“Babelesque Live in Tokyo 2009”, Bellydance Superstars Series
“Dancers for Dancers, Volume 5”, produced by Cheeky Girls
DVD Reviews by Monet Rath
posted January 19, 2012
Two DVD’s. Two live shows. Two very different productions! It is hard to stand them side by side. On one hand, Bellydance Superstars "Babelesque Live in Tokyo 2009”. On the other, “By Dancers for Dancers”, Volume 5, live in Berkeley, California. Miles Copeland versus Michelle Joyce? Me thinks I had better get to the reviews and let you be the judge!
Bellydance Superstars "Babelesque" Live in Tokyo 2009:
Bellydance Superstars always put on a good live show. I have seen several, and this one is no different. I imagine if you were in Toyko for the show, you felt the same energy and enjoyed the performances. In fact, at one point, there is a camera pan-out to the audience, and they are rocking to the performance. The DVD features a 92-minute, large stage production of Bellydancing at the famous U-Port Hall in Tokyo. There are 17 performances by talented dancers, some of whom are well-known, including Cabaret, Tribal, Folkloric, Fusion, Polynesian and two drum solos. If you are new to Bellydance, then watching this DVD would expose you to several styles and techniques. However, keep in mind that the show is highly choreographed for the most part and is slightly atypical of most local Bellydance shows.
We aspire to produce quality of this sort when we put on a show; it should be professional and classy!
The DVD opens with a title page and music blaring. You can play the whole show or scene select as well as check out other BDSS video options. Personally, I own a few of the BDSS DVDs, and I have to say that this show is not my favorite. The quality is not great (in terms of screen appearance). I tried to adjust the screen on my new laptop, and therefore, I think it is the fault of the DVD. It has almost a “bootleg” quality to it. Also, I found a few spots where the stage is not lit well enough for the DVD videography.
Miles opens the show with his booming voice playing over a video screen of pyramids and dancer images. I found his voice almost Star Trek-ish, as he spun the tale of ancient Babylon and the dance form you are about to see: blah, blah, blah… It was a bit much for me! If you have ever been to a BDSS show or own one of the other show DVDs, then you would see similarities in the performances. Perhaps that is why I wasn’t overly wowed.
Petite Jamilla and the Tribal dancers steal the show for me, and I am a fan of Jillina and Sonia. However, I am now feeling that some of the of the Superstar performers are beginning to lack the pizazz to which I have become accustomed or have seen in previous Superstar productions. Some of the other high points for me were: “Arabesque”, featuring Bellydance en pointe (which is quite difficult) and the "Do You Have any Faith?" piece with the whirling Dervish-style Bellydancers.
Overall, I will admit that I think there are better BDSS performance DVDs available.
Rating: 2.5 zils
“Dancers for Dancers Volume 5”, produced by Cheeky Girls:
Let me first admit that I like the philosophy of Cheeky Girls Productions for this recording. All 12 of the dancers performing in the show were nominated by fellow artists! This is explained on the DVD cover–as is the fact that they include each dancer’s feedback during the editing of their piece and request their approval on the edit. I think that is pretty awesome!
The theater appears to be a small black box type theater with a backdrop, which I could not tell if it was a screen with an image or a pseudo-rock facade. It is a nice touch that the lighting changes to compliment the dancers’ costumes.
The stage is well lighted, and there are many close-ups of the dancers and their costumes. The camera is steady, and its shots are clean.
The 120-minute DVD starts on insertion, but you have the option to play all or scene select. It is produced and edited by Michelle Joyce. The dancers are all Cabaret or Egyptian style, and I would say honestly that 80% were exceedingly enjoyable–a rarity. Stage prop usage is minimal overall in the performances. Many use a veil, but Oreet was the only performer who used wings or a large prop. Some of the more well-known dancers featured are Bahia, Tanya, Lotus Niraja, Oreet, and Princess Farhana; however, there are many other quality performers included.
On a completely unrelated note: I loved the color and crystal accents on Ahava‘s costume. Absolutely beautiful!
My criticisms are fairly basic, but I hope they do not seem petty:
- There appears to be beads scattered all over the stage. I know; I know! Nevertheless, I have to say that the appearance of the hazard on the stage kept distracting me. I found myself checking to see who was wearing shoes for fear they might have cut their feet!
- In the beginning of the show, and then at the beginning of each dancer’s performance–and only when the camera was zoomed out–you see the audience moving around. Overall, this is minimal distraction, but when comparing productions, I note that it is definitely not seen in BDSS camera footage.
- Finally, during Tanya’s performance, there was one very brief moment where I could see the backstage because the curtain was not completely closed.
Overall, this DVD shows an enjoyable performance, and it is worth the purchase if you want to see quality Cabaret/Egyptian-style dancing.
Rating: 3 zils
Both DVDs include music credits at different spots, which is a feature that I, as a dancer, appreciate. To take it a step further, on the Cheeky DVD, the dancer information and music credits appear on the inside of the DVD cover, which I think is a great touch. Both BDSS and Cheeky have sales periodically; so if money is tight, I would suggest waiting for a sale on both DVDs.
Ready for more?
- 11-27-06 Azar’s Belly Dance Workout Volume 1,
The first section is “alignment” which I was thrilled to see. Far too few teachers stress the importance of proper alignment.
- 3-20-06 Leyla Jouvani’s DVD 21 shimmies and 1001 variations
An IAMED production. I would recommend this video. This video is very long at about 2 hours and 15 minutes running time. You certainly get your monies worth.
- 3-15-06 Princess Farhana’s Instructional DVD Bellydance Basics Reviewed
The best section in the video is the “Figure Eight.” P. Farhana does an excellent job explaining all types carefully.
Honestly, I hadn’t expected to like this album (noodling has not been to my taste in the past), but I found it refreshing and rather healing, as the relaxation and delight shifted my state of mind every time I danced to it.
- 12-19-11 Ramzy’s Take on Egyptian Classics for Dancers, “Best of Om Kolthoum and Mohammed Abdul Wahab”, “Best of Abdul Halim Hafiz, Hossam Ramzy and his Egyptian Ensemble” ,
I find this to be the best of all possible worlds, if you have a short workshop performance or an Arab event there is a selection suitable for you.
- 12-19-11 Are These the Droids You’ve Been Looking For? Two Pop & Lock Fusion DVDs Reviewed
I’ve seen some very groundbreaking, mindblowing blends of belly dance with modern, hip hop and world dances. But more often than not, I see dancers in an easily definable costume, dancing to easily definable music, without stylized movement. I believe it takes a balance of all three elements to achieve good fusion, with stylized movement being the strongest ingredient in any form of dance.
- 12-19-11 Learning to Dance the U.K. Way, Hillary’s "Beginners’ Egyptian Dance" and Charlotte’s "Learn to Bellydance"
Strange names for movements used in the U.K. such as “snaky arms”, and the most repeated “wobbly walk” and “wobbly movement” in describing shimmies, as well as “quiver in your bellybutton” are off-putting.
The saxophone was popularized in beledi music starting in the 1970s. Although I wasn’t introduced to Middle Eastern music until the ‘80s, I believe the first recordings I happened upon featured Samir Sourour.