Adam Basma Middle Eastern Dance Co.:
Live In Concert

A Video Review By Shira

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Summary

Overall Rating: StarStarStar (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)

This video captures a live performance by the Adam Basma Middle Eastern Dance Company based in the Los Angeles area. The show is about 30 minutes long, and consists of a series of six dances liberally adapted for theatrical effect inspired by folk dances of Egypt and Lebanon.

Why I gave it 3 stars:

  • The show was pleasant to watch, but had some flaws. I liked the variety of costume styles and props, but I found some of the choreography to be too repetitious for my taste, and I would have preferred more difference in the energy levels from one dance to another.
  • The production quality of the video was quite good. The lighting and camera work were varied enough to maintain visual appeal, but were not done to excess. They did not ever call attention to themselves, which is a good thing.
  • There were some artistic decisions regarding which props to use in which way that would be jarring to someone familiar with the traditional dances from the region. If you didn't know much about Arabic dance traditions, they'd probably look fine to you, but they'd really make most Arabic audience members cringe.
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What Shira.net Users Think

Have you actually watched this video yourself? If so, offer your own opinion in the poll below! Otherwise, click the "View Results" button to see what worldwide users of shira.net think of it.

 
1) How would you rate Adam Basma's Middle Eastern Dance Company: Live In Concert?
Absolutely fantastic!
Definitely would recommend it.
Good enough to be worth the money, but not special
Disappointing, but had at least a little value
Nothing good about it at all
 

The above poll includes responses submitted since October 28, 2002.

Belly Dancing Bellydancing Dance Bellydance

The Chart

Formats Available PAL and NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStar
Total Video Length 37:00 minutes
Performance Time 36:04 minutes (97%)
Amount Of "Other" 0:56 minutes (3%)
List Price $35.00
Cost Per Minute Of Performing Time 97 cents
Cost For "Other" $1.05

Belly Dancing Bellydancing Dance Bellydance

Description

This video captures a 30-minute performance by a large ensemble of Middle Eastern dance artists. For the most part, the choreography and staging emphasize the ensemble with minimal individual features. The six dances are largely inspired by folkloric dances of Egypt and Lebanon, but are presented using modern orchestration, electronic instruments, and glittery adaptations of traditional costuming. It's entertaining to watch, but it's not the video I would choose for educating someone about folklore.

The video opens with a performance called Shepherd's Cane Dance that lasts for nearly 7 minutes. Initially, one man and one woman come on stage. The man is wearing a traditional gallibiya (robe) and holding a tabla baladi (traditional drum), while the woman is clad in a very glittery beaded baladi dress and carrying a cane. They begin to dance, with the focus on the woman and the cane. As the dance progresses, additional people enter the stage until a large number of people are dancing together. It's a very effective opening to the show, in the way that it builds from just two individuals to a large ensemble.

Eventually, Adam himself comes out with a cane of his own. He performs a featured dance while the ensemble continues to do background choreography, but the spotlight is clearly on him. The thing that struck me as odd about this performance was that instead of using the asa (long stick) for the men's martial art tahtiyb, Adam used a cane, which is a women's prop. (The Saidi women's cane dance is a girly-girl playful send-up of the men's martial art in which the woman conveys the idea, "See, I can dance with a stick too!") I suppose if you didn't know he was using a woman's prop you'd probably enjoy his presentation. But for me, with my knowledge of Egyptian dance, it felt wrong.

Next on the program is a Sword Dance, which is about 4 1/2 minutes. The music is a drum solo from the CD Belly Dance with Amany and Bassem Yazbek. This one is performed by a group of women, and for most of the dance they hold the sword horizontally above their heads with both hands and perform a series of folkloric hopping steps. At one point, they briefly balance the swords on their hands, but balancing is definitely not the focus of this particular sword dance.

The third dance on this video is Dabkah Dance, which lasts about 5 minutes. Performed by both men and women, this is a nice theatrical adaptation of the Lebanese folk dance known as debke. I like the costumes a lot. They're modeled on traditional clothing, but with a flash of glitter added for the stage. Even though this is a staged performance, the footwork is true to the debke style. This was definitely my favorite performance on the video. Debke is one of the first Middle Eastern folk dances that I ever learned, and I liked the way it was adapted for stage. Many folk dances are fun to do but boring to watch, and the choreographer who arranged this dance did a nice job of capturing the spirit of the folk dance while making it visually interesting.

This is followed by the Egyptian Candelabrum Dance, which is about 5 1/2 minutes long. It opens with a dark set, punctuated with blazing candles at head level. Gradually the lights come up to reveal the dancers, each wearing an Egyptian-style candelabrum on the head. The most elaborate candelabrum was on the head of Adam Basma, which felt wrong to me because the Egyptian candelabrum dance is a traditionally wedding dance always performed by a woman. They dance together as a group, but sometimes the women fade into the background a bit while Adam takes the spotlight as the featured dancer.

Next is Dance of the Harvest, a performance in which the women carry baskets and the men carry tahtiybs (long sticks). They all wear folkloric costumes with a bit of glitz, and this dance runs just over 4 minutes. It was nice, but it felt substantially similar to the opening cane number, only with the dancers holding different props.

