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Prince of Darkness!
Gilded Serpent presents...
Sultans of the Night performing Pandora's Legend
Review by Said el Amir
Olympic Hall
Munich, Germany
April 27, 2005

I am pleased to write again about the exceptional troupe called "The Sultans of the Night."  Their new work has been produced under the direction of the renowned director and actor Rufus Beck. I sat there in the sold out Olympia-Hall in Munich, full of expectation and painfully strained like a torn elbow.  I was with my friend, Gabriele Schartel, for moral support.  I was glad about my choice of companions because she is also a dancer and I expected that we would be able to discuss the performance.  The last show of the "Sultans of the Dance" in June of 2002 seemed a delight to the eyes, although it was reported that the characters in it were not cast well.  Dance and dancers continuing to develop is a beautiful process, and this troupe seems to have made a sensational jump in quality-unbelievable!  Nevertheless, the troupe was already obsessively synchronized in its movements.

However, I take my hat off to the troupe when I see such precision in dance and wish we had such quality as part of our usual Belly dance scene

The advance announcements were restrained this time in the comparison to the first tour: "Experiencing the charm of 1001 Nights in a breath-taking dance show!  Almost heavenly as beautiful young dancers, princesses, and Sultans conquer the enormous stage! With their masterly, acrobatically charming blend they kindle at the same time euphoric enthusiasm among their fans!  Each dance develops a legend and each dance embodies passion, ambition, vitality and peace!"  What can I say?  I agree!  The passage "dance embodies passion" should have been underlined.  All of these dancers have dedicated their lives to the dance-as seen in each step, each posture, each hip kick.


Nevertheless, some issues about this show should be critically considered-aside from all of my enthusiasm.  The  casting was balanced this time; both the good and the bad were equal.  However, many members of the cast were impossibly costumed, or had their dances set to unfavorable positions in the production or presented with what I thought was bloodcurdling dance technique.

I thought that the dramatic content and the film script of their previous tour piece were better.  I was amazed and astonished to see that, this time, a director who should have known better was responsible.  The same story presented in the first tour was treated from a different perspective. I felt that the dances were `wrongly´ positioned because of their content. Possibly, my impression of unfavorable positioning in the program may have come about because of  the missing programs guide, in which one might have read, making the director's train of thought more comprehensible. Some of the audience members did not catch the drift until the end the of the story. 

At least the director didn't show any reserve in his use of multimedia effects, but unfortunately, only with moderate success. The different scenes were announced via computer-animated video stream and/or beamer on a projection screen, but it was really unclear.  Yes, the missing programs guide: I would like to still like to harp on the missing program guide: As an Mid-Eastern and contemporary dancer, it is incomprehensible to me how one could be able to miss such an opportunity in which one could make statements to the audience concerning the history and origin of the different dances.

Absolutely, that would have been the opportunity in Munich to inform at least, six thousand German visitors about Turkish folklore, Sufism and Sufi dances, 9/8 rhythm and also Belly dance-had such a program guide been distributed!  Consciously, I use the term "Belly dance" here because it was announced as such...  Oh, how it still gives me shudders!  Must belly dance/mid-eastern dances be rendered into something so gross?  Why do choreographers, who obviously come from the ballet, seem to believe that if one makes the movements of Belly dance as large and hard as possible, the effect or the movements will also become larger?

Honestly, my dear ladies and gentlemen choreographers, you have such talented dancers in your troupe who could have looked substantially better-especially in the Belly dance portion of your show.  Do you believe honestly that it is beautiful when dancers try to wiggle their hips with stick-rigid legs so that only cramped trembles emerge rendering their shimmies pitiful?  I found it  unbelievable!

Probably, the choreographers would have been better advised to look for a a capable assistant for this part of the performance. The Belly dances were rather unprofessional in technique, and apart from the other relatively high-quality dances, they did not, in actuality, carry any weight.  I would have to admit, though, that I overheard some ladies seated in the row behind us who were constantly euphoric about the Belly dances!  What does this say about the knowledge of history, and quality of dance in general-especially when you consider that these same people were critically abusive about the Bellydance Superstars and their dance technique?  In a recent a show given by the group "Nesimah" with the guests Raksan, Djamila and Meissoun on the following weekend in Unterschleissheim near Munich, Gabriele Schartel and I saw much better quality in dance techniques.  Nevertheless, the choreographies by the same head choreographer were substantially more suitable to the music this time than they were in the first tour.

