Video Reviews

Veil Work

 

ARTEMIS DANCES!!!
Serpentine Communications

For the past twenty-five years Elizabeth Artemis Mourat has been researching, dancing and teaching dance history, both in the United States and abroad. She dances predominantly in the Turkish style and is creating quite a name for herself as a conservator, instructor and performer of Turkish Roma Dance. This video, her first solo offering, opens with several beautiful and intriguing images from Artemis' large collection of pictures and antique postcards. The entire video is interspersed with an intimate interview with Artemis and some wonderful film clips! There really wasn't enough room to include all the history Artemis felt was relevant, so she enclosed an insert to help you fully understand this fascinating subject.

  1. The first set is on a nicely lit stage. Artemis begins with a lively Turkish cabaret piece, with zils flying. Turkish Gypsy dancers are know for their ziling, skirt dancing and high energy and in this performance Artemis gives you a taste of something you are going to want a great deal more of! This inviting opening is followed by a beautiful veil piece in which Artemis shows you her passionate and sweet nature. Artemis is so graceful and expressive she appears ageless and timeless!
  2. This set was filmed at the Casablanca Restaurant in Alexandria, Va.. Artemis starts with a kicking Karsilama and of course, her fabulous zils. She always emphasizes the moves and gestures used by Turkish Gypsy dancers and it's a dance style I can't get enough of. A lovely veil dance comes next; performed to Sali, one of my favorite songs. Just beautiful. Then Artemis entrances everyone with a fascinating slow Karsilama which gives way to a slightly faster, much bouncier, Karsilama. Artemis has studied in Turkey and her expertise is evident in the way she captures your attention and won't let it go. OPA!!
  3. "Ancient Images" is a dance based on Artemis years of studying the ancient dances of Egypt, Greece, Crete and Rome. Inspirational!
  4. I love this costume and this piece of music, Sehnaz Longa. The opening Kanun Taxim is so beautiful. OK, I'm biased, the first time I ever saw Artemis dance was ten years ago and she was dancing to this song. I fell in love with her there and then. She follows this with a wonderful drum solo. Classic Artemis!
  5. This final set brings us back to the lovely Casablanca. Artemis shows off one of her Traditional Turkish Gypsy outfits which are really colorful and fun. She begins with a nice happy piece accentuating the kicks and hops Turkish Gypsy dance is known for. Artemis then moves into what I love to see her do the most, a slow Karsilama with lots and lots of Gypsy gestures and floor work! This lovely dancer could melt a heart of stone. Then Artemis finales to a fast Karsilama with all the head tossing, skirt dancing, turns, jumps, rapid fire ziling and attitude that make Turkish Gypsy dance so exciting!

 

CLEOPATRA
Staring - Claudette Colbert & Henry Wilcox
Director - Cecil B. Demille, Paramount
Date - 1936

This is a wonderful old movie based on the story of two of the world's favorite doomed lovers, Anthony and Cleopatra. The sets are nice, and there are a lot of dancing girls which are fun to see, but what's really great are the costumes Claudette Colbert wears. These things are the stuff dreams are made of!! I think the outfits were very scanty for the thirties. Claudette also did the best acting in the film. When the movie first started I didn't think she'd be a strong enough actress to bring off such a powerful woman as Cleopatra, but as the movie develops so does her acting power. By the end of the movie you'll be convinced that few actresses can hold a candle to Claudette Colbert's Cleopatra!

 

DANCES FROM THE HEART
Suzanna Del Vecchio, Belly Dance Arts, Denver, CO.,1991, 30 min.

This is a collection of 6 different dances by Suzanna which were filmed in varying locations by videographer Jeff Hansell. This is a very well done video, presenting the many different sides of Suzanna, and her marvelous skill and ability as a dancer. The filming and sound are both nicely clean and clear, and I love the choices for costume, music and location. All merging together seamlessly to form an entrancing image for each piece offered.

 

EVA AS DANCER (VOL I) 1979-1989
Eva Cernik, Denver, CO., 120min.

My fascination with Eva Cernik began almost ten years ago when I saw one of her ads in a Dance Magazine. There was something different about her. In fact I still have a copy of that picture. She was wearing the same costume she wears in the first dance on this tape, one of my favorites. The picture was taken from behind, she's barefooted, her head is thrown back, her skirts are whirling and she has an infectious and blissful smile on her face. From her picture alone I recognized that Eva was something special! I think you'll agree with me after viewing this tape. Rarely do you get the opportunity to see a dancer with such muscular control, skill and energy. Her zil playing is Master-class, and her years of study in Egypt and Turkey are obvious. Her Sufi training is evident in every turn, and her attitude is a consummate professional's. If you're looking for excellent Turkish Cabaret or authentic Ghawazi Eva is the dancer for you.

