Abdel Halim Hafez, known as “The Dark Nightingale,” was a much loved Egyptian singer who gained popularity throughout the Arabic world for his haunting voice and dashing good looks. He was born in 1929 and died in 1977, and was not only a singer but also acted in a number of films. He is honored through September 5 at the Ritz Theater by Jawaahir Dance Company’s The Dark Nightingale, which interprets the songs Hafez made famous.
The music for the show, provided by the Georges Lammam Ensemble, is simply fantastic. With an ensemble of percussion, vocals, standup bass, violins as well as traditional Arabic instruments such as the oud (a Turkish lute-like instrument) and the nay (a Middle Eastern flute), the musicians fill the Ritz with an enchanting sound. Georges Lammam himself, who directs the group, plays the violin magnificently. Singers Elias Lammam and Naser Musa are also very good as they channel the Nightingale’s songs through their voices.
|the dark nightingale, presented through september 5 at the ritz theater. for tickets ($28) and information, see ticketworks.com.|
My favorite dancer to watch is the irresistible Nesma, a guest artist with the company who was born in Spain and lived in Egypt where she studied Oriental dance and Egyptian folklore. In Egypt she performed with the Egyptian Folkloric Reda Troupe and eventually founded her own company, Al-Andalus Danza. As a soloist, Nesma commands the stage, exuding joyfulness in her body. A mature woman, she has a combination of motherliness and sexiness combined with spot-on technique. I was absolutely mesmerized by her performance.
It is kind of refreshing, when so much of dance involves petite dancers with no curves, to watch this type of dance that celebrates the female form in all its glory. Whether the dancers are jutting their hips, shaking their boobs, or undulating their tummies, they emit a confidence in their female awesomeness.
My main gripe with the show regards the costumes, which are ugly. I just can’t understand how costume designer Laurie Olson Williams came up with such odd choices. The main dress that the ensemble dancers wears is a gold-green mesh full-length number, which might have been fine if not paired with various neon glittery hip sashes and scarves. I realize that the designer was working to fit a general style (the long dress and the scarf accessories), but the particular fabrics are not pleasing to look at.
Aside from that, though, it’s a great show, and I suggest you check it out. You might want to go on pay-what-you-can night on September 1, because at $28, ticket prices are a bit steep.