Fire at the Iao

A Performance Video Review By Shira

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Summary

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

This video presents a show that was performed in Maui at the Iao theater in February, 2000. The first 15 minutes of the video feature a flamenco performance by Nikki Conti accompanied on guitar by Sulyman el Coyote and on palmas by Anita Hallard. The remaining 30 minutes consist of an American-style belly dancing performance by Delilah accompanied by the band Sirocco, featuring Armando Mafufo and Sulyman el Coyote.

Cover

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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 Fire at the Iao, by Delilah?
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 March 8, 2003.

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The Chart

Formats Available NTSC, PAL, DVD
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 46:40
Performance Time 43:43 (94%)
Amount Of "Other" 2:57 minutes (6%)
List Price $39.95 (VHS tape edition)
$59.95 (DVD edition with additional material)
Cost Per Minute Of Performing Time 91 cents (VHS tape edition)
56 cents (DVD edition with additional material)
Cost For "Other" $2.40 (VHS tape edition)

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Description

What The Show Is Like

This video presents a show that was performed in Maui at the Iao theater in February, 2000. The first 15 minutes of the video features a flamenco performance by Nikki Conti accompanied on guitar by Sulyman el Coyote and on palmas by Anita Hallard. The remaining 30 minutes consists of an American-style belly dancing performance by Delilah accompanied by the band Sirocco, featuring Armando Mafufo and Sulyman el Coyote. Delilah has stated that she feels her performance in this show is the best she has ever done on video, up until this time.

Although I'm not knowledgeable enough about flamenco to comment on the performers' technique, I can say that I enjoy this section of the video as a well-designed performing art. The show opens with an 11-minute performance by Nikki Conti to the song Soleares. On its melancholy verses, sung by Sulyman as he plays guitar, she exhibits graceful arm movements. Between versus, Nikki delivers fiery footwork and spins. The energy level comes across as meditative on the verses, then rises to a dramatic, fevered pitch in between, bringing the audience along for the ride. Although Sulyman does not have a polished voice, he conveys a passion that reminds me of Louis Armstrong singing blues songs and it fits with the folkloric flavor of the music used in the belly dancing part of the show.

At the end of Soleares, Sulyman rises from his chair, singing the song Bulerias accompanied only by palmas provided by Nikki and Anita, and dancing to it at the same time. His transition from guitarist to dancer demonstrates his versatility as an artist. He sings and dances briefly, then returns to his guitar and plays for Nikki as she finishes out the song. At the end, Sulyman rises to his feet and continues to play his guitar as he leads Nikki and Anita offstage.

The belly dancing segment of the show begins with music playing in a darkened theater. Delilah enters from the back of the room, making her way down the aisles toward the stage as the band Sirocco follows behind her, Armando Mafufo playing a tabla baladi (traditional drum) and Sulyman el Coyote playing a zurna (Middle Eastern ancestor of the oboe).

Delilah's performance is a full-length American nightclub style of belly dance routine, in the tradition of the type of belly dancing that prevailed in the U.S. ethnic restaurants and nightclubs in the 1970's and 1980's. By that, I mean that it's based largely on traditional folk music played on traditional instruments rather than the heavily orchestrated complex music of classical Egyptian style raqs sharqi, and it incorporates made-in-the-U.S. elements such as veil work. (For a more detailed description of this style, see Styles of Belly Dance in the United States elsewhere on this web site.) I have always enjoyed this variation of belly dance very much, and Delilah is one of my favorite performers of it. On this video, Delilah delivers a beautiful performance filled with energy, variety, and creativity. For newcomers to belly dancing who haven't yet seen enough to learn about the various styles, Delilah's performance on this video would be an excellent example to study to gain an understanding of American nightclub belly dance.

The use of a live band on-stage for the performance adds a level of energy and excitement that is difficult for pre-recorded music to match. It's clear from watching them that a strong rapport exists between the musicians and the dancer, and they work effectively together as a team to deliver a seamless performance.

