Posts Tagged ‘Imagination’

Coppella Main

A Ballet with 75 Performers

By Mike V. Derderian

The hall was overflowing with people. Wherever one looked there was someone sitting on the footsteps of the carpeted aisles of the theatre at the Royal Cultural Centre.

It was a Saturday, and to be more specific the 25th of October, 2014.

A month later I decided to write a review of the wonderful ballet, choreographed by the ever glowing Rania Kamhawi; a review I was supposed to write the moment I’ve returned home.

I was there with my wife and daughter Amie and like anything you would expect from The King Hussein Foundation: The National Centre for Culture & Art it was an evening of enchantment.

If there was any shortcoming, and there was one, it was not the fault of the 75 performers, Miss Kamhawi and the artistic and technical team behind Coppélia as a production; it was that of the theatre itself: It was too small for such an unforgettable beautiful performance.

Coppélia, as a ballet transcended the boundaries of the narrow stage of the Royal Palace. It was genuine and heartfelt; performed and played out with fervor by all 75 dancers.

If it wasn’t, the theatre hall wouldn’t have been overflowing with attendees to a degree that made having such a crowd in one single space rather dangerous if a fire, God forbid, broke out.

An elderly lady and three others, younger in age, Lebanese judging by their accents, sat next to me on chairs that were placed at the last moment. Like everyone else present they were transfixed by the balanced blend of classical music, dance and acting.

Every few minutes and throughout the performance my daughter, who usually pulls a Footloose on us when we go through clothing departments in malls that play loud dance music, started swinging her arms and standing on one leg.

A sense of pride with some embarrassment swept over me as I watched her face light up to the tempo of the music to which the performers of Coppella danced.

If I was writing this piece for The Star Weekly, where I worked as a journalist for eight years, I wouldn’t have included some of the above paragraphs but since this is a personal blog I am sure you will forgive my transgression.

There are many elements that turned Coppella into a beautiful and enjoyable ballet, and as I have mentioned earlier the genuine delivery of dance and theatrics are among those elements.

Before we go into that let me list the creative team behind it:

Artistic Direction & Choregraphy …. Rania Kamhawi

Head Dance Instructors …. Rania Kamhawi & Svetlana Tahboub

Dance Instructors … Ruba Abu Sabha, Tamara Haddad and Natalie Salsa

Costume Design … Hind Dajani

Set Design … Hamada Shweini

Graphic Design … Ala Al Qaisi

Financial Administration … Mohamad Badran and Bana Wreikat

PR & Marketing … Randa Fakhoury and Nour Dirieh

Technical Staff … Jamal Masri, Mahmud Hamad, Mohannad Al-Tal, Mohammad Attiyeh, Fawaz Al Rawashdeh, Faisal Huneiti and Omar Rawashdeh

Volunteer … Zeinab Al Shrouf, Saba Obeidat, Suzan Al Banawi and Mohammed Zemirli.

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Anyone reading the program will come upon a special thanks to Ms. Lina Attel, Mr. Mohammad Abu Sumaqa, Firas Al Masri and the Royal Cutlural Center.

I would have loved to include the names of all 75 performers with the above credits but to be honest I could not for lack of time – sure if I wanted I would have asked for a soft copy of the program but I didn’t. Continue reading please!

The talented 75 performers had roles that ranged between feasting friends, giddy school children, exuberant butterfly catchers, anxious toy makers, lovely dolls, and energetic sickle dancers swaying and dancing during a wheat harvest dance.

The National Center for Culture and Art – King Hussein Foundation Coppélia is a ballet in three acts: Act I, A Ballet in Three Act; Act II, The Deception and Act III, The Wedding. It tells the story of a screwy doll maker, Coppelius, who lives in a village full of nosy life-loving people, who are constantly breaking into his toy shop out of curiosity and interest in his humanoid inventions.

Also living in the village are Swanilda and Franz, who are gradually falling in love with each other to the backdrop of a festive village.

The three main characters are performed by Natalie Salsa (Swanilda), Bijan Qutub (Franz) and Apo Yaghmourian (Coppelius).

The beautifully tailored costumes gave the performance a European production value. The set design was simple and practical – allowing quick shifts in between scenes without disrupting the flow of the story.

One of the most memorable scenes was the dolls ballet scene at Coppelius’ toy shop where the lead female character Swanilda and her friends decide to toy with the old recluse.

