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Gilded Serpent presents...
Amani “Around the World”
DVD Report
by Katya Faris

The art of Oriental Dancing is taken to new heights as Amani of Lebanon has released her new DVD in Lebanon in January, 2005, “Amani Around the World”.  She has put her dancing on stage and has created numerous theatre productions in the past 10 years and this show is the first one on DVD.  Traditionally enjoyed in the dinner theatre, Oriental dancing has recently ventured into the world of staged theatre and Amani’s shows set the standard.  This new DVD is a production that Amani is taking on the road to tour around the world. 

Amani’s immense knowledge of Oriental Dancing in antiquity and various folkloric dance styles, coupled with her dynamic stage presence make this an unforgettable DVD. 

Nothing was left out in this show or on the DVD Bonus Features; every detail was lovingingly taken cared of, and Amani herself dances in 15 different pieces within the same show!  Amani’s stage director is Gerard Avedissian, and he has finely tuned this show into a beautiful work of art. 

This DVD includes the following:

  • The Show:  “Around the World”, filmed in Beirut, Lebanon.
  • An Interview with Amani:  it is filmed outside in various cultural locations in Lebanon.
  • Dance Tips:  this is where Amani takes you into the studio for discussion of dance history and practice with her!
  • Upcoming Shows:  A peek into the upcoming DVD from Amani, “The Days and Nights of Amani”.

The show consists of the following:

1) North African-Maghreb“Moroccan wedding ceremony & dance”, choreographed by Georgette Gebara, music composed and arranged by Orchestre National de Benares.
This is a delightful choreography opening the show with Amani being brought in on a “hawdaj” up to the stage as she acts as the “bride” in this piece. 

The costuming is all in white and it makes a brilliant contrast to the dark theatre. 

The choreographer in this piece, has taken a ballet approach to staging this piece, and Amani has added Moroccan movement to her solo.  The impact of the white costumes and the fun-spirited, lively atmosphere of this dance makes it engaging to watch and a great opener; by the end of the show one feels as if Amani’s spirit is indeed married to the soul of Oriental dance

2) Armenia“Naz bar” & “Kotchari bar” dances, choreographed by Felix Haroutiounian to traditional music arranged by Ludwig Gharibian of Folk Lab.
After the joyous opening act, one enters into a more somber mood with the sound of the Duduk (Armenian flute) heard singing its song and Amani enters to begin the “Naz Bar”, or women’s dance of Armenia.  Her rendition is quite authentic, and her red and gold costuming brings strength to the soft, flowing movements that are indicative of Caucasian dance.  Her solo is short, and then members of her company join her on stage for a fast-paced Armenian group folkdance, complete with line-dancing, Armenian style.  There are some very impressive moves done by the male dancers in this group;

a duo hold hands and while bending forward flat-backed, they hurl their legs up one person at a time, which causes the pair to “fly” in a circle! 

It is amazing to watch, and really shows the zest for life and cleverness of the Armenian people.

3) Oriental Arabic Dance, Baladi Solo“Solo Accordian”, choreographed by Amani to traditional music.
This piece opens with Amani appearing as if in moonlight; the lighting is a soft blue with white stars, and her costume is white and silver.  Also, there are live musicians on stage with her, which made the piece appear more “authentic”.  She does her solo baladi style with a fluid grace and emotional intensity that is only Amani.  She begins the piece with a silver veil but quickly discards it to reveal the Earthy movements of Baladi, Amani-style.  This was my personal favorite, as I could really contrast it with Egyptian style baladi, something I have been studying lately. 

This piece in particular I felt really showcased Amani’s great talent of fusing her wisdom of the dance with her intense emotional expression, and after watching her you are filled with moonlit dreams.

4) Argentina: “Tango”, choreographed by Felix Haroutiounian to traditional music.
Tango is the national dance of Argentina, and is traditionally done with a man and a woman, solo.  In this piece there are five couples who dance together, but they still retain the original feel of the duet.  The music used is a traditional piece, and the costuming is also, with the women in big “fifties” style skirts, and hair pinned back in a “chignon”.  It brought the mood of the concert up a notch from the Baladi, and is preparing us for the final piece of the first set.

5, 6, 7) LebanonA Tribute to Elie Choueiry & Sabah; 5, Choreographed by Amani; 6 & 7 choreographed by Sami Khoury: This piece is a suite of three dances, so I will separate and discuss each individually:

5)  Sketch, “Neswan El-Furn” This piece is hysterical, and has Amani dressed up as a village woman in a costume that makes the diminuative Amani appear larger than life! 

It is rather an acting piece with less dancing and more storytelling. 

Amani and her kin are doing their daily work, and gossiping; as the gossip gets more and more intense, Amani becomes furious, scratches the ground with her feet like a bull, and starts to chase the culprit around the stage!  I found myself laughing until I cried, as she portrays this scene perfectly.

