Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Inspiring Show: Salah's "The Dream of Gluby" (2008)

Have you ever seen one man command the attention of hundreds of people in one room? That's what Salah did with his one-man show of "The Dream of Gluby" at Freestyle Session 2008. We're taking a look at that inspiring show, which happened in late August at Club Circus in Hollywood. Known for his dynamic tricks and character work, Salah has emerged among the elite of new generation poppers in the past decade. Hailing from France, he has earned the admiration and respect of all dancers worldwide, but it is his Gluby character which may be his legacy. (Photo above is from his myspace site.)

You can see a video clip of one rendition of the Gluby performance here:

And you can see Salah's myspace site here:

Salah has both his fans and his detractors, but regardless he stands out by the strength of his personality when he dances. He engages the audience. He plays with their imagination and expectations. And he delivers surprises. Perhaps the character of Gluby is the culmination of all of his refined skills. With Gluby, he can express many emotions, storylines, and bring a new sense of character to showcasing that draws from the best of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Marcel Marceau. Watching Salah perform is a treat because he makes you feel like you are part of his world. We're not simply sitting in the audience watching a show. He is interacting with us and revealing bits and pieces of his colorful world through his mannerisms, comedy bits, and energetic moves. Many of the greatest performers on stage had their alter egos. Chaplin had the Little Tramp. Marceau had Bip. And Salah has Gluby. It's a perfect stage for him to showcase what he wants to do with his dance.

On the second day of Freestyle Session 2008, Salah performed in a large club filled with hundreds of bboys and bgirls. It was amazing to see the entire room captivated by one man on stage. Rarely do we see solo street dance performers get the time of day with a large crowd. But Salah entertained and had the crowd cheering for him. They even interacted with his Gluby character. The crowd was amazed by how he pulled off different illusions with his body like simultaneously doing waves with one arm while doing tuts with the other. Or they marveled at his quirky cartoon voice that was high-pitched, slightly grating, yet endearing at the same time. Salah looked like he had stepped out of a Vegas performance with a shiny, slivery loose long-sleeved shirt and a bowler hat. When he first stepped on stage, everyone in the room was wondering where is he going to take us now? This Gluby performance stood out at Freestyle Session because it re-introduced character work in showcases that are often shunned in favor or well-executed group routines and tricks. True, this kind of performer also needs to have some acting ability. And it can be hard to dancers with trained backgrounds in acting. But Salah's experience in performing for crowds was paying off with this Gluby showcase.

Is this an exciting new development for poppers and street dancers worldwide? Will we see more character performers taking the stage and using their styles to further their art on stage? Let's hope so. It only shows the depth with which we can take hip hop dance as we explore deep-seated emotions from fear to anger to love. As humans, we're wired to tell stories and to seek meaning through hearing stories of others around us. Maybe with Gluby, Salah has struck a chord by creating a jolly fellow who speaks to the playful child inside each of us. He wants to share parts of his inner self with us. And that is often the greatest gift we can give to each other.

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