ad 4

ad 4 Artemis


ad 4 Dhy & Karen

In purple is Shabanu (Germany) , in white is Aziza (Denmark), in top right corner, black/white costume is Sirke (Finland)

Gilded Serpent presents...
DVD Review:
Oriental Dancers of Europe
by Ligaya

A more appropriate title for this DVD would be "Dancers of Northwestern Europe", since the only countries represented here are Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland. At first, even the distribution of nationalities within this group may seem disproportionate, with most dancers coming from Germany and the Netherlands and only two from Scandinavia, but

I believe this is actually a pretty accurate representation of the popularity of Oriental Dance in this part of the world. Even the fact that only one of the 12 dancers is male is probably not far off from the present male-to-female ratio.

Sabanu & Fariha (Germany): Dance of the Harem
A charming start to the DVD. Shabanu and Fariha portray two ladies of the Harem amusing themselves by dancing with and for each other. A refreshing change from (and certainly more historically accurate than) the tired old cliche of scantily clad women gyrating in front of the Sultan. They start out by miming daily activities: brushing each other's hair, applying cosmetics, drinking tea, and gossiping about (presumably) the Sultan and the other ladies of the Seraglio. The first false start at dancing is interrupted by a eunuch who saunters by to check up on things as the ladies modestly avert their faces. After he leaves the dancing begins again in earnest, using a mixture of Oriental and Turkish folkloric dance steps. The costumes are beautiful, avoiding the old "I Dream of Jeannie" horrors we are usually subjected to. A lovely concept, nicely executed.

Ahlem (Netherlands): Enchanted Garden
Dressed in a flattering Egyptian-style bedlah in soft peaches and gold with a multi-layered skirt in the palest peach, pink and cream (heads up, ladies, I have it from a reliable source that she actually made this herself) Ahlem does a dance every bit as soft and delicate as her costume. There is nothing loud or flashy about this performance, simply a beautiful, graceful dance with the occasional unexpected nifty hip combination that you might actually miss if you blink. This is followed by a drum solo done with what can only be described as "lady-like restraint". I hope that the younger generation of dancers, raised on a diet of furious hip-shaking to pop music by Hakim, will take the time to appreciate this piece. They might just learn a thing or two.

Mariska (Netherlands): Taj Mahal
One of the prerequisites of doing fusion is that the dancer has a good working knowledge of both dance styles being "fused". Mariska definitely fulfils the requirements. She has had years of training in Southern Indian Temple dance and it certainly shows. Having just taken my own first baby steps in Bharata Natyam, I'm admittedly still easy to impress, but I think even those with extensive knowledge of this dance form won't be overly disappointed. This is not your usual "let's throw on a sari, add a few random Bollywood gestures and call it Indian fusion" type of embarrassment we seem to be afflicted with all too often these days. Mariska shows us graceful hand gestures, nimble footwork, and nifty little head movements coupled with impressively muscular hip and stomach action and some particularly awesome shimmies. This is one dancer I certainly would want to take lessons from.

Sina (Germany): Shamadan
I have to confess, I'm not exactly a fan of the shamadan. I'm aware it has a valid place in the Egyptian (dance) culture, but there always seems to be an adolescent part of me that tends to break into giggles at the sight of a woman dancing with a chandelier on her head (yes, I know, it's a candelabra) Nonetheless, I've made an effort to view this performance with some objectivity and I have to concur, Sina is a skilful dancer. Her moves are strong and graceful, with none of that slight hesitance you always seem to spot when someone dances with that contraption on her/his head. I could have done without the cutesy kicking moves in her floorwork and the trite chin-in-hand-while-leaning-over-from-a-wide-split posturing. Just because Nadia Hamdi could get away with it doesn't necessarily mean everyone can, but I guess that's just my personal prejudices showing. People who like Shamadan are sure to enjoy this performance.

Ad Nug (Germany): Belaha Flowers
First of all, I'd like to say that I absolutely love this woman, both as a dancer and as a person. Seeing her dance for the first time was an almost magical experience for me that I would have loved to have shared with everyone. Unfortunately, this particular performance is not going to have quite the same effect. Not that she dances badly - I can hardly imagine Ad Nug dancing badly, but I wish that she would have done something other than this Arabic karaoke type thing she does here. This is very Egyptian, of course, and it demonstrates that her extensive knowledge of the culture includes a mastery of the Arabic language. However, I'm afraid it will leave most people feeling "Huh?!". It definitely detracted from where I felt the focus should have been - her amazing baladi style of dancing. All in all, a missed opportunity. Or is it just that my expectations of her are always so high?

Back cover of DVD
Ed- Could someone help match names to faces please?
1st row- Fariha under "special features, " then 1st dancer in red is Sina , #2 Melaya turquise costume: Ad Nug, #3 Ahlem. 2nd row: The man with black costume: Farouq, white costume: Sena , green costume: Soraya, white crown and blue costume: Mariska, blue costume: Jasmin (producer of video)

Sena (Netherlands): Reda's Flowers
This is the woman who taught me my first hip drops and figure eights; I have spent years following her bouncing butt in front of a mirror. Although my style of dancing has turned out completely different from hers, every move she makes is as familiar to me as my own. And, as is the case with everything that has become so familiar, I realized that it has been a while since I've taken the time to really watch her dancing. This DVD was a good opportunity to see her from a new perspective, and you know what? Sena certainly can dance! She has a strong preference for the Classic Egyptian style and here it is clear why they refer to it as Raks el Hawanim, Dance of the Ladies. This is definitely a Lady dancing. Mature, refined, confident and accomplished -pure class. It's nice to find out that after all this time your teacher can still impress the beep out of you.

