This documentary is difficult to describe in just a few words
because it's a collection of widely different performances all
compiled on one video. All the performances except one are dancers
from "over there". All of the performances except one
The performances include:
- Fatima, 1897. The first performance consists of 1
minute of Fatima dancing in Thomas Edison's New York studio in
1897. It's silent, since that was decades before talkies were
invented, and it's black and white. She plays finger cymbals.
Following this segment, Farrah then shows a 15-second clip of
the censored version. Watching the video and thinking about how
Fatima's dance must have been viewed by Victorian-era people
who were accustomed to women squeezing themselves into corsets
helped me better understand just how the 1893 introduction of
"belly dancing" to the U.S. must indeed have been viewed
as scandalous. Seeing where the censor's bars appear is very
- 1950 Guedra. This footage of a real Guedra ritual
being done in Goulamime, Morocco was shot by a Western film crew.
At times, the camera focuses on the Guedra herself, and much
of the time it pans around the people gathered around her or
the drummer. It doesn't show a sufficiently continuous view of
the Guedra herself to enable someone who has studied Guedra to
see the techniques being applied, but there is merit to the crowd
shots because it shows the complete context of how everyone participates.
The segment is about 3 1/2 minutes long.
- Jajouka's Guedra. Bobby Farrah choreographed this
in 1975, and this actual performance by Jajouka was filmed in
1994. This is a created-for-theater fusion of Guedra with Oriental
dance floor work. It is entertaining as theater, but not useful
as a tool for someone wanting to study performances of Guedra
to learn more about it. The dance is about 5 minutes in length.
- Bedouin Family. The performers are a Lebanese Bedouin
woman, her daughters, and her husband, filmed in a village 1971.
This is the longest section of the video (12 minutes), and shows
5 different dance segments by this family of performers. They
wear local clothing rather than "dance costumes", and
perform an assortment of dances, including both Oriental (belly
dance) and debke folk dances. The five dance segments include
a 5-minute debke by the women, a dance in which the matriarch
balances a water glass on her head while her daughters dance
as a frame around her, an Oriental solo by the matriarch using
finger cymbals, a debke duet featuring the matriarch and her
husband, and a closing solo by the matriarch. The matriarch's
dances are truly a pleasure to watch. She capably performs many
extremely difficult moves such as head slides with the water
vase on her head and flamenco-style barrel turns. She is also
very expressive, emotionally speaking.
- Nadia Gamal. This is the only non-folkloric performance
on this video. It features a 9-minute Oriental performance by
this legendary Lebanese artist filmed in 1971. Her performance
is an interesting contrast to the family that appears just before
her. While the family performs outdoors in a village, Nadia's
performance is on a stage. While the family wears everyday clothing,
Nadia wears an "I Dream of Jeannie" harem fantasy costume.
And so on. Unfortunately, the dance itself is a bit disappointing.
She doesn't appear to be particularly interested in either the
choreography or the music.
Throughout this video, the lighting and sound quality are
"good enough". The only place where I found production
issues to be annoying was on the 1950 Guedra in Morocco, where
the camera kept wandering away from the Guedra herself.
You Will Probably Like This Video If
- You would love to see vintage film from the 1890's showing
one of the dancers who came to the U.S. to appear at the infamous
Columbia Exposition in Chicago where "belly" dancing
was originally introduced to the U.S. public.
- You're fascinated by the Moroccan ritual known as Guedra
and you'd like to see footage of a real ritual being performed
- You're enthusiastic about the work of the late Ibrahim "Bobby"
Farrah and you would enjoy a video that features him on-camera
for a large amount of time as he describes what each video clip
- You're a fan of Jajouka (one of Farrah's dance company members)
and you would enjoy a video featuring her doing a fusion dance
that blends Guedra with Oriental dance floor work.
- You would enjoy seeing a talented Lebanese village family
performing debkes and Oriental dance.
You Probably Won't Care For This Video If
- You don't have much interest in the ethnic and historical
roots of belly dancing.
- You focus primarily on Egyptian dance, and you're not interested
in performers from other places.
- You're more interested in the 20th-century Oriental style
(with beads and sequins) than in folkloric interpretations of
- You have seen other videos of Nadia Gamal and you're looking
for another with a similar inspirational level of dance skill.
I have a passion for historical and folkloric dance, so I
enjoy this video very much. The only part I don't care for is
Jajouka's interpretation of the Guedra. If you're shopping for
a video that features Nadia Gamal, there are better choices out