Egyptian Folkloric Dances

A Performance Video Review By Shira

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

Produced in Egypt, this video consists of a collection of 10 different folkloric dances adapted for stage presentation. An ensemble of 5 women and 5 men perform the various dances, each dance presented in a different costume. As a tool for researching folkloric dance forms, it offers limited value, but as entertainment it is enjoyable to watch.


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What Users Think

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The Chart

Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStar
Total Video Length 1:47:20
Performance Time 1:45:30 (98%)
Amount Of "Other" 1:50 minutes (2%)
List Price $39.00
Cost Per Minute Of Performing Time 37 cents
Cost For "Other" 78 cents

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What The Show Was Like

This video, filmed in various studio environments, uses a cast of 5 men and 5 women to portray 10 different folkloric Egyptian dances. Both the dances and the costuming are liberally adapted for stage presentation, therefore making the video enjoyable to watch but I wouldn't recommend it as a tool for understanding what the original traditional dances and clothing may have looked like.

When watching it, I discovered that the contents of the screen do not match the dances listed on the label. The label is correct through the 10th dance, but instead of the 11th dance claimed on the label, the video repeats the dance titled The Fisherman and the Fish (which had appeared as the 5th dance). There is no 12th dance on the video, although the label claims there is.

The video opens with the credits in Arabic superimposed over a compilation of assorted Egyptian scenes, while the song O Fortuna from Carmina Burana plays in the background. (O Fortuna appearing on a video of folkloric Egyptian dance? Huh?) As it showed me Egyptian soccer players, and Egyptian dignitaries shaking hands with Jimmy Carter, I scratched my head and wondered just what on earth I had bought!

Once the credits are concluded and Carmina Burana winds down, the video moves forward into what I expected: Egyptian folklore. Most of the time, each dance is introduced first by a title in Arabic, then a title in German.

Generally speaking, I found this video to be interesting, but not special. Too many times, the camera zeroes in for close-ups of people's faces and lingers there, which is annoying when I want to see what the dancers are doing. The lighting is sufficient but a bit flat. I was disappointed with the Ghawazee and Tahtib section because it seemed more like half-hearted posturing than like a martial art. The video overall is good enough that I will periodically take it off the shelf and watch it, but not compelling.

The 10 dances include:

  • Upper Egypt Girls. The video opens with a closeup of a man playing a rebaba (a traditional instrument from Upper Egypt) for about 2 minutes. Then four dancers enter wearing glittery black dresses, dancing in balady style. Eventually, a fifth dancer enters wearing a showy red dress, and dances in front of the group as a headliner. About 11 minutes in length total, 2 for the rebaba solo, 9 for the dancing.
  • Hagalla. Portrayed by the full ensemble of 10 people. The women wear the peplum-style garb associated with this dance. 9 1/2 minutes in length.
  • Nubian. Portrayed initially by the men, with the women entering the stage later. About 8 minutes long.
  • Zar. The men serve as a frame for the lead female dancer as she enacts the possession that the zar ritual seeks to release. The other women dance in a way echoing the possession of the lead dancer, but more subdued, as background. About 9 1/2 minutes.
  • Fisherman & The Fish. The set is draped with fish nets, and a solo male dancer casts his line and reels it in. He "catches" the lead female dancer, and the rest of the dance is a playful duet. This was my favorite dance on the whole video because of the excellent dancing by both people, the cute spirit, and the lively music. The steps use extensive footwork, and remind me of the footwork in some Macedonian folk dances, which probably makes sense given the history of Egypt. It seems a bit odd that the woman portraying the fish is wearing blue jeans, but they do showcase her intricate footwork well. Nearly 9 minutes long.
  • The Airplane. As this one began, I was confused. I can't read Arabic, but the German-language title informed me this one would be "Freude der Jugend" (The Joy of Youth), even though the video package identified it as The Airplane. This began with a solo dance by one of the men based mostly on debke moves. Then two women enter and the rest of the dance is a trio in which the man appears to show off for the women. It's cute, but I never figured out why it is called The Airplane. Almost 10 minutes long.
  • The Joy of Youth. This too is identified in German as "Freude der Jugend", so I guess the title for the earlier song was an error. In an ensemble including both women and men, the group appears to celebrate the joys of being young. About 6 1/2 minutes long.
  • The Ghawazee & Tahtib. This video opens with the lead male dancer entering the stage holding a stick. He puts it aside and picks up a drum, then dances while "drumming" (his strokes don't match the music). The other men enter the stage carrying their sticks, and for a while the one with the drum harasses the ones with the sticks until the ones with the sticks drive him off. He returns with his stick, and begins battling the other men, defeating them one at a time. I've seen better portrayals of Tahtib. About 10 minutes long.
  • The Horse. This number opens with three men dancing around a beautiful woman. Then two people enter wearing an elaborate horse costume. The men all try to capture the horse, and naturally fail. It's the woman who successfully tames it in the end. About 10 1/2 minutes long.
  • Siwa. The complete ensemble dances, with the men and women taking turns being featured. About 13 minutes long.
  • The Fisherman & the Fish. The package claims that this one is "Oriental Dancers" but the actual contents of the video show a repeat of "The Fisherman & The Fish". Same set, same costumes, same song, same dance. There is no German title introducing it, only Arabic.

