Natasha’s Video Package-
"Masters of Egyptian Choreography"
Reviewed by Hana Ali
posted October 15, 2009
Volumes One, Two and Three
All three DVD’s are extremely navigable, with a refreshingly uncluttered interface consisting of a simple black font on a papyrus background. In each case, the DVD contents include a section on technique and/or exercises, a full-length choreography broken into chapters (Diana teaches two choreographies), performance of the choreography in costume and a bonus section boasting an interview with the dancer and almost an hours-worth of live performance footage.
Further, the choreographies in all 3 DVDs are also structured in an identical format, where successive chapters build upon previous ones.
Each chapter begins with the very first dance combination taught and culminates with the introduction of a new one, such that by the time you reach the last combination, you should be fairly well-versed in the first few at the very least, having presumably benefitted from the ample repetition.
The instructional portions of all 3 DVDs were filmed at the same dance studio – an impeccably clean room with light wood flooring and a full wall mirror. The decor is oriental in feel but pleasantly, and appropriately, minimalistic. All three DVD’s appear to have been filmed from the same general angles, such that the shots attempt to encompass the dancer as well as her image in the mirror. However, each dancer took advantage of the space and wall mirror in a rather different way. It worked for Randa, but not for Diana or Leila (More on this in the individual reviews).
As mentioned above, each dancer was interviewed by the producer, Natasha Senkovich. Their narratives give us an insight into their dance philosophy and approach. All three dancers have devoted their lives to dancing and training and it would not be amiss to get to know them as people first.
Begin with the interviews and you will benefit from an understanding of their individual teaching methods.
All the dancers delved right in and started instruction sans any mention or performance of warm-up exercises. There are no warnings or recommendations to ‘consult your local physician should you have special problems or needs’. Therefore, it is up to your own good sense to start with a few warm-up exercises and stretches beforehand and to listen to your body as you proceed.
Volume One – Randa Kamel (click titles for more detail)
Randa is a relatively new Oriental dancer, but is no newcomer to the world of dance, with years of prior training in ballet under her belt. An Egyptian, Randa has danced all her life and currently works as a dancer and teacher in Cairo. She is a driven, determined, hard-worker with a very strong personality and it is evident in everything she does, including her very distinct, self-developed style of dancing. She credits watching and admiring other dancers such as Samia Gamal, but claims that her style is ultimately her own. No arguments there, though it does carry some unmistakable traces of Raqia Hassan and Dina.
Zill Rating: 4 Zills
Diana is French Algerian and has a long history of performing all over the world, including Europe, the Arab world and North Africa including Egypt. She moved to Egypt to train with Raqia Hassan, and after a few years of performing in Egypt, decided to stay on. Diana has been living and teaching in Egypt for over a decade now. She claims one must live in the culture in order to understand how to perform this dance. Although retired as a dancer, she continues to choreograph and coach other dancers. She muses how this dance has a way of overwhelming one’s life and discusses the particular challenges of a professional belly-dancer in Egypt. Her dance style is more intuitive than technical, and reminiscent of so-called ‘old-style’ belly dance.
Zill Rating: 2.5 Zills
Leila is relatively new to the dance scene and started her dance career in Seattle, Washington. A foreigner in Egypt, Leila has been living there and working as a dancer, model and actress since 2002. She is a very recent mother and at the time of her interview in this DVD (2008?), her baby was a mere 3 weeks old. She is in prime physical condition and seems to be back to her old dancing form. Leila has an incredibly sweet personality and her dance style is rather soft. I would venture to say that she is probably still finding herself as a dancer.
Zill Rating: 2 Zills
Ready for more?
- 10-18-06 “The Bellydancers of Cairo” An interview with filmmaker Natasha Senkovich
As a maid you can find yourself in compromising positions—not good situations for a woman to be in—but in Egypt, it is considered so much better than being a dancer.
- “Habibi, You are My What?..”DVD- Essential Arabic for Dancers, Vol 1 reviewed
However, I have never had such insight into the words as this DVD taught me! Now, thanks to Leyla, I have an added dimension to teach my students.
- Zills: “Voice” of Bellydance 2 CDs of Finger Cymbal Instruction: Mastering Finger Cymbals By Mary Ellen Donald, Raqset al Sajat, An interactive CD,
A special thanks to the artists and producers who made these CDs possible, and may they individually and collectively preserve and revitalize an aspect of the dance, playing finger cymbals, that, sadly, has been withering on the vine in the community of late.
- Belly Dance Novels, Light and Dark: The Belly Dancer by DeAnna Cameron, Midnight Rose by Wendy Buonaventura
“The Belly Dancer” has mass marketing appeal to many women as a light, entertaining romance novel; it is a good introduction to the art form which, I believe, will even entice more than a few ladies into our classes. In contrast, “The Midnight Rose” has a darker side and is not for the faint hearted who want to read a happily ever after type novel.
- Pop, Locks and Shimmy x 2, 2 DVDs with Almost the Same Name
So what’s with the title dilemma? who deserves the crown for the first pop, lock, and shimmy DVD, or who did the best one? After dancing along several times to each DVD, what matters most to answer the question who did it right – the appropriate title to the appropriate production
- Yousry Sharif Makes a Stop in Tennessee
Yousry sat on the front row during the performance, and is rumored to have remarked “that is me dancing up there!” when Virginia made herappearance.