Delilah's dance is spontaneous, responding to the music and the moment, rather than choreographed and rehearsed in advance. Yet, her interpretation of the music is so seamless that it appears she knew exactly what was coming. In many parts of the performance, Delilah plays finger cymbals.

The unique costume's white-on-white design comes across as simple but elegant. It achieves its design through the use of fabric texture rather than color or sparkle. The skirt flows beautifully as Delilah spins.

The components of Delilah's performance include:

  • Entrance/Opening. Saidi rhythm, music played on zurna. About 3 1/2 minutes.
  • American-Style Veil Work. Using a large silk veil. I always enjoy watching Delilah's veil work. About 3 1/2 minutes.
  • Violin Solo. Chiftetelli rhythm with standing undulations. About 3 minutes.
  • Drum Solo. About 2 minutes. My favorite part is the tummy flutters in time to the drumming.
  • 6/8 Turkish Folk Song. Played on the zurna. About 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Drum Solo. About 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Rapid Song. This is the section analyzed in the companion video, A Retro Choreography. About 2 minutes. Delilah ends this high-energy section with a fabulous Turkish drop.
  • Floor Work. Delilah delivers an elegant performance. About 7 minutes.
  • Drum Solo. About 6 minutes total, divided into several parts. Begins with repetitive drumming, while Delilah remains on her knees and draws from the zar ritual for inspiration. Sulyman picks up a tabla and drums along with Armando. Then, as it moves into more of a standard percussion solo, Delilah rises to her feet and delivers a high-energy performance of accents and shimmies. Following the climax, Delilah delivers her finale to drumming.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You would enjoy seeing a 15 minute flamenco presentation by a musician/dancer team who work very well together.
  • You would enjoy watching a 30-minute American-style belly dancing performance with live music that captures the flavor of how this dance was presented in the U.S. during the 1970's, before the rise of Egyptian influence took many American dancers in a different direction.
  • You're a fan of either Delilah, Nikki Conti, Sirocco, Armando Mafufo, or Sulyman el Coyote, and you would enjoy a well-produced video that features these artists.
  • You don't yet know much about the differences between American nightclub style belly dance versus other styles out there (Egyptian classical, American Tribal Style, Rroma-inspired, etc.) and you would like to see a well-presented example of American nightclub style by a highly skilled artist.
  • Your taste in the music used for belly dance performances runs to folk music (rather than orchestral) played on traditional instruments.

You Probably Won't Care For This Video If

  • Your taste in Oriental dance runs only to the classical Egyptian-style presentations with 40-piece orchestras or to the American-Tribal Style of group improvisation.

In Conclusion

I enjoyed this video very much, and I highly recommend it. As someone who doesn't know much about flamenco but enjoys watching it, I find Nikki's performance to be a lovely artistic exploration of both soft, meditative bolero-type moves and fiery, passionate footwork. She masterfully transitions from one energy level to another, creating a varied performance that easily holds my attention. The match between Nikki's dancing and Sulyman's musicianship is perfect - during the instrumental interludes between verses, he keeps pace precisely with her dance moves. On the DVD edition, the commentary by Nikki and Sulyman provides educational insights into flamenco that are valuable for people like me who don't yet know much about it but would like to learn more.

Delilah's belly dance performance is one of the best examples I've seen on video of a full-length show of the type that was common in ethnic nightclubs in the U.S. during the 1970's. It includes varied rhythms, traditional instruments, American-style veil work, and floor work. Many times throughout the video, Delilah does beautiful stomach rolls and flutters, matching them seamlessly to the music. Delilah improvises the entire show, without pre-set choreography, adapting her dance to what the musicians are playing at times, and leading the musicians at other times.

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Features of the DVD Edition

This review is based on the DVD edition of this video. The DVD edition features two of Delilah's programs on a single disk: the Fire at the Iao performance reviewed on this page, and a companion instructional video titled A Retro Choreography. The VHS editions of these two programs are sold separately as two independent videos, although Delilah offers a special price to buyers who purchase both VHS tapes together.