  1. This first set was filmed for an American cable show and Eva performs to the live music of the Boulder Bouzuki Band, with the very talented Kosta Runtas playing clarinet.
  2. This set was filmed at the Aurora Fox Theater. Eva performs again to live music, which for me as a musician is always exciting. We begin with a breathtaking sword duet with Alfredo, followed by a really exciting Gypsy dance to a wonderful violin solo by Paul Klite.
  3. This set was filmed at a Sufi camp in NM., and features the live drumming of Sufi Master Adnan el Sarhan. Eva dances an inspiring Fire dance. This is the best dance I've seen using candles or oil lamps. Eva is definitely in the moment.
  4. These next two dances are original stage creations and show off Eva's imagination and theatrical abilities.
  5. This set is from an Independence Day Parade in Vail, CO. Here you get to meet Eva's beautiful snake Kaa Konstrictor. Eva's snake dancing is always excellent. She has tremendous respect for her snakes as creatures and ourselves as an audience, therefore she never mishandles her little friends. Nor does she ever behave inappropriately or lasciviously while dancing with her snakes as I have seen done by some disrespectful, anything to get attention, dancers.
  6. This set was filmed outside on the Boulder Mall and Eva is accompanied again by the Boulder Bouzouki Band. This performance features Tadjik and Turkish and if you don't think Eva's energy is infectious just keep your eye on the dancing children!
  7. Again Eva's on the Boulder Mall, this time in a tent, dancing a beautiful sword duet with Lehalla.
  8. This set is exciting because it was filmed on location in Luxor, Egypt. Eva performs with my favorite Ghawazi dancer Rajaa Maazin and an Egyptian beledi band. This is the real thing!
  9. This is a lovely Kuwaiti dance to live drumming. Even when Eva is thoroughly covered by a thobe she's impressive and as always expressive. I think dances like these are Archetypal expressions of feminine grace and beauty.
  10. This is from a Shimmyfest held in Denver with Billy Woods and Paul Klite. Billy is a very talented drummer who is quite well known in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Sylvanas, and Paul, whom we saw earlier in the tape, we already know is an exciting and evocative Gypsy Clarinetist. Eva's Gypsy dancing as always is outstanding.
  11. This is my favorite set on this entire tape. Filmed at the Khyber Pass in Denver, Eva performs a full cabaret set including Veil and Sword. Eva is known for her wonderful Turkish cabaret and here's a good reason why.
  12. This is an extremely interesting set. Filmed on Mile High Cable, with Joynan as host. Again we have the pleasure of Billy Woods live drumming assisted by Kevin playing beautiful flute. Eva entrances us once again with her snake charming, or is that her charming snakes! This time we have Lucifer, Ra and Ba Konstrictor. Once again Eva displays her astounding physical abilities.
  13. This set was filmed at a People's Fair in Denver and lucky us, once again we get live music. Here Eva shows what she can do with Troupe work. Her Rampi, Rampi choreography is high energy and classic Turkish. There is also a lovely group sword dance and more fun with snakes!
  14. This is a little tid-bit of Eva dancing at Kom Ombo Temple in Egypt. Filmed on one of the almost yearly tours Eva leads to Egypt.

 

EVA AS DANCER (VOL II) 1989-1991
Eva Cernik, Denver CO. 120min.

    1. This is a bit more of the end of the first tape, only a bit better this time. Filmed on Eva's Dreaming About Egypt Tour 1989, at the Kom Ombo Temple to the god Sobek.
    2. This is from "Romance on a Desert Night", produced by drummer Billy Woods. The live music is provided by the Baghdad Express. Eva begins with her snakes Lucifer (Luci) Konstrictor and her babies Ra and Ba. Followed by veil, and her incomparable high energy zils, ending with a beautiful Arabian Gulf Dance. I love Arabian Gulf dances and this is one of my favorites, inspired!
    3. This is another all time favorite of mine! Filmed at the Mendocino Mid-East Dance Camp, CA. The setting looks like a wonderful secret loft and the music is exquisitely passionate, as is Eva. This version of the beautiful Persian song Gole Sangim is Veshengo's personal favorite. Lovingly sung by Rowen Storm who is accompanied by an impressive collection of well know and highly talented musicians. The memory of this dance will haunt you!
    4. More fun with snakes. You might recognize this set from the first tape.
    5. Springfest '90, Greeley, CO. Filmed out of doors, with more live music by the Baghdad Express and Mike Martin. Eva dances very lively skirts and zils!
    6. This set is my all time favorite Eva performance!!!! It was filmed at Maharagan el Raks monthly show at Cedars Restaurant, Denver, CO. Eva opens with veil and zil work that left me panting. This is followed by a fascinating drum solo which shows off Eva's incredible hip work and as always her amazing zils. She then moves into a flirtatious little dance while interacting with the audience and showing of her mastery of turns and shimmies. This flows into a chiftetilli in which Eva executes her exquisite and powerful floorwork. This set should convince you why I think Eva is the best American dancer out there!! This is of course only Madam Mozuna's humble opinion.
    7. This set was filmed at Cedars Restaurant, Denver. I love this costume! This is another excellent set, with more zils but this time Eva also shows off her Turkish Gypsy gesturing and Turkish spoons! The music is kind of "Shaft goes to Istanbul" but very lively and fun.
    8. This is another original Theater fusion piece. Eva describes it as "Belly-dancing bat as entertainment for vampires"!
    9. This set was filmed at Rakkasah, with the Brothers of the Baladi and Robaire. More wonderful veil work followed by Eva's incomparable sword work. This beautiful dancer constantly amazes me.
    10. Eva and members of the Bedouin Ballet perform the Seven Veils of Ishtar, at the Boulder Theater, CO.
      • The First Veil - with Haig on Oud, this is an entrancing Veil piece, with some very impressive catches.
      • The Bedouin Ballet and Troupe Zaghareet perform my favorite Eva choreography to Rampi, Rampi. Now that's lively!!
      • Dangerous Maidens is a great little duet with Eva and Lehaila.
      • The Last Three Gates is a very interesting Sword and Veil Triptych with Eva, Naila-Rose and Rafiah. Eva is ever creative.
      • Obedience (to the laws of Nature) The above dance flows seamlessly into more mind-blowing solo sword work by Eva.
      • As the above dance ends the band segues into the beautiful traditional Sufi Dervish piece, Mevlana. Eva and other students of Adnan el Sarhan are inspirational in this Whirling Dervish dance!
    11. These last two performs are pure icing on the cake. The first is a great little cane dance followed by a wonderful Ghawazi dance, with of course zils. Eva's studies with Rajaa Maazin shows and that is one fabulous costume. Both of these pieces have been theatricalized for the stage.

