Yasmina Ramzy’s Asala I & II
DVD Review by Joette
posted January 17, 2011
Of the many things I have learned through my years of studying, researching, and teaching dance is that I seldom know what to expect out of a single performance. In this instance, that is simply not the case. I have had several opportunities over the last few years to review Yasmina Ramzy‘s work of the Arabesque Academy in Toronto, and I seem to find it consistent, note worthy, and pleasant on various levels. Asala (meaning root or origin) is the work of Ramzy and the Arabesque Dance Company and Orchestra, performed in December 2006, that takes the audience on a journey of folklore and to the streets of Cairo with live music, flowing costumes, and artistic sensibility.
The show itself is staged in a modern dance theatre of lights, drama, and comedy with live musicians on stage throughout the performance. I myself, being an artistic director, can appreciate the amount of resources that took to put together a stage composition like Asala.
Ramzy’s ability to show movements of grace and femininity comes across strongly by presenting the dance as respectable and as a valid form of dance expression.
In addition, the movements fit the skill level of the dancers. Expressions and styles that were represented included the soulfulness of Bobby Farah to the extension of the ballet of Mahmoud Reda. Asala aims to portray the dance as unique and expressive as the other more mainstream dance arts.
Middle Eastern dance styles performed included baladi, whirling dervish, khaleegy, drum solo, tahtib & saiidi, hagallah, oriental, port said, and meleya leff, and featured solo’s from Ramzy. In addition, music arrangement by Bassam Bishara included songs such as Inta Omri, El Binti Beida, Hezzie, Nawaem, and Ya Booy. Lead vocals by Najwa Tannus were beyond beautiful and mesmerizing. Each number was thoughtfully hand-designed by brilliant costume designers. The effect was elegant, tasteful and each design allowed the dancers’ bodies- not the sequins- to take center stage. Many hats off to the costume designers and use of fabric to create arresting imagery of fluid bodies on stage.
The dance choreography for the most part truly represented the soul of the Egyptian people. Although, I did find lacking the ability of many of the dancers to express this as they struggled with the steps that comes with experience and musicality.
For instance, the Simsimayya male dancers representing the Suez Canal region lacked skill in this style, but the enthusiasm overshadowed the ability. The Suez Canal region was influenced in the World Wars by the British and Irish dances of the time and this is still reflected today in the very strong feet, arms, and leaps with a strong upper chest. The male dancers deserved a high five not for their ability, but simply for their expression of fun. Sometimes even the amateur dancer can have a BRAVO moment in a professional production.
Overall, I found Asala I & II is an item to add to your collection as a dancer, artistic director, or just simply for enjoyment. The DVD set is hard to follow because the show has been spliced to fit two DVDs instead of one. I would have liked to have viewed Asala as if I was in the audience, but instead I had to figure out what it actually looked like in its integrity. I recommend purchasing Asala I of the set if you can’t fit both in your budget. Overall, the production was a beautiful undertaking and its rating is 3 zils.
Rating: 3 zils
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