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July 14, 2015
FJK Dance: Combining Ballroom, Ballet, and Middle Eastern Folklore


When the lights dim and the silence falls you're not sure what you're waiting for as you anticipate FJK Dance's program to begin. What to expect from a dance company that uses a combination of ballroom, ballet, and Middle Eastern folklore to tell you something new about life? This is the purpose of dance.

When it begins you're confronted with a highly energetic, powerful, commanding presence of one dancer and duet after another emphatically presenting the vision of Fadi J. Khoury upon the stage. The movement is stirring to the blood and leaves you speechless because it is a neologism in the nonverbal speech which is body language.

You begin with Tango Unframed where the intensity of latin ballroom is informed by the attitude of Middle Eastern folkloric dance executed with ballet precision. Then you encounter Dum Tak, a dance revelation that leaves you speechless with a different weave of the three dance styles, the articulate poise and fiercely commanding maneuvers of dancers moving with strong, reimagined gracefulness that defenestrates daintiness and confronts you with powerful rhythmic cadences of nonwestern origin. Arabesque introduces us to the full cast and is a pristine representation of Khoury's complete vision of fusing seemingly disparate styles and achieving cohesion, fluency and connection. The piece is Middle Eastern style ballet executed by two groups sweeping in serpentine motions amongst each other like the Ganges and Brahmaputra River Delta. The musical composition in Arabesque is an eclectic, dynamic style you encounter throughout FJK Dance: one part electric, one part orchestral, and one part Middle Eastern desert twang. Your heart is frozen by the simple elegance of exaggerated tantours fluttering and sweeping in the air on ladies heads in Home, their appearance like that black moths twirling in the subtle stage light. Male dancers in the piece piqué and plié in ballet-inspired sherwals, concluding the performance bathed in stage lighting like the sun setting over the Arabian Desert sands.

All evening long it's one re-presentation after another. Whether ballet is the loom, ballroom is the thread and a bedouin is the designer or some other rearrangement, you are awakened to a new way of telling with a dance style incapable of preconception. FJK Dance is inspiring because it is foreign; the feeling it creates is foreign.  The company provides an extremely refreshing nonwestern perspective of humanity with seminal reinterpretations of dance. Audience members will be touched, compelled by the change of voice in what is usually a monochromatic Western expression.

A movement neologist in the world of body language, Fadi J. Khoury's style was at first blatantly questioned and doubted for its difficulty and near impossibility. "I always have this urge to prove the possibility," Khoury shared post-rehearsal on Monday. "Life is not just black and white -- there's a lot of greys and grey can be very shiny." Critics thought it was only his manner, his behaviour and not a legitimate overarching style deserving of its own sobriquet. That changed when Khoury danced with his now partner Sevin Ceviker. "Sevin really created this for me," Khoury explains, "Because of her expertise I was able to put my put my dream together. People stereotype. They say, 'Well it's because he comes from Iraq or because he does ballroom that he dances like this'.  When I started dancing with Sevin my vision really came to life...everything started to show." Their successful parnership proved to the dance world that the nascent but compelling triune of ballet, ballroom, and Middle Eastern Folkloric is indeed tenable and teachable.

As exotic as is the presentation, the alchemizing of dance styles is a difficult task for Fadi. He has to work with dancers willing to operate in the technical mastery of ballet, ballroom, and his native Middle Eastern folklore. And there is no room to do only one-third well as his vision continually reimagines story lines that place various elements of each style at the forefront of executing the narrative.

Beholding the memorable spectacle of FJK Dance one can easily see the chemistry Fadi works in to create new systems of movements that challenge conceptions of what dance could be. "It's a challenge and it's wonderful." His dancers have a powerful freedom in their commitment to each dance technique and freely meld into them in each choreographed piece. For this reason Khoury's persistence is creating new realities, new ways of imagining for not only his dancers but also his audiences.

You will be sure to feel a connection to Khoury and his company as their pure expressions pour into the room. It is a different form of connection not so much like partnership but more like inclusion. The troupe on stage before you is speaking to you in a body language you cannot speak but which your soul understands. "People allow themselves to be completely in a different place because part of them doesn't understand what's going on -- and that's a gorgeous thing," Khoury offered. "This moment is nirvana and [it] is what [FJK Dance] should create on stage."

In a world of predictable routine and familiarity with monotony we crave strangeness, the unknown, the unpredictable. This is what Khoury gives us. He gives us an untame Middle Eastern cocktail on the rocks of ballet and in a ballroom martini glass. He gives us himself and his bold imagination for a new way of movement that dances with the what-ifs and duets with impossible until it fuses into possible: FJK Dance.

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