 

I LOVE TURKISH BELLY DANCE
Sarah Skinner
StratoStream - World Dance NY

DO NOT BUY THIS DVD if you want to learn anything about Turkish Belly dance! The title and information on the cover will lead the viewer into believing that Turkish Belly dancing is being taught, which it is not. Turkish Belly dance is a dance style with a long and significant history in Turkey. It has exerted a considerable influence on the development of modern American Cabaret Belly dance. However there is no such thing as Turkish Skirt Belly dance and unfortunately both of the choreographies that Sarah chooses to teach are skirt dances. In contradiction to the title, “I Love Turkish Belly dance,” she is teaching and performing an American form of Belly dance. Even the cover art frustrated me, as there is not a single image of Sarah wearing Turkish Cabaret or even Turkish historical costuming. Instead the images show her wearing costumes more reminiscent of American Cabaret Belly dance and American Tribal style dance rather than anything seen in Turkey.

Sarah spends a great deal of time on lyric translation. Unfortunately once again, her ignorance of Turkish music and dance is exposed. She claims that Mastika is referring to chewing gum, but in the song they are actually referring to the alcoholic drink that is made from the plant of the same name. The viewer would have been better served if she had spent time breaking down the Karsilama or Rromani rhythm which is a 9/8 time signature. She does not clearly explain how to accent the rhythms and never actually counts them out. Her concept of expressing the rhythm verbally during her choreography lessons is to chant boom, boom, boom…boom, boom, for the beat, instead of counting the rhythm out. This is very unprofessional, and not at all useful from an instructional viewpoint. In honesty, she may never have learned to properly count or accent the Karsilama rhythm; therefore she’s unable to use it in instruction. I also miss hearing zils, Sarah doesn’t use them in the choreographies and Turkish dancers are historically known for their zils.

Turkish Belly dance is very high energy and Sarah lacks fire in her personality, choreographies and performance. Her voice is so deliberately soft and gentle that she borders on being insincerely unctuous. Sarah mysteriously chose to perform to a piece of music that is Arabic, which is sung in Arabic and Spanish, which she reassures the viewer that no one will notice! The hip drop that she teaches is not Turkish at all but rather it is Egyptian in styling. In general I find that her choreographies are too sedate, her posture is too relaxed and her isolation's are too slowly executed.

I have several different instructional DVDs from World Dance New York and this DVD has much lower production values than any of the others. Unlike their usually high quality products, the subject matter here is inaccurately advertised and poorly portrayed. The viewer who has no prior knowledge of Turkish Belly dance will think that all that is necessary to perform Turkish style is a big skirt when, in actuality, skirt dancing is not from Turkey at all.

I have been studying different styles of Belly dance with a heavy emphasis on Turkish Cabaret and Rromani dance for 20 years and teaching Turkish Cabaret and Rromani for the last 11 years and I found that Sarah's research to be extremely poor and misleading. Her execution is so unlike any Turkish Belly dance I have ever experienced that I would never recommend this product to anyone. The only good thing I could find about this DVD is the controversy it has generated, because if you’re talking Turkey I’m listening.

-Shibar

 

LIFTING THE VEIL OF TIME
Oriental Dance through the Ages
Serpentine Communications

This is a wonderful video showcasing popular dancers in the Washington D.C. area. Here's a quote from the flier for the video-"Come join us in a tour of Middle Eastern dance; from ancient temple rituals to modern day cabaret shows. Discover the unique movements of a culture where women spend their entire lives behind the veil." Sounds interesting and it is! This video utilizes special effects, film clips, narration, beautiful evocative images, and imaginative editing to present a wide variety of dance styles and time periods. This is a video I like to encourage students to get, because it's varied and it's nicely filmed.

  1. The short opening sequence sets the mood as Artemis, like a beautiful and enchanting Priestess, transports us to an ancient temple, long shrouded in the mists of time. I love Artemis' Ancient Dance and this is a lovely example. Shades of Isadora Duncan.
  2. Kwakib performs two enchanting Persian style dances. Her folkloric costume is one of my favorites, so rose and peach, feminine and soft, I think she looks very playful and sweet. I also love the music, very pretty. Her attitude was so inviting and captivating, she left me wanting more.
  3. Artemis dances veil next, in a flame red cabaret costume. She gracefully flows across the screen, changing from wildfire to shimmering coals to the sun warmed currents supporting wafting butterfly wings. Artemis has such a very sweet nature and it comes through freely in her veil work.
  4. Latifa is charming in this Alexandrian dance with Beledi dress, headscarf and gold coins. This is the style of dance I'd expect to see in someone's home on a happy occasion. Intimately friendly and joyous and very expressive.
  5. After letting her hair hang free and changing in to an elegant Thobe, Latifa shows us another aspect of her personality with a beautiful Saudi dance. I love this dance style; it's so floaty, yet flirtatious.
  6. Amira Yasmin is reminiscent of what a dancer might have looked like in a Turkish Haman, with her Turkish coat, Harem pants and Turban. Actually I guess what really puts the image in my mind are her heels. Of course the fact she's playing Turkish spoons and the Turkish music help round out the over all effect. She's very relaxed and friendly, which is really representative of the entire video. Not only do these women dance beautifully, but I'm sure they're beautiful inside as well.
  7. Wearing a black and gold cabaret costume, Kawakib now gets to display her dramatic and fiery side with this really interesting zil solo. Zils are musical instruments remember, not just small clinking metronomes, and here is a good example of a musician and dancer entertaining herself as well as her audience.
  8. Finally we meet the lovely Yasmin, the hard working editor of "Lifting the Veil of Time". Here Yasmin displays her skill with Asaya. With her traditional embroidered dress and long flowing hair she look like she should be dancing in a dusty marketplace on a festival day. She's skillful and sure of herself, yet friendly and encouraging. Just the right attitude.
  9. Adena, a long time favorite in the D.C. area, is out to stun us with her lively zil work, elegant demeanor and entrancing sword work. Very beautiful!
  10. Artemis shows us the Turkish approach to zils with her high energy Rrom dancing. This time she's utilizing the hops, head flings and sweeping skirt gestures that are often indicative of Turkish Rrom dance. I think this is so much fun, you can practically feel the breeze coming off of her skirt! Artemis dancing to a kicking Karsilama is one of my favorite things.
  11. Yasmine's classic Raks Sarki, a style that's popular all over Egypt, is a good reason why she's also such popular dancer. She has such lovely hands and shimmies.
  12. Artemis now shows even more of what Turkish Rrom dance has to offer. You don't get to hear a slow Karsilama very often and it's a shame because this is seriously hot music. Again Artemis uses gestures that are exclusively Turkish Rrom and floorwork that's just wonderful!
  13. Drum Solo- this is a fun drum solo that showcases all the lovely performers. I'm so pleased that this was included, because what is a really good Belly Dance show with out a show stopping drum solo? Which of course segues into a lively finale. Opa!!!

