Group Champion = Arabina - CA
1st RU = Ya Amar Bellydance Troupe - Mexico
2nd RU = Bella Oasis Dance Co - CA
3rd RU = Raks A'Diva - CA
Congeniality: Talisman Dance Company - CA
People's Choice: Mirage in Motion – CA
Drum Solo Champion = Paula – Dominican Republic
(Also Champion of Champions!!)
1st RU = Sherena - OH
2nd RU = Lindsay - Canada
3rd RU = Tatiana Kuzmina – Russia
Congeniality: Ema - Japan
People's Choice: Tatiana Kuzmina - Russia
Taxsim Champion = Shereen – Czech Republic
1st RU = Oleg - Russia
2nd RU = Masha - CA
3rd RU = Cassandra Fox - Canada
Congeniality: Lara - CA
People's Choice: Masha - CA
Fusion Champion = Oleg - Russia
1st RU = Roxana - CA
2nd RU= Cassandra Fox - Canada
3rd Runner Up = Jeli - CA
Congeniality: Oleg - Russia
People's Choice: Regine- CA
Jr Solo Champion = Kat - CA
1st RU = Shanti Feyrouz - CA
2nd RU = Wiiz - CA
Little Champion = Kassandra – CA
1st RU = Brianna - CA
2nd RU = Sasha - CA
3rd RU = Lucy Mary - CA
A Review by Marta Schill: "The 21st Century Meets the Twenty-First Universe!"
Friday, February 18, 2011, Long Beach: It was a dark and stormy night . . .not our customary freakin' gorgeous weather in SoCal, and yet definitely not enough of a deluge to keep dancers from a really smokin' show! In 2011, the newest facet on the gem that is the Bellydancer of theUniverse Competition was a Friday evening 'Welcome to BDUC' party that took over the Pacific Sailing and Yachting Club, tucked away in the charming Shoreline Village. The locals at the Club were stunned by the effervescent array of talent - touting Amina Goodyear, performing as a slightly(?) tipsy Egyptian street dancer (talk about Sha'abi Chic!), and Helena Vlahos elegantly reclining on a converted pool table (as only she could do it) with coins dancing on her lovely midriff. Graceful Taji, piquant Katya, charming Amanda Rose and vivacious Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan transformed the club into an exotic Odalisque . . .then Atlantis and Shazireh rocked the house with All-American fusion that grounded any sailors who had felt at sea, surrounded by the Lorelei . . . always good to be home! Finally, before they could put the cork in the bottle, the feminine chimeras returned in the strikingly lovely forms of Sahra Saeeda and beautiful Dilek - two of the finest dancers on (this night) a very, very wet planet. This pre-show party will become a staple, and all the boys at the yacht club will be there!
* * *
As if to prove Einstein's theory of an expanding universe, Saturday morning's event exploded with action: First, the Group Preliminaries with an abundance of contestants, replete with creative costuming and story-dance concepts enough to fill the entire weekend on their own! What an amazing jumpstart to BDUC . .
Next came the coveted "retro" category - yeah, this is how it all began! Twenty-one years ago, the "BDUC" was born - with one division and one objective: To discover and to honor the finest Bellydancer around - and to this day, the Universal Category achieves that goal every year. Beautiful Sa'Diyya, 2011's winner, is a testament to BDUC's proud tradition - proving her stellar talents by entering (and winning!) other categories as well.
By afternoon, there came a warm feeling of familiarity regarding the new venue: Still housed in the beautiful Long Beach Convention Center, the BDUC's new location had a great vibe . . the lobby, the classrooms, the dressing rooms and the auditorium area had a layout in which there was a circular route that encompassed the entire spectrum of activity. All aspects of what was offered - shows, classes, vending, food - felt inclusive and comfortable.
Saturday's surprise turnout was for the Prelims in the Egyptian style! In this time of incredible diversity in the universe of Bellydance, there were over thirty contestants from around the world vying for recognition in this very traditional genre. The confluence of exotic fabrics, sequins, fringe, rhinestones and fabulous choreography filled the afternoon - myriad creative interpretations of the Egyptian style surfaced - including a truly excellent male dancer; Oleg, from Russia!
