Belly Dance SuperStars
Live in Paris at the Folies Bergére
Belly Dance SuperStars Live in Paris at the Folies Bergére by BDSS
Overall Zorba Rating:
2005, region free , run time 122 minutes.
Twenty different Belly Dance performances in this compilation of a BDSS show in Paris.
The video starts with a BDSS frontispiece that I find rather awesome. The music used along with the animated logo is suggestive of the sheer power of Belly Dance.
Production values. I'll be right up front about it, the reason this is a "four zill" production instead of a "five zill" is the MTV-esque camerawork and editing. I cannot see nor enjoy the performance if the camera is zoomed into the cleavage and belly of the dancer - as it is all too often. Long shots from the back of the hall don't do much for me either. Angle changes help us enjoy the dance as we can see things better - but changes for the sake of changes every 10 seconds or so is too much. And what's up with the 70 degree overhead looking down at the dancer shots? That's OK briefly for double veil performances and similar, but should be avoided in general.
As this was a live show, we must make do with the native stage lighting which is, for the most part, adequate. There are a few instances, mainly during tribal style dances, where the I would have liked a bit more light, but even there its not too bad. The stage, backdrop, sound quality, DVD chapterization, etc. are all first rate. The only other nit I'll pick is it wasn't possible to hear dancer's Zills much of the time. If they couldn't pick them up on stage, they could have foleyed them in later.
Entrance of the Stars.
After some nice location shots, the show begins with the "Entrance of the Stars", where all the dancers in the show are on stage at once. A very nice choreography with nice music. I like the very rarely seen mix of Tribal and Cabaret dancers on the same stage at the same time doing the same dance. Very cool. Some of the Cabaret dancers have gossamer wings attached at the wrists - very pretty.
I've been a fan of Ansuya's ever since I was a brand new baby dancer and saw her awesome photo on the cover of Solace's Ahsas CD - the one with all the tribal jewelry and henna. She dances with vigor and passion here, playing zills in a pretty blue costume. Very well done and enjoyable.
Next, the duo BellyQueen performs for us. A more sedate piece than Ansuya's with perhaps a hint of Flamenco? Nice music, nice costumes!
Tribes of Persopolis.
This is the first Tribal vignette of the show. Cool piece, cool music - not for Mizmar haters! The camerawork here is particularly annoying - yes these gals have incredible belly rolls, now can we see what the rest of their bodies are doing? Its OK to zoom in on an interesting tattoo or costume ornamentation - briefly and ONCE please. Let's leave off with the cross-fades while we're at it. This performance is very enjoyable as it is, and would be far more so without weird camera/editing gaffs.
Art of the Drum Solo.
This starts with drummer Issam Houshan coming to the stage with his drum. He interacts with the audience, teaching them to clap in classic response to the call of his drum. He comes across as very warm and friendly; this is a nice addition to the show.
Then Sonia comes out to dance to his drumming and the audience clapping. Not much else to say here - her dancing is skilled and enjoyable, marred a bit by too close camerawork.
This is a troupe number, danced by five Cabaret dancers at a time - they keep rotating the lead dancer from offstage, a different idea that works well. Near the end, all the lead dancers (three of them) are onstage at once, bringing the total to seven. Nice tight dancing, lots of fun.
I really could have done without the (c)rap "music" used here, but Petite Jamila herself is a dancer worth watching. She comes on, dances a bit, goes into a twirl, and comes out of it with her veils unwrapped. I'm not a real fan of high energy veilwork; but she does it well, including a veil twirl while in a prolonged deep backbend. Impressive double veil performance!
AKA a Bollywood performance. Both Tribal and Bollywood dancers take part in the beginning, a dark and mysterious mood. The Tribal dancers take center stage for awhile, then switch places with the Bollywood dancers as the music's mood turns more upbeat. Shortly afterwards, the Tribal dancers depart the stage and the act turns to "traditional" Bollywood. Whether or not a Bollywood act should be included with a group that calls themselves the "Belly Dance SuperStars" I'll leave as an exercise to the viewer. This dance is very enjoyable and I love the brightly colored costumes! The camerawork was noticeably better here, not as many gratuitous close-ups.