After breaking into the toy shop Swanilda and her friends find themselves facing colorful dolls by the dozen. The moment the eccentric toy maker walks into the room they all hide behind the dolls. A few seconds later the lifeless dolls, each representing a culture, come to life to the sound of gentle music and well-choreographed ballet movement.

The entire production seemed familiar and reminded me of a ballet performance that I saw on television 25 years ago. The distant memory of an old toy maker getting angry with young men and women, who snuck into his workshop came to my mind as the performance neared its finale.

Premiering on the 25th of May in 1870 Coppélia was choreographed by Arthur Saint-Léon to a musical arrangement by of Léo Delibes. I still haven’t found the tele-ballet that I saw a couple of years ago but I will, and when I do I will share it.

What I loved most about the Coppélia choreographed by Miss Kamhawi was how all the performers, young and old, were really into their roles. The friendly smiles and the inviting hand gestures intermingled in the background adding to the movements of the graceful dancers floating in the foreground.

It was a magical night for this writer, his wife and his daughter, and I cannot wait to attend any upcoming performance by the National Center for Culture and Art – King Hussein Foundation for I know I will not be disappointed.

“Thank you for enduring with us especially with such a full stage. We truly apologize for that! Based on tonight’s attendance we are to perform the ballet for another night,” Miss Kamhawi, who was surrounded by her dancers at the end of the performance, announced to a cheering audience.

“I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is of utmost importance to us that you attend our performances. Thank you for supporting us,” Miss Kamhawi concluded.

On a final note the next time you hear of such a performance that is choreographed by the ever-passionate and gentle Rania Kamhawi make sure you buy a ticket.

About the writer/blogger:

Mike V. Derderian is a writer, a disc-jockey at Radio Jordan 96.3 FM and a journalist with 13 years of experience. At the moment he is working as an illustrator and a street artist. For writing and illustration assignments e-mail mikevderderian@yahoo.com

 

Consumed by emptiness I am,
A hallow man,

Awakened from life’s dream,
A sleepless man,

Burned by our eternal condition,
A mortal man,

Angered by God’s silence,
A soulless man,

Engrossed by earthly pleasures,
A sad man,

Silenced by the vicious howling,
A silent man,

Who shall save this damned soul?

Illustration, “Pan my love show thyself”, by Mike V. Derderian

 

By Mike V. Derderian

October 20 2008

“We have died enough. We die on a daily basis but what enrages me most is that our death is still primitive and happens so easily, which affirms our inability to learn more about it. It is like dying for the first time,” Satirist Muhammad Tommaleih, wrote, foreshadowing but not fearing death that will one day consume all.

The above quote by Tommaleih was featured in an article written in Arabic by Muhammad Shamma, a Jordanian journalist and radio presenter, who mourned Tommaleih, Jordan’s first and foremost satirical writer, who passed away on Monday, October 13.

“To describe him as a cultural phenomenon is not easy but he is a phenomenon. Through his articles and writings Tommaleih gives you a dose of reality and sincerity—honest and blatant sincerity without courtesies or euphemisms. Through his writings he embodies social reality with all its aspects,” Shamma wrote.

“I think that Tomaleh’s death and absence from the literary arena will have an impact specifically among sarcastic writers because he is one of the most influential book cynics among the new generation of writers. Although there are many cynical writers but they are not a creative talent like Mohammed,” Shamma later told The Star, adding, “he has always been strong willed and had a zest for life in spite of his misery.”

Even when he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his tongue in 2004 Tommaleih stood up against life’s cruel judgment and disparaged his calamity in his daily writings in al-Arab al-Yawm newspaper. Still its impact was sensed in his writings whereby he started describing his mental and physical state after each and every chemotherapy session he underwent or a night spent in solitude at a hospital room.

His writings that mirrored life were doused with bouts of existentialism and his language was a hybrid of prose, poetry and everyman’s language, which would explain his appeal to Jordanians.

Born in Karak in 1957, Tommaleih wrote five books: Jawlet Arak (A Round of Aniseed liquor) (1980), al-Khaybah (The Disappointment) (1981), Molahazhat ala Qadia Assassiyah) (Notes on a Primary Case) (1981), al-Awghad al-Motahamsoon (The Enthusiastic Rascals) (1984), Elayha Betabi’at al-Hal (To Her Naturally) (2007) and Yahdoth Lee Duna Sa’er al-Nas (Happens to Me of All People) (2004)—in association with Emad Al-Hajjaj—in addition to the hundreds of pieces he wrote over a period of 20 years for local newspapers like ad-Dustour and al-Arab al-Yawm, where he continued to write since 1997 until his death.