The video's label claims that there is one more dance after this, "Peasant Dance." However, the reality is that there is not. The video ends following the second showing of Fisherman & The Fish.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You would enjoy watching a sampler of assorted Egyptian folkloric dances which have been adapted for stage.
  • You are planning to adapt some folkloric dances for stage and you would like ideas on how to modify dances and clothing for a more theatrical effect.
  • You're a male dancer looking for costuming ideas. Although the dancers' costumes on this video are folkloric flavor, with fancier fabric and trim many could be adapted for a more nightclub-oriented flavor.

You Probably Won't Care For This Video If

  • You want to see "belly dancing".
  • You're looking for a video of folkloric dance that stays quite faithful to the original form, to use as a basis for learning such dances yourself.
  • You think folkloric music played on rebaba and mizmar sounds like the neighbor's obnoxious Siamese cat howling outside your window.

In Conclusion

I wouldn't recommend this video as a tool for researching historical dance and clothing because everything has been liberally adapted for stage. However, it's enjoyable as entertainment, and it also offers some useful insights into how to adapt folklore for theatrical presentation. Male dancers may find the men's costumes on this video to be an interesting source of costume ideas. Someone who has not previously been exposed to folkloric dance may find it to be a pleasant introduction due to the fact that its production quality is better than what videos showing documentary footage of "real" folkloric dances.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The show does a skillful job of adapting folkloric dance and clothing to a theatrical form for stage.
  • I particularly enjoyed The Fisherman & The Fish. Both dancers were quite skillful, the choreography was entertaining, and the mood was playful.
  • The variety of dance styles portrayed was appealing.
  • The Fisherman & The Fish duet nicely illustrated how a man and a woman doing exactly the same moves in a duet can still look masculine and feminine, respectively.
  • For someone with no prior experience with folkloric dance, this video offers a pleasant introduction. Sometimes, footage filmed in real folkloric situations such as wedding parties is a bit too raw, with poor production quality, people's heads bobbing in front of the camera, and repetitious dancing. Since this is a made-for-video presentation, the adequate production quality and choreographed dances will be easier for a folklore novice to swallow.

What I Didn't Like

  • The performers lacked polish in several of the dances. In one example, the men were supposed to be dancing in a straight line, but their formation was ragged. In several places, moves that were supposed to be done in unison weren't. Several of the numbers felt more like a student recital than like a professional dance company.
  • Whoever created the printed label for the case on the on-screen titles was sloppy. The printed label on the case doesn't match the contents. The dance number titled "The Airplane" has the wrong on-screen title in German. The final dance number is missing the German-language title on the video; it is introduced only in Arabic, which I can't read.
  • Although the lighting was adequate, it was flat most of the time and detracted from the impact of the video.
  • The camera work was frustrating. All too often, the camera zoomed in for a close-up on dancers' faces and lingered there, while I wanted to see what their bodies and feet were doing.

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I have nothing to disclose. I have never had any contact with anyone involved in making this video.

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Ordering The Video

I don't know how to contact the original producer of this video. I purchased it from Artemis Imports in California:

Artemis Imports
P.O. Box 68
Pacific Grove, CA 93950

Phone: (+1) (831) 373-6762
Fax: (+1) (831) 373-4113

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