6) Rakasset El-Helwen:  This is a Lebanese women’s folkdance, and the beginning of this piece has the group of women on stage, while Amani is running throughout them and chasing the culprit from the last piece!  It is quite funny, and the look on the dancers’ faces is even funnier.  However, once the drama is over, the serious dancing takes place, and it is quite delightful.  The women are in full black skirts with a ribbon trim in various colors, combined with a fitted vest top, and a long flowing veil headpiece.  They use tambourines to dance with, and one can see the feminine side of Lebanese folk dancing in their fluid and circular movements.

7) Lebanese Dabke:  This piece was the end of the first half of the show, and the company really brings down the house.  Amani enters in a lemon yellow fancy Dabke costume, complete with a headpiece with a veil.  She does some solo Dabke style dancing in the middle of the group first as they form a long line behind her. 

It is nothing short of incredible to watch this kind of authentic Dabke dancing. It was especially interesting, educationally, to see the women’s solo version. 

Then, Amani joins the middle of the line for the Dabke line-dance part of the piece.  Just to see the large group move as one is breath-taking, but to see it done in such a splendid show was captivating.  One is left with a feeling for the “joie de vivre” that the Lebanese people have; even in the face of suffering and war, the spirit of Lebanon is not lost, and it shows in the pride on the dancers’ faces.

8) Oriental Arabic Dance“Amani Fil-Shark”, choreographed by Amani, music composed by Mazen Zawaeidi
This piece of music is entitled “Amani Fi-Al Shark” which means Amani in the East. In the ancient world, the “East” meant the “Middle East’ of today’s world, and in general the “West” was the Roman and the Greek Empires.

This is the opening of the second half of the show, and one enters a court scene from the Royal Palace of Baghdad.  There are five dancers including Amani that are lounging on a circular, rotating and elevated stage prop; they are “smoking” hookahs, or “narjilah”, and there is dry ice being blown to give the effect of a dream.  The colors of the costumes are gold, orange and green; Amani is in all orange and gold, with a gold-coin bra/belt set.  After a brief interaction with the other dancers on stage, Amani rises to perform a solo.  Her movements are a combination of ancient Oriental dance with a modern aspect presented with own her style. 

This dance distinguishes itself from her other Bellydance pieces in that one can see the fusion of different dance moves that must have taken place in antiquity; as dancers were often bought and sold as slaves, their travels brought them into contact with many different styles of dance. 

I believe Amani’s aim of this piece was to showcase the different traditions that made Oriental dance what it is today.  In the first part of her solo there is a violin taqasim, and Amani does some beautiful hand movements. Then the music tempo picks up and she does her own style of Oriental dance, adding some Andalusian movement to go with the music. The music ends in Persian “kereshmeh.”

9) Yugoslavia“Gypsy Ceremony & Dances”, choreographed by Francoise Rahme, music composed by Goran Bregovic
Saint Sara, or, the “Black Madonna” is the patron saint of the Romani (Gypsy) people, and a ceremony to her is the first part of this two-part dance set.  Dancers appear on stage in black veils that cover their entire bodies, and their arms are stretched out perpendicular to the floor; it makes them appear like black tents.  Candles are lit in the background. A very haunting melody is heard eerily in the background.  Once this piece comes to a close, Amani appears on stage, and the black veils are lifted to reveal all women.  Amani runs around the stage as men enter, and chaos ensues.  She is the new girl in town, and she is looking for a mate!  The men come to dance with her, and the women become jealous.  Amani must fight for her place within this community, and in the end one of the men chooses her.  The feel of this piece is very busy, so busy that sometimes it was hard to see what was happening.  After watching it a few times I understood it better, and quite enjoyed it.  I was also curious to contrast the Yugoslavian Romani movement with the other “Gypsy” dances that I have learned:  Turkish, Spanish, Bulgarian, and Indian.  The women wore big full skirts with a “peasant” blouse in white. 

10) Iran“Attar Bashi” & “Bandari” dances, choreographed by Felix Haroutiounian to traditional music.

The style of Persian dance in this piece is what Amani calls “Tribal”; she says that it is the true tribal style in contrast with American Tribal. 

Iran is comprised of different regional tribes, and hence the terminology.  The costuming reflects this, as it is simple with Gulf style head veils, and one can feel as if one is in a village in this piece.  The beginning has a man, the “Attar”, enter with a perfumer’s box; he is trying to entice the women to buy.  They follow him around, and then Amani appears.  She does a very short solo to the Persian “reng” style of music that accompanied the Persian dancing in the Royal Courts of the Qajar Dynysty.  The tempo picks up, and the “Bandari” begins; this is the Persian Gulf style of dance.  It is very fast and energetic with lots of shoulder shimmies!  Amani and the group dance together and then apart as she does her solo.  The energy level in the room hits the sky with this one!

11) Classical Arabic Dance“Amani El-Hob”, choreographed by Amani, music composed by Mohammed Sultan
It was refreshing to see Amani do a new version of this song, and I have seen it performed on a Lebanese TV show in her classical Bellydance way.  Amani is telling a story in this piece; the story of a woman who loves a man who ignores her.  She appears in a royal blue Modern Bellydance costume and wakes up on a divan that she is lounging on.  Beginning her dance, she uses a blue silk veil and gains momentum until she sees her beloved; he takes her breath away and she shows her angst in her movement and facial expression, bowing to the floor in mourning for her lost love.  The man is on stage but off to the side and she tries to reach out to him, but it is as if she is behind a glass wall that only she can see out of.  Amani embodies the feeling of the “Lover” in this piece in the classical poetry sense; the themes of the Lover/Beloved and Union/Separation are common themes in love poetry from classical times to present day, and this piece is a perfect portrayal of that.