Farouq (Netherlands): Gharret Ya Zaman

This is not a male dancer performing a "women's dance", nor is this a dancer performing a "male version" of a "women's dance". This is simply a dancer dancing a dance he has mastered to the very tips of his fingers. Farouq does not deal with ands, ifs, or maybes in his dance. Every drop of the hip, shake of the tush, or wiggle of the little finger is done precisely as it was intended, where it was intended, and when it was intended, all executed with the complete ease of confidence that enables him to dance effortlessly around the stage of a nearly empty theatre at 10:30 in the morning, flashing impish grins at an audience that consists of a grand total of 6 (including the film crew) as if he were being cheered on by an ecstatic multitude. A master craftsman at his trade.

Jasmin Yildiz (Germany): RaksJihan

I missed out on a chance to see Ms.Yidiz dancing live last summer, an error on my part that I will be sure to rectify soon. About three and a half seconds into her dance I had already made up my mind - I definitely like her. Jasmin is charismatic, with a fun, flirty style backed by more than adequate technique. At the end of her much-too-short performance (or did it just seem that way?) I made a mental note that I really have to go see more of this woman's dancing.

Soraya Sultan (Netherlands): Grand Solo Oriental
Soraya is a born entertainer, dancing with an infectious enthusiasm that always gets the audience going. Unfortunately her piece has the worst lighting of the whole DVD, making it at times difficult to even distinguish her pretty features. Her skin color is a rich chocolate brown but it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone that she might need a different type of lighting than a blonde like AzizA or a redhead like Ahlem. Every time she dances towards the edge of the screen with its weird, dark fade-outs, she virtually disappears, leaving her disembodied lime green costume to dance on by itself. Not being able to see her facial expressions definitely prevented me from fully enjoying her performance.

AzizA (Denmark): Joumana
AzizA is a tall willowy blonde, dressed in a gorgeous slinky champagne-colored costume. I had expected her movements to match her appearance, sinuous and elegant, and it was almost a shock to see her suddenly burst into a wild flurry of activity, furiously waving her veils around with manic glee. It was almost a relief when she moved on to the slower part of her dance, at least, what should have been the slower part of her dance. For although the music turned slow and mysterious, our Scandinavian beauty still plowed through at full speed, all the while with the same enormous happy grin plastered on her face. At this point I was starting to feel rather harassed, with weird visions of Jack Nicholson in The Shining rising unbidden in my head. To be fair to AzizA, if I had first seen her in a different venue, perhaps with a live audience to music more appropriate to her style, I would have been impressed by her joyous energy. Her sunny smile could certainly chase away those notorious Danish winter blues. But I'm afraid I have to say that when, with the music turned off, it's hard to tell the difference between your drum solo and your taxim, then it's definitely time to take your energy level down a notch or two.

Sirke SeppŠnen (Finland): Black and White

This is the most theatrical performance of the DVD and the only one filmed in front of a live audience in what appears to be a different venue altogether. Sepke starts out with a dramatic piece with a clear Latin influence which reminded me strongly of Jillina in her younger pre-Bellydance Superstar days -an effect heightened by Miss SeppŠnen's long auburn curls. This is followed by a drum solo which consists mainly of a series of dramatic Flamenco poses to live drumming. Not strictly Oriental, but entertaining nonetheless.

In conclusion:

This is not your slick Hollywood production. There are some lighting issues, although, with the exception of Soraya's performance, nothing I would consider particularly serious. On the plus side, the film crew clearly don't suffer from MTV syndrome. Annoying close-ups and abrupt camera changes are avoided or kept to a minimum, leaving the focus on where it should be: on the dancing itself.

With one or two exceptions, the dancers are not sexy young things. At least half are clearly past the age and/or poundage limit that Miles Copeland sets for his "Superstars" -which is only to his own loss. On this disk is a wealth of talent and experience that could only contribute to our communal understanding of our dance form.

This video is available on the producer's website-

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
4-27-07 Rhythms of Oriental Dance, Starring Nesma and Khamis Henkesh, DVD Review by Leyla Lanty
Nesma and Khamis's discussion of the complexity of Arabic music and dance is both appealing and easy to grasp.

4-18-07 Fresh off the Plane from Cairo, A Workshop Review of Astryd Farah deMichele by Betsey Flood
So how does Astryd select the signature moves she wants to teach? What she looks for first and foremost is being entertained.

4-13-07 Ballet Afsaneh and Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble Reviewed by: Rebecca Firestone
Full Circle Little Theater Marin Civic Center, San Rafael, CA February 16, 2007 And since when was Rumi associated with Mother Earth?

4-6-07 My Experience in a Suhaila Salimpour Weekend Workshop by Erin
It’s a good kind of tired, one that makes you want to sleep, dream and then wake up and do it all over again. That’s the way I felt after a weekend in Austin, Texas, with Suhaila Salimpour, one of northern California’s most renowned dancers.

ad 4 Suzanna Del Vecchio


 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines