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DVD Review of "Belly Dance with Zills"

by Tracey Farmer
posted March 7, 2009

This is a review for "Bellydance with Zils",  featuring renowned performers Elsa Leandros and Raquy Danziger, another thorough production from World Dance New York (they seem to crank 'em out, don't they?)  It is appropriate for the intermediate dancer who has some knowledge of most of the rhythms displayed here and some zill experience. 

I would not recommend this video for someone new to zills; you need a basic course before attempting to use any of the patterns here.  However, the seven most commonly used rhythms in Middle Eastern dance presented here provide a foundation for those new to zills and a great review for those who are already familiar.

First, Raquy and with Brian Carter go over each rhythm, giving you the feel of a drum circle; baladi, maksoum, saidi, chiftitelli, masmoudi, rumba and Turkish karsilama.  Raquy plays the rhythm on the doumbek, then Elsa plays it alone with zills, then all 3 play the rhythm together.  This is a great intro to what you'll learn in the rest of the DVD.

At the beginning of the instructional section, Elsa gives some great tips on how zills should be worn and how you should practice with them.  After all these years, I never even thought to color or label each zill so I would know which goes on which finger.  I guess I've just been lucky…

In the next section Elsa goes over each of the rhythms along with combinations.  She thoroughly breaks down the patterns with numbers across the screen, a useful technique I have seen in other zill and/or Arabic rhythm DVD's.  Elsa explains the rhythms; for example, she informs us that maksoum is very popular with musicians like Hakim or Hossam Ramzy when they want to have an upbeat, happy song.  She advises that chiftitelli is for slower, more emotional music, and so on.  She then teaches a technique in which she moves her arms while playing the zills rather than holding them stationary, to avoid the look of counting while playing.  Next Elsa gives us two steps and two combinations that go along with each rhythm, so you do get some dance instruction. Then you get to play zills and use the steps and combinations to music. 

This is helpful for dancers who have a problem playing zills while dancing, or who are OK with just a drum playing the rhythm but get confused when playing to a song.  Elsa uses some familiar songs in this DVD which will give you the feeling of  "Oh, I've danced to this before; maybe next time I'll add my zills".

In the final section we are given two performances by Elsa.   The first is to "Banat Baharei" from "Wash Ya Wash Vol 2", a song which I absolutely love and is perfect for this DVD as it has many rhythm changes.  It is great to see Elsa use all the techniques she has just taught you in one song.  Her second performance is a live drum solo with Raquy featuring Brian Carter, which displays all seven rhythms.  Elsa pauses during the solo for accents and to demonstrate how a good zill player can recognize the rhythm and thus enhance a drum solo.  Elsa, with over 20 years experience as an instructor/performer, is perfectly at ease with this skill.  In both performances, it is nice to see a woman dance without being overly cutesy or dramatic or adding too many steps like she has something to prove in her dance.  She just feels the music and goes with it.  I wouldn't be surprised if during filming she did both dances in one take. And Raquy…girl, you got skills!

This DVD works well as a companion DVD for a basic zill instruction and an Arabic rhythm DVD.  I recommend it for those who dance well, but are not yet comfortable  performing while playing their zills.  I think with some practice along with this DVD you can eliminate those fears.

Zil Rating =3 zils
3 zil rating


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