 

MEZDEKE SHOW
Produced by Saut Wa Soora 1997

Mezdeke is a style of Arabic pop music so don't let the title fool you on this one. They might be playing Mezdeke, but they dance Turkish Cabaret. Like many tapes featuring Turkish Cabaret style Belly Dance, this is a hodge-podge of dancers and scenarios, filmed in Turkey using Turkish dancers. Some of the performers may be Rromani, but the focus is on Turkish Cabaret style not Turkish Rromani. Sometimes, it's a fine line to cross when you try to separate the two.

It begins with several sets featuring three dancers who dance as a troupe. They have what they think is a good catch; they all wear face veils, which look extremely incongruous hanging over their very scanty and very sexy Turkish cabaret costumes. In fact for me, it reeks so much of the male sexual fantasy of anonymous sex that it almost ruins the dancing. In fact this is a very good example of why Turkish dancers are thought by many to have bad reputations. These face veils give me the impression of a strip show. They're just too burlesque for my tastes. I'm interested in great dancing not sexual titillation. Many men however may enjoy this, although my husband laughed and rolled his eyes so I don't think it had the desired effect on him. I miss not having facial expressions. It made me feel these dancers are withholding themselves from me. In these days and times, I think any American woman will be a little offended by the face veils and I imagine every Moslem woman will. It's more then just politically in-correct, but it was only meant as sexual titillation. The wearing of the veil is seen as sacred to many millions of Moslems and as a sign of male domination to many non-Moslem women and I think this treatment of it pretty much offends everybody except certain salacious men.

The video is interspersed with Saut Wa Soora crawlers constantly advertising what you've already bought and each performance set is followed by a flashing add for the corresponding CDs, ugh!

I wish I knew the girls names but the covers are in Turkish and I doubt they're named anyway, so unfortunately all the dancers on the first half of the tape are anonymous. Famous dancer Burcin Orhan dances on the second half of the tape.

Set 1
They begin in pink and silver classic Turkish Cabaret costumes, V-line belts and skirts that show lots of leg and of course they always wear high heels. The face veils are beaded and attached to headpieces. They are almost always in front of blue screens and have been heavily edited with cutaways and special effect, which detract from the dancing instead of enhancing it. In this set the screen is simply black.

The dancers exhibit lots of good Turkish cabaret moves and postures like the use of the angular pharonic style arm posturing and odd looking squats so indicative of Turkish Cabaret. They also utilize their skirts in the Turkish style. Their dancing is great but I really have a hard time getting past the face veils

Set 2
In this set their costumes are green and the face veil is fabric and the screen is geometric colors and patterns. More good dancing.

Set 3
Their costumes are magenta and gold and the face veil is fabric and the screen is the skyline of Topkapi Palace, I think. More good dancing.

Set 4
This is the first solo on the video by a dancer I refer to as one of the "little sisters". The "little sisters" dance without face veils and in Harem pants and slightly less skimpy costumes compared to the "veiled triplet". There are two "little sisters" and this is the stronger dancer. Here her costume is green. This girl's a little dancing machine with a simple blue screen. All of these dancers are ever so slightly frenetic. In Turkish cabaret it can also be a fine line between energized and frenetic. The editing doesn't really help since it jumps around so much cutting up the appearance of the dance.

Set 5
The "veiled triplet" return, back in the pink and silver costumes, with more good dancing, which unfortunately is beginning to feel a bit like more of the same if you know what I mean. The blue screen looks like a giant doorknob but I don't think that's what it's supposed to look like.

Set 6
The "veiled triplet" in green again in front of water falls this time.

Set 7
Now we change sets from blue screen to a fake harem scene complete with sultan and guards and two unveiled female attendants, the "little sisters" who also dance later. They all sit on oriental rugs and watch the show often clapping along. Again I can't stand the titillating factor, but oh well the dancing is good. They wear black skirts and veils with coin bra and belts.

Set 8
Solo by one of the "veiled triplet" on a flying carpet over a blue screen fantasy terrain.

Set 9
Back to the harem and now the "veiled triplet" dance cane, same costumes as before except this time there are no little sisters around.

