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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Musika Rox rocks

Published: March 23, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc.

Musika Rox. Musika is Hebrew for Music. Rox is Arabic for dance. I think it is time for B’Yachad Israeli Dance Troupe to rename their annual show because they brought much more than just Middle Eastern song and dance; they brought fun, poetry and discussion—just to name a few of the additions—to their show March 21 in Levin Ballroom.

At its inception, the show combined the Israeli dancing of B’Yachad and the Arab musical stylings of Mochila. Mochila no longer exists but B’Yachad kept up the traditions by having a wide array of talented performers at their show, including professional dance troupes, other Brandeis groups and other university troupes.

B’Yachad danced admirably for all of their routines. While some dancers were clearly more experienced than others, they held together well and the few weaker dancers were supported well by the more advanced dancers. B’Yachad began with an energetic dance to foot-tapping music that got the audience revved for the show. This opening act titled “Mehashamayim”—choreographed by Jennie Berger ’12, Meg Kennedy ’14 and Missy Mandell ’13—was one of B’Yachad’s strongest numbers in that it showed the cohesiveness of the group as they danced together in near-perfect synchronicity.

This number was very similar to the routine they performed directly after the intermission. In “Matai L’achazor, choreographed by Rose Just-Michael ’12, the troupe energized the audience, bringing them out of the doldrums of intermission. Although there were a few mistakes in this routine, the troupe always recovered quickly and it did not affect the performance too much.

Another standout for B’Yachad was “Bein Ha’tzlilim,” choreographed by Berger, in which all of B’Yachad’s seniors danced together. This dance, slower than their first number, flowed well with fluid motions. Additionally, this dance allowed each senior a moment to shine; Ilyana Rosenberg ’12 shone the brightest though when she stood alone in a semi-circle created by her fellow dancers and did a handstand—dress be damned (she was wearing shorts underneath).

B’Yachad also wowed in “L’azuz,” choreographed by Becca Meyer ’12 and Micky Waks ’13; this fast-paced routine was very modern with a lot of acrobatics and nearly hip-hop moves. There was one very bad mistake in this routine, however, in which Jake Altholz ’15 and Waks attempted to do the lift popularized by “Dirty Dancing.” For a moment while Altholz was suspending Waks in the air, it was fabulous; but then that second passed and the entire audience gasped as one when it appeared that Waks was about to plummet headfirst into the stage. Luckily she did not and they both recovered very quickly although the audience was a bit more nervous.

In fact, B’Yachad did many more lifts than they have in previous shows probably due to the fact that they now have three male members. While this does not excuse the brash negligence in trying such as dangerous move as Altholz and Waks attempted, the troupe did successfully accomplish many lifts.

One cannot write so much about B’Yachad without mentioning Baby B’Yachad; Baby B’Yachad is the “troupe” composed of students who are not members of B’Yachad but wanted to learn a dance and perform it. These students, while they were not very good, it was impossible to watch their performance without a huge grin on your face because of how much fun they were having on stage.

The two best guest groups were the Sayat Nova Dance Company and the Aftab Dance Group. The Sayat Nova Dance Company is a professional dance troupe that performed traditional Armenian dances. They performed two routines, the first of which contained only the female members of the group performing a traditional Armenian women’s pride dance. Their movements were very controlled and their dance seemed to be comprised of series of quick movements and then a pause for a pose. As amazing as their first routine was, the second, in which the men joined them, was even better. I do not know if I have ever seen anyone dance that quickly in such succinct synchronicity.

The Aftab Dance Group, a Persian dance group comprised of Boston-area college students, was a surprising win. While not every dancer was perfect, their choreography was incredibly interesting with a focus on their hands rather than their feet and their music was upbeat and fun. Also, they were having a blast. Those were the eight most genuine smiles I saw on stage all night and some of the girls were even singing along to their Farsi music.

Two amazing performers did neither song nor dance; Zoha Hussain ’14 and Rawda Aljawhary ’13 performed slam poetry deftly. Hussein performed two original poems that confronted the intolerance she faces from non-Muslims and from other sects within Islam. Her first poem “We Are One” made great use of current political tensions; as she performed, one could feel her anger at the way she is sometimes treated. Her second poem “Muslims” confronted many of the same issues and had these beautifully heart-wrenching lines about the intolerance she faces: “You will never be accepted here / Go back to your country / You’re better off there.” Aljawhary’s performance was phenomenal as well but the strongest part came when she recited a work-in-progress original poem about Allah; the poem evoked a very visceral reaction by the flowing beauty of the words.

The Belly Dance Ensemble also performed a routine and it was very impressive. Although not all the girls in the ensemble have the body types one would expect from belly dancing, they sure could dance. At one point their coin-belts were jingling steadily for a very long time and yet they were shaking their hips so subtly that the only movement one could see was the coins; they appeared to be stationary.

Musika Rox also featured performance by Ba’note, Adagio Dance Ensemble and Boston University’s Kalaniot. Ba’note was good but not great; their first song was lovely but was not at all Middle Eastern and did not fit the theme, their second song seemed somewhat messy, and they have sung their third song too many times. Adagio Dance Ensemble danced very well but they did nothing to stand out; also, Adagio choreography seems to love putting their dancers lying on the floor, which is Levin Ballroom is a mistake because it makes it very difficult for the audience to see them. Lastly, Kalaniot was terrible; their choreography was very traditional but they unfortunately could not carry it out.

Also, for next year’s show, B’Yachad should consider finding one student to emcee the event and have him practice his lines beforehand. Some emcees forced the audience to listen as they read the routine descriptions in a monotone from the playbill. One emcee could not even pronounce B’Yachad.

Overall Musika Rox was a very good show with strong routines from nearly all of the performers. It was a shame that not more people attended because the dancing and poetry were truly impressive.