The opening DVD menu presents two choices: The Theater and The Dance Studio. Selecting "The Theater" leads to this Fire at the Iao performance. Selecting "The Studio" leads to the extras for Fire at the Iao as well as to the other program, A Retro Choreography.

Summary

The summary of features below refers specifically to those that apply to the Fire at the Iao performance portion of this video. Please see my separate review of A Retro Choreography (to be published in the near future) for information about the DVD features and extras implemented for that program.

Feature

Available on This DVD?

Fast-forward through introductory screens Supported
Pause Supported
Chaptering Chapter breaks occur everywhere I want them
Menu, Sub-Menus Occur everywhere I want them
Fast Forward  Works at all speeds supported by my equipment
Forward to the Next Break  Jumps to next chapter break, available where I want it to be
Rewind/Reverse Works at all speeds supported by my equipment
Slow Forward & Reverse Slow forward is supported, slow reverse is not
Zoom Not supported
Alternate Sound Tracks  Voiceover commentary by the artists
Other Extras Web club, trailers for other videos, bazaar

Chaptering

"The Theater" leads to a sub-menu with options for "Play All", the flamenco performance, the belly dance performance, and the extras. The performance section is chaptered so that a tap of the fast forward button on the DVD machine's remote control will skip forward to the next segment. The five chapters include:

  • Chapter 1 - Opening credits. About 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Chapter 2 - The flamenco performances by Nikki Conti and Sulyman el Coyote. About 13 minutes.
  • Chapter 3 - Musical interlude over darkened stage. About 15 seconds.
  • Chapter 4 - Delilah's belly dance performance. About 30 minutes.
  • Chapter 5 - Closing credits. About 1 1/2 minutes.

I found the approach to chaptering to be satisfactory. Within a chapter, it is possible to rewind and fast-forward at varying speeds. I was able to use all the speeds supported by my DVD equipment.

Extras

The Extras choice under The Dance Studio section of the DVD leads to a submenu with these options:

  • Bazaar. This menu choice leads to a submenu of various options, including:
    • Rapture Rumi (a CD of music composed by Steven Flynn)
    • Delilah's Dresses for Dancers (dresses sold by Delilah through her web site)
    • Coin Hip Scarfs (sold by Delilah through her web site)
    • Visionary Dance Productions Catalog (music and videos produced by Delilah's own production company)
    • El Coyote Zills (finger cymbals manufactured by Sulyman, the melody instrument musician for Sirocco)
    • Uncle Mafufo (music CD's and instructional videos produced by the percussionist for Sirocco)
    • Gilded Serpent (web e-zine dedicated to Middle Eastern dance)
    • Magic Circle (manufacturer of coin bra/belt costumes)\
  • Trailers. About 14 minutes total. This section consists of trailers for several of the videos sold by Visionary Dance Productions. Choice leads to a submenu with these options:
    • Play All
    • Fire at the Iao
    • A Retro Choreography
    • Delilah & Sirocco Live & Wild
    • Delilah's Bellydance Workshop 3-volume set
  • Web Club. Provides a brief explanation of what the web club offers. It doesn't actually describe how to access the web club, because that information is contained in the package insert that comes with the DVD. This is intentional, to ensure that only people who receive a legal copy in the original packaging have the information on how to access it.
  • Commentary by Delilah and Sirocco on Bellydance. This section leads to a replay of Delilah's belly dancing performance, with voiceover spoken commentary by Delilah, Armando, and Sulyman. The musicians offer their comments on the music they played and the instruments they used, and Delilah discusses her interpretation of it. The information focuses on the craft of dancers and musicians working together.
  • Nikki Conti & Sulyman el Coyote on Flamenco. This section leads to a replay of the flamenco section of the performance, with voiceover spoken commentary by Nikki and Sulyman regarding the music and Nikki's interpretation of it. As someone who doesn't know much about flamenco, I found this section to be very educational.
  • Delilah's Commentary. This section leads to a replay of Delilah's belly dancing performance, with voiceover spoken commentary by Delilah. While the other commentary with the musicians is mostly factual in nature, this one is more meditative and spiritual in nature, with a look at the archetypes portrayed by each section of the dance. People who use belly dancing as part of their spiritual journey will find this commentary particularly meaningful. Those who prefer not to view the dance in such terms probably won't care for it.

