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AXI blog (PLANET FUNK TEAM USA / QATAR / MIDDLE EAST) Director: @ShawnWellingAXI

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Uploaded on Nov 29, 2009

Shawn Welling and his team had the opportunity to perform halfway around the world.

On the 27th of October, 2009, in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khallfa Al Thani the Emir of The State of Qatar, RasGas company inaugurated its sixth liquefied natural gas (LNG) train in front of an audience of 1,200 VIPs.

The inauguration ceremony included performances by dancers from several countries, including Houstons Planet Funk. The urban dance team founded by Shawn Welling performed a time line high-energy dance piece of traditional American dances. Including a hip-hop piece. Welling choreographed 10 children ranging in ages from eight to 15 to perform a montage of historic American dance genres. Planet Funk had two weeks to perfect and demonstrate five decades of American dance styles, starting with swing and progressing to an Elvis rock tribute, the 60s, disco, a Michael Jackson tribute and, finally, hip-hop, but had to keep it within the traditional Muslim cultures social mores.

Planet Funk has performed in energized, athletic dancing around the world and on TC shows such as Good Morning America and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Ive performed on Oprah, Good Morning America and all over the country, but I consider this trip as the highlight of my career, says Welling. Ive never imagined a place as welcoming, traditional and yet modern and filled with opportunity as Qatar.

Planet Funk arrived in the beautiful city of Qatar five days before the performance. Qatar is an oil and gas-rich nation with the third largest gas reserves and the second highest GDP per capita in the world.

The Emir H Sheikh Hamad bin Khallfa Al Thani was present to inaugurate Train 6 of the RasGas Company Limited at the Ras Laffan Industrial City.

Dancing some 80,000 miles from home, Planet Funk performed on a stage set up in a tent the size of a football field located 80 minutes outside of the city Doha in the desert between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This tent was built for a one-day occasion and was even equipped with air conditioning.

In between rehearsals and performances, the American children interacted with Qatari, Korean, Spanish and Indian children, each representing their respective countries. There was genuine interest in one anothers culture and dance styles. They began to realize how their common love of dance and music had brought them together in the unlikeliest of places on earth, Qatar, the country referred to as the Pearl of the Middle East, a reference to its history of pearl diving.

While in Qatar, Welling and company had the opportunity to ship in the enormous Souk Waqif market, a huge, maze-like market where men in white turbans push wheelbarrows full of concrete and rubble throughout the windy streets and where traders haggle over piles of pearls alongside Bedouin nomads and their camels.

To reach the even venue, members of Planet Funk had to travel in four-wheel drive vehicles 75 kilometers across the southern Qatari desert, 45 of those being off the beaten track. The roller coaster ride took them up sand dunes rising up more than 50 meters. They ventured as far as the Inland Sea, where Bedouin-style hospitality surrounded them.

After lunch, they enjoyed a refreshing swim, rode camel and got aboard four-wheel all-terrain vehicles. They finished a perfect end to the trip with a glorious midnight ride below the starry sky a hour and half ride back to the hotel. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, said Welling.

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