This last observation brings me to a highlight of the BDUC weekend . . .the Russian Invasion. A troika of dancers; Oleg, Tatiana and Victoria came, saw, and filled the event with their inventiveness, energy and humor. They came from Russia with love - and returned with more than a little hardware
Dinner Break. Time for one of the many attractions the Long Beach Center provides: Great restaurants right across the street! Irish Pubs, Island fare, Italian - all there, all inundated with literally hundreds of bellydancers; visions in headdresses, eyelashes and attitude - gearing up for the fabulous Judges' Celebrity show that night, as well as the first categories in which trophies would actually be awarded.
A galaxy of stars orbited Saturday evening's stage. We were treated to the Genesis of the Tribal style with Nina Sahar and Blue Lotus, the impishness of Pentagram, lovely and classical Marushka, the Gypsy insouciance of Mesmera and Lee Ali - countered by the sassy grace of Her Royal Highness, Princess Farhana! Not to be outdone in the 'regal' department, Helena Vlahos and Louchia added richness and sophistication to the gala. Legendary Anisa and her dance ensemble enhanced the playfulness of Amina Goodyear's Sha'abi dancer, who'd wandered over from the Friday show and once again displayed her expertise in a tongue-in-cheek interpretation of Egyptian party dance. We were treated to the amazing diversity of bellydance reflected in lovely Ashana Hanada, flirtatious gamine Jayna, and the indomitable Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan. True subtlety, and the infinite grace of the Egyptian style was performed by consummate masters of the Art - Angelika Nemeth, and Sahra Saeeda. Renown oudist and composer John Bilezikjian and BDUC producer Tonya Chianis, cornerstones of Middle Eastern music and dance, opened with fusion and traditional melodies spanning their extraordinary careers. This amazing show was complete because of their energy, levity and unequalled talent.
The ethereal, nuanced moves to Taxim contribute much of the mystical quality to Mid-Eastern dancing. From a broad field of twenty contestants, the luminous Shereen of the Czech Republic emerged the victor, and claimed the first trophy. Culminating an astonishing evening, the presentation the Specialty Skills transfixed the crowd. The dexterous, artistic Sa'Diyya of Texas claimed the trophy; the initial coup in what would be an extraordinary weekend for this very talented performer.
* * *
Sunday morning came pretty quickly after such an intense evening; however, the fresh faces of the Little and Junior contestants, and their eager approach to performing became the perfect wake-up call for this amazing day. Beautiful little (tiny!) Kassandra won the Little class, and Kat captured the Junior Solo category . . . it was definitely a Sunday brunch of Special "K's!"
The great Amir Sofi and Superstar Jillina were two of the celebrity judges for Sunday's unexpected marathon - the Drum Solo competition boasted over 30 contenders, 13 of them from other countries! From this rivalry rose the sublime star of rhythm; intoxicating Paula from the Dominican Republic.
Most exciting among the contenders yet to be awarded a trophy before the Finals was the entertaining Fusion style. This year the contention was ramped up a notch by the fact that the Russian Troika were all among the competitors in this category! As the event unfolded (literally) it became obvious that break-away costumes were to emerge as the 2011 prop of choice! Following this trend, Oleg of Russia also broke away from the pack, and was deemed Fusion Champ
The air was electric with anticipation as Sunday evening, featuring the best of the best, began. Group finalists set a celebratory tone with energetic, finely-tuned performances. Troupe Arabina from California, directed by Dilek, captured the coveted Group Championship.
One of the hallmarks of the BDUC is the band playing live for each Universal finalist. They must improvise to music that is new to them; thereby showcasing the dancer who can spontaneously master her music. . . . OK , so what's more entertaining than a talented and skillful dancer improvising? Try four dancers at the same time! Both Universal and Egyptian finalists faced a novel challenge (challenging for the judges as well): performing together to an intricate drum solo played live by Amir Sofi.
The Universal Championship was won by Sa'Diyya of Texas, and the winner who rose to the top in the giant Egyptian category was the gorgeous Shereen from the Czech Republic . . .also the winner of Taxim.
The beautiful Dilek took her place on stage to be proclaimed the first member of the "BDUC Hall of Fame." This award honored her four championships captured at the event throughout its twenty-one years.
To witness the ultimate talents from the entire weekend in action - one after the other - is a truly humbling experience. This is exactly what occurs during the Champion of Champions process! Judges' discernments are tried to the limit; yet there must be a choice . . . and in a close race, the amazing Paula of the Dominican Republic claimed the title! Congratulations flowed from a wildly appreciative audience.