Set 10
Now the other "little sister" gets her chance to dance solo, she also has no face veil and is in the red harem outfit she wears during the harem scene. Blue screen is fantasy terrain again. She's good but she doesn't have quite the stamina that her "sister" exhibits.

Set 11
Duet between the two "little sisters", I like this one because the brunette tires and gives up but the blonde rocks on. Blue screen looks like a lake in a public park.

Set 12
Back to the harem and the "veiled triplet" again. Here they dance with veils.

Set 13
Ok this one is too much. The "little sisters" dance the Macarena with the sultan. Way more then I can stand!

Here the feel of the video changes as we leave the "veiled triplet" and the "little sisters" for several sets performed by Burcin Orhan. Burcin (pronounced Burchin) is a very famous dancer in Turkey. A celebrity who has been a TV game show hostess and was the centerfold of the first Turkish Playboy, Burcin comes from a professional Ballet background and is known for her fusion of Turkish, Cabaret, Rromani style, Ballet and Flamenco which the Turks refer to as "Oryantal Bale" or Oriental Ballet. An interesting mixture to say the least and some consider Burcin to be an acquired taste. I love her pure Rom, but I'm not too crazy about her fusion. But that's just my own humble opinion. However I have extreme respect for her as a performer because of her political and social activism in Turkey. Burcin is a tough soldier for dancer's rights and she is an infamous trailblazer in Turkey.

Set 14
Now we get several sets with Turkish cabaret music as opposed to Turkish Rom or Arabic pop.

  1. Great bright yellow costume, the blue screen is the interior of Topkapi Palace, I think, changing to a burning candle and back again don't ask me why, because they can I guess.
  2. White costume and unusual hair with a veil hanging off of it. The studio is decorated with oriental rugs, nargheilas, large trays; standard orientalism. She adds a lot of ballet and Spanish flamenco moves on this one.
  3. Red costume with herself on blue screen. If I had to choose I like this one the best of her performances on this video. I love her costume and this piece of music. She does a nice bit of floorwork
  4. Very ballet and I think a bit strange!

 

MOON OVER DENVER I
Pearl Moon
Phaedra Amerrah Productions
Co-produced with Antarah and Sammoura 1992

The first workshop instructor was the much loved and well-respected Ibrahim Farrarh, who sadly passed away not long ago and who appears briefly and endearingly at the end of the video. There were multiple cameras used during the filming and special effects used in the editing. The stage is backlit with a reverse shadow outline of the Denver skyline, surmounted by a full Moon, which is very attractive and reminiscent of an image of an oasis. The lighting throughout the show is excellent. Each of the performances begins with a still shot of the performers stating their names and place of origin. Many of these performances are true gems! I personally think that Suzanna Del Vetch's performance on this video should be inducted into an American Belly Dance Hall of Fame as one of the most inspiring dances of the current generation. Astoundingly moving!

Here are some highlights:

  1. Denver, Colorado's own Eva Cernik opens this first production, and the producers couldn't have made a better choice. In a beautiful dark turquoise and silver Egyptian cabaret costume, Eva's high energy, masterful technique and charming personality promise a delightful evening's entertainment. Here Eva shows off with veil, zils and cane! As always, Eva leaves me wanting more.
  2. Desert Wind of Albuquerque, NM, perform their "Tribute to the Priestess", and quite a moving tribute it is too. This is a compelling performance in which the four members utilize imaginative costuming, snakes, fire and ecstatic dance to evoke images of ancient Crete and Minoan Goddess worship. This is dance as ritual and entertainment, something which Madam Mozuna particularly enjoys. Especially when it's well done and this is certainly well done! Choreographed to an intense selection from Peter Gabriel's Passion this dramatic and inspirational performance is one of Madam Mozuna's favorites!
  3. Aziza Ahlam (CA) begins her set with ethereal veil work to equally ethereal Enya. Then with a quick change of mood she drops her veil and dances to a lively Pop-Arabic number. I really enjoyed this piece, almost as much as Aziza seems to be enjoying herself. This performance is full of attitude and happiness!
  4. Showleh (KS) is definitely a "Pearl Moon" in her silver costume and long blonde hair. Wrapped in her metallic blue veil, she begins her set with crisp hip work and dramatic headflings, which give way to a powerful veil piece. I love this piece of music. Showleh exudes the strength of a powerful mature woman, entrancing.
  5. Suzanna Del Vecchio, another incredible dancer of the highest caliber from Denver, dances the performance of a lifetime! From the moment she begins through the crescendo of her spins and floorwork to the animistic and reverential finale, she is riveting and inspired. Suzanna emerges from the dim recesses of the stage like a Goddess emerging from the dim recesses of our minds and imaginations, or a Priestess moving purposefully forward into the temple to perform her sacred rites. Moving slowly, with the exquisite physical control for which Suzanna is well respected, she gradually obtains center stage. Every step a prayer. Every movement an invocation. These are fabulous undulations! From center stage Suzanna's dance builds and builds. To me this is a ritual, beginning with centering, then there is invocation, followed by ecstatic expression, tempered with control. All culminating in an archetypal manifestation, which is subject to individual interpretation. One male reviewer was left with the impression that "She becomes like a panther stalking prey." While a female reviewer was moved to write: "I felt as if I were holding my breath throughout her performance. You wanted to cry from the sheer beauty of the performance you had just witnessed." I agree; I want to cry every time I view this piece. If I had only one opportunity to give an example of American Belly Dance this would be it. In my humble opinion, it really doesn't get much better than this.
  6. Mahallabeya perform an excellent Candelabrum duet choreographed by famed Cairo dancer Amira el Kattan. This is a very classy and entertaining piece. Both dancers are beautifully dressed in complementary v-line skirts, heavily beaded with fringe and matching Candelabrum. Amira has provided them with a lively and authentic Egyptian choreography, and I think she can take pride in how beautifully Mahallabeya performed. I particularly enjoyed the solos.
  7. Coke Timpe also takes advantage of Amira el Kattan's skill as a choreographer for her flirtatious and well-received performance. Coke is a lovely and popular Colorado dancer, with a seductive smile and flashing eyes, who wears a beautiful beaded net skirt, which leaves you with a mermaid-like impression. I enjoyed this dance and was pleased to discover that Coke returns for more performances on both the subsequent videos.
  8. Troupe Zaghareet is fabulous in this fusion performance, which blends Middle Eastern and Flamenco. These three beautiful ladies, also from CO., are all attitude, with colorful, be-ribboned full skirts, stomping ankle bells, long dark hair, proud arrogance and zils. They utilize a very interesting piece of music titled "Tango Orientale", which definitely grows on you. Good fusion is difficult to achieve because it requires mastery of the forms used. This performance is great fusion. Troupe Zaghareet has obviously studied very hard. Opa!
  9. Amira El Kattan (Cairo) dances in the classical Egyptian style with a Cairo flavor and boy is she good! Amira has a talent for choreography, shows off incredible hip work, wears fabulous imported Egyptian costumes, but I think what I like best about Amira's dance is her attitude and charming personality. She is very light hearted, and playful with her audience, all the while dancing with an ease and grace that are the hallmark of a true professional. I love to see her smile. I also love to hear the wonderful Egyptian music she performs to. I haven't heard this style of music utilized on very many videos and I think a lot of American dancers are intimidated by it's intricate yet driving rhythms, so it was very nice to experience something directly from Egypt. I would love to experience Amira in person.
  10. Phaedra Ameerah, as creator, director and producer is an appropriate finale to a very diverting evening's entertainment. Captivating the audience with a dramatic choreography by Ibrahim Farah and wearing a black and gold costume styled on one worn by Samia Gamal; Phaedra is the reigning Queen of the evening.

