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Gilded Serpent presents...
Farida Dance presents Cairo Nights: 2005
The Farha Tour at The Liverpool Olympia, with Aida Nour, Dandesh,
Yasmina of Cairo, Mohamed Khazafy, Sayed Amar and
The Musicians of Fer'et el Negoum with the singer, Safaa Farid
Farida Dance presents Cairo Nights: 2006
The Farha Tour at Stage Two, Newcastle, with Randa Kamel,
Yasmina of Cairo, Mohamed Khazafy, Sayed Amar and
The Musicians of Fer'et el Negoum with singers, Safaa Farid and Hebba

DVDs Reviewed by Catherine Barros
Dallas, Texas September 1, 2007

I kept hearing about the above DVDs which were produced by Kay Taylor of Farida Dance.  The fact that these shows included Aida Nour, Randa and Dandesh performing with a band was the reason I bought them.  When I ordered the DVDs from Kay's website, I crossed my fingers that I would see the DVDs arrive anytime soon as they would be coming from the United Kingdom.  I was delighted to receive them in about a week and popped one in the player within minutes of having the package in my hands.  Having Hadia as a house guest for a workshop at the time, I had a built-in companion for immediate commentary and exclamation over the various aspects of the shows (and there was much to exclaim over!).

There are so many nuggets packed into these 3 DVDs other than the 3 dancers for which I purchased them.  I keep finding things that I really enjoy as I go back to watch them time after time.

Although my preference would be to see them "live" as so much of the dancer's personality and emotions can be lost on a video recording, I wasn't disappointed by the performances of the main dancers that I was interested in seeing.  I have experienced Aida and Randa in a "live" setting which enhanced these performances for me.  Beyond the big 3, I was treated to performances by Yasmina of Cairo on both DVDs, which let me see what a versatile performer she is.  Not only did she perform her solo Oriental, but she appeared in several of the "tableau" performances with Mohamed Khazafy, Sayed Amar and Sayed Tura.  Their performances made up a large part of both DVDs and let us see what well rounded shows both of the Farha Tours brought to the audiences in the UK.  The Oriental/Raks Sharki/Baladi performances were augmented by Eskanderani, Saidi, El Tannoura, Semsemiya and other folklore/tableau along with instrumental and singer only (Safaa and Hebba) interludes which help to keep the interest up throughout the shows.  (Note: A complete listing from DVDs is included at the end.)

Some of my definite favorites from the DVDs:

  1. Dandesh and the beledi tableau with Sayed Tura, the sagat player.  This is part dance and part comedy.  If you haven't had the experience of Sayed Tura, then you are in for a big treat.  He doesn't just play the sagats for Dandesh, he gets into the act.  They have a bit of a "Dueling sagats" going on.  When Dandesh sits on the floor, he goes down on the floor with her.  I don't want to spoil it by telling everything, but I enjoyed their repartee immensely.
  2. Aida Nour - oh, Aida! - she radiates such joy in her dancing.   I am an unabashed Aida fan so I like to watch whatever she does.  She has a sereneness about her along with that joy.
  3. Yasmina and the Eskanderani Tableau (gotta love that "fish" costume) PLUS the Ahwa Tableau (cute, sassy modern piece).
  4. Of course, Randa. Anything by Randa is strong/powerful. Although the costumes can be distracting at times it is always interesting to see what she comes up with (least favorite . . . the pants with the wide tracks of bare skin down the legs . . . tooooo much exposure).
  5. Sayed Amar along with Khazafy provide a few folkloric pieces that round out the shows, but the two that aren't seen too often are the Semsemiya (Khazafy dances with spoons) and the Two Fighting Men - Traditional (Sayed is in the life sized puppets)

    Although I do have to admit that the costumes of Dandesh and Randa presented some of the usual "what was she thinking to wear that?" moments, I've come to expect seeing some interesting costumes whenever I watch the Egyptians dance.

I consider it part of the entertainment factor.  Aida Nour seems to prefer her simple white gallabeya for her performances this time around.

