Rick’s Reviews

Rick Dennis glanced at his first billboard magazine when he was nine years old and hasn’t stopped since.  We’re lucky to have this music historian here in the Cowichan Valley and he’s currently hosting an internet radio show on cicv.ca. 


REVIEW: Bellydance Extravaganza – May 28, 2011



Laura (Dahab Dance Ensemble)

Victoria BC based performer and instructor LAURA FILOPOVIC  writes in the program notes to GEORGIA FOSTER’s impeccably produced and hosted biannual event that the aim of the Victoria Highschool Bellydance program (which Ms. F initiated in 2006) is to promote “the understanding of culture and healthy body image and positive self esteem.”

  Judging from the graceful and expressive dance moves, the flash and shimmer of colorful costumes and the zesty strains of Middle Eastern music filling the airMay 28th at Duncan Garage Showroom, this ancient and yet modern art form is alive and flowering on Vancouver Island.

Candace (Harmony Bellydance Co.)

The ease and elegance with which CANDACE ALDRIDGE-SANCHEZ and MEGAN LOCKE perform the mirror-like movements of their fusion duet belies the many hours of practice it must have taken to perfect this set piece of synchronized sensuality.  Fittingly  the two women are part of a (Victoria-based) troupe in which the word “harmony” plays a key role.

Megan (Harmony Bellydance Co.)

Watching FAITH in action one realizes why this young woman is such a crowd pleaser. She exhibits such exuberance in  performance and such a winning smile that her joy is infectious.

 Cowichan Bay based bellydancer LARA is also a real charmer.  Although small in stature her diminutive frame is capable of expressive animation and rippling rhythms as she demonstrated in what seemed to be an all too brief solo set.  

And then there was veteran Valley instructor and performer LYNENE, doing amazing things with a simple veil to the haunting strains of Ravel’s Bolero. Ms. Allen also performed with her esteemed MIRAGE troupe (ROHEE, LEELA, MAIRA) from Danse Oriental in Cowichan Bay.

Nice to see MELANIE back at the Showroom again. Now living in the UK she is fondly remembered by all of us who were fortunate enough to make her acquaintance during her stint behind the counter at Volume One Books in Duncan. Ms. Watson not only performed solo but joined LOTUS SISTERS from STUDIO 2000 (ANGELINA PETERSON, MELISSA MOIR, DIANE DOUCET,  SYLVIA BENJAMIN) for  a memorable closing number.

Kudos as well to SHAKTI, BOBBIE, DAHAB DANCE ENSEMBLE and the irrepressible DEB PINCHBECK (joined on this occasion by members of SAIDI SISTERS Dance Studio in Ladysmith).

The role of host is often undervalued at these events. Ms. Foster has an unforced enthusiasm and genuine respect for each performer and it shows, her introductions acting as little grace notes to the evening’s entertainment.

According to the program notes, Dahab Dance Ensemble take its name from the Arabic word for “golden”.

Hmmm, I wonder if the French phrase joie de vivre translates into Arabic so I decide to ask DUNIA TOZY. Born in Baghdad and now working as a videographer/reporter for Shaw TV in Nanaimo Dunia speaks Arabic, French, English and Spanish so I figure she is a good person to ask.

 ”We don’t have an idiom like  joie de vivre in Arabic, not that I can remember really,” she says.,  “but the way I would translate it literally is mutaatt al-hayaatt, maybe?” 

 That’s okay Dunia. If there is one thing I learned from watching the various performers  it is that you don’t always have to understand something to appreciate it.

But don’t take my word for it. See the performances for yourself by clicking on the link below:




Flora Ware – Friday April 22nd, 2011

 Looking through the press clippings on  http://www.floramusic.com  I see the word “silky” is a common adjective to describe Ms. Ware’s vocal prowess.         

             Yeah, I guess it fits but since it has already been used I decide to look online for a suitable synonym.   

            Hmmm…. one web-based thesaurus lists slick as a synonym for silky.

           No, that won’t work. Somehow the word slick implies to this reviewer that a performer is trying to slide something past the audience.

           I mean, sure, Ms. Ware’s vocals are polished and her arrangements are exactly suited to the material.  

          Personally, though, I prefer the word genuine to describe the way this Vancouver based singer/songwriter connects with her audience through original songs based on her own experiences.

           “This is about a … difficult break-up, “ she confesses haltingly during a Duncan Garage Showroom gig Friday night (April 22) before launching into the candid lyrics of   Let Go ”.  

