the Scenes of
fall I was very fortunate to be asked by Channel M to
do a bellydance series for their workout series that airs
weekdays at 11:00 am. Channel M is a multicultural television
station for Vancouver, Canada. It was a wonderful, (but
stressful!) experience. I was given a great deal of freedom
up with the material. Basically, I tried to cover all
the foundation movements and travelling steps, in various
combinations and advancing variations stretching over 20
episodes. Each episode was twenty-three minutes long, consisting
of 2-3 minute warm-ups, 2 9-minute “cardio” sections, and
a 2-3 minute cooldown. The music was all original, composed
by James Bowers especially for the show.
Working with composer James Bowers was an interesting collaborative
experience. I gave him sample tunes that I use routinely in teaching
my classes, chosen for having appropriate rhythms and tempos
for teaching specific aspects of the class. We used Arabic rhythms
tracks taken from an Arabic keyboard: saidi, malfouf, maksoum,
chiftetelli, khaleegy, and beledi, and programmed each at the
beat per minute speeds I wanted to use. We got a rhtyhmic skeleton
with variations laid down for each track first, then added the
melodic elements. Jamie tried to be accomodating in my desire
for an authentic sound but also pointed out that true authenticity
wasn't really going to be possible given time/budget/training/instrumental
constraints and limitations. He also said that the music was
just supposed to provide a background that didn't draw to much
attention to itself but that could be looped and played repeatedly
without driving people crazy.
Venus & music composer Jamie Bowers
the throes of artistic collaboration"
What we ended up with
were 9 tracks with good Arabic rhythms (except for the reggae
track that was modelled after Hakim & Olga
Tanon's "Ah Ya Albi", the warmup techno track with
some Hendrix and Jeff Beck guitar elements (a tribute to our
mutual affection for rock n' roll--also, we were getting a pit
punchy!). Jamie also did a nice approximation of a taqsim using
a synthesized santoor sound.
designed a few mix and match outfits: pants, tulip skirts,
some crop tops which we alternated using either beaded bedlahs or
coin belts & bras.
producer, Shirley Cole, was excited right from my initial
audition; and at the end of the first shooting day she
said it was even more beautiful than she imagined it
goal was that the show would be visually appealing enough to
draw in the average viewer. She wasn't really concerned with
whether people would actually get up and follow along at home,
and remarked a few times that she didn't know if people really
did workout to TV shows. After we started shooting, however,
Shirley excitedly remarked "People will totally be able
to learn this at home. .. your instruction is so good!" Shirley wanted five dancers on
camera in addition to myself, so that the shots would be
filled from every angle. The dancers that joined me onscreen
were Lisa Jordan, Leona Planko-Finlayson, Mika Tanimura,
Brandi Abele, and Jen Bye.
Venus getting wired for sound by ?
three weeks, we shot two episodes a day- which were basically
taped live. The TV studio was tiny, but remarkably functional
and it was a really interesting experience in teamwork. The
dancers were wonderful, following my mostly ad-libbed lessons
with poise and excellent, clear technique. There were four
cameras shooting at all times, with Shirley in the control
room calling the switches on the fly.
television crew said that in the control room it was
dead silent during filming as they strained to listen
to what I was saying so they’d know where to aim the
camera was robotically operated from the control room to
move side-to-side capturing wide shots. Another was a small
one on a big arm. My attention was always focussed at camera
#2 which was directly in front of me (the folks at home),
and I really enjoyed watching Ricardo’s
legs dancing underneath his camera!
only did retakes a few times, usually due to technical issues
like one camera getting in view of the others, or me messing
up my opening welcomes. The first couple of days I found
really stressful, with the weight of the responsibility I
had to all these people to make it work.
day three I worked smarter and started hanging content
notes from the camera in front of me, so I didn’t have
to remember what I was doing and could focus more in
had lovely things to say about the shows shot each day, and
the entire crew was a pleasure to work with. I feel really
happy about the content being high quality and authentic
– we even did some cane dancing and khaleegy style! I can’t
wait for you all to see it. We don’t know yet when it will
air (season 1 is airing currently) but I’m guessing that
it will be in the Spring of 2008. I hope, like me you will
feel proud and satisfied about representing bellydance authentically
and tastefully to a wide mainstream audience. I hope you
experienced dancers will also find in it some useful tips
on technique, teaching and combos!
link to Channel M's programming page
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
Experience with Mahmoud Reda: A Little Aloha goes a Long Way by
the end of the evening Ric, Walid and Mr. Reda were huddled together
like little boys, telling naughty jokes. Ric, of course, telling
jokes beginning with "There are three friends, an Egyptian,
a Lebanese, and a Filipino..." These jokes, surprisingly,
initiated my Mr. Reda himself, who from the workshops I had taken
to be a distinguished and refined gentleman. They laughed like
Profile of a Costume Designer by Michelle Joyce
When I asked her if she would soon retire, she just frowned and said that there
are too many mothers who need her to stay in business for the good of their
Belly by Tatseena
example: a promoter is thinking about planning an event and is
talking to a friend and says, “I can’t help it if
some other teacher has planned a show on the same day or night;
they are different styles anyway.”
Report on the First International Bellydance
Conference of Canada Part 2 - Sunday Club
by Denise Marino and Lynette
orchestra, Randa, Amir, a packed house and very festive mood.
How could it be any better?
Part 1 A Brand New Idea for Belly Dance: The Festival
Idea in its Formative Years by Amina Goodyear
speaking of a festival and its promoters that promised more than
they were able to deliver.
Devil's Details, Show
Ethics for Professionals Part
4 - What
NOT To Do by
Show up drunk or stoned. No more needs to be said.