Belly Dance Live!
Belly Dance Live! by IAMED
Overall Zorba Rating:
2006, region free , run time 110 minutes.
Fifteen different Belly Dance stars perform in this IAMED release.
The video starts with a brief promo for "IAMED, Producers of the best Belly Dance videos in the world.", then follows with an IAMED frontispiece. The frontispiece is fine, but I find myself moderately annoyed with the promo, just like I do with promos or previews in commercial movie DVDs.
As you'd expect from an outfit with such high falutin' self promotion, production values are very high. Excellent lighting, costuming, sound, editing, camerawork, etc. All performances are on the same large, well lit stage as it was filmed live, as the DVD title would suggest.
Ava Fleming, Raks Assaya.
Ava does a cane dance that happens to use the same music as one of my teacher's Sa'idi choreographies! She starts with double cane, then eventually continues with just one. The canes match her beautiful gold costume. After she's finished with the cane, we're treated to a very skilled drum solo. I'd never seen Ava dance before - I'm impressed! I also need to watch her cane dance some more, I saw some things in it I'd like to adopt for my own cane performances.
Meissoun, Raqs Sharqi Lubnani.
Being a fan of Meissoun's, and her Lebanese instructional video reviewed elsewhere on this site; I was looking forward to her Lebanese performance here. Of course, she didn't disappoint me. She starts with a sheer veil, and treats us to a nice veil dance; in heels of course, as Lebanese dancers generally do. The veil eventually is discarded, and she gives a lovely performance, including a drum solo, that is full of joy. I recognized movements from her instructional video! What can I say, a stellar performer.
DaVid was/is one of my first male Belly Dance heros. He answered my emails courteously when I was just exploring the possibility of pursuing Belly Dance training, he came and danced with us at Kalisa's one Friday nite, I've taken workshops from him, and I admire his dancing - he doesn't do any of the dreaded masculinizations that I dislike about many male dancers. In short, I think he's great!
This said, this show is called "Belly Dance Live!", I'm not quite sure why he chose to do a Bollywood number - I would have rather seen him Belly Dance! But as you'd expect from DaVid, his Bollywood number is enjoyable and well executed. DaVid dances with his usual charm and energy!
Bahaia, Golden Age Raqs Sharqi.
Bahaia is another dancer I hadn't seen dance before. She enters with a pink veil, and starts immediately into a very nice performance, dropping her veil eventually. I found her salmon colored costume interesting (in a good way), I've never seen anything quite like it. Her dance, as her piece's name would suggest, is old school - always nice to see, and I enjoyed it.
Marguerite with Kumpania, The Queen of Swords.
This one starts with a bang - Marguerite is "forcefully" escorted onto the stage by a pair of pirates! The pirates watch dispassionately as Marguerite dances a veil number (Her costume is to die for!). Marguerite won't stand for that, she "annoys" one of them with her veil until he snatches it from her in exasperation!
Marguerite continues her dance, playing zills, and interacting with one of the pirates. Very cute to watch. She eventually gets ahold of one of his swords, and does sword work with it - when she isn't threatening him with it that is. Eventually, he sets his second sword on her head making the routine into a double sword dance.
Ah, but Marguerite isn't done yet. After a while a third sword appears, making a triple sword routine - the first I've ever seen. All three are balanced on her head!
But wait, there's more! You guessed it, a fourth sword appears, "donated" by pirate #2 who hasn't done much yet. This one is placed on top of her décolletage. She looks rather terrified at this point as she continues her dance!
I generally don't care for sword routines - every Belly Dancer and her sister does one, and they've become all too predictable and commonplace. Marguerite's performance here is a refreshing exception - she puts a fresh face on the whole schtick; as a result this dance was very enjoyable. She dances with considerable skill here, even doing a rapid floor hand over hand turn during the double sword portion. Not your everyday sword dance!
Midnight Mirage, Belly Dance with a Twist.
The troupe Midnight Mirage is a new one on me! They look quite spectacular in their modern interpretation costumes (Sparkly gold bra/belt with shiny blue Lamé pants)!
They dance to modern music with a driving beat. As often happens with a troupe like this, they look like a cross between Belly Dancers and cheerleaders - this isn't for purists. It is obvious that they rehearsed for many hours, they are utterly together and very sharp in their execution. I enjoyed their show, they were obviously having a good time, and they all (five) were accomplished, skillful dancers!
Habib, Ouled Nail.
A complete opposite from the previous vignette. As you'd expect from the title, a folkloric piece. I'm not qualified to ascertain the authenticity of the dance or costume, but both were beautiful. Not for Mizmar haters!
Sadie and Kaya, Taqsim & Drum Solo.
I purchased this video at Rakkasah '06, about 30 minutes before the unfortunate Groove de Monde performance of which Sadie and Kaya were a part and which brought the phrase "coffee table" to the Belly Dancer's lexicon. As a result, it was with some trepidation when I saw this duo's inclusion on this DVD and made the connection.
Fortunately, their performance here is a good one! Sensual yes, as our dance often is, but not sexual, and done in good taste. Nice costumes too.
They start out with a Taqsim, skillfully done with lots of floorwork. I can't say as I care for the music (electric guitar), but their dancing is skilled and enjoyable.
The drum solo portion's music is much more conventional/traditional, and their interpretation is impressive. They did not choose an easy drum solo to dance to, and their skill and practice here is obvious. It was fun watching them!
In short, I'm impressed!
Aziza, Become the Music.
I've met and taken a workshop from Aziza, so I was looking forward to her performance. She doesn't disappoint! She comes onstage in a stunning blue costume, with a matching veil that she starts her routine with, Egyptian style. After she discards her veil, she's just outstanding! Very enjoyable, and I'd say she can "become the music"!
