Gilded Serpent presents...
Shareen el Safy's
Exploring the Drum Solo “DVD”
by Mara al-Nil
attended Shareen el Safy’s Drum Solo workshop
and was interested in purchasing her DVD because she assured the
class that it would have all the material that was covered in
the workshop. Although at $50 it seemed pricey, I ”bit the bullet”
and bought it because I am someone who benefits from repetition.
It takes time, more than a few hours in a workshop, for things
to sink in. Shareen is an expert dancer presenting material
am pleased to report that what she said was true—everything
she covered in the workshop is on the DVD.
Finding it, however, is another matter.
Let me digress
a bit and ask a question. When is a DVD not a DVD?
In general, when I buy a DVD I do so because I do not want to
buy a video version. I do not want to be forever fast-forwarding
or rewinding looking for a particular item of interest. Perhaps
I am guilty of making unwarranted assumptions, but when I buy
a $50 nice-looking plastic case with a shiny disc inside, I expect
to be relieved of the nuisance just described. I expect—a
standard DVD format. What I got, though, was a video
dumped directly onto a disc. The content is not listed anywhere!
I found NO menu, NO chapters, NO nothing (except a video in a
different shape). Cute! Repeatedly hitting the “next” button
on my remote took me to completely random sections of the video.
Had I paid
by VISA and not by check, I would have disputed the charge, sent
the thing back and had my money returned. Feeling stuck
with the so-called “DVD”, I decided to make the best of it, and
see if I could salvage any of my investment.
was pleasant enough, with a nice shot of the ocean and Shareen
talking about this and that. I started to think, “Well maybe
this is going to be okay after all.” The first inkling that
it was, in fact, not okay was the extreme close-up of Shareen’s
face. She was not saying anything particularly important
at that point to warrant seeing her pores. I found this
technique used by her videographer repeatedly: over, and over,
and over, and over. As annoying as this was, unfortunately, it
occurred most often when she was talking about placement of one’s
hips or feet, or demonstrating an actual move.
an outdoor patio in the brilliant afternoon sun was the setting
for the entire presentation. It allowed little regard for what
is generally known as “lighting”. As the afternoon advanced,
so did the deep shadows that progressed, from the lower part of
Shareen’s body at the outset to covering her entire face by the
end of the video. In between these times, she moved continually
in and out of the shadows.
disconcerting as this was, it was nothing compared to the discographer’s
inability to keep her centered on the screen!
I’m not talking
about the previously mentioned “focusing-on-the-face-while-she’s-talking-about-the-hips”
trick. I am talking about having her disappear from the
screen almost entirely! For example, while demonstrating the Feiruz
rocking shimmy, she says, “The weight is on the forward foot
and we bump forward…” However, only a wisp of her hair
and edge of her shoulder are on-screen!
Eventually, the recording person caught up with her, leaving us
with a few seconds of usable demonstration. This happened
repeatedly. There was even a truly remarkable part of the
video where a glitch showed her body separating into 6 horizontal
sections and moving independently of each other! Now that
would be a move worth learning!
choice of costume also contributed to recording difficulties.
The beautiful aqua sequins of the beledi dress sparkled magically
in the sunlight—great for performance, but distracting on an instructional
video. Her black hip girdle did not have any fringe on it,
so it was hard to differentiate her shimmies from the ocean breeze
rippling her dress. The dress also made it difficult to
see what her knees contributed to the movement. The situation
did not improve by her hopes that, “it’s not too hard for
you to see with the costume” and “you can see it with the
black girdle on”.
For any aspiring
producers of instructional dance videos out there, please take
a hint: do a 15-minute trial run-through with your videographer,
check for problems such as those I have mentioned, and CORRECT
THEM before releasing your video and especially, your DVD
It would have taken only minimal effort to recognize these problems,
correct them and re-shoot. Likewise, if after correcting
technical issues, something else goes awry, re-shoot it.
my opinion, when the star loses her balance, “Maybe I’ll
stay more centered next time” is best put at the end of the
video in the “bloopers and outtakes” section.
was fine, however. Shareen gave generous musician credits
to Amir Sofi and his orchestra for selections
used, as well how to contact him to purchase the music.
the actual content, there was useful information buried
in “Exploring the Drum Solo.” Numerous steps starting
with the simple single drop, shimmy, alternating
shimmy and one leg shimmy progressed to the more interesting
Fifi hip slide, Mona pivot step back, Samia
shoulder shimmy hip drop combo and Sohair 3 point hip
with rib cage. In addition to the aforementioned problems,
which definitely compromised the content, there was the issue
of the organization of the material itself.
el Safy has had many, many years of experience, and she sprinkled
the entire video with references to Egyptian stars. Where one
might justly accuse others of name-dropping, this is decidedly
not the case here.
has studied and worked with, or has known personally, many of
the recent great names in Egyptian Dance—Sohair Zaki,
Mahmoud Reda, Lucy, Dina,
Fifi Abdou, Mona Said, Nagwa
Fouad—the list goes on. The tidbits of personal
experience she shared (who originated certain moves, how they
compare to folkloric moves, who was dancing where in the heyday
of Egyptian Dance, who retired in ’92, etc.) formed a context
for this dance form, and were thoroughly delightful to hear.
The problem was that she shared them in a tangential, almost stream-of-consciousness
way. It could have been charming, except that she did it many
times in the middle of teaching a move.
digressions, while entertaining and informational, left little
focus on the actual instruction. Shareen spent more
time on anecdotal material than on teaching the moves themselves.
interspersed between the Rhonda shimmy and the Hanan
move is a “talking head” segment entitled “The Golden
Age of Egyptian Dance” that I think would have benefited
by incorporating clips, or at least stills, of the stars mentioned.
This should have been part of the beginning or end of the instructional
part, (but then again, everything ran together anyhow).
Had this “DVD” been better planned, it could have been structured
and chaptered so that all the actual teaching either preceded
or followed the additional commentary on the moves. This
would enable one to go directly to a specific move for review,
without the student having to listen to the commentary each (and
every) time, causing the comments to become annoying.
Shareen demonstrated many of her moves, she offered no information
on integrating them in order to perform a drum solo. In fact,
the music she used to demonstrate the moves was a nice moderate
tempo 4/4, but not drum solo music! Shareen did not discuss
the drum solo, per se, such as how to interpret or analyze
it for choreography or improvisation, but she did present an improvised
performance at the end of the video that incorporated several
of the moves she had just taught. In this regard, I felt
that the instruction fell short of “exploring” the drum solo,
as the title of this DVD suggested.
you accuse me of writing nothing but a total rant here, please
let me state my conviction that there are basic standards that
a DVD must meet. This is not the ‘60s or ‘70s when a crappy
8mm home movie, with all its flaws, was better than having nothing
exists today even for an amateur to produce a better video or
DVD than “Exploring the Drum Solo.” IAMED
publishes high quality material consistently, as do a number of
well-known instructors such as Delilah, Keti
Sharif, Suhaila Salimpour, Suzanna
del Vecchio and less universally known dancers such as
Neon and Atéa Certainly,
I would not expect or accept any less from any well-established
professional instructor on the current workshop circuit—nor should
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