Origin, Heart Streaming, An evening of Music, with Zuleikha’s Dance, Rhythm, Story, Poetry & Humor

Oct. 23, 2009, The Armory / Santa Fe Performing Arts
by Janet Eigner

The tasteful delicacy of performance artist, Zuleikha’s concert
created a mood of meditative harmony and whimsical humor, though the
questions asked through short poems–questions about why the earth is
unraveling– were profound , so were the answers offered by Zuleikha’s
mythic storytelling.  Her sumptuous Eastern costumes, sparkling
fabrics and bold colors matched the warmth of the archetypal stories
she presented.  This was a concert for children of all ages.

Long-time local dancer-storyteller Zuleikha melded Eastern and
modern movement, in the performance at the Armory on October  23rd.
She also wove in Rahim Alhaj’s introspective oud, Issa Malluf’s
spring-clear middle eastern percussion, with a sprinkling of
spot-on-poetry from Hafiz, Rilke and Naomi Shihab Nye, convincingly
read by actor, Nicholas Ballas.

While the audience filed in, a pastel slide show clicked across the
Performing Arts stage’s back scrim, images that  highlighted
recipients of The Storydancer Project.    (TSP), the local artist’s
local and international artistic health resource, aims at
esteem-building through body-work and storytelling.  Zuleikha teaches
expansive and modest movement with underserved groups in three Asian
countries and nine locations, and over 800 students in Santa Fe’s
public elementary schools.

The Asian faces in the slides–women and children in hospitals and
orphanages, raising their arms and hands to stretch, floating their
arms, like wings–reflected back the same joyful, lighthearted mood as
the concert delivered.
Many in the audience wore name tags identifying them as TSP
facilitators in the creativity, literacy wellness programs.  The
program notes, “TSP facilitators read intercultural teaching stories,
interspersed with entertaining TSP Core Wellness Exercises…What
happens is alive learning.”

Much like the flamenco concert tradition that developed from East
Indian dance influences, the concert itself reflected the
interdependence of the musicians with Zuleikha’s complex Indian Kathak
rhythmic movement, their eyes fixed on her bare feet, her heels
drumming the stage, many rows of ankle bells like a little flock of
chirping birds that echoed the oud’s repetitive, hypnotic melody and
the frame drums’s crystalline emphasis. And like flamenco concerts,
dancing took its place alongside Alhaj’s rippling oud solos and
Malluf’s exciting and delicate percussive work on the long ceramic
drum glazed with a transparent skin, his fingers flying into varied
rhythmic patterns.

Zuleikha narrated universal stories while in motion, animating the
threads of drama underscored with exaggerated  expressions on her
delightfully plastic face–huge eyes, a capacity to really drop her
jaw, showing a droll or highly amused or “can you believe it!” mood.
In fact, her mime’s sensibility, and angular movements often reminded
of Persian miniature scenes.

Even her images appeared multicultural: the artist’s graceful hands
and arms, her modified prances, her exaggerated side glances that had
her bent-kneed body posed in one direction while her spine curved
backwards and head rubber-necked in the opposite direction, had the
two-dimensional sense of hieroglyphics or figures ringing Greek vases.
She could also run and sprint at length without panting through part
of one story that emphasized dancing one’s way back to life.  Even
with fast moves, her arms rose and settled slowly, as though rounding
out and bringing to conclusion a story’s moving thought.  Both spare
movement and language vocabularies were honed to fully illuminate the
stories’ gentle prodding to live fully and with optimism, from the
heart, with generosity, spirit and kind humor.

The program included an amusing tour de force exploration on an
office chair of how varying people look and move while they are kept
waiting: she wove in the content by explaining that she’s watched
people world-wide, waiting.

Concluding the program, Zuleikha, robed in
dervish-designed gown, offered up a classic whirling ritual. Though
the audience had chuckled its way through the engrossing concert, the
whirling left them in a tranquilly blissful mood.

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