Marriage Scene
I cannot resist adding another word about the Multimedia-show: Nowadays, this is surely a good possibility for blinding the public.  Videostream, beamer, live drums, and fireworks are certainly effects rarely found in a "normal" mid-eastern dance show-not only for reasons of cost!  What sense do all these expensive effects make, if by using them everything gets a touch of kitsch?  The computer-animated videostream with its recurring book of the "Legend of the Pandora" reminded of the "Never ending Story" and contained something from a fairy tale film, but I don't think that this was the intention-"experiencing the charm of 1001 nights"?  I can only conclude that it is a matter of taste!

I still haven't mentioned the matter of "taste" in costume choices that were made!

Hephaistos, (who was to create Pandora on behalf of Zeus in order to entice Prometheus and finally punish him-to make a very long story short) was wearing a costume that fatally reminded us of a mixture of Batman and Darth Vader.  Shameful!  I had the impression that he did not feel comfortable in this masquerade, either.  The finale had hardly begun when he got rid of his cape and helmet, and he was such a class dancer, the poor fellow!  In the comparison to the first tour, the costumes of the Belly dancers were in good taste.  Some dancers were costumed in one-piece black dresses-transparent, but at least one-piece, and the dear ladies were actually dressed! 

What progress it is to see Belly dance as something more than a flesh show!  Even the drum-solo for the second Belly dance was performed in relatively decent costumes.  Radical  complements to the German studio, Marabout, which sketched the costumes and did a good job!

Unfortunately, nothing has changed from the first tour: Once again, the Belly dance has been set at "The Palace of The Evil."  Once again, it was the Belly dance, which brought wrong and spoilage!  I still ask myself whether that ladies behind me were at all clear with statements that were made such as:  The seduced one (Prometheus) only needs to sit down to watch, in the manner of a pasha, in order to lose his mind thereafter?  Is that a matter of taste, or may I, just as a Mid-eastern dancer, investigate whether it is the consequence of the influence of the prevailing misunderstanding of Belly dance by the gentlemen and ladies choreographers and directors?  I wonder if, in these times in which men and women are written of in terms of equality, and in which the emancipation of the women's rights is no longer an issue, and in which men decide to do housework, are such statements still workable at all?  Might I inquire with complete irritation: How women can be so excited into storms of applause after such sexist statements? Surely I cannot have been the only one to observe that phenomenon!  For the rehabilitation of both the choreographers and the director, I must certainly mention the fact that Belly dance, from my point of view, is seductive, naturally sensual, sexy, feminine, and charming.  Seen in this way, it does not fit better anywhere else;  however, we Mid-eastern dancers should not consider ourselves lucky with this statement!

Finally, I would like to mention the dancers with whom I was impressed and their roles:

  • Pandora must be mentioned!  The almost boneless Mehtap Fidan danced this role with an ease that was nearly uncanny.  Her "twin colleague," Hlushuak, could barely hold a candle to this portrayal, and it was impossible to separate the two main actresses and interpreters of Pandora through to the finale.
  • Musa Goekhan Ayatar embodied the Prometheus and up-lifted all who were present with his quality in dance and his expressions of ecstasy.
  • The Prince of Darkness was embodied, as in the first tour, by Hasan Yalnızoğlu-in the most realistic sense of the word. His impressively tall appearance, quality of dance, and nearly lunatic interpretation of his role made it an unforgettable experience!

Black Sea Dance
Actually all of the dancers would have to be mentioned in particular, because all were "full blooded artists."  I had a pleasant evening that produced many emotions and impressions, and the show was surely worth its entrance fee.  With the knowledge about the chilling dance technique in the Belly dance sections, and a little good will, one could enjoy the evening and over look its flaws.  I would award this show eight out of ten stars.

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