Tommaleih had previously issued two satirical newspapers Qef (Stop) and al-Raseef (The Sidewalk) that he edited. He also worked for the satirical newspaper Abd Rabboh.

“We not only lost a special writer but also a literary figure with a unique creative output and a delicate personality,” ad-Dustour’s responsible editor-in-chief wrote in his editorial bidding farewell to Tommaleih, “Tommaleih always made sure to be a pioneer not an imitator. He was dubbed by many as the father of satirical writing, which is something he used to poke fun at as he only wanted a space, his thoughts and his style.”

Whether it was divine intervention or pure coincidence, I found Yousef Gheishan, a Jordanian satirical writer, standing outside Abu Ali’s Culture Kiosk in al-Balad (downtown Amman) where within its narrow space that was lined with books we talked about Tommaleih. “I wish there is a photocopier within reach so that I could give you a copy of a speech I am going to deliver about Tommaleih at a women’s,” Gheishan told The Star, as he rummaged through a folder he was holding.

“What can I say about Tommaleih except that he prodded us into thinking about life’s precious moments and constantly reminded us that we are alive! Our loss is great but we—his colleagues and readers—are still to feel the brunt of his death,” continued Gheishan, affirming Tommaleih’s title as the father of satire in Jordan, “he started a satirical column entitled Eyewitness at ad-Dustour in 1983 and its first piece was entitled The Sultans of Corridors. Tommaleih was also the first to launch satirical newspapers.”

Gheishan describes Tommaleih’s writing style as being unique and hard to imitate. “We always tried to imitate his style of writing but we never got close [referring to other Jordanian satirists] to his style that was closer to literary writing peppered with sarcasm,” Gheishan explained.

A day earlier Gheishan wrote in his column at ad-Dustour that he won’t request from the audience at a lecture he was holding on satirical writing to stand a moment of silence for Tommaleih. Why? “He most probably would laugh at us,” Gheishan laughingly stated before disappearing in a wave of people streaming by the kiosk.

What is bizarre is the disappearance of Tommaleih works from bookshops and book kiosks in al-Balad after his death was announced in local newspapers. “I don’t have a single volume. People probably are realizing the value of his words and writings, which would explain why there are no books left,” the Kiosk owner Abu Ali told The Star.

“I wept at his family home. His brother made me cry. Muhammad is part of me and it is hard to describe him. Mohammad is a playwright, a moviemaker, a poet and a storyteller. In my opinion he is the best there was in Jordan and the Arab world. He was an avid reader and a prolific writer,” Abu Ali, who knew Tommaleih since he was a student, said adding that he hopes that Tommaleih’s family would soon start reprinting his books that are now in demand as they were when he was alive. “There are no words to describe his words. He loved Jordan and he was loved by everyone, and I mean everyone.”

After my inquiry, Sami, another book kiosk owner, whipped out his mobile and called up his store so as to ask about books by Tommaleih. “Not a single copy. We have to re-order them,” he exclaimed before saying that many people have been asking for his books.

By Mike V. Derderian

Written for On Campus‘ 2011 December issue

Writer’s Note: With all the fanaticism out nowadays I wanted to share with you what I think of this amazing movie that decries religious fanaticism in favor of a humanitarian approach to life.  

Lebanon will be submitting it to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards in 2012; it premiered in Cannes Film Festival section Un Certain Regard and won the Cadillac People’s Choice Award in the Toronto International Film Festival this year, so will anything I write about Nadine Labaki’s masterpiece, O’ Hala La Wein? (And Where Do We Go Now?), add to this amazing piece of cinema?

I just said masterpiece and amazing so that must tell you something.

O’ Hala La Wein? stars Claude Moussawbaa, Layla Hakim, Antoinette Noufily, Yvonne Maalouf, Adel Karam and Nadine Labaki as Amal, a Christian woman who has feelings for a Muslim man Rabih (Julian Farhat), both of whom live in a secluded village inhabited by Christians and Muslims.