There are many more performances on the tape. This is but half of them.

 

MOON OVER DENVER II
The Veil Of Isis
1994

Shareen el Safy was the instructor for this second Workshop and Gala Show. Shareen has been described as "a Master of the subtlety of Egyptian style dance", and performed beautifully for the Show the numbers she taught in the workshop. This production's stage is decorated with brightly painted and gilded replicas of ancient Egyptian artifacts, a coffin lid of the late New Kingdom period and statues of Pharaoh Rameses II and the great God Amun, by the Egyptian Study Society, a support group of the Denver museum of Natural History.

Here are some highlights:

  1. Natasha and the Near East Dance Heritage Theater (IL) open this production with a performance of their "Temple of Isis". This is a profoundly moving presentation, really more of a vignette, beginning with a meditative poetic reading, which draws us into an ancient Pharonic temple. This is the story of the Queen (an inspired dance by a Vulture Crowned Natasha) and her final journey into the after-life, guided by Isis (portrayed by the beautiful golden winged Isis Panthea). The Queen, accompanied by attendant Priestesses and offerings of incense, dances one last joyful dance of life before blissfully following Isis out of this world and into the next. This is one of Madam Mozuna's very favorite performances. This one piece is almost worth the cost of the tape in itself! It's that good. If you enjoy Ancient Sacred Dance, you'll love this.
  2. Dahlal (MO) wears a stunning royal blue, heavily beaded costume and dances to the perennial favorite "Mona". Dahlal can always be counted on to be amazingly dressed. I've always loved her style, elegance, energy and crisp hip work. Dahlal has long been one of our favorite dancers here at the Caravanserai.
  3. Maleeha (IA) wears a pretty rose/gray costume with a lovely sheer, solid dusty rose veil. Maleeha performs nice flowing veil work, very sultry.
  4. Shareen el Safy (CA), who was the guest star of the show and the corresponding Workshop Instructor in the first of two performances, wears a very unusual costume, I've never seen anything quite like it; however, her light heartedness and beautiful hip work are always a joy to experience. It's easy to see why Shareen is such a popular dancer and as the publisher and editor of Habibi magazine she exhibits more than just talent as a dancer. Shareen returns at the end of the tape for her second dance this time in a lovely sequined black lace full length dress, very Parisian. Very dramatic and full of fabulous hip work. Shareen's obvious enjoyment in her performance makes her a dancer I would very much like to experience in person and certainly hope some day to do so.
  5. Phaedra-Ameerah the producer of the Gala weekend workshop and show, begins her performance with entrancing veil work to a very dramatic musical selection. Then the lights go down, then back up and dropping her veil she dances to a lively Pop-Arabic piece. Like Dahlal and Shareen el Safy, Phaedra-Ameerah can always be counted on to wear an interesting, imaginative and exciting costume.
  6. Troupe Bent El Balad perform a wonderful up-beat dance with canes and water jugs. Joynan, Coke, Sammoura and Shariffa are beautiful in heavily beaded full-length dresses that they dance to full advantage. This is a great number, one of the best on the tape.

Also included are, Troupe work with Canes, a Double Sword dance, a Lebanese debke style dance, and other lovely solo dances. At the end of the tape are short excerpts from the Friday night show entitled Oriental Fascination.