Along with the dancers, I enjoyed discovering things about music and musicians.  Although I have known about Safaa Farid and his musicians from other CDs of music produced for Yasmina, Leila and Outi, it is always a pleasure to see the faces of the singer and musicians.  I actually recognize the accordion player, Reda Saad, from the time I attended AWS in 2004.  He is also the composer of some of the music you will hear on those CDs.  Another standout musician for me was Sayed Tura, who plays the sagats.  He provides a bit of comic relief along with demonstrating his great skill at the sagats.  Almost makes me want to get a much bigger pair than the ones that I normally play.

Some things that I liked about how these DVDs were produced:

  1. Each performance has a chapter title on the menu as listed on the back of the DVD.  Once you go to the piece to watch it, the theme of the performance and/or the title of the music is listed in transliterated Arabic plus English, all the participants are listed (dancers, singers).  This helped me to make the list that I have included at the end of this review.
  2. The stage was set high enough that there was good visuals with no obstructions.  You knew the audience was out there as you could hear them responding but they were set back a bit from the stage.  You could see this when the segment with Sayed Tura going down into the audience to bring up women to dance on the stage.

    The worst criticism that I can level against these DVDs is that sometimes the lighting washes out the dancers when they move too close to the front of the stage.  Lighting has to be one of the hardest things to control in a live performance.

Under the category of "it’s a small world", I met Kay in Cairo a couple of years ago while she was leading a group of dancers on one of her tours.  A dancer, from Washington DC (Lucy), whom I know, was on Kay's tour.  Now, of course, I have to laugh at the fact that I interviewed Leila of Cairo for Gilded Serpent (2004), and then Leila interviewed Kay Taylor for Gilded Serpent (2007).  I didn't realize what a busy woman Kay really is with leading tours, running a dance boutique plus organizing workshops/shows of the magnitude that these DVDs indicate.

I love to find current videos that present some of my favorite Egyptian dancers in a wide variety of dances with folkloric style dances presented along with some interesting tableaux and a great group of musicians to accompany all the various dance activities occurring on the stage.  I think that Kay has stepped up quite well to produce dance shows/workshops of well-known dancers for the dancers in the UK. 

I know that it is quite expensive to produce quality DVDs that have a small market.  Hence the note from Kay on DVD: "This DVD has been produced for dancers and lovers of Arabic music and dance to enjoy.  I would ask people not to copy it for each other but to treat yourselves to an original as it has been a very expensive project for me."  I think she means it as this message is placed on the DVD covers and scrolling across the screen at the beginning.

I hope that if others are interested in these performances that they will heed Kay's request to buy a copy for themselves and to support her future efforts to promote dance not just in the UK but around the world.

Detailed listing for the DVDs - Titles for each section with music, dancers, singers and musicians identified:

Cairo Nights, Farha Tour 2005:
Disc 1:  Yasmina, Mohamed Khazafy, Sayed Amar and Sayed Tura
(Disc 1:  1 hr 10 mins; Disc 2: 1 hr 25 mins)

  1. Instrumental: "Alf Leyla we Leyla" - opening of the show
  2. Heya di Yasmina - Yasmina/red costume
  3. Ya Helw Sabah  "Good Morning Beautiful" - Yasmina - starts with nice takseem/Safaa sings
  4. Tableau Eskanderani - based on an original idea of Raqia Hassan  - Mohamed Khazafy and Sayed Amar - duelling scarves; Yasmina appears in meleya and multicolored scarf dress with large fish glittery hanging from front, back and sides; the guys come back with a long piece of blue cloth which they wrap around Yasmina, tug her about the stage with it as she wraps and unwraps herself - the scarf is used to represent the sea as they make it wave.  Sayed Tura (sagat players) comes out to do his comedy bit
  5. Instrumental: "Ma Bit'es-eish Aleya Abadan" (You never ask after me)
  6. Cocktail of Abdel halim Hafiz songs - Yasmina and Mohamed Khazafy - like ballroom dance partners at times, he flits, turns and leaps around her; pink full skirted dress with a flowing look
  7. El Tannoura, traditional music cocktail - Sayed Amar - a moment of audience participation