Wings! I'm a sucker for wings, especially gossamer ones as used here. She gives us a beautiful, high energy wing performance; eventually going offstage briefly to lose the wings so she can return to continue dancing without them. Of course, as soon as she does, the gratuitous close-ups begin; but Amar's dancing is wonderful.
Groupe Drum Solo.
Issam Houshan returns with Jillina on drum, and Ansuya on Zills. They start with Issam playing a pattern and Ansuya repeating it on Zills. Then they switch to call and response which morphs to full up playing with Jillina joining them.
Now that the music is going, three more dancers come out, and take turns center stage dancing. Dondi, Petite Jamila, Sharon Kihara, and Ansuya dance in turn, with Ansuya dancing the longest. All are dancing at the very end. This ends the first half of the show - well done!
The second half of the show starts with Dondi doing a Marilyn Monroe impersonation, with Issam playing drum. Every DVD has one number I don't get, and this is the one here. I guess I'm too young, Marilyn Monroe died when I was 3 years old - I've never understood the fascination. However, Dondi plays her well, playing up the vapidness of the long dead starlet. It is intended as a comedic piece, and is worth a chuckle or two - but it isn't my thing. Your Mileage May Vary!
Three dancers with straight canes start a cane dance in very blue costumes! They are joined almost immediately by an additional four dancers, also with straight canes. What ensues is a very nice Raks Assayah that I found very enjoyable. Only a moderate amount of twirling, but very good dancing with the canes - and at one point they even flip their canes end for end. Being a cane enthusiast myself, I know how hard that is to pull off in a troupe situation - here it is flawless!
If you like veilwork, skip straight to this vignette. This is one of the most fantastic dances I've ever seen. Not because Adoré knows how to handle her veil, oh no. Not because of the utterly fantastic music she uses here (a kind of new-age number that is hard to describe), nope, that isn't it either. As a matter of fact, this isn't really a veil piece, the veil is only used briefly.
She comes out with a fuschia colored chiffon veil (and costume), trotting with it around her held high, and starts dancing ala Burqa (Veil over her head/face) while twirling. She drops the veil pretty quickly, right behind her. She stays close by her veil (making me a bit nervous, see my article on veil dancing) and does a nice, conventional, "straight dance" - all to that maddening, fantastic music. Lots of undulations, Maias, with pirouette kicks (looks balletic to me). Then, she does the splits right in front of the dropped veil, and gives us a bit of floorwork with some incredible arms. Yes, at this point we know she's going to pick that veil back up...
Without any warning whatsoever, from a seated position on the floor and in perfect time with an intensity change in the music - she does a utterly beautiful backflip, veil trailing from between her toes making a gorgeous arc in the air, and she lands on her feet! At this point, she is essentially done with the veil. Her dance becomes sheer passion (matching the increased passion of the music), wonderful and incredible, and inspirational to watch! She incorporates several more handstand flips, both forward and back - in perfect sync with the music. I'm not sure that the piece wouldn't have been better with just the one backflip with the veil; usually parlor tricks like this are most effective done only once - but regardless I'm in utter awe of this woman and her dance.
I'm generally not a fusion enthusiast, and I'd certainly wouldn't have predicted my utter fascination with a Belly Dance and gymnastics fusion, but there you have it. The whole package: dance, veil, gymnastics, a touch of Ballet, and that wonderful music - it flat works and works well! I haven't been able to get that tune out of my head for days! WOW WOW WOW!
Polynesian Dance in a Belly Dance show? Why not? The two dance forms are kissing cousins and borrow from each other. Five dancers in "grass" skirts come out with (apparently wooden) jugs that they tap on the bottoms of in time to the music. They eventually put the jugs down and four of the dancers assume a stylized position on the floor while the fifth continues to dance alone to "Island Music".
Camera work continues to be annoying during the solo, too close as usual. At a music change, all five dancers perform again, a Polynesian drum solo. Not Belly Dance, but very beautiful and fun!
Triumph of the Drums.
