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Gilded Serpent presents...
The Flame and Shadow
The King King Club, Los Angeles, CA,
January 28, 2007
Show Review by Princess Farhana
Photos by Michael Baxter
 “The Flame And The Shadow”, master musician Tim Rayborn’s latest musical offering, is nothing short of spectacular. 

Conceived as a folkloric ballet, it is a highly orchestrated work based on the pan-cultural theme of dualism and opposition: light and dark, masculine and feminine, good and evil, and like the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang, how these forces complement and oppose each other.  Both conceptually and musically, “The Flame And The Shadow” borrows from mythology and legends spanning the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Persia, and India, among other regions.  The music is multi-textured and complex, incorporating many Arabic and Turkish rhythmic time signatures (9/8, 4/4) and using familiar ethnic instrumentation including ethereal nai flute, saz, santour, sitar, rababa, etc., but also incorporating dramatic bells, chimes, MIDI synthesizers, and intricately harmonized multi-layered vocals, both operatic and diaphonic.  This CD is destined to become popular for fusion dancers.

Though “The Flame And The Shadow” is destined to become a popular choice for performers,  especially fusion aficionados, it actually sounds like a soaring, moody soundtrack for an epic movie that hasn’t yet been made… but on   February 28, 2007, the work was brought to life at Hollywood’s King King club.

A venue which itself incorporates dualism (doubling as a rock n’ roll club and theater) the King King’s excellent sound and lights showcased a superlative night of dance which left most of the audience with their jaws on the floor.

Bay Area dancer Tempest appeared throughout the two-act production in short dance interludes, highlighting her ritualistic style. She served as a non-verbal narrator and as the visual link between the individual pieces, all of which had been independently choreographed and rehearsed by the dancers.  The show opened and closed with Atash Maya in breathtaking duets between the beautiful Sabrina and Stephen, who moved like male and female twins, perfectly in sync with each other, showcasing control and flexibility. 

An incredibly mature and dramatic presence at the tender age of nineteen, Stephen might as well be a punk rock Nijinsky.

Desert Sin performed to the Balkan-referenced piece “Mat’ Syra Zemlya” symbolizing the changing seasons. Ever open to interpretation and slightly on the macabre side, Desert Sin’s story seemed to be more about youth, vanity and aging. The troupe’s highly theatrical brand of fusion relies as much on great technique as it does on a surprising use of props, bordering on stage-magic illusion.  Dancer Djahari began the piece as a beautiful young girl, obsessed with looking at her own refection in the mirrors affixed to the palms of her hands when

two brooding, hooded figures (desert nomads/death?) released a huge, blood red silk veil that literally blew out of a box by a hidden fan and “captured” her, to the gasps of the shocked audience.

In stark contrast, the calm, lavender-lit “Kervanseray” by Mira Betz, Holly Shaw and Hannah Romanowsky used Turkish style music and had the look of 1920’s Shanghai, complete with tiny, LED-lit lanterns dangling from the kimono sleeves of the dancers to stunning effect.

The first act closed with “Nar Dhil” (“Fire And Shadow”) with a sinuous trio performed by Ayse Cerami, Monica Fernandez and the ethereal, impossibly supple Katie Kay, whose doll-like face and incredible hyper-extended spine made her seem like an otherworldly doll.

Act two began with the Persian-flavored “Asha Druj” (“Truth And Lie) danced by Urban Tribal, whose precise, economic movements are always elegantly understated and powerful. This performance was guided by a spinning, almost Dervish-like Tempest into an Indian suite by Blue Damsel (Politti Ashcraft and Rachel Lazarus-Soto) joined by Shawna Rai. The three took turns in solo and group formations, lush and nuanced, strong and feminine, morphing from classical Indian dance and gestures to modern style Tribal Fusion.

As the show ended, there was a silent lull among the entire crowd, before everyone burst into applause. 

To this observer, the production seemed like an important breakthrough in oriental style Dance Theater. 

Not only was the technique of the dancers uniformly superlative throughout, but also each individual projected a range emotion that combined as a whole, packed a swift, fresh punch. “The Flame And The Shadow” with it’s dramatic feeling seemed to render obsolete the pasted-on beauty queen smiles of many cabaret performers, or the stern expressionless faces that are often a hallmark of ATS dancers. Hopefully, the entire production will not only be repeated live (beyond it’s second Bay Area show) but released as a DVD, so it can be enjoyed repeatedly.
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