Funk, I believe, is the ultimate unification of rhythm, soul, and Jerry curls. It is the bastard child of jazz and disco abducted by aliens and left to groove around the world in sparkly pants, and frilly blouses. Despite this veritable playground of cosmic energy and psychedelia, BellyFunkShun does so very little to do Funk its due justice.J
Belly dancers Asala, Shadiyah, and Wuiping come together to dance to Funk’s greatest hits for an hour, showcasing their moves and a dazzling wardrobe. The description of their show is admittedly enticing, and everything I would expect from a dance-show about funk: three cryogenically frozen funk-sisters return to Washington DC to continue the funk-mission that was so rudely interrupted in July 1952. As catchy as it sounds, absolutely none of that comes through as a cohesive work and trust me, once you’ve seen the first ten minutes of BellyFunkShun, you’ve seen it all.
This is a show of missed opportunity. Funk and belly dancing are an imaginative and daring combination, yet the show falls flat and stays at the same level for the entire hour. Even Rick James knows to put two or three slow-songs between “Bustin’ Out” and “Let’s Get High.” The show felt under-rehearsed and lazy in its assumption that flashy costumes, belly dancing, and funk’s greatest hits could carry an audience’s attention for more than ten minutes. At the start of every song, the dancers switched and changed into a new costume and danced to the tune and that was it. In a way, it felt more like a burlesque show, without the tease and inevitable climax.
Created and directed by Shadiyah
Choreography: Shadiyah, Asala, Naimah and Wuiping
Details and tickets
The only reason to sit through this show is to see the wonderfully inspired parade of costumes designed by Shadiyah, drawing influences ranging from traditional Iranian and Persian styles to places from beyond this galaxy. With each costume change, the three funk-sisters surprised the audience by transforming from funk-angels to funky scientists and much more. In addition to that, I greatly appreciated the performers’ insistence on audience participation, but it was the kind of audience participation that you hoped you would not be called up to do, because it was embarrassing to watch. Full disclosure, I did in fact go up on stage to dance for a bit, but without anything to do, I very quickly wanted to return to my seat.
The playlist was impressive and included all the necessary and obvious funk-hits such as “Brick House”, “Play that Funky music”, and “Get Down on it.” Lightly interspersed were some enticing fusions of Tabla and funk that I wish I would have heard more of. There was nothing special about the lighting except for what I swear was an out-dated iTunes visualizer (the ones you spaced out on in college) constantly meandering on the ceiling.
BellyFunkShun gets a 2 out of 5 for having the start of what could be a great show and excellent costuming. Anything beyond that would mean that it had some sense of cohesion, story, or point.