The final dance on the video is Dance of the Harem, which is a full Oriental dance production number with a drum solo. This piece is nearly 10 minutes long. It opens with a large number of women clad in modern-style bedleh (bra/belt/skirt costumes) swirling veils in the style of an Egyptian entrance. About 3 minutes into it, Fahtiem emerges and dances in a featured role while the rest of the ensemble continues performing background choreography to frame her. As Fahtiem emerges, the music slips into a Khaleegy (Saudi) rhythm, then eventually returns to a more Egyptian flavor. After Fahtiem has had an opportunity to do some solo dancing, Adam enters dragging a veil and hurling it about. His use of the veil looked awkward and destroyed some of the polish that characterized the earlier part of the show. I was glad when he discarded it and joined Fahtiem for a duet. Each of them did different moves to the music, but it looked good together, and then they smoothly transitioned into doing matching moves.

Overall, the show was very high energy from beginning to end. Once the opening cane number built to encompass a large number of dancers on stage, the show continued with fast-paced music, hopping dance steps, and large ensemble numbers all the way through to the end. The only dance that seemed somewhat lower-energy was the candelabrum dance, which featured only 5 dancers and opened with a darkened stage, but even that had spirited, high-energy music. I think maybe the show would have been more effective as an overall production if it had included some numbers to slower, more meditative music with maybe only one or two dancers on stage to vary the energy level a little. Still, it did some things well and I'd especially recommend it for anyone who choreographs for troupes as a source of ideas on how to use formations and stage positions to good effect when creating dances for large ensembles. I would also highly recommend the "Debkat" section to anyone who would like to learn how to debke.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You enjoy watching large dance ensembles perform together.
  • You're an aspiring choreographer and you'd like ideas on how to take advantage of a large ensemble with respect to staging.
  • You enjoy theatrical presentations inspired by Middle Eastern dance but with a lot of artistic license.
  • You'd like to see some examples of glittery male costuming suitable for Middle Eastern dance in a nightclub environment. Adam appears in a few different ones over the course of the video. Whether or not you like his style, you'll probably find it to be useful input into your own ideas about garb for male dancers.
  • You're interested in learning debke, and you'd like to watch a video that shows it performed well.

You Probably Won't Care For This Video If

  • You're looking for a "belly dancing" video - this video focuses on folkloric dances.
  • You prefer traditional music played on traditional folkloric instruments rather than large orchestras or the electronic sounds of synthesizers.
  • You don't care for Egyptian music.
  • You have a passion for Egyptian folkloric dance and you like to see it presented in a style that is true to the spirit of the original even if adapted somewhat.
  • You're looking for historically correct depictions of traditional dance and garb. Although the dances on this video are inspired by folkloric dance, they have been liberally adapted for theatrical presentation and most of them use simple, repetitive steps.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The choreography made interesting use of having a large number of dancers on stage. Throughout a given dance, the performers would move into varying formations.
  • The video provides an interesting fusion of traditional clothing with modern-day theatrical flavor.
  • I enjoyed Fahtiem's appearance as a guest dancer. It's always a pleasure to watch her dance.
  • I was impressed by Adam's athletic abilities. He performed a number of moves that would require very strong leg and thigh muscles, and executed them well.
  • Excellent production quality. The camera angles and lighting were varied well, but never called attention to themselves. The sound quality was clear.
  • The camera work was excellent. It showed me feet when I wanted to see feet, and captured the spirit of the performance very well.

What I Didn't Like

  • Some of the dances seemed too similar to each other.
  • In many of the dances, the performers would do very repetitious movements (such as a particular style of foot work) over and over. Although they usually arranged themselves in different formations while this was going on, I still found the repetition to be too monotonous.
  • The energy level seemed to stay pretty much at the same plateau for the entire half hour. About the only exception was the candelabrum number which opened with a dark stage and had fewer dancers. I would have preferred more variety in musical style, number of dancers on stage, etc. with changing energy levels.
  • I found it very jarring to see Adam performing with a prop that is traditionally associated with women (candelabrum).

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In Conclusion

I have mixed opinions about this one. This is a video of a live show featuring a modern theatrical interpretation of folklore which had very good lighting, camera work, and sound quality. I enjoyed how the choreographer took advantage of having a large number of dancers available, but I found the steps used in the choreography to be a bit repetitious and simple. I liked the costuming - I felt it to be an effective theatrical adaptation of traditional garb. Although it's not my favorite video in my collection, I find it interesting enough to pop into the VCR if I'm getting together at someone's house with my dance friends and we're in the mood to watch dance videos.

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Disclosures

Adam provided me with a free copy of this video and a music CD to review for my web site. The only contact I've had with him was the correspondence involved in his offering to send me the items and my follow-up questions regarding the review.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Adam Basma as follows:

The Adam Basma Dance Company
6531 Whitworth Drive
Los Angeles, California 90035
U.S.A .

Phone: (+1) 323-934-9493
Fax: (+1) 323-525-0615
Web Site: http://www.adambasma.com
E-Mail: adam@adambasma.com

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