Reaches the Speed of Light
by Marta Schill
theory was proven once again at the Bellydancer of the UniverseŽ Competition on
February 15, 2004 in Long Beach, California. That's right - time IS relative,
and Tonya and Atlantis magically condensed their two-day festival into one speed-of-light
incredibly streamlined fourteen hours!
All important competition categories
were still presented, and the superb instruction of Angelika Nemeth was warmly
received by eager students in a sold-out morning class.
From the Junior
to the Divine, every competition category had a full roster of entrants, with
some even on waiting lists. Contestants came from the entire United States as
well as other countries, and the level of performance quality was the highest
ever, effectively illustrating the exciting evolution of Mid-Eastern Dance Arts
The Competition began with performances by young women who represented
the future of Bellydance. The Juniors showed skill and artistry well beyond their
years - an inspiration to all. Champion, Viridiana; First Runner-up, Tiger Lily.
spectrum of talent was displayed in the Divine category. Beautiful women presented
the huge horizon of excellence and ingenuity that only twenty years of experience
can bestow. Champion, Arianna; First runner-up, Azar; Second, Jheri St. James
and Najma (tied!). The Halame Congeniality Award, Avianna; and Peoples' Choice,
Jheri St. James.
The most exciting and innovative event of the BDUC afternoon
was the relatively new Fusion category. The audience delighted in performances
influenced by Flamenco, Punk rock, bondage queens and ravers (to name a few!)
- all loosely connected by the thread of Bellydance. Champion, Habib; First Runner-Up,
Diosa; Second, Mayumi; Congeniality, Jenna; Peoples' Choice, Habib.
Lamp Awards were given to Jeanie Cafferty, Beatriz Martinez and Anne Missbrenner.
Publisher's Awards went to Jennifer James Long and Sharina. The coveted Lifetime
Achievement Award was bestowed upon Anisa.
The evening gala opened with
the Group category. It was a new pleasure for the audience to experience all the
contenders; previously, only the Champions performed. This year, the Champions
were: Midnight Mirage; First Runner-up, Troupe Ooh La La; Second, Devadasi; Congeniality
and the Peoples' Choice went to IO, from Southern California.
stunning highlight of the evening show was Atlantis - performing with a renewed
grace, elegance and power. Each year, Atlantis shows us the true essence of the
Bellydancer of the Universe qualities; this year she transcended all expectations.
Egyptian final was a long anticipated moment: this category had so many excellent
individuals from whom to choose, yet finally, the winners were: Champion, Ava
Fleming; First Runner-up, Sa'diyya, Second, Zephyra, Third, Elisheva. Peoples'
Choice and Congeniality awards went to Ava Fleming.
Veils and Incense
and Essence of Veils gave a performance to remember. Their joy of dance
was beautifully directed by their leader, Tonya Chianis, and the melding of experience
and youthful energy created dynamics that left the audience wanting more.
high point of this extraordinary day came with the finals for the Universal Category.
The Legacy Ensemble - a band featuring Viken Najarian, Carlos Devecioglu and Andreas
Tsianis, played for each dancer, challenging their ability to recognize, improvise,
and successfully interpret music they had not heard before. The Champion was Jamileh
from Utah! First Runner-up, Sa'diyya from Texas; Second, Jasmina from Southern
California; Third, as well as Peoples' Choice was Habib from Arizona, with the
Congeniality award going to Mimi. This year was an excellent example of the superior
level of talent in Bellydance nationwide.
To paraphrase our old friend Einstein, "Try not to be a dancer of success - try instead to be a dancer of
value." Each contestant at this 2004 BDUC proved definitely to be
a dancer of value.
The Champions and the Peoples' Choice awardees
will be invited to Tonya and Atlantis' Mega-Stars gala show in the Autumn - watch for it! Additionally, visit tonya-and-atlantis.com
for news about the availability of the 2004 BDUC videos. This event will be bringing
everyone together again on President's Day weekend in 2005!