Gilded Serpent presents...
Superstars Back In Action
Review of the DVD,
Live in Paris at the Folies Bergere"
say that I was excited to see the Superstars’ second performance
DVD would be a massive understatement. I waited with anticipation
as, every day, the mail man did not bring me my package until
finally, after weeks of waiting (okay, it was only 6 days) today
it arrived. Like a kid at Christmas I tore into the envelope
to find the DVD (and the new, Volume III compilation CD) lying
in pristine condition inside. I wasted no time in getting down
to business and watched the dancing.
now you have ascertained that I am a little bit biased when
it comes to the Superstars. I saw their show in January this
year in Vancouver, and absolutely loved it. The loud music
(on good quality audio equipment!), fabulous lights and outstanding
costumes were a close second to the dancing. But bear with
me; I will use as much objectivity as I can muster.
press play, you are introduced to the outside of the Folies Bergere.
This music hall is world famous, was built in 1869, and the gorgeous
stone architecture pulls you in immediately. As the camera fades
to the inside, we see the theatre’s seats and the audience awaiting
the show. The atmosphere is set for the beginning of an event,
and the anticipation of the audience is infectious.
use of inter-titles introduces each dance with the name of the
dance or dancer and images of what is about to be presented.
The artist who created the short animation (as they describe
it in the credits) knew what he was doing and the production
value is very high, but I found this distracting and could have
done without it.
work for the duration of the two hours of performance was great.
There were a few (thankfully a minimum) fancy bits with fade outs,
some shots from above, lots of long shots so you can see what
is happening on the entire stage, and most of the activity is
appropriately captured. Of course there are the ubiquitous close-ups
on women’s bellies, the annoying close-ups when you don’t see
what the dancer is actually doing (you know the ones I’m talking
about), and a few close-ups that seem to be on the wrong body
part. But all in all, the camera work was great, and as I mentioned
earlier, the production value could not have been better. It
is nice to have clear, well presented images of bellydance performances.
for the show has not been altered, so you see what the audience
sees. This gives the images a slightly faded (almost dreamy)
look, but does not detract from the quality. For the Tribal numbers
(and Tribal is well represented here with the five dancers performing
in different combinations and among the rest of the Superstars)
the lights are left dim. While this is appropriate for the atmosphere
of Tribal Style, I found I was wishing for more light to be able
to see a bit better. The mystery and the untouchable-ness of
the Tribal dancers seems to demand this concession, though. The
lighting and background for the show is appropriate to each dance,
changing colours of lights according to costume colours, and the
digital projectors make for intriguing backdrops. Smoke, effervescent
bubbles and towers of flames are added to the rather banal geometric
shapes (I guess you don’t want too much distracting you from the
dancing!) that rotate through the show.
Now, on to
the important part – the dancing! There is a reason these women
have been chosen to be Superstars (as goofy as we all know the
name is). The choreography of the first number, Entrance
of the Stars, is phenomenal. The show starts with a bang
as the entire troupe is brought on stage in phases. With The
Desert Roses as the chorus, first we see two, then another
three, five, then the whole crew on stage, interacting within
their groups and then groups with groups as a whole. Issam,
the resident drummer for the Superstars, and the Wassan Pharaoun
(the Pharaoh of Rhythm) is also introduced at this point. We
see much of him through the evening and even get to know him a
little bit through his interaction with the dancers and the audience.
In the two
hours of dancing we are treated to 19 performances of solos, duets,
and group dances. Raks Asaya shows up for a number, there is
an island interlude of Hawaiian dancing, an Indian piece, a double
veil dance that will blow you away, lots of Tribal, wings of Isis,
some Saiidi, and many drum solos – even a Groupe Drum Solo
(I’m not sure why they spell Groupe with an ‘e’). A group drum
solo may sound like an oxy moron, but they pull it off. Issam
drums, Ansuya (the queen of finger cymbals) zills
away, and five dancers (including Ansuya) have time to show us
their stuff. Jillina
accompanies Issam, and at an hour and fifteen minutes in, I was
starting to fret that a glaring omission had been made – we had
not seen Jillina’s drum solo. Sonia, Dondi
and the group had all done solos, and finally, well into the evening,
we see Jillina in her own solo. To make up for the tardiness,
she has not only Issam drumming, but Rachel Brice
on tabla, Michelle Cambell drumming and Ansuya
on zills. Her co-dancers also offer vocal encouragement in the
form of zagareets and calls. On the topic of Dondi, I have to
say that I’m glad the Marilyn act was out of the show when I saw
them this year. Feeling vaguely embarrassed as she goofs around
in her red dress, the unease lessens only slightly when Issam
intervenes and tries to correct things with his drumming. There
are a few cute moments, but really, the whole thing is a bit beyond
Copeland makes a goofy appearance once the show is over.
Dressed as a maitre d’, he introduces the dancers one at a time
while they walk down the impressive staircase of the Folies Bergere
on the arm of a tuxedo clad man. Rachel Brice is the last to
descend, and comes down solo only to embarrass herself good naturedly
at the end.
is well staged and well filmed, the music is fabulous and the
dancing superb (I am definitely pinching a few moves from these
guys – not to mention costume designs!). The ‘Extras’ selection
is a disappointment (as are most ‘extras’ on DVDs); it is only
an advertisement for other BDSS products. At two hours, and with
the high quality and care that went into the product, this is
definitely a DVD worth purchasing.
the Superstars web site is not shipping internationally. Anyone
in the US can order directly from the web site; anyone in Europe
will have to wait another few weeks while the distribution company
in England is setting up for the European continent; anyone in
Canada will have to wait until January when Universal Music will
be distributing the products in record stores and DVD stores.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Unity through Belly dance
you are reading this publication, then you too have fallen in
love with belly dancing.
A SuperStar Jillina’s Drum Solo Workshop in Vancouver
If you have the opportunity to dance with this amazing, educated,
experienced, beautiful, and did I mention fun? woman, do not hesitate
to do it. It is worth every penny and every minute!
American Bellydancer, the Film
Review by Karin Haerter,
Film reviewed on April 10, 2005, postscript added about
DVD edition with bonus features
Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2005, Cairo
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Sirat Al-Ghawazi, Part
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in the mid-1970's , the early sections of "Sirat Al-Ghawazi"
were first published under the title "The Mystery of the
Ghawazi." We are happy to be able to respond to the continued
demand for these articles by making them available to our readers