Gilded Serpent presents...

Bellydance in the Real World- Shanghai to Russia

Bellydance Superstars ¨The Art of Bellydance ¨Live from Shanghai DVD
VIII International Oasis Festival Show Harem Saint-Petersburg Russia DVD

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DVD Review by Martha Duran
posted January 20, 2013

I was recently given the opportunity to review these new DVD productions offering different perspectives in entertainment; so this is a review for all the belly dancers who are continually on the lookout for new performance videos on the web–or for those who are in the market in search of fresh new performances. Many new performances can open your mind to interesting, fun fusions from around the world and help you to prove how stylization can vary–country to country.

BDSS ShanghaiBellydance Superstars ¨The Art of Bellydance: Live from Shanghai” (June 2010)

I have seen every single DVD in the market from the Bellydance Superstars, and of course, as almost every bellydancer who owns them, you don’t see it only once and store it away!  This DVD starts with a giant screen backdrop, projecting some cool effects and images with a voice, welcoming the audience to the world of the Bellydance Superstars – from Tribal dancers to super-large Isis wings that begin the first choreography, lots of Arabesques, chasse turns, spinning and whirling around the stage. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, it shows the same lack of artistic facial expressions in the dancers throughout almost all the DVD. 

You get to see some beautiful, fluid choreographies, but all are missing depth.

The second performance is by the always amazing drummer, Issam Houshan, who began his traditional interaction with the audience, then played an intricate drum solo with Sonia and her zills that she plays only in a part of the performance. Sonia is an elegant dancer on stage who just needs a bigger smile; I only saw her smile once or twice throughout this drum solo, while Issam smiles almost all through the performance.  Nevertheless, Sonia makes it look so effortless–so easy! Her pleasant ease makes it an almost-perfect performance.

Up next is the Tribal performance (in which I couldn’t stop noticing that the simple costuming has been worn by the superstars a lot lately) followed by “Beirut Nights”, which I found absolutely boring…  A very creative choreography was “Wheel Within a Wheel” that involved lots of Sufi spinning, and  Petite Jamila  handling up to 4 veils.  I consider this one of the best performances on this DVD.

The Sixth performance is “New Delhi Dank”.  I really liked the choreography in this piece, and I think it is lovely to see tribal dancers smile once in awhile!

"Fusionista" is a not-so-common choice of Fusion dancing. This performer is a lovely and strong dancer with an ugly costume!  However, it amazes me how she is able to make cart wheels look right while bellydancing!

The next performance is “Odissi Fusion”.  I loved the whole concept, but the execution was way too easy; we dancers want to see more than just an easy and clean choreography.  On the first DVD of the Bellydance Superstars, we were all enchanted with the wonderful master performers who were demonstrating their unique styles and their challenging, unforgettable choreographies.  Today, it seems to me that to become a Bellydance Superstar is merely a platform to get noticed by the world. One performs here and there and builds a career from that foundation. However, what I understand by their extraordinary title is that they should already be “superstars” when they become part of the team.

Another performance accompanied by Issam Houshan is “Party Drum 2010”; again he is interacting with the audience, and likewise, nothing outrageous emanates from the dancers. A second part of the “Beirut Nights” performance was next, with beautiful costuming; the skirt of the costumes made this choreography seem perfectly appropriate for the music. Beirut Nights was followed by “Ballet D’orient”–a gorgeous, flawless classical ballet-fusion performed to “Yearning” . “Ya Raitone” was one of my least favorite performances; the stylization on the dancers is too classical for such strong beats performed under this music genre.

Finally, a great Tribal performance “The Dude¨!  This video showed better costuming and an excellent choice of music.

“South Pacific Bellynesian” is introduced by Sonia with a sensible fusion of belly dance and Polynesian dance accompanied with a veil; it demonstrated a flawless technique and bright and beautiful costumes that make this fusion attractive to the belly dancer’s eye.
Next was a Tribal solo with Issam again and my reactions was that it was boring. The following performance was another drum solo with Issam Houshan but this time, with Kami Liddle. I really liked her style. She doesn’t get lost in the fusion and sticks with the belly dance-styled steps, but in this specific choreography, I did not see her really shine.