 

MOON OVER DENVER III
Moon Over Morocco
1996

This production was filmed at the Temple Events Center in Denver, which was built in 1899 and houses a 4,000 square foot ballroom, classrooms and an auditorium which seats 770, all of which were sold out for this show. The stage this time was very simply decorated, but still attractive. The featured workshop Instructor was Suhaila Salimpour, teaching the Salimpour Technique. This is a system of Oriental Dance, which was developed and codified by Suhaila's famous mother Jamila Salimpour. Two members of her dance company, who assisted in class and also performed in the show, accompanied Suhaila. Sadly for us Suhaila withheld her own performance and one of her students from the video. However we do get to see one of her students, Tahia's performance which I enjoyed very much.

Here are some highlights:

  1. Troupe Bent El Balad open the show with "Mambo Suduni", a Nubian style dance choreographed by troupe member Shariffa. I was pleased to see the return of these lovely ladies. Troupe Bent El Balad was originally founded by Amira El Kattan when she lived in Denver and I think she'd be very pleased with their performances.
  2. Eva Cernic returns with a dramatic entrance up the aisle of the auditorium to the stage, with a sheer iridescent veil floating behind her like a magic carpet. Eva's ability to express the Rromani spirit is always inspirational and this performance is a fine example. Dancing to "Cingeneler Zamani" Eva spins and gestures and tosses her lovely hair with such joyful energy, that you can't help but smile back at her when she looks you in the eye and invites you to be happy. Eva is, as always, wonderful!
  3. Nataj is lovely in her blue and silver cabaret costume. Dancing to "Walid Toufic" she performs a lively Egyptian Cabaret dance with lots of wonderful crisp hip work and elegant undulations. Nataj's attitude is perfect, very charming and very pleasant. I really enjoyed her performance.
  4. Tahia, the only one of Suhaila's students we have the pleasure of viewing, dances Suhaila's choreography to "Hani". I absolutely love this costume and Tahia is beautiful in it. I also enjoy the choreography and even though it's Suhaila's choreography and her student performing, Tahia definitely adds her own personality and makes this dance her own. This was an excellent performance and I look forward to seeing more of this lovely young dancer.
  5. Anisa and Billy Woods perform a northern Iranian inspired dance with Billy playing a Tar and Anisa dancing. It's so nice to hear live drumming, coupled with Anisa's sweet personality and the lively audience participation; this performance is a refreshing change.
  6. Shariffa is entrancing in her gorgeous costume of sparkling pale blue. Dancing to John Belizikijan's "Jemilla" she twirls across the stage with her veil like a shimmering dancing star. I always enjoy Shariffa and she's just lovely here. "Jemilla" is such a melancholy piece; Shariffa decided to leave us with the memory of something more livelily and launches into a high-energy version of "Miserlou". Such fun!
  7. Phaedra Ameerah dressed in a black and white Samia Gamal inspired costume, danced to "Fi Yom Wi Leyla", opening with veil work and then moving into a more up-beat modern piece. Phaedra who is always a popular dancer, finished with some nice Asaya dancing.
  8. Dahlal makes an exciting entrance to "Before the Night is Gone", in an absolutely breath taking costume which has to be seen to be believed. Dahlal is the epitome of style, grace and elegance. Her costumes are always intriguing, her energy high, her dance exquisite and her personality charming. Dahlal is always a joy to experience. I want to grow up to look just like her!
  9. Shaherazad Javaheri a native of Persia dances a classical Persian dance to the piano music of Javad Maroofi. Generally in Persian dance the costumes are very bright and colorful, however Shaherazad has chosen a dramatic white dress accented in gold that is really very beautiful. I think she looks extremely regal and elegant.
  10. Siham Ali & Company finishes off the night with great piece of choreography by Mahmoud Reda to the song "Saidi". These eight happy ladies are resplendent in their sparkling beledi dresses and were an excellent choice as a final farewell to a good evening's entertainment.

 

