ABU DHABI // They put aside their vacuum cleaners, stopped answering phones, took a break from serving guests and picked up the microphones. Twelve groups from hotels in Abu Dhabi took to the stage at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel and Resort on the Corniche last night to showcase their special talents in the first "Inter-Hotel Got Talent" competition.
Using feathers twisted around metal wire for tails, colourful outfits and elaborate face make-up and glitter to extenuate their whiskers and eyes, a group from Beach Rotana pounced and rolled on stage as they performed their own take on the popular theatrical musical Cats. "Meow!" roared the group of 12 from the Philippines that work in housekeeping, administration, and food and beverage. "We trained every day after work for the past two weeks for this competition," said Ray Reisistoso, the team leader and the choreographer, who on a regular day, works in the Beach Rotana's IT department.
The idea for the competition came up at a Sheraton Khalidiya staff event last month, and was later suggested to some of the city's other hotels. It was inspired by popular television shows like America's Got Talent and Britain's Got Talent, in which members of the public compete in front of a panel of judges. "It is a great chance for us to do something different and just let loose," said Mr Reisistoso, who called himself The Green Cat and said he had a "soft spot" for felines.
"We are doing this in honour of the stray cats here who have it tough like us," he said. The competition was organised by the human resources departments of the 12 participating hotels - the Sheraton Khalidiya, Le Méridien Abu Dhabi, Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi, Beach Rotana, the Fairmont Bab al Bahr, InterContinental Abu Dhabi, Shangri-La and Traders Hotels, Hilton Abu Dhabi, The Yas Hotel, the One to One and the Millennium Abu Dhabi.
"We wanted to create a relaxed atmosphere where employees of the different hotels can have fun outside of work and get to know other colleagues from the same industry," said Andrea Jurick, a human resources representative for the InterContinental. The winners were awarded crystal trophies and cash. First prize was Dh3,000, second was Dh2,000 and third was Dh1,000. "We are amazed at the range of talents our different teams have," said Ms Jurick. "It is really nice to see a different side to the people you work with."
The InterContinental had a one-man show as its entry, a waiter turned artist, who won first prize. When Kundan Puri, from Nepal, started painting on a black canvas with white paint, it looked like he was just brushing away. The audience remained quiet and confused until the final touch when he flipped the painting and revealed the face of the revolutionary Che Guevara. "I thought he was trying to paint a polar bear," said one of the judges, Joanna Bishchoff, a human resources representative from The Yas Hotel. Others in the audience said they thought it was a "crooked dinosaur".
"Impressive. None of us saw it coming," said Ms Bishchoff. There were five judges, four from the human resources department of different hotels, and DJ Ross from Virgin Radio. The groups were judged on creativity, appearance, overall performance, time management, and audience response. Each group was allowed five minutes, and there were penalties for each minute over time. But winning was not the most important drive for these groups - it was the chance to "be different".
"We don't care if we win or not. We are getting the chance to dance and have fun with our friends and colleagues," said Michael Sautos, a member of the Jabbawockeez team. Wearing white expressionless masks, and white gloves with a black and red outfit, the Jabbawockeez danced to popular hip-hop tunes, and got the audience to dance with them. "It is all good fun and, like our name, we don't really exist," he said. "We are just an imagination." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org