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BWW Review: FJK DANCE Celebrates Middle Eastern Culture, A Fusion of Culture and Dance - A Message of Peace at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College

In this time of physical proximity of different cultures, Fadi J. Khoury, Artistic Director and Choreographer of FJK Dance, believes in the unique fusion of culture and dance, with the endless possibilities of experimenting with the fundamentals of various dance forms, including classical ballet, ballroom, Middle Eastern, and jazz, creating their own language to bridge the gap, demonstrating a shared capacity to create. Using atmosphere created by music, lighting, costumes, and movement, Khoury takes us on a journey, via his and his dancers' fusion, in a singular performance at the Kaye Playhouse, February 27, 2016, which I was glad to attend.

The curtain opened on a compelling pair of dancers, the lithe and expressive, Sevin Ceviker (Associate Artist and Principal Dancer), partnered by Khoury, with whom she danced in all three pieces performed that evening. The 2nd couple, entering before the 1st had left the stage, was not as strong a presence, but the 3rd was better. (I cannot name names, as they were not listed in the program.) The lush music of Frederic Chopin, used for Home, was choreographed with interesting pattern changes and different dancers coming in and out of the work, holding the interest of the audience. The program tells us that this work is "a reflexion of light through darkness, and the separation and bond. Through man's resilience and belief in trust and hope Home manifests an intimate dream." The lighting by Judith Daitsman, featuring spots of light through darkness, was an important element. I did notice that the men, in general, with momentary exceptions, lacked a flow of energy through their bodies, which I'd like to experience going beyond their physicality. This is a shame, as flow seems to be on the menu of Khoury's choreography. The women, all accomplished dancers, were long and lovely.

A Message of Peace was created to two pieces of music: Echoes, inspired by "Dabke", a folkloric traditional Bedouin dance of the mountainsof Lebanon and Syria Middle Eastern drums and percussion instruments with electric based sounds and rhythms, by Shamou and Serenade, to classical Middle Eastern music by Ihsan Al Mounzir, playing Kanoun, a harp-like string instrument. The darkness, lighting by Calvin Anderson, sounds of wind blowing, and ethnic sounds and movements seemed to transport me from NYC, from the theater, to another place and time. The opening solo with a traditional scarf, by Khoury, then joined by Ceviker was passionate. Again, Khoury's choreography explored patterns and styles. I did have a moment of disbelief, however, as fouette turns were introduced, seeming out of character and out of rhythm with this music.

"From Classical Ballet to Ballroom and Middle Eastern Jazz, Dum Tak is a journey of percussion and a dialog between the heart and the beats. A statement of cross cultural tolerance, diversity, and human connection." Again, the choreography and costume design was by Khoury. Music by Hossam Ramzy and ARC Music Productions Int. Ltd., Samer Ali (Violin), Mario Kirlis and Johnny Farraj (Rumba Riq) was another Middle Eastern choice, beautiful and sometimes haunting. Lighting design by Anderson added an interesting element. Opening this piece, wearing ballroom heels, was the alluring and sensual Lucia Jackson. Whenever she returned to the stage, there was a welcomed spark. Ceviker, barefoot this time, was still dynamic and fluid. It seemed incongruous, however, to see preparation and pirouettes coming out of flowing Middle Eastern music and, at one point, one of the men breaking into classical turns a la seconde, breaking the spell of the Middle Eastern music. It seemed like a stretch beyond which my mind could absorb, at least in the way they were presented. The ballroom and classical elements included classical patterns of lines and groups, before breaking into other, more contemporary or ethnic ways of using space. Before the end of this work, in which dancers were shod in heels, pointe shoes, or bare feet, demonstrating the fusion, there seemed not to be enough variety of choreography and music to hold the interest to the end of the piece.

FJK is a worthwhile group with something to offer. I look forward to seeing what they bring to the stage in the future.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jaqlin Medlock

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