Disc 2: Dandesh, Mohamed Khazafy, Sayed Amar and Sayed Tura

  1. "Min Hob Fik Ya Gary (From my Love for you my neighbor)", joined to "Taht el Shibak (Under my Window)"  - Dandesh yellow bedlah with shorts under sheer skirt/veil entrance
  2. "El Helw w'el Moor (The Bitter and the Sweet)" - Dandesh
  3. Samra y Samra (Dark Skinned One) - Dandesh
  4. Saidi Tableau - Mohamed Khazafy w/ Sayed Amar/stick dance - fighting; then Dandesh comes out to dance with Khazafy - she is playing sagats - teal dress
  5. El do El Shared (The Thin Light of Dawn) - Dandesh
  6. Instrumental: "Asbaaney (Hurry)"
  7. El Rakasaat (The Dancer) with Baladi and Sagat Tableau - Dandesh starts with her famous tableau of imitating other dance stars/red dress/sheer skirt with shorts/section where she stops the music and dances to clapping/shimmies faster/Sayed Tura comes out with the big sagats/plays on her stomache/face-off with sagats sitting on the floor/he is comedian with sagats does shimmies and dances around - they face-off doing pelvic drops
  8. Aida Nour:
    1. Walla wa Leab el Howa (Here goes the game of Love) - Aida dances in her white gallabeya w/hip scarf
    2. Ansaak da Kalam (Forget you? How could I?) -  Aida - composer: Sinbati/orig for Om Kholsoum

Cairo Nights,Farha Tour 2006
(1 disc-$70 total for both shows with shipping from the UK)  

  1. Instrumental: "Alf Leyla we Leyla"
  2. Yasmina's opening music
  3. Asal wa Sukr (Honey & Sugar) composed by Beligh Hamdi sung by Hebba; danced by Yasmina  (pink costume)
  4. Sou-bena Yasta ala Corniche - Alexandrian Folklore; Singer:  Hebba (with her blue, yellow, orange striped gallabeya and pompom scarf)
  5. Akdeb Alaek (I'd be Lying to You) composed by Beligh Hamdi sung by Safaa;
  6. Ahwa Tableau - very baladi - Sayed Amar, Mohamed Khazafy, Yasmna and Sayed Tura  -    Khazafy as shisha customer; Sayed as Waiter; Yasmina comes in as customer wearing pants, tie top and cap talking on mobile;  Khazafy tries to attract her attention by dancing; they all start interacting; Yasmina dances ; Saafa sings Bint el Sultan as one of the songs; Sayed Tura comes out to sing and plays sagats - he likes to get up-close-and-personal with his sagats
  7. Saidi Tableau - El Do El Shared (the Light of Dawn) composer Yasser Abdul Rahman; danced by Mohamed Khazafy
  8. Ganna el Hawa (Love came to us) - sung by Saafa; Sayed Tura playing sagats - gets women from the audience to dance on the stage
  9. Fighting Tableau - Sayed Amar - Two Fighting Men - Traditional
  10. Tribute to Farid el Atrash & Samia Gamal - Oud Player - Khazafy; music composed by Mohamed abdel Wahab; "Elbi Multahou (The Key to My Heart)" & "Ma Eli Oultelou (They tod me I told him); Khazafy dances with his oud; Yasmina wears a black wig and costume a la Samia and dances in her style; they dance together
  11. El Tannoura - Traditional music - Sayed Amar
  12. Semsamiya Tableau - Khazafy; Shik Shik Marzog (Folklore from Port Said) - spoons
  13. Randa:
    Randa's Opening music - yellow costume
    Ya Helwa Sabah (Good morning, Beautiful) - composer: Mohamed el Mowgi
    Ya helwa Randa  - black  costume with wide legged pants (sheer panels down the side) and large "eyes"
    Ana Kul Maoul el Touba (Every time I say I won't) - composer: kamal el Towil
    Tamrahenna - Hebba sings - Randa goes to change
    El Helwa Da ala el Shibeka (The Beauty at the Window)  composer: Mohamed Mowgi; Randa wearing teal bedla with mini-skirt
    Esel Ruhek (Ask your soul) - composer: Mohamed Mowgi; sung by Hebba - Randa's finale

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