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Volumne Three: Leila

Volumne 3- Leila

Natasha’s Video Package-
Masters of Egyptian Choreography

by Hana Ali
posted October 15, 2009

Leila was in superb shape and looked her stunningly beautiful self throughout the DVD. She chose to teach in a simple black tank top and yoga pants, with a scarlet hip scarf, and stood out extremely well against the light-colored background. Her hip scarf created a nice separation between her torso and hips and allowed for clear movement visibility. 

Not so with the camera-work. Leila faced the camera while addressing her viewers and demonstrating movements and gestures. However, once she began teaching the choreography, she turned around and conducted the lesson facing the mirror, with her back to the camera and the audience.

Her front was visible in the wall mirror, but unfortunately her image was mostly a long shot, so it was no small feat trying to detect all the intricate movements, let alone any facial expressions.

There was what appeared to be a tragically underused second camera, the existence of which did little to enhance the teaching. It was sparingly used for some ‘teaser’ close-up shots, the long-distance on a tripod camera prematurely taking over each time. The DVDs all have a disclaimer stating that all footage was shot on location in Egypt under less than satisfactory conditions. Maybe most of Leila’s close-up footage proved to be unusable.

Meaning of the Song

Leila taught a beautiful choreography to the song Esma’ooni, originally written for Warda. The version used by Leila may be found on her CD Sukkara.

Being a foreigner herself, Leila seems cognizant of the dancers’ need to understand the lyrics of their music and consequently devoted an entire section to the translation, explanation and interpretation of the song.

She faced the camera as she addressed the audience, sharing some key Arabic words and phrases from the song, giving a rough translation of the lyrics and demonstrating movements and gestures as they related to the music and her choreography.

Choreography Instruction –

  • Part One – 13 sections + review
  • Part Two – 11 sections + complete choreography

The entire choreography was split into two main parts, each part further subdivided into 13 and 11 sections respectively. Each part concluded with a review of the entire dance up to that point, performed by Leila in the same black teaching outfit.

Rather than spend time explaining or breaking down technique, Leila delved straight into teaching her choreography. There was little to no explanation of the movements. The underlying presumption likely being that the target audience already possesses an intermediate-level Oriental dance vocabulary, a presumption not entirely unfounded. She does offer some details on her footwork, but not on the execution of the hip-work. It was a gorgeous choreography, but lacked any signature ‘Leila’ movements or expressions. She is still a new dancer and maybe there are no ‘Leila’ movements yet.

Performance of Choreography 

Leila performed her choreography in a lovely black costume with silver accents, designed for her by Eman Zaki. She looked exquisite and fit but the dance seemed to lack vitality. This was a very beautiful choreography with lots of juicy slaps and teks for hip and body accents, yet the overall dance was executed in a very soft, and somewhat lackluster, manner. Leila talked about the meaning of the song, but the dance is filmed from such a distance that her expressions are unfathomable for the most part, the energy impalpable and the intricate dance movements lost in the void between the camera and the dancer.

The instrumentation, musical arrangement and percussion in this song are excellent. It is a very danceable, exciting version and someone can definitely take Leila’s choreography and make it alive, passionate, dynamic and forceful. With the right combination of passion and personality, it can be a very strong and memorable dance.

Bonus Features

Natasha interviewed Leila and asked her about her experience as a working professional Oriental dancer in Cairo. Leila moved to Egypt about five years ago and expected to continue living and working in Cairo for at least ‘a little longer’. At the time of this interview, Leila had recently embarked on motherhood, her baby boy Yousef having been born just 3 weeks prior. Leila spoke of the licensing obstacles faced by foreign dancers and of the need to stay focused, committed and resilient. She also talked about the Egyptians’ love-hate relationship with this art form and the particular challenges of working as an Oriental dancer in that culture. She seemed to be a very genial and gracious person. Despite her acquired proficiency in Arabic, she insisted that she was still learning and had a long way to go.

Live Shows – a little over an hour
This section showed live footage of Leila’s show at the Nile Maxim, during the course of which she underwent a few costume changes, looking invariably gorgeous in each sparkling outfit. Her show sometimes suffered from the hazards of filming on a dinner boat, with people bustling by or positioned squarely in the way of the camera.

Leila’s choreographies were fabulous, her body expertly accentuating each tek and slap of the percussion. However, to be a great performer one needs to be more than just a lovely dancer and her first couple of performances lacked fire and vivacity. In one of the numbers the Nubian boys dancing with her upstaged her. Leila is undoubtedly ravishing and an extremely congenial person, but it seems to me that she needs to develop a bigger stage personality and engage in more confident interactions with her audience. Her second show possessed more energy and dynamics and was far more engaging. Maybe it just takes her a little longer to get warmed up. She is young still and fortunately has time to cultivate the magnetism that is the hallmark of all great performance stars.

Also Available:

  • 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
  • Credits

2 zills
Zill Rating: 2 Zills

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