A poignant point in this marvelous weekend was the bestowing of the Lifetime Achievement Award to California's own Sahra Saeeda, a well-deserved homage to her life's artistic wealth of performances, travels, research, and never-ending studies - and for revealing much of her experience in her fascinating journals; an invaluable resource for dancers and aficionados alike. For all information on Champions and Runners-up, Congeniality and Peoples' Choice awards along with pictures, pictures, pictures - visit bellydanceroftheuniverse.com
Atlantis, the Mistress of this Universe, survived, prevailed, and triumphed again this year: Battling the challenges of a new venue as well as a personal bout with the flu, she guided this space shuttle safely home . . .we left with stars in our eyes as well as in our cel phone cameras - already making plans for next year - and the new dance category! No surprise that Tonya and Atlantis, the most well-known mother and daughter producers in Bellydance, would be offering a Family Duet classification, inclusive of Mothers, Fathers, Sisters, Brothers, and any combination of the above! The 22nd Bellydancer of the Universe will be once again at the Long Beach Convention Center on February 17,18 and19, 2012. Prepare for takeoff . . .
02/18/11 - There Are Aliens Among Us & They're Wearing Sequins: The Bellydancer of the Universe Competition Is This Weekend
"Fill the Long Beach Convention Center with belly dancers and belly dance enthusiasts and it will look pretty much like you’d expect: a sea of glitter, glitz, chiffon, sequins, false eyelashes, fake hair and boundless enthusiasm. Throw in a collection of cash prizes and cheering crowds and you have the 21st Annual Bellydancer of the Universe Competition (BDUC), happening this weekend. (So far, there haven’t been any alien competitors, but the table is open to them.)
Mother/daughter dancers and promotional team Tonya Chianis and Atlantis Long held the first BDUC competition in part to help bridge cultural gaps through dance during the height of Desert Storm. Seasoned professionals and well known entertainers, the duo brought their experience, knowledge and serious sense of fun to the table to create something new for the belly dance community.
Over the years, the competition has evolved from a local Southern California event to an international spectacle. Dancers, vendors, teachers and students come from Japan, Korea, Mexico, South America, Europe and all over the U.S. to compete, give workshops, sell costumes, catch up with old friends and make new ones. “In the beginning,” says Atlantis, “I used to cook a big dinner for the judges and crew to express our appreciation. I’d pop out during one of the long categories - start the sauce, open the wine. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten too big for me to still do that! But we still try to make it special.”
From two initial categories - group and universal with an improv finale, there are now 10 different options. It’s a true celebration of the sensual, sophisticated art form that originated in the Middle East. The BDUC showcases both the classical Egyptian and cabaret styles, and the more flamboyant, playful iterations with the troupe, all ages and fusion categories.
Dancers are judged on their skill with rhythms, styles, costuming, and presentation. For attendees unfamiliar with belly dance, it’s a chance to learn about a new art form--one that involves lots of glitter, elegant body isolations and hard-won skill.
At stake is up to $5000 and a trophy, along with starring roles in the BDUC DVDs and promotional pieces for the following year’s competition. Winners get the opportunity to teach and perform all over the community, locally and abroad thanks to the support of Tonya and Atlantis. The competition is friendly but fierce: never underestimate the will of a woman (or man) in 20 pounds of sequins who’s been practicing a complicated routine for a year or more.
Judges are some of the legends in the field: among them former Bellydance Superstar Jillina, Sahra Saeda, and Helena Vlahos--a beautiful dancer also known for her ability to roll multiple quarters along her toned and talented midriff.
These judges have seen it all, including one memorable year when part of a (male) contestant’s wardrobe slipped off and ended up wrapped around the head of the judge.
The wardrobe malfunction is a rare occurrence, but there are always surprises: dancers playfully pushing the boundaries of their category, making the art their own with hip-hop or Bollywood soundtracks, feather boas, and the more traditional swords, wings, or canes, layering individual personality and flair onto a base of belly dance.
Participation is encouraged. Audience members-- even those with little knowledge of a 9/8 rhythm or the proper way to make a zaghareet--can vote in the People’s Choice award for their favorite dancer.
And for those lured in by the sparkle, costumes from famous designers like Madame Abla or vendors Turquoise International are on display as well as wares from local teachers and artists. Seeing a beautifully crafted, hand-beaded costume on a stage can fill even the most nascent dancer’s heart full of the thrill of performance. A hip sash makes a great gift for anyone, even a lady with two left feet.
