Light Shines Bright on Toronto Stage
A word of Arabic origin, Noor means “light”, “bright” or “enlighten”. Toronto’s Arabesque Dance Company and Orchestra did just that in their current dance show, Noor, playing at the Harbourfront Centre in the lovely Fleck Dance Theatre.
Both visually and audibly stunning, Noor combines traditional Egyptian dance and music. From spectacular belly dancers, to a passionate Flamenco guitarist and dancer, to powerful vocalists, and finally to a full orchestra of incredible masterful musicians, audiences are enlightened by the world of Arabian nights.
Roger Scannura’s Flamenco guitar improvisation was sensational, followed by company founder Yasmina Ramzy’s belly dance routine collaboratively performed with Flamenco artist, Valeria Scannura. Although each dance genre varies in style and technique, both forms share common roots. I found the duet to be quite powerful as they moved differently yet simultaneously to the same rhythm of the music.
Musical director, composer and lead vocalist Bassam Bishara brought it all together in the “Musical Montage” number which also included vibrant belly dancers intricately moving their bodies. Bishara continued to mesmerize us with his Arabic singing in the “Onchoudat El Fan-Song of Art” number.
The Dabki Montage, at the end of Act 1, performed by Kranti, is a middle eastern dance style with modern martial arts techniques. This was also an entertaining number combined with the flawless Arabesque dancers.
The opening number in Act 2 called, “Coffee Shop” combined sensuality with humour as the dancers smoked and balanced the “Hookah” pipe (also known as “ Shisha” in Egyptian and “Narghile” in Lebanese), on their heads while they delicately moved around the stage.
It usually takes brilliant lighting design for me to actually notice the lighting effects, and in this case, I was absolutely hypnotized. As each vocalist or musician performed their solo act, a beautiful light shone above, creating an ethereal and heavenly feeling. Arun Srinivasan’s lighting design added to the spirit of the show.
My guest and I agreed that one of the most powerful moments of the evening was when lead percussionist Suleiman Warwar played the instrument Dumbek, a drum with a goblet or chalice-like shape, Arabian in origin, which allows for a great deal of variety in the sound. The talented Warwar had the entire audience dancing in their seats as he created a collection of colourful rhythms.
Costume design and construction by Deborah Shaw enhanced the exotic and fluid movements of each dancer as they hypnotized the crowd with their array of colourful apparel and captivating expressions.
The entire ensemble of 14 acoustic musicians was outstanding including solos by violinist Fathi Aljarah such as in the number called “Yearnings”.
Yasmina Ramzy’s choreography performed by the talented troupe of 17 dance artists is passionate, evocative and rich in detail.
–The Arabesque Dance Company and Orchestra played at the Fleck Dance Theatre (Harbourfront Centre) at 207 Queens Quay West from March 3-March 6th, 2011 at 8pm with a Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2pm.
Photograph of Arabesque dance company dancers taken by Paul Devisser