Natasha’s Video Package-
Masters of Egyptian Choreography
by Hana Ali
posted October 15, 2009
Diana seemed like a very pleasant person, and greeted her audience with a charming smile. She wore capri length black tights and a long, light pink dance shirt on top. The frilly sleeves were a little distracting and the light pink outfit failed to contrast well with the light sand-colored background. The result was an unfortunate camouflaging of some of her movements. Diana did not appear to be in dancing shape and neither her physical appearance, nor her posture, carried the mien of a credible well-trained dancer or dance teacher.
The video angle encompassed the dancer as well as her image in the mirror. Diana conducted some of the technique instruction facing her audience, but chose to teach the choreographies facing the mirror, with her back to the camera and the audience.
Her front was visible in the wall mirror, but I found the overall effect less than satisfying.
Diana greeted her audience in English and continued to instruct in the same. I had to exercise some willpower in an attempt to acclimatize to her voice because it seemed distorted and was therefore not the most euphonious auditory experience.
I suspect this might be a technical glitch as there is also some video glare.
Technique exercises began the DVD.
Exercises – 5 chapters
Diana started her teaching with technique instruction, demonstrating some very basic steps such as circle step combinations. Exercise 5 was particularly nice, encompassing upper body arm and shoulder exercises and incorporating visualization techniques to encourage fluid movement, such as using the hands and fingers to paint the wall with music.
Diana taught two choreographies – one to the song En Rah Minek Ya Ain by Shadya and the other to the song Samia Dance (Leila) originally by Farid el Atrache.
En Rah Minek Ya Ain
This song, also known to many as ‘Shadya’s song’, seems to be one of Shadya’s more popular songs, particularly among dancers. It is however, difficult to find in the original recording. Shadya was a singer and actress who appeared in many movies with, and during, Abdul Halim‘s time.
Diana’s choreography to the song En Rah Minek Ya Ain was divided into 3 chapters with various sections within the DVD chapters. Each additional combination or section was explained and demonstrated. Successive chapters build upon previous ones, such that by the time you reach the last combination, you should certainly be well-acquainted with those prior, thanks to the many repetitions.
Diana’s dance is folkloric in style, though she does not explain these particularities herself.
This choreography is well-suited to a beginner dancer. The song is beautiful, the movements elementary and repetitious. Despite the potential however, the choreography lacked dynamics and therefore, impact. Diana chose to dance through the pauses in the music, rendering the dance busy – it lacked breath. Although she incorporated turns in her choreography, she neither mentioned spotting nor seemed to practice it much herself. Among other things, spotting helps to make turns appear sharp and powerful. Diana did not have much force in her dance and outside of teaching the steps there was no talk, or demonstration, of energy. In general, she did not seem to use her head much – as in looking towards a movement or to emphasize an accent. Although there was percussion in the music, Diana did not seem to pay much heed to it and was frequently off-rhythm, thus somewhat undermining my faith in her as a credible dance instructor.
The Samia Dance is actually a song called Leila, composed and originally performed by Farid el Atrache. Diana donned a blue ‘practice’ costume to teach her second choreography in. The outfit might have been fine for performance but was a hindrance during teaching as the long skirt precluded a clear view of her legs or feet.
This choreography, dedicated to Samia Gamal, was perfectly aligned with the mood of the song. Diana explained that this was ‘old style’ choreography and did a careful, wonderful job teaching the choreography and movements, emphasizing feeling and emotions. Her dance went well with the melody, but once again failed to pay much more than a perfunctory nod of acknowledgement to the percussion. Granted that in the ‘old days’ drums were not given the importance that they are today, and not everyone needs to be a ‘percussive dancer’, but even a melodic dancer needs to have the heart beat of the music inside her body. She needs to be cognizant of and in tune with the rhythmic elements, including the ‘and’ count (one and two and three etc.).
Ultimately, this is a beautiful choreography that holds much potential in a more rhythmically-mindful body.
Diana concluded each of the choreography instruction sections with a performance of the complete dance, done in the same outfits that she taught in.
Performance of Choreography
En Rah Minek Ya Ain:
The dance is nice if one does not know the song. Though the gestures of the unsung lyrics were there, the sensitivity was not too evident. The dance suffered from insufficient mood changes and her unfortunate proclivity for following the melody at the expense of rhythm. Diana’s core did not seem strong and there were moments where gravity threatened to overcome her. Also, I would have preferred to have her perform facing the camera rather than the mirror.
This dance was very old school and extremely well-matched to the mood of the music. As afore-mentioned, Diana is a lyrical dancer, and in this dance, flowed mellifluously with the melody. She was resplendent in an elegant champagne gown with flashes of emerald color gently hinting of times past, of the days of Samia Gamal and Casino Opera. It is unfortunate that the gown was almost the same color as the walls. Oh well.
Natasha interviewed Diana and asked about her experiences as a professional dancer. Diana spoke of the dedication, hardships and sacrifices, which are required of a dancer wanting to perform the ‘circuit’. In her case, besides Egypt, she worked and toured throughout Europe, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
She also talked of the inevitable loneliness and isolation that comes with being a professional dancer – the nocturnal schedule, the pressures of working daily on choreographies, costumes, make-up, etc. with no breaks and rarely a day off.
She also spoke of her experience coaching dancers and the essence or definition of an Oriental dancer, describing the ease of training dancers with a classic ballet background. She said that these dancers are extremely well-trained and it is a simple matter for them to learn and be able to perform an Oriental choreography after a single day of intensive training, but that feat alone did not make them Oriental dancers. She stresses that in order to be an Oriental dancer one must be enmeshed in the culture. Diana spoke of creating dances from feelings first, with technique and structure being of secondary importance and that it is not possible to accomplish that without first being in the culture and understanding the music and the dance.
Live Shows – 40 minutes
When one critiques a dancer, one should take into account the full package, including the body, the costume, the LOOK. It should certainly not be the primary focus, since the ultimate importance should be placed on the dance itself. However, in Diana’s case, I was reminded of the import of attention to detail. To make a show memorable, good dancing needs to be accompanied by personality and stage-presence.
Diana’s Live Shows section consists of some splendid vintage footage of her performances. She shines with star magnetism and a strong confident presence. She carries herself like Nagwa. She is self-assured, she is gorgeous and she knows it!
Her dance style was very modern compared to video clips of other dancers of that era. She appeared comfortably familiar with the music, the lyrics and the Arabic language and seemed to effortlessly establish wonderful rapport with her audience.
However, as with her choreographies in the DVD, she tended to saunter in and out of the music, not overly concerned with the percussion.
As with her performances, her costumes were also ahead of their time. They were couture, memorable and befitting of the type of dance performed. In the folkloric pieces, the costumes are folkloric in feeling, but still very stylish and cabaret in look. Most importantly, the costumes fit impeccably and show off Diana’s body to the max. I will refrain from detailing every costume -you should get the DVD to see – but will indulge in an honorable and gushing mention of the engineering and structural masterpieces that were her costume bras. One must recall what Egyptian costume bras looked like ‘back in the day’! (Heck, one merely need take a look at 90% of the pyramidal costume bras out there right now!). This was a woman who paid attention to detail. This is vintage footage and the costumes are not present-day, yet they are today’s and tomorrow’s styles, the only give-away being the metal zippers up the backs of the midriff net sections. She was far ahead of her time in dance and she was far ahead of her time in costume-design.
This section alone is reason enough to buy this DVD!
- ads for other Natasha produced DVDs
- Eman Zaki – ad for costumes. (Designer for the stars including Randa, Diana and Leila)
- Charity – Women for Women International – video clip
Zill Rating: 2.5 Zills
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