The BDUC has endured floods, earthquakes, and blackouts, and at 21 has come of age, (and for those also of age, the bar cart at the Long Beach Convention Center makes a mean Bloody Mary). After four hours trying to judge between the best of the 40 amazing Egyptian dancers, you’ll thank me for the recommendation.
. . . "
BDUC 2011: THANK-YOU!!!
Dear Tonya and Atlantis,
Thank you for an amazing weekend! This was my first year at the Bellydancer of the Universe and it was a wonderful experience. Tonya, you were a fantastic emcee, and Atlantis, I loved your no-nonsense attitude, both of which kept the whole event moving smoothly and entertainingly. I met so many incredible people and saw so many inspiring performances. I had so much fun that I'm already looking forward to next year! :)
San Francisco Bay Area Bellydancer,
From Dilek, TurkishDancer:
"Arabina Dance Company and I, would like to extend our appreciation and gratitude for organizing a professional and fun event. We made new friends, we have seen the friends from around the world again, and we have improved our talent and friendship as a group. We are honored to take the Championship in Group Category, also I am honored to be part of the BDUC Hall of Fame award as a first recipient artist.
Thank you Tonya and Atlantis."
You have a BEAUTIFULLY RUN event, with FANTASTIC volunteers and staff! Wow! What a great team! The hard work that goes into running an event like BDUC is often under-appreciated but the efforts really showed at your event. I had a great time:)
Take care and keep safe,
Cassandra Fox, Canada
Egyptian,taxsim,drum solo & fusion solo contestant
This past weekend was my first year at BDUC. I had a blast... it is going to be an annual event for me from now on. When and where will this year's winners be posted online? I hope to be able to volunteer with the competition in 2012; Please let me know what I can do to help.... I already know that we will not be competing next year as one of our girls is having a BIG BIG wedding on 2/12 which most of us will be focused on. I look forward to working with you soon ^_^ Thanks again for all that you do!!! I used to work at Disney planning special events and I know that it's no easy feat to pull off a big show... You ladies do it with style, grace, and class!
this weekend was simply breathtaking. I was astonished by the high level of skills and professionalism of the participants. Not only were they fantastic dancers, but the atmosphere backstage was really nice. I'm so inspired by my fellow finalists in the egyptian category. To win the egyptian category was a dream come true since I was 18 and my first teacher Jade Henriksen told me about you and the competition. Although I achieved it, I would still like to come back to meet all the lovely people and feel the inspiring atmosphere again. I also want to encourage all the dancers who are considering to participate. Don't hesitate, DO IT! I arrived to Paris today and since yesterday I got already 4 invitations to teach and dance around the World. This experience will make you a stronger dancer whatever the result will be. I also want to thank you for inviting such great judges. I really appreciate that it was personalities such as Sahra Saeeda, Jillina, Helena Vlahos, Anisa, Angelika Nemeth, Louchia, Princess Farhana who appreciated my dance. It really means a lot.
Looking forward to see you again very soon. Katerina Shereen Safrova
Hi Tonya and Atlantis,
I want to thank you for having me be apart of the BDUC 2011 experience. I extremely enjoyed dancing in the Friday night kicked off VIP show and thoroughly enjoyed the workshops I was able to take. Thank you so much for continuing to provide a wonderful event year after year!
Thanks again! Amanda Rose Egyptian Bellydancer Of The Universe 2008
Congratulations on another exciting and successful BDUC! It seems to get better each year.
All the best,
XOXO Angelika Nemeth
Hello Tonya & Atlantis,
Thank you for a wonderful time and a well planned event. My dancers from Arizona had a great experience. They were awed by so many celebrities under one roof. A lot of them want to come back next year to compete. I am going to get them ready from now. My sister Maria and my niece Gia loved the new section/venue at the Long Beach Convention Center. They said it was much cozier than the upstairs section of last year. Having Amir Sofi and his protégé Marcus was a great addition. How exciting! Amir plays so well. I could hardly stand still. I wanted to get up and dance. Thank you for having me teach the "Slow & Fast Chiftetelli" and the "Abdominal Embellishments" workshops. I loved the dancers that signed up for my workshops. They were all so nice and worked so hard. In my Abdominal workshop, they all learned how to flip quarters. How great is that! I think the event this year was even smoother than the last.
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