This 110 minute cinematic caramel sticks to one’s mouth long after the credits end. Every word of dialogue spoken resonates like a gunshot, every single body gesture shakes the earth upon which it stands within the frame of the camera, and every scene takes you to the other with a flow that matches that of a river.

Not a single frame is a waste; you just sit there waiting for the next epiphany to come out of the mouths of the village elders and youngsters.

To say that this film that titillates the imagination and astounds the heart with the bravery with which Labaki attacks sectarianism—a better verb would be maul—is faultless might be deemed an overstatement by some but it is; it is faultless, enjoyable and most of all memorable.

Labaki leaves no stone unturned: Sectarianism, religion, war, sexism, brainwashing, drugs and love. She takes all of the above and blends it into a well constructed work of cinema that will be much talked about and inspire future generations of young filmmakers.

Viewers will find themselves fully immersed in the lives of villagers living in this out of time and out of place Lebanese village that can only be reached by going through a land mine and a narrow passage over a deep ravine.

How do they survive in such a secluded village? Everyone sends their produce of vegetables and homemade products like conserves with Naseem and Rowkus, the village’s chivalrous errand boys, who ride out into the unknown on their tricycle. They also bring back the villagers their supplies of cigarettes, newspaper, pantyhoses and hair coloring products.

The women of the village, along with Amal, who owns a café, try hard to keep the men in the dark so as to keep the embers of sectarian strife away. They, Muslims and Christians, are at peace with each other, unlike the men, who are constantly looking for an excuse to bludgeon each other.

Mild spoiler ahead!

The lengths that these women, from both sides, many of which are widowed, and have lost loved ones to sectarian violence, go to preserve peace are immeasurable: They fabricate a religious miracle, bring Ukranian showgirls to preoccupy the men’s minds and even resort to drugs. They even sabotaged the village television set that the Naseem, Rawkus with the help of other boys fixed and readied for village evenings, cut the radio wires and started burning the newspapers.

These moments of feminine solidarity and attempts to stay in the past without touching on the present remind us of Wolfgang Becker’s 2003 Good Bye Lenin! in which a young man tries to keep his mother, who just woke up from a prolonged coma, under the illusion that her East Germany is still strong so as to not traumatize her.

A few minutes into the film that started with a very strong scene –will leave that for you to find out—the lovelorn Amal and Rabih perform an imaginary tango in their heads that reflects their yearning and inability to connect because of their religious difference.

Listening to Khaled Mouzannar original music one cannot but drift away especially with the sing and dance scenes that are reminiscent of great Hollywood musicals in the vein of Carol Reeds’ 1968 Oliver.

Christophe Offenstein’s lush cinematography and the natural acting of the cast, a well balanced blend of comedy and tragedy, accentuate the story written by Labaki, Thomas Bidegain and Rodney Al Haddid.

Of course religious fanatics from both sides of the fences will have a bitter after taste from Labaki’s in-your-face moralization and that comes out as a condemnation of the process of politicizing religion more than religion itself.

In simple Where O’ Hala La Wein? deserves to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Great job Nadine Labaki and everyone who worked on this unforgettable film!

Must-See-Scene: 

A mental tango that takes place in the head of two people, who cannot touch or speak out their love in public, is but one scene that will blow your mind with the smoothness with which it runs on the screen.

Nadine Labaki and Julian Farhat break into the sensual dance at her café where he is helping her paint and renovate. He is a Muslim and she is a Christian and sparks are bound to happen and I am not talking love sparks.

Will love conquer all? O’ Hala La Wein? opens with a visually strong scene and ends with a stronger one that will turn your mind around; or so Labaki hopes after you watch her film.

It is packed with scenes that are worth watching: Scenes of villagers watching a newly connected television set while women try to drown the news of sectarian strife by picking up a fight, scenes of a clergy and a man of the cloth who find harmony in order to save their village.

Yet another spoiler ahead!

My favorite scene is the one in which the women decide to bake drugs into food so that they can intoxicate their men into religious coexistence.

Labaki and the female cast break into a jolly sing along that sarcastically glorifying yet another ancient weapon: Drugs. Composed by Labaki’s brilliant composer, Khaled Mouzanar the film’s original music is being lauded by everyone who watched the film. Just try to watch it at the movies!

Most Memorable Line:

Yep! This month’s Cutting Celluloid is dedicated to one of the best Arabian films you will ever see.