Lilla Varese Dance Company, Zeina's Dream.
They start their routine already posed on the stage, with Chiffon veils, in matching costumes in differing colors - mostly oranges, but a yellow and a pair of rust ones in a balanced (color-wise and position-wise) formation.
They begin dancing with synchronized veilwork. As a veil fanatic myself, I'm always impressed when a troupe does synchronous veilwork - I know how hard it is to do, and how easy it is to screw up! I lost myself in mesmerization with the beautiful, swirling colors! What can I say, I love veils!
Dondi, Titanya, and Jim Boz, East Meets West.
I usually run into Jim Boz at Rakkasah and other Belly Dance events, and we've had lots of email exchanges. He even helped my wife pick out a veil one time! I've only seen him perform once; Dondi and Titanya I've only heard of.
This performance is a bit different than your average Belly Dance show. All three come out in cowboy type costumes, complete with white hats for the gals, and a black one for Jim. The music is hard to describe, it has a driving rock beat, with a slight hint of Country-Western and even hoedown in it; yet it has a Middle Eastern component. All three dance very well, Jim is amazing with his subtle camels. Some Country-Western line dance moves are thrown into the mix.
For myself, it just didn't do it for me - but I have a prejudice regarding cowboys, and the entire "Country-Western" scene anyways. Getting past the costumes, the dancing was very good; just what I'd expect from Jim. The music was even "Ok"; not my thing, but Ok. In different costumes, I would have loved it. "Your Mileage May Vary."
Here is another dancer I only know by reputation. Starting posed in a beautiful cream/gold costume, she dances to a cut from one of the BDSS albums. As I've dance myself to this particular number, I was fascinated to see her interpretation of it - VERY different from mine. She showed me how a dancer can do smooth flowing movements to music that tends to make me do "poppy" moves! Sure, she did some shimmies and pops, but mostly danced smoothly - as I love smooth flowing movements in my own dance, I learned quite a bit here...
Then she launches into a drum solo. Lots of shimmies and pops to be sure, but lots of smooth movements also. I saw a lot in this that my teacher Janette has been trying to impart in her Wednesday nite class. Jamileh is a superb dancer, I wonder if she gives workshops? I'm there if the opportunity presents itself!
Sese Dance Company, Baktiari.
Sese is an instructor semi-local to me, and Imzadi and the mighty Siwa are both members of her dance troupe. Another dancer in the group is Bibi, with whom I'm also acquainted.
The show opens with the dancers pre-posed on the floor (Sese likes floor poses) in beautiful costumes made by Imzadi. The music is soft and graceful, and so is their dance as it develops. The choreography fits the music very well - but as Sese herself would tell us, its not "pure" Belly Dance; incorporating some modern dance elements (and humor!). Like "Midnight Mirage", this gives them a "cheerleader component"; yet also like "Midnight Mirage", there are plenty of Belly Dance movements interwoven with the modern. It works. An enjoyable performance (and fun!), but maybe I'm prejudiced!
Habib returns to the stage to give us another folkloric piece. As with her Ouled Nail number, she is in an ethnic costume performing to music with a high Mizmar quotient. She performs with a straight stick which she "discovers" on the stage. Eventually, the stick goes away and she dons Zills, discards her heavy over-robe, and gives us a beautiful dance to drum, Mizmar and her Zills. As with her previous performance, I'm not qualified to judge authenticity; but her dance is again interesting and enjoyable. I'm glad to see folkloric mixed into this show.
Delilah with Erik Brown and Doug Adams, Belly Dance.
The only live music segment, Delilah is billed as the "Special Guest Artist". I only know her by name; but even I have danced to the incomparable Doug Adam's music, both live and canned.
She does a beautiful routine, starting with veil. She then progresses to a drum solo, then a finale. She dances with abandon and passion! She uses arm positions I haven't seen before, but what really stood out was a trick she did twice during her drum solo. The drummer would stop, and Delilah would dance a measure in silence! She did this so well that I could "hear" the drum even though it wasn't playing! Very cool.
After the performances, all dancers come out in turn to take a bow, starting with the producer, Suzy Evans. They then line up on stage so when all have been introduced and taken their bows, they all take a bow together. A nice touch! Credits follow.
Back at the main menu, there are two text sections, "About IAMED", and "About Belly Dance". The first, "About IAMED", although somewhat self-serving, does give a nice capsule history of the IAMED organization. The second, "About Belly Dance", unfortunately is a history of the dance that has been repudiated by most credible authorities on the subject. I won't "go there".
There is also a menu item "Commentary", where Suzy Evans and her production staff give a voice over commentary for each performer as the DVD plays. Informative and nice - its like the "Director's Commentary" one often finds on DVD movies.
What I liked about this video:
Excellent camerawork. No MTV gimmicks, no weird projected backgrounds, no gratuitous chest shots. Excellent editing as well. Troupes are shown in their entirety - close-ups are shown of two or three dancers, switching back to the wide view when the troupe does something together that needs to be seen that way. You can tell the shooting was overseen by a Belly Dancer - there are none of the camera/editing gaffs we hate!
There wasn't a performance I didn't like. Some I liked better than others, but all were excellent. What more can you ask for?
I also liked the commentary feature.
Its on DVD.
What I didn't like about this video:
The price. IAMED videos may or may not be the BEST Belly Dance videos in the world, but they certainly are the MOST EXPENSIVE Belly Dance videos in the world! I know it takes big bucks to turn out a video of this quality, but I've seen videos of equal quality sell for less - sometimes a LOT less.
You can purchase this video from IAMED.