Web Club

The label inside the DVD package includes instructions for accessing the Visionary Dance Productions Web Club, which is a companion web site specifically designed to complement the contents of this DVD. Whereas some other dancers have distributed companion booklets with their videos, Delilah has opted instead to create a companion web site.

Because the Internet is fluid, with web sites always changing, it is possible that by the time you read this Delilah may have modified the site, either adding new information or removing some things. The information below represents the contents of The Web Club as of early March, 2003:

  • Links for the products identified in the Bazaar section of the video extras.
  • Tips for using a weight belt at the hips for belly dance training
  • Text transcripts for two of the commentary sections in the Extras: the flamenco commentary by Nikki & Sulyman, and Delilah's commentary on the belly dancing segment. The transcript for Delilah's commentary include some additional statements that don't actually appear on-screen. It also includes footnotes with additional explanatory comments providing more information and background behind some of the statements made on-screen.
  • Additional information to complement the other program, A Retro Choreography, which also appears on this DVD. (See the review of that program, which will be published separately on this web site, for details.)
  • Information on how the costume Delilah wears for this performance is made. Although these aren't detailed how-to instructions, there is enough information for someone reasonably skilled at sewing to figure it out.
  • Additional costuming notes related to A Retro Choreography.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The show is enhanced by having live musicians playing for it throughout.
  • The interaction between the dancers and their accompanying musicians is excellent, always perfectly matching the dancing and the music to each other.
  • Both Delilah and Nikki manage their performances well, alternately raising the energy level to intensity and then bringing it down to mellower levels.
  • Although I'm not knowledgeable enough about flamenco to comment on Nikki's technique, I can definitely say I enjoy watching her segment of the show.
  • Delilah's belly dance skill and versatility are top-notch. She demonstrates mastery over abdominal isolations that few professionals can approach, and she capably applies difficult techniques such as layering.
  • The camera angles and editing are excellent, always showing me exactly what I want to see while still varying enough to hold my interest. The work of the technicians complements the dancing, and never distracts.
  • I always appreciate the music of Sirocco because I enjoy listening to folk songs played on traditional instruments, which is their style. On this video, they deliver a fine performance.
  • On the DVD edition, I particularly like the artists' commentaries. They provide insight into the craft of dancers and live musicians working together, and offer solid insights for intermediate dancers who are still learning how to dance to live music. Delilah's individual commentary provides insight into how she views the creative process. Whether you share her view of tying spiritual discovery to creativity or not, there is still value in considering Delilah's view of the role the mind plays in creating dance.

What I Didn't Like

  • The reddish lighting makes the artists seem flat, particularly washing out the colors of Nikki's dress. There's definitely enough light to see the action, but I would have preferred a little more.

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Reviews of Other Videos by this Artist/Instructor

If you'd like to read my reviews of other videos by Delilah, choose from the list below:

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Disclosures

I first became interested in Delilah when I saw her do a captivating veil work performance at a dance festival called Rakkasah in California around 1986 or 1987. Seeing this performance led me to buy her videos that were available at the time. I was impressed by the rich content and good production quality of her videos. Over time, I sought her out for a private lesson when I happened to be in Seattle, attended some workshops that she taught in my area, and attended one of her retreats. I've been a fan of hers ever since seeing that original Rakkasah performance, but didn't really get to know her until I attended her Inanna retreat in 1997. She sent me a complimentary copy of the DVD edition of this video to review for my web site.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Delilah as follows:

Visionary Dance Productions
PO Box 30797
Seattle, WA 98103
U.S.A.

Phone: (+1) (206) 632-2353
Web Site: http://www.visionarydance.com/
E-Mail: info@VisionaryDance.com

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