Gilded Serpent presents...

Dances of the Maghreb, Tamazgha, or Berbers*

Amel's DVD

Amel Tafsout in Performance

DVD Review by Janine Ryle
posted December 30, 2010

As a student and admirer of Amel Tafsout’s work, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to review her performance DVD. I was a little concerned about giving an objective opinion, especially if it fell short of my expectations! Much to my delight, I found it overall a good quality production and an excellent overview of Amel’s repertoire and dance style.

The introduction runs about seven minutes. In it, the narrator gives Amel’s background accompanied by beautiful still photos of her in costume, posed and in performance, as well as teaching workshops. Then Amel speaks of the history of North African dance and explains some of the symbolism behind the movements and costuming, as well as her philosophy of the dance.

The remainder of the DVD consists of performance clips from the 1990s through 2006. Each segment is conveniently arranged in chapters. These are not dances in their entirety, but select segments of a wide variety of her repertoire. Some of the quality of the original footage varies, especially in the early segments; that, of course, is the nature of pre-digital video. However, I felt Susan Peel did an excellent job of editing the originals into a cohesive, flowing narrative.

I’m glad Amel included her singing and drumming along with her dance performances. Her Berber Chaoui song is especially strong and powerful.

Backed by Salah Dawson-Miller’s ensemble, she really comes alive in the Berber Abdaoui performance for BBC TV. Plus, we get close-ups of her feet, which is helpful for those of us studying this style.

Amel is also a storyteller, and we get a wonderful example of a story told in gestures which evolves into a spirited drum solo accompanied by Salah on the darbukkah. Her exquisite hand and arm movements are mesmerizing.

Nayali and Mime is definitely one of my personal favorites and not a small part of Danse Maghreb’s inspiration to create our own interpretation of Nayali dance. Here the music, costuming and pantomime combine into a powerful presentation.

I especially love the costuming on the Horse Dance piece, as well as the high energy of the dance itself. The silk flows so beautifully and enhances her movements. The intricate footwork of the dance can clearly be seen. She wears an exquisite traditional costume for "Majunun Leyla" .

Amel, if this costume is ever missing from your collection, you will know where to look for it!

Amel has her own unique style, firmly grounded in traditional North African dance with her own captivating interpretation and flair for performance and presentation. Her costuming is sometimes traditional, sometimes modern, sometimes fusion, yet always works well with her movements and is visually appealing. She interacts beautifully with the musicians when performing to live music, and consistently chooses evocative pieces when performing to recordings. Above all else, she is a consummate and engaging performer, and dances from her soul for the sheer joy of it.

I would happily recommend this DVD for those who enjoy traditional North African dance, Amazigh (Berber) dance, tribal fusion, and expressive dance. Of course, if you are a fan of Amel, you will want this for your collection, too!

Purchase DVD from Artist’s site here
DVD length: 1 hr 14:30 min

Rating: 3 1/2+ zils
Zil Rating- 3

“The drawbacks are just technical
and beyond anyone’s control.”

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