            “I’ve been so low lately/ I’ve been so down on myself” she sings.  But as we hear later in the song, hope is on the way.   Even her slower songs (like the thought-provoking “Precious Time”) have a note of optimism.   In fact, hope would seem to be a characteristic of her lyrics.

            Another webster offers the word fluffy as an alternative to the oft used adjective.     

           Okay, that definitely does not describe the young performer I heard Friday night at the Showroom.

           Trust me. There is nothing fluffy about the way her vocals curl knowingly around the slinky pop/soul grooves of “Watch Your Step”.

           I’m gonna assume Ms. Ware has spent a lot of time and energy exploring the various colors and textures of her voice. The result is a rich, supple instrument that can swoop from subtle and coaxing to full-on diva (and I’m referring here to ability, not attitude).

            She also  shows excellent taste in old school and modern favorites.  She performs a cover of Nina Simone’s “Turn Me On” with a smoky 3 am sensuality all her own. Her take on the Billie Holiday classic “You Don’t Know What Love Is” is both poignant and rueful while lacking the bitter aftertaste of the original. “Impossible”, an Alicia Keys – Christina Aguilera collaboration has hints of Ms. Keys’ delicate phrasing but to her credit Ms. Ware resists the temptation to indulge in the melodramatic melisma that often hamstrings Ms. Aguilera’s live performances.

            The singer dedicates a vocal version of the Horace Silver standard “Song For My Father” (which includes some primo Ella – style jazz scatting) to proud papa Graham Ware (who is  in the audience).

              The encore number is a swinging version of the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross chestnut “Centerpiece” with Ms. Ware’s voice sailing joyously above the music, a tasty guitar break from ace sideman Noah Walker and Sam Soichet anchoring the beat on stand up bass.

              So what adjective would I use to describe her vocal stylings?

               Hmm … strong, confident, emotionally resilient, smart … how aboutwomanly? Yeah, that works for me.

            “Better things are yet to come, yeah/Better things are yet to come,” Ms. Ware sings in the buoyant chorus of “Let Go”

               I believe it. If there is any justice in the world, this is just the start of a remarkable career.



Don’t get me wrong. STEPHEN FEARING has always been a master showman but there seems to be an extra zip in the way he sells the songs Thursday evening (March 17) at the Showroom.

Perhaps that is because after eight solo albums (and another half dozen with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) the veteran Canadian singer/songwriter has embarked on a new project with Irish born (and Australian based) fellow troubadour ANDY WHITE.

The pair have written a number of songs together over the years but this is the first time they have recorded an album together (“Fearing and White”, the debut disc on a new Calgary based label  called Lowden Proud Records.)

And what better place to launch a Canadian tour to promote the CD than the Showroom with its informal vibe and appreciative audiences. Fans sit in theatre seats facing the stage. The venue is non alcoholic. In other words, there are no servers hawking booze to disrupt the flow of communication between performers and audience. Refreshments (coffee, cookies, popcorn, soft drinks) are usually served during intermission from a small booth at the back of the venue.

For the performers it is kinda like a rehearsal with a live audience. For fans it is a chance to see their favorites up close and personal.

Obviously the venue has energized the duo on stage judging from the unforced enthusiasm in their performances.

And the songs, well, where should I start?

There are buoyant, rootsy  rockers (“Say You Will”, “Under A Silver Sky”) and wistful ballads (“Italian Girls on Mopeds”, “If I Catch You Cryin”)  with sweet melodic hooks that melt in your mind and leave a beautiful aftertaste.

There is the half spoken, half sung “Mothership”, which may add a whole new phrase to this reviewer’s vocabulary. Call it roots/rap.

And never let it be said that these guys shy away from a challenge. Andy confides that the imaginative six year old daughter of a friend provided them with a song title and asked them to write a tune around it. The result is the uptempo ditty “Turn Up the Temperature on the Machine of Love”. Trust me it works.

Songs like “You Can’t Count On Anybody Any More” and “Let Love Be Your Direction” reflect a hard won wisdom while the expert picking (on a variety of acoustic and electric guitars) is borne from years of experience in the studio and on the road. And the engaging harmonies? Well, let’s just say these two are musical kindred spirits.

You can hear a touch of the Finn Brothers in these compositions, which isn’t surprising (Andy has co-written with New Zealand songsmith Tim Finn) and some of the open road imagery of Gordon Lightfoot in his prime (Stephen has recorded a cover of “Early Morning Rain” so I gotta figure he is a fan) but together Fearing & White have blended their respective styles and influences to create something honest, refreshing and unique.

Dynamic Duo’s Debut Disc

For more info (and video clips) check out the group’s website:



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