12)    Brazil : “Mambo”, choreographed by Sami Khoury, music composed by Ima Sumac/Abdo Munzer
In this piece Amani shows up Mambo, Brazilian style.  There is a jungle scene in which Amani is the predator; there are men who are her prey this time.  She wears an animal-inspired costume, and they mix in traditional Mambo moves with Ballet.  In the end of the piece, Amani turns in the prey and the men are the predator, and she is caught!

13/14/15) EgyptPopular & Traditional New Dances, choreographed by Sami Khoury: 
This is the final suite of the show, and is in three parts:

13) “Batta” (Hasan Eshesh):   The beginning of the piece has a light projection of a yellow sun centered in the back of the stage with two more suns spilling onto the stage floor.  It is an Egyptian marketplace with a rababah playing a taqsim; dancers are entering slowly with different things being carried on their head.  The tempo picks up and the “Batta” song begins; Amani enters in an Iskanderian costume, and men follow her around the market telling her “ya ottah!”, which means, “the cat!”.  Amani is playing the coquette, and saying, “La, la, la!”, or “no, no, no!”, and it is her voice recorded on the music.

14) “Salamatha”: A group of women dance this piece with croqueted Egyptian style beledi dresses, while Amani goes to change costumes.  The movements are simple Egyptian folkdance, mostly Ghawazee, with some ballet and theatrical dimensions added to it for stage.  Amani enters at the end to finish the piece with them, and then stays onstage for the solo tabla.

15) “Solo Tabla”: This is Amani’s famous style tabla solo.  She wears a modern Bellydance costume of black with a long fringe skirt and a tank top style bra.  The movements are bigger than Egyptian-style tabla solo and she is quite energetic!  As Amani is versed in many styles of dancing, she really gives new meaning to the term, “well-rounded dancer”; one can see from her style of dance that she has as large repertoire of movements to draw from and she puts them together in new and refreshing ways. 

She brings the audience to a roaring thunder of applause by the end of this number, but it’s not over yet…

16)    Bellydance: “Tabbeloulha”, choreographed by Amani, music composed by Said El-Artist
This dance was a lot of fun, as it is the closing number of the show, and every troupe member is on stage with Amani.  Her voice is also heard in the music.  She does a flirtatious dance of call and response with her audience, pointing to her hips and her shoulders to indicate what parts should move.  When the gorgeous saxophone starts to play for a solo on the melody, Amani takes a grand promenade down the diagonal of the stage in a very elegant manner as her adoring company lines a path for her on their knees. 

There is no wonder that her company of dancers is enchanted with working with her, just as much as we are with watching her. 

Amani has set the new standard for Bellydance Shows, and is setting the record straight for the history of Bellydance in her educational approach to this ancient art-form.

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Ready for more?
9-30-05 My Experience With Amani’s Oriental Festival by Beverley Joffe
Lebanon, June 14-19, 2005. Amani placed strong emphasis on the folklore and identity of Oriental Dance when compiling the program and offered touring to assist in blending technique with emotion.

3-26-05 “My Aim in Organizing a World-inclusive Oriental Dance Festival” by Amani
Dancer Amani of Lebanon Comments, "Oriental dancing has become a widespread art; it is now found all over the world, and among all levels of society in all the five continents! "

5-4-04 Belly Dance in Israel by Orit Maftsir
Belly dancers are the hottest trend at the moment, unlike the totally frozen attitudes towards the Arab culture in Israel.

10-13-05 A Weekend with Horacio & Beata Cifuentes, Part 1, by Dondi Simone Dahlin
What is it about certain workshops in which the profundity and joy of the workshop stays with you long after it is over?

9-28-05 Haft Paykar: "Seven Beauties" Seeking Love and Enlightenment in 12th Century Persia, Reviewed by: Rebecca Firestone, performed on April 2, 2005 produced by Laurel Victoria Gray . Even when a show attempts to borrow at least the external forms from some body of myth or literary work, it is unusual for the producers to be as aware of the allegorical content as Gray is of the deeper meanings behind Haft Paykar.

1-17-06 Bellydance Superstars, Our Plans for 2006 by Miles Copeland, 2005 Photos by Monica Berini
There is nothing like consistency and constant pressure to deliver at your best each night to weld a group or troupe together.

1-16-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 8, Leadership Risks by Mary Ellen Donald
When you lead people, you take certain risks. One such risk is that of self-revelation.

1-11-06 Return to India – This Time it’s Personal! by Michelle and Sandra
We thought that the misfortunes associated with our previous performance tours of India were simply anomalies in the blissful and glamorous world of dancing overseas.

1-10-06 The Dina Show! Photos by Catherine Barros, Slideshow coding by Tammy Yee
Event sponsored by Little Egypt on May 28-30, 2005 at the Crowne Plaze in Miami, Florida

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