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Gilded Serpent presents...
Belly Dance Super Stars Video
Produced and Directed by Jonathan Brandeis
Executive Producer: Miles Copeland

review by
Amina Goodyear

Finely produced DVD - displays well in HDTV format
Selections are:

  • Play All
  • The Dancers (one page bio of each dancer)
  • Belly Dance Super Stars and The Desert Roses
  • Merchandise (reasonably priced tops, coin belts and Egyptian hip scarves)
  • Also Available (videos offered of Belly Dance Jam with Belly Queen and instruction Belly Dance with Jillina levels 1, 2 and 3 and Capezio Shoes)

Each chapter brings you to the beginning of the individual dancer's piece, introducing you to a beautiful face, body, hair and costume.  It soon becomes evident that this video introduces only skilled and graceful dancers in wonderful jewel encrusted costumes. What a delight it is to see a Belly dance video that resembles a fashion runway show in face, figure, and dress.

The dancers perform in a smoke filled room lavishly decorated in rich, lush carpets and Orientalia. The setting is right, the lights are optimum; the mood is perfume and romance.

However, as there is no audience, most of the dancers have a difficult time conveying the emotions of the dance to the video viewer. Only Jillina and Dondi seem to overcome this obstacle.

The dancers perform short pieces and it is apparent that the songs could have been "lifted" from the top ten hits on the LBC and ART Arabic "MTV" shows. The songs mostly are pop and fast paced, but instead of the quick cutting of the western dressed Arab singing stars going through the motions of looking, acting and playing at being western while dancing jazz or other very western dances, we are treated to western Belly dance stars dressed in glamorous, traditional Oriental dance costumes and dancing mostly in a fast paced manner that fits the truly globalized type of Arabic music they have chosen as their dance pieces.

By the chapter:
1. Amar Gamal: "Tin Tin" by Oojama
Amar opens the show dancing with gossamer white pleated Isis veil/wings in a spectacular white costume that sets off her beautiful complexion. The violin is hypnotic, the dancer is "womanly" and the dance is well executed and almost hypnotic, but the dancer's face does not quite meet the trancelike quality of the dancing and the music.

The technique is there, but the "breath" is not quite there.

2. Ansuya: "Chicky" by Oojama
 Ansuya is the epitome of the all-American Belly dancer.  Although she is probably what America considers Belly dance, she seems to look like a little girl playing dress up. The sensuousness of the mature dancer is missing. She dances like a disco dancer. She does some pretty good dancing and dances perfectly for the hypnotic rave style song she chose.

In some ways she reminds me of a Tribal dancer on speed as she does too much and changes her movements too often.

Although her technique, skill and agility are quite remarkable, she seems to lack that inner connection with the music.

3. Rachel Brice: "Saraab" by Simon Shaheen
The magical mysterious moods of veils and incense gently wafting conjure up images on Rachel dancing in an old-time belly dance club in 1960's America. All the senses are aroused. The oud, flute and violin envelope and caress this very beautiful, mesmerizing woman.

Rachel is slow. Rachel is seductive. Rachel is inside the music. But Rachel needs to draw the viewer inside her soul. It doesn't quite happen. But almost...

4. Jillina: with drummers Issam Houshan and Johnny Elian
The 2 percussionists helped Jillina make her dance ALIVE!

Jillina is a true entertainer. She looks good. Her costume is interesting, flattering to her figure and enhances her movements.

Her dance technique is excellent: she has nice muscle control and clean movements. She is playful with the drummers and has fun while they mutually inspire each other. What can I say - she truly is a wonderful dancer.

5. Sonia: "Ah ya Leil" by Shereen
Sonia must be a rising star. Her dancing is nice, but not memorable - yet. I can picture her as a Super Star chorus dancer, but not a soloist. The dance she chose was too pop for her dance style. She would have looked better with a traditional old style belly dance song.