Nadine Labaki’s brilliant film comes out as a bitter-sweet morality play that rips sectarianism apart as it did to Beirut times and again. You will leave the theatre remembering every single word of dialogue that reminds you of your one week long stay in Beirut, where cussing is like saying hello.

The Lebanese people aren’t shy about cussing, and neither are some of the first time actresses in this movie. To be honest that’s an aspect I very much admire as it is very real and reflective of life.

Upon realizing that their village will fall into the clutches of sectarianism the women of the village resort to sex to preoccupy their men. Spoiler ahead! Sex has been the weapon of both genders since the dawn of man and the women of the village very well know that so they end up asking Rawkus and Naseem to hire the services of Ukrainian showgirls to the chagrin of the Mayor’s hot tempered wife Yvonne (Yvonne Maalouf).

The following line spoken when Afaf, the village women and the Ukrainian showgirls take a swim in the village’s water reservoir is but one of hundreds spoken throughout the duration of this beautiful film.

She is poking fun at the skeletal frames of the European women, who start to empathize with the women’s ordeal.

Cast:

Laila Hakim … Afaf

Dialogue:

Afaf :

The smallest breast in our village would feed half of Ukraine!

P.S: In addition to writing the Cutting Celluloid page for On Campus Magazine Mike (ana/I/moi/yes) is also the writer of Go Out and Go Home pages for Go Magazine. He has been reviewing cinema professionally since 2002 through Cinerama, a movie column that he wrote for The Star Weekly until 2009. It all started when his mother found the ideal babysitter for him: Films, both technicolor and black and white, on television.  

– Usually not suitable for the faint of heart but this post is okay –

The fiery flow in the unfathomed depths is rising. The acidic vomit has reached the esophagus. Weighed down by the bills of reality he is unable to move freely in the imaginary world.
Tired the writer decides to drink rum with his favorite author and journalist. He opens his desk drawer and pulls out a  water pistol that he safely tacks in his overcoat’s right pocket.
“You never know what might show up in those dark cerebral alleys!” he says to himself. Locking the doors he presses the lift’s button. Nothing! The elevator’s prehistoric engine doesn’t whir its usual symphony compliments of screechy cogs and oiled leather belts.
“Stuck again! Damn!”
With steps that are more like leaps he reaches the entrance of the old building that resembles the facade of a run down theatre in Al Balad (Down Town).
Spitting the gum, that lost its taste, the same way the memory of a teenage summer camp love affair fades in time, out of his mouth into the rat and cockroach infested drain he heads out to a pub not far away in his mind. After few minutes walk he finds himself in front of a shady establishment in Havana, Cuba.
The street sign reads, El Gato Loco. The moment he pulls the entrance handle fog-like smoke streams out the door.
There he is. His friend. Sitting with all the worries of the world buried deep in a young mind trapped in an old man’s body. He doesn’t show it. He will go out to the sea in about an hour or two.
His right muscled and hairy forearm is laid on the old wooden edge of the bar, inviting strangers to a manly game of arm wrestling, while his left arm is wrapped around the waist of a beautiful mulata.
He hasn’t shaven for a while. He is grumpy yet of jolly disposition that is obvious to everyone present. If life’s force was visible one would have been able to see it coming out of his pores and dripping from his furrowed brow.
He was talking out loud.
“Your sensibilities do not concern me. True one has to write for the ordinary reader but one must not relinquish his/her self while doing so. Writing is art reflective of one’s soul. You not only put your words on that piece of paper; you put yourself. You don’t see people complaining about paintings they do not understand. They simply refuse to talk about such paintings because they are afraid of being mistaken for idiots. Anyone can write and paint simple and that’s what gets them excited; a language they understand and that will move their swollen lips. Well, maybe they are idiots for not wanting to understand … a man’s effort, work, life … etc …etc … bullshit!” Hemingway barks.
His heartily laugh echoes across the stuffy room that smells of burnt out cigars, alcohol, cheap aftershave and delicious perfume.
“Welcome Mike! What brings you to Havana tonight? Have you seen Nick on the way here? You look thirsty dear boy. How about a drink of rum?”
I smile, take up the glass from his shaky hand, down its contents and go back to work. On the way back to my office I think to myself, “ADD is a bitch especially when you end up writing pieces of fragmented fiction instead of work! “

To be continued or not …

Blog art:

L’assassin  (Ink on A4 paper, canon scanner and Photoshop CS3) by SARDINE (Mike V. Derderian)