“Cairo Nights”,  “Wayward Farwell”,  and “We are One” are not enchanting at all–except for the ribbon dance performance--everything else is just plain boring!

These Superstar belly dancers are highly skilled dancers, but as performers, they lack the ability to enchant an audience. Nevertheless, this is a good DVD with interesting musical choices, excellent lighting, and a setting that is pretty much the same as other performance DVDs from the Bellydance Superstars. However, I must give credit:  finally, they have incorporated some cultural aspects and props–other than veils.

Rating:  3 zils
3 zil rating

Natalie Becker DVDVIII International Oasis Festival Show Harem Saint-Petersburg Russia DVD (March 2009)

First, let me say that most of the dancing is excellent; Russian belly dancers tend to have immaculate technique and incredible theatrical skills while performing. Natalie Becker and Ebru are incredibly skilled dancers who totally capture your attention while on stage. Their costuming is highly detailed in most of the performances and all the dancers on the Oasis Dance Ensemble do a wonderful job.

Many styles of dance are appreciated on this performance DVD that includes odd choices of music for such skilled dancers.

For the most part, the costumes are lovely, although I thought some of them were incredibly out-of-this-world, like the one used for “Space Tara” by dancer Shaharazad from Germany. She started in dimmed lights, performing a gorgeous Sufi dance and did some great tricks with the exceedingly heavy skirt, and up came the lights, revealing that Shaharazad was in Egyptian costume. Natalie Becker’s costumes were unique and perfect for every single one of her performances!

It is quite unusual how belly dancers from Russia interpret a song while performing. Almost every single dancer in this 2 disc DVD lip-syncs the song to which they are dancing.

This is a more than 3-hour-long performance DVD; the photography is excellent, the staging is perfect, lighting effects, editing and camera angles are squeaky clean. Some costumes were rather strange-looking because they were heavily adorned and more than 6 of the performances included a revelation from cover-up to costume, onstage, while dancing.

The show is pretty long, but with performances from very enthusiastic showmen like Luxzor from St. Petersburg make it fun to watch. Luxzor enters his performance dressed in a turban and a Sufi skirt, no shirt or shoes, and he begins dancing Egyptian style immediately, engaging the audience with his charisma. He does some amazing shimmies with his chest and  never missed a single beat of the drum.

I really loved the Bollywood performance on this DVD!  They fused both cultures starting off with candle dancing and following along with energetic Bhangra dancing.

You can expect anything from this show from Flamenco dancers, Samba dancers, and modern/contemporary male dancers who are executing a human ladder to Broadway hits (such as one of Bob Fosse’s), popular choreographies from 1969s “Sweet Charity” to Tango dancers and a interesting Chinese Tribal fusion. Stylization of the dancers is what kept me watching this DVD; no boundaries are set on these performances!  You can catch some dancers running to enter the stage as some of them are leaping their way out.

This is a great production team DVD with poor editing. The cover of the DVD is in English as is the menu of both of the discs, but all the credits are in Russian. Therefore, it is quite difficult to give deserved credit to the music; although I did recognize songs from Sarah Brightman and Michael Jackson.

Overall, the DVD contains accomplished dance performances to about 40 different songs.

Rating:  3 zils
3 zil rating

In closing, I must conclude you can be a superstar in bellydance and yet, not be able to fill in the holes of your performance. Also, you can try to be a superstar, but without a great producer and an excellent production team–even if you are wearing the most expensive costume and dance a great choreography with excellent artistic expression–you will not reach that point of superstar recognition if you are not up to date with the latest trends in music entertainment and excellent language. If you want to reach out to the world you have to speak their language.

Purchase info

Natalie Becker’s facebook page
Price: 950.00 Russian rubles

= ~$31

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