6. Suhaila Salimpour: "Nebtedi Mnain el Hikaya" composed by M.A. Wehab
Suhaila has many costumes and choreographies, and I do not understand why she chose what she did. The costume was not her most flattering, and the music was really not suited for her dance style. She did not seem to follow the sentiment of the music and she changed moves too often, considering the repetitive "Bolero" type song chosen.

Her arms were too busy and made her look like she was swimming. And she looked like she was trying too hard to look "sexy".

7. Tamalyn Dallal: "Msafer Wahdek" composed by M.A. Wehab
Tamalyn chose a song that was both Oriental and Flamenco in feeling.  Her dance was a nice blend, but her dancing remained too Oriental and soft-spoken to fully carry out the arrogance of the Flamenco sections.

8.Rania: "Ice Queen" by Dinletir
Rania starts her dance on the floor and the camera suggests feelings of almost erotic passion. She then rises and her dance transforms into a whirling spinning dance.

It seemed like "When in doubt - turn". Her dance was graceful, but she didn't seem to be able to fully interpret Arabic music.

It seems to me that she is a very beautiful new dancer. She looks the exotic, but she hasn't yet learned to build a dance. She seems like a very nice person and probably a very good chorus dancer.

9. Ansuya: "Sahra Saidi" by Gamal Gommaa
Ansuya performed to quite different music - drumming, but her dance and dance dynamics did not seem to change much from her other dance piece. She wears a belly dance costume, but there is no sensuality in her dance. It is all technique and borders on the "busy".

10. Amar Gamal: "Talakik" by Hakim
Amar seems to be more comfortable translating her movements and choreography with this style song. She is a beautiful dancer and her personality is more in tune with the song, however the dance steps are a little mechanical.

11. Jillina: "El Salam" by Hakim
Jillina does not have the drummers to inspire her with this dance, but her personality still shines. It is so clear that she enjoys what she is doing.

She is very well connected with the music and her movements are very clear and well executed.

12. Rachel Brice: with Drummers Tobias Roberson and Faisal Zedan
 Why does Rachel have to start with her back to the audience? It is not necessary. The drumming is ok, but it overpowers her dancing. She should stick to what she does best - her trance dancing.

13. Tamalyn Dallal: "Warda" by Warda
Tamalyn warms immediately to dancing with straightforward, traditional Oriental music. She has very nice personality changes with the music and rhythm changes, especially the Zar section. She performs a beautiful dance.

14. Suhaila Salimpour: with violinist Fathi al Jarrah
Suhaila wears a very beautiful silver assuite dance costume as she performs a nice taqsim type dance of the 1960's-70's American night clubs.

Dancing with Fathi on a rotating turntable was very distracting and her dance emotion looked a bit insincere or contrived.

15. Rania: "Habibi ya Alb" by Ihab Tewfik
Rania, with long dark hair flowing and ravishing in her golden jewel encrusted dress, does a spirited choreography to the driving disco beat of her song. It is a dance straight out of LBC (Lebanese Broadcasting Company available on satelite TV). But, although dance is there, the feeling is not. It must be very difficult to dance without an audience in a studio (no matter how beautiful the environment seems.) This is a skill that needs to be learned.

16. Sonia: "Elli Tmanetoh" by Nawal al Zoghbi
While "she walks in beauty, like the night" resplendent with her beautiful hair, her sweet face, her glowing complexion and more, her dance seems too soft for the song she chose.

It is like listening to a fast paced Top Ten from the Middle East while watching a gentle image float by. I wish she had chosen a more evocative song to fit her personality.

17. Dondi: "Ritm solo" by Asena
Dondi is refreshing and talented. Her sense of humor was a nice end to this video.

This is a pleasant DVD to view due to the consistency of the visual presentation. However, the camera director is overly busy and further distracts from the atmospheric effect. Does a Belly dance video really need a moving overhead camera to succeed? I think not. The dance is and remains exactly as it is.

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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

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