Belly Dance & Balance:
The Art of Sword & Shamadan

A Video Review By Shira

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Summary

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

Farhana, Princess of Hollywood, provides an introduction to balancing a sword and a shamadan (Egyptian-style candelabrum). She offers suggestions for choosing a prop, recommendations on how to care for it, tips on how to balance it, and ideas for steps to do with the prop on the head.

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 Belly Dance & Balance: The Art of Sword & Shamadan, by Farhana?
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 6, 2004.

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The Chart

Recommended Level Intermediate
Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 44:33 minutes
Performance Time 6:05 minutes (14%)
Teaching Time 36:03 minutes (81%)
Amount Of "Other" 2:25 minutes (5%)
Choreography Yes
Cultural Information Yes
Music Education No
Health Issues No
Number Of Models 1
List Price $34.95
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 83 cents
Cost For "Other" $1.90

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Description

On this video, Farhana, Princess of Hollywood, teaches how to incorporate balancing into a dance performance. She primarily emphasizes sword balancing, but also offers valuable insights into dancing with flaming candles. The candle-oriented part of the instruction focuses on the shamadan (Egyptian-style candelabrum).

The video begins with a 3 ½ minute sword performance by Farhana. She begins with standing undulations to taqsim music (improvised instrumental solo), then descends to the floor and does floor work with the sword balanced on her head. Her sexy red costume features a "carwash" skirt (long, slender rectangular pieces ) that shows a lot of leg, but her dance remains tasteful throughout. The dance showcases her fluidity, strength, and control.

The instructional part of the video spends part of its time on background and advice about balancing, and part on how to incorporate the prop into the dance. It begins with a couple of minutes on the history of balancing. This is attractively presented with on-screen images that alternate between historical images and photos of modern-day dancers as Farhana's voiceover covers the topic with a focus on Egypt. Next Farhana talks about how to choose and care for swords and candelabra. For shamadan information, Farhana offers helpful ideas for working with live fire that someone who has never done it before might not think of. Her advice comes across as someone who is really speaking from experience.

Following these introductory background sections, the dancing begins. Farhana offers a warm-up consisting of exercises that will develop strength, control, and flexibility in the muscles needed for both balancing and floor work. She moves on to offer some balancing tips, then discusses posture and placement. Next she teaches a series of dance moves that are suitable for use when balancing a prop. These are presented in the form of a review - Farhana assumes that the viewer is already familiar with the moves, and she reviews them quickly in the context of showing how they could fit with balancing. Intermediate level dancers should be able to keep pace with this. Farhana's particular approach to balancing includes some standing moves and some floor work, so her instruction includes both types of moves. Farhana concludes this section with ideas on additional body parts (other than the head) that could be used for balancing the sword.

The instructional section concludes with Farhana teaching a choreographed routine. She doesn't use a particular piece of music. Instead, she shows a series of moves that transition well from one another, and leaves it to the viewer to select suitable music and adapt the choreography to it. This is taught well - after identifying the order of the moves, she leads a review with on-screen text helping remember what to do next.

The video concludes with a 2 1/2 -minute shamadan performance that reflects the Egyptian origins of this prop, with appropriate music and dance style.

Farhana is likeable as an instructor. She is skilled at the topics she teaches. Her chatty, informal style of speaking has the tone of a friend confiding her secrets, and she shares openly. In the advice/tips section, she wears a caftan which enhances the ambience. The one thing I might have wanted to change about the content of the video is that it would have been useful for her to share her knowledge of the Egyptian cultural perspective, with suggestions for appropriate music, costuming, and moves a dancer should use to meet the expectations of an Egyptian audience.

The production quality seems a bit homemade, but definitely good enough. Even when there is the occasional rumble of traffic sound in the background, it's always easy to hear what Farhana is saying and I find that it doesn't bother me. The set is attractive, and the camera always shows what I want it to except for the occasional moment when she raises the sword above her head and her arms extend off the top of the screen. There is plenty of light to see the moves being taught. During the shamadan performance there are a few dissolves as the camera changes from one angle to another, and I find these special effects appealing rather than distracting.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You are new to balancing a prop and want a video that starts with the basics.
  • You already know how to balance, but you want advice on using live, flaming candles.
  • You are an intermediate level of dancer.
  • You've had at least a little prior instruction in floor work.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You are already proficient at balancing swords and candles and looking for new ideas.
  • You want advice on choosing ethnically-appropriate music and costume for Egyptian style shamadan dance.
  • You don't care for floor work.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • Farhana generously shares tips & advice.
  • Farhana is a skilled instructor with strength, flexibility, and control.
  • The warm-up offers helpful exercises to build the muscles used for balancing.
  • Farhana offers useful advice on working with actual lit candles.
  • Farhana suggests some dance moves for getting started with balancing.
  • The set is well lit and uncluttered.
  • For the most part, the camera work shows what it should.

What I Didn't Like

  • Occasionally traffic noise can be heard in the background.
  • The video didn't offer much in the way of cultural advice regarding Egyptian audience expectations for music and dance style used with the shamadan.
  • Occasionally, the camera cuts off something, such as when Farhana raises her sword above her head and the camera doesn't keep up with her.

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In Conclusion

I would feel comfortable recommending this to a newcomer to either sword or working with live candles. It would definitely be useful to someone wishing to learn the basics of balancing a prop. Some dance moves are suggested to help begin exploring how to move while balancing. Although a choreographed routine is taught, it's not the focus of the video, and it primarily serves to offer ideas for some moves that work well in balancing and how to put them together. At 44 minutes in length, it's a bit on the short side for a video in its price range, but the time is well used.

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Disclosures

My first contact with Farhana came when she approached me about reviewing her videos. She sent me a complimentary copy of this one to review.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Princess Farhana as follows:

Princess Productions
P.O. Box 29504
Los Angeles, CA. 90029-6504
U.S.A.

Phone: (+1) (323) 460-4890
E-mail: pgehman@earthlink.net

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