This is a wonderful veil number. Uh, no, no its a sword piece. Truthfully, Zorba comes out to perform with his Shemadan. Actually, as the title would suggest, its a drum solo (by Jillina). Issam on drum accompanied by several of the dancers play while Jillina gives us a skilled and nice drum solo. She interacts with both the audience and the musicians. Towards the end, four backup dancers in green robes join her for some Saudi style hair tosses. Nice!
Five Tribal gals give us this number danced to, you guessed it, a Sai'idi beat. Nice slow, purposeful dancing. Very enjoyable - my only complaint is that this number was too short!
Ansuya returns to the stage for an encore solo performance! She's wearing a wonderful red costume this time, and makes an Egyptian style veil entrance. I'd be inclined to say this is more of a "Triberet" style dance - her costume is pure cabaret, but she's wearing a more Tribal style earring and necklace set; the music is more Tribal, and her dancing has that Tribal intensity. Cool!
Ah, Rachel Brice. As a cabaret kind of a guy myself, I find Tribal style interesting at times, boring at others. Then there's Rachel Brice. She has hit the Tribal scene like an atomic bomb - by far the greatest influence on this style since the great Carolena Nericcio in both dancing and costuming - we see Rachel Brice inspired costuming everywhere. As I like Rachel's costuming (and dancing!), this is a good thing methinks. One of these days I'm gonna just HAVE to try a Rachel Brice updo!
She delivers the goods here - I like slow dancing and Rachel is one of the rare masters of it. Camera work is particularly annoying unfortunately.
Return of the Stars.
The closing number. Not a reprise of the opening piece, yet it has many of the same elements. All dancers are on the stage at once, and like the opening, some have wings - full-up Isis wings with sticks this time as opposed to the mini-wings attached at the wrists used before.
There are several segments to this number and the dancers are spectacular here. Eventually they do a group drum solo, then take a group bow.
Then come the introductions. With all the dancers lined up, Dondi takes the stage and introduces each of the dancers in turn (except herself, Ansuya steps in briefly to do that honor). Issam plays a two bar drum solo for each. Dondi makes her introductions with a lot of enthusiasm and flair. A very nice touch. Credits follow, including information on the music used - I always appreciate this.
Madame & Monsieurs.
Now comes one of the weirdest things I've ever seen on a DVD video. After the closing introductions, it was announced that the dancers would be in the lobby to meet the audience - a nice touch. It turns out that the dancers were reintroduced in the lobby by Miles Copeland (in French).
Ok, I can understand this at a live show, but I'm totally clueless as to why it was included on the DVD (as we were just introduced to them 2 minutes ago - in a much better way)! As Miles introduces each dancer, she is accompanied down the formal staircase into the lobby by an over-dressed male. The beautiful dancers make the poor guys look like over-stuffed penguins. As each dancer and escort reach the stair landing, the Cabaret dancers curtsy; the Tribal dancers do not, in keeping with the whole "Tribal hauteur" thing.
But wait, it gets weirder. The last dancer introduced is none other than the great Rachel Brice. She comes down un-escorted, and, just before she reaches the landing, she falls down. She gets up and kind of sheepishly slinks away...
WTF? I can only assume this was a planned thing - one of those things that you "had to be there" for. Ok, so please let us in on the joke. If it wasn't planned, why in Goddess's name was it put on the video? I don't understand...
Back at the main menu, selecting "Extras" gives you a sub-menu that has options for audio setup, details on other SuperStars video releases, and details on SuperStars merchandise.
What I liked about this video:
Wonderful costuming, choreographies, and dancing. Everything was first rate. 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?
Its on DVD, and its affordably priced.
What I didn't like about this video:
The MTV style camerawork. I spent half the video screaming for the camera to back up, its just too darn close. Soloists were worse than troupes in this regard, and Tribal dancers got the worse of it. I don't need to count the skin pores in Rachel Brice's navel, thank you very much. I don't think Rachel would much appreciate it either. Its my understanding that this is actually an IMPROVEMENT over previous BDSS releases.
As a male Belly Dancer, I'd like to see just ONE of same in the show, preferably someone like Tarik, Aziz, Horacio, or any male who doesn't masculinize...
You can purchase this video from the Belly Dance Super Stars.