ORYANTAL TURKISH BELLY DANCE
An Eva Cernik Production

    1. This first selection is a vignette with a very familiar story line. A young hat-check girl becomes the protegee of an older, leading dancer in a Turkish nightclub, only to challenge her mentor as lead dancer, and supposedly winning. Which surprised me because the only place little Miss hat-check could out dance her mentor is in the movies! Really, the older dancer is a much, much better dancer utilizing many recognizable Rromani gestures as well as playing zils and performing floorwork. Several of the performances were filmed in a real nightclub, to an incredibly good live orchestra. This is a cute and entertaining little piece, complete with cheesy special effects like the "dance-off" between the two dancers ending with the older dancer floating away on a flying carpet after having been vanquished.
    2. Following the above are four different dances by my all time favorite Turkish Cabaret dancer Tulay Karaca, a Rom, who is now retired. These dances were the first time I ever experienced Tulay and they are still my favorites! Tulay was also a professional model and it's easy to see why. She is drop dead gorgeous, but she's not just another pretty face. This lady can really dance and her zil playing is classic slammin' Turkish Rromani.
      • In the first set Tulay dances to a small band that I suspect are not playing the sound track we are hearing. It can be difficult to tell because many of the Cabaret bands in Turkey have a long-standing love affair with too much reverb. That's the sound device that causes all the distorting echoes. So my advice is to forget looking at the musicians and concentrate on Tulay, which you should do anyway because she is so unbelievably good. Tulay's costumes are always indicative of Turkish Cabaret style. Tiny beaded bras held on with spaghetti straps, or it's opposite bras with heavily beaded and fringed shoulder epaulets, V-line front and back belts which rise high on the hips (like French cut bikinis or thongs) and skirts whose main goal is to cover the fanny while exposing tons of long, long leg. Often the costume is asymmetrical in one way or another, one bra cup has fringe, the other doesn't or the bra cups are color negatives of each other or they only wear one wrist gauntlet. I think it's fun to try to find the asymmetry. Oh yeah all this is finished off with wearing what look like stilettos. In this first set Tulay dances with veil and does a little floorwork and a short drum solo.
      • Then there is a clever segue and hey, presto change-o, Tulay's wearing a new costume and performing Rom gestures that will break your heart to a great slow Karsilama. For aficionados this is too good to be true. She finishes this set with a zil solo that challenges all of us to practice harder.
      • In the above sets Tulay performed Turkish Rromani style steps and gestures to Turkish Rromani music. In these last two sets she performs Turkish Oriental style to popular modern Turkish Oriental music. In this set she begins with an original veil covering and progresses to floorwork. These sets were all filmed in a studio, however contrary to the above sets Tulay is not accompanied by a band in these last two.
      • I really enjoyed this last set. The reaction of the fringe on her belt to her hip work just fascinates me. I truly can never get enough of Tulay. Again we get too enjoy many cheesy special effects but thankfully they don't interfere too much with our enjoyment of such a beautiful dancer.
    3. What follows is an assortment of dancers of varying caliber beginning with a hot little firebrand whom I suspect is Rom from her heavy use of gestures, hops and pelvic drops. She's a real treat. Filmed live on stage in front of another smoking orchestra, this dancer's energy is inspiring. My favorite dancer on the tape after Tulay.
      • A surprisingly non-skinny blonde dances in special effects fire, playing zils you can't hear. She's not wearing much, just a veil around her hips you can see her undies through, a tiny bra with tiny straps and tassels off the middle of the cups like pastie propellers. I wonder if she can spin them in a circle? Great special effects, now she's dancing with herself in a different costume.
      • Same dancer as above, I think, in a cool white and silver costume dancing Turkish Oriental style. Nice set with pillars and Mediterranean scene. Then, great special effects, she's in a leopard print costume with flashing party lights. They just love using Blue Screen.
      • One more dance by the same dancer, different costume and background.
    4. Now we come to another cute little vignette. This time it's the tale of two men from Istanbul, who go for a night out on the town in Sulukule. These two guys are a hoot. One is the wise guy, one is the stooge. They spend an evening being entertained in a home with food and drink, female companionship and music and dance all provided by a very talented (supposed) family. This is really a little comedy, the dancing is ok but the music's great. It's a distorted view of Sulukule but it gives you the idea of what a night's entertainment can be like.
    5. This is followed by poignant song performed by a very lovely woman who sings in that beautiful lower register I find so attractive in Turkish female singers, so mature and mellow.
    6. Now we're back at the party in Sulukule listening to some great violin and more poignant singing.

 

SEMA YILDIZ - DANCING STAR OF ISTANBUL
An Eva Cernik Production

This is unusual videotape, which was designed with the true aficionado of Turkish Cabaret in mind. Sema is a beautiful dancer who utilizes many of the steps and arm postures and a few of the gestures predominant in Turkish Rromani dance, especially pelvic tilts and thrusts that are her trademark. You won't believe what she can do with her fanny; it's absolutely fascinating. The first four sets are all on stage live to a well-known recording of the old classic Aziza. These sets comprise the first 40 or so minutes of the video.

  1. In all four of these sets Sema wears a similar costume. In this set she wears a very light colored skirt, the material of which is rather stiff and tucked into her belt to create large hip flounces, accentuating her large pelvic movements. A smallish beaded bra, beaded and fringed belt, opera gloves and a veil accompany this. These sets are difficult to see as far as video quality goes, but viewing improves with each successive set. Sema begins with a standard veil entrance but quickly transitions into more aggressive dancing. She does some excellent floorwork during the oud taxim and wait till you see those famous fanny tilts executed during her floorwork! Don't try this at home boys and girls; remember she is a professional.
  2. This set is slightly easier to see but edited to the oud taxim and don't forget it's Aziza again. As you can tell from viewing this second set that Sema doesn't rely on strict choreography, although certain movements in the music evoke certain dance moves in response. She does one skirt trick here that I just love. Somehow she kick her skirt up and over one arm which I find very flirtatious, not to mention acrobatic.
  3. Aziza again, this time Sema is wearing a silver and white costume with a veil attached to a crown like headpiece. Both of which she removes after a standard Turkish Cabaret entrance. The video quality is improving and the only thing which I feel is missing is ziling
  4. This is the last Aziza set and Sema is wearing a nice bright red costume, including the crown/veil. This is by far the easiest to see, but I'm very hard pressed to pick a favorite from among these four. Although danced to the same music each set is unique and indicative of good Turkish Cabaret style dance.
  5. This set is my favorite on the entire tape because here Sema really cuts loose with some rollicking good Turkish Rromani style dance, and finally some ziling. This is Tzigane dance, danced to Tzigane music and it's what I live for. Sema is performing in front of a really tight and smoking, live band, with whom she easily interacts. Her costume is a sexy bright red fringed skirt and matching bra and belt which reminds me of something Tulay Karaca would wear. No stage here, Sema is right in front of her audience which at first appears to be comprised of children, but eventually the camera pans back and we can see how much the adults are enjoying this beautiful dancer with the irresistible personality and unstoppable hips. I just wish the videographer understood that Sema's dancing needs no special effects.
  6. This is the last set on the video and the most intimate. Eva may well have filmed this herself, in what might appear to be Sema's living room. Sema performs an entire set in full costume for the camera and the small audience on the couch. Here we finally get a close view of Sema's hip and floorwork. Well not as close as the lucky group on the couch. I enjoyed this video and now that I am familiar with her work, I long to go to Turkey to study with this exciting and proficient dancer.

 

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