Am in a Trance,)” a mystical piece with
incense from the four directions of the wind and wraith-like
dancers in robes.
“Fruit Dance,” a new piece, featured more standard Middle
Eastern dancing and some lovely mermaid style skirts
and costuming, showing the influence of Erika Ochoa,
a well-known Middle Eastern dancer and international
director Karim Tonsy’s partner in managing Baladina.
version of “Whatever Happened to Class?” from the musical Chicago juxtapositioned
the racy cabaret piece mentioned earlier, but failed
to hit the right note.
far the strongest piece in the show was “Bedouin (I
Am in a Trance.)” From the striking gold face covering
worn by Tonsy to the eerie warning of the figures in
black, the closing of the first half gave everyone
the chills for intermission.
cane dance (Raks Al Sayya) opened the second half of
the show, with a more casual, down-to-earth atmosphere. Kimhari performed
with a veil and started her third song with a wicked
shimmy, showing off her beautiful bronze costume. Jackie’s
performance had a strange interval between her initial
entrance in a headcovering and kaftan, and then her return
in bra and skirt, but she finished on a high note.
a fabulous attitude in her performance, showing why she
was a 2007 nominee for Performer of the Year. Her feisty
attitude made her dance a delight to watch. Erika and Sumaya performed
lovely Middle Eastern pieces- Erika’s dance choreographed
by special guest Samara and Jawhara also
performed a cane dance.
a lengthy piece choreographed by Ibrahim Farrah,
telling the story of Bedouin fortunetellers reading seashells
they have thrown onto the ground. Finally, Samara, in
Chicago for the first time, came out to perform. Samara
performed to three songs and then graciously accepted
the large bouquet of flowers from Erika Ochoa to
close the show.
Mohamed Ali offers a look at the variety of music and
dance styles making up “Middle Eastern dance” today,
and shows Baladina as a work in progress. We can all
look forward to their spring 2008 performance, which
will feature completely new material.
Charla and Ra in "I am ready
Charla selling fabrics on the streets of Cairo
Karim and Karol