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Overall Rating: (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)
This is part 3 in a series of instructional videos produced by the Hahbi 'Ru dance company based in San Francisco. John Compton, assisted by his co-director Rita Alderucci, teaches an attractive intermediate-level choreographed dance to folkloric music. Throughout the entire routine, each step combination is accompanied by its own finger cymbal rhythm. Altogether, there are about 17 different step combinations and 16 different cymbal rhythm combinations. The primary purpose of the choreography is to provide a structure for practicing the use of varied finger cymbal rhythms while dancing, but it is varied enough to be used in a performance.
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Dance Skill: Experienced Intermediate or Advanced
Finger Cymbal Skill: Intermediate or Advanced
|Total Video Length||69:50 minutes|
|Performance Time||3:50 minutes (5%)|
|Teaching Time||64:10 minutes (92%)|
|Amount Of "Other"||1:50 minutes (3%)|
|Number Of Models||2|
|Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time||51 cents|
|Cost For "Other"||92 cents|
This video by John Compton and Rita Alderucci, the co-directors of the folkloric dance troupe Hahbi 'Ru, teaches a choreographed dance to folkloric music which uses a wide variety of step combinations, each with a finger cymbal rhythm to match. The dance is interesting enough to be used in performances, but the choreography's original purpose was to serve as a structure for teaching and practicing finger cymbals. The music is a folkloric song played on traditional instruments such as mizmar. Both instructors' on-screen personalities are matter-of-fact.
The Cymbal Dance is the third in a series of instructional belly dance videos by Hahbi Ru. It assumes that the viewer has previously learned the step combinations taught on the two earlier videos, so when it uses them in the choreography the explanations are brief, as a review. The instruction really centers on matching a finger cymbal rhythm to each move. A beginner or early intermediate level of dancer would really need to work with the earlier two Hahbi Ru videos before tackling this one. A more advanced dancer who picks up moves quickly would probably find the review of each move sufficient to figure it out.
The video opens with a few comments by John and Rita, then moves into a thorough 16-minute warm-up, which Rita leads. Behind her are four students (including one male) who assist her in her demonstrations. This warm-up works on a variety of muscles used in belly dancing. Rita offers helpful comments on correct posture and technique, and for arm movements provides valuable reminders to put energy into doing the moves. All in all, this warm-up is useful for belly dancing in general, not just the instruction on this particular video. The only room for improvement is that some of the students helping Rita demonstrate the warm-up have perpetually sour faces.
Once the warm-up is complete, John teaches the basic building blocks for the cymbal rhythms that will be used with the choreography. In about 9 minutes, he covers threes, singles, quadruplets, 7's, 7-7-15, and left 7's. People without much prior cymbal experience will find threes, singles, and sevens reasonably easy to understand, while quadruplets and left sevens will pose interesting challenges even to very experienced cymbal players. Anyone working with this video would probably want to master this section completely before moving on to learning the dance. (In the choreography instruction part of the video, these rhythms are played fast, with additional levels of complexity.) While John explains and demonstrates each move facing the camera, Rita stands with her back to the camera with her hands above her head playing along with John's demonstrations. This would be very helpful to someone trying to match her/his right hand to the instructor's right.
Next comes the primary body of this video, the 38-minute choreography instruction. The song used is a 4-minute segment of "Shashkin" from Omar Faruk Tekbilek's album titled Mystic Garden. It has a strong folkloric flavor, using a variation of the Saidi rhythm, and is played on traditional instruments such as mizmar.
John introduces each step in the format of a brief review of what was taught on the earlier Hahbi Ru instructional videos. There are not detailed breakdowns on this video, which is appropriate since these explanations were offered on the earlier ones. Next he explains what to play on the finger cymbals for that move, and demonstrates it somewhat slowly with the accompanying cymbals. After a few repetitions at the slow speed, he demonstrates it at full speed. Here's where it rapidly becomes challenging for finger cymbal novices and people who have not previously learned these step combinations.
Rita assists John with the instructional section by helping him demonstrate each move. This allows an opportunity to see how each move looks on two different body types. In this section, she faces the camera alongside John rather than having her back to it. I was slightly disappointed by this, because I really appreciated her back-to-the-camera demonstrations in the cymbal instructional section. Still, seeing the two do each move side-by-side is informative and helps understand it better. At times, Rita scowls a bit more than she probably should as they run through a demonstration, but this is only a minor issue for me. Most of the time, I'm so busy concentrating on what the cymbals, arms, hips, and legs are doing that the facial expressions are not my primary focus.
I've seen several different approaches to teaching choreography on video, and I find Hahbi Ru's one of the easier ones to learn from, at least for me. The video comes with helpful printed choreography notes that identify which cymbal pattern to play with each move. John rehearses each combination with cymbals a few times as he teaches it, slowly at first, then at full speed. He does this for each of 3 or 4 combinations before going back to the beginning and leading the dance up to that point.
At the end of the instructional section, John and Rita perform the 4-minute choreography in full costume with the rest of the Hahbi 'Ru dance company. Even though this is filmed in a studio environment, the charismatic stage presence that Hahbi 'Ru is known for comes through quite effectively. Their personalities come right through the television and it almost seems as if they're doing a private show just for you right there in your living room.
Generally speaking, the production quality of this video is excellent. The set is attractive, but simple enough to not be distracting. John and Rita themselves are well lit, although the background behind them is just a bit too dark from hip level on down. The sound is usually well balanced - the background music is just loud enough to hear, but soft enough so that John's and Rita's voices can be heard over it as they call out what to do next. Camera angles always show what I want to see, and they linger in one place long enough during a demonstration to let me truly study what I'm seeing.
If you'd like to read my reviews of other Hahbi Ru videos, choose from the list below:
|The Cymbal Dance excels at matching finger cymbal rhythms to dance moves and providing a structure for practicing this skill. The video assumes you're already an intermediate in both belly dance movements and cymbal technique - if you're not, it will probably be too overwhelming for you. Intermediate dancers really should master Hahbi 'Ru's two earlier instructional videos before tackling this one, because those earlier ones provide the detailed explanations on how to do the step combinations. This video covers the combinations only briefly in a review format, and focuses more on the finger cymbal rhythms used with them. A more advanced dancer who picks up new steps quickly can probably figure them out from the reviews on this video. People who have never played finger cymbals at all before might want to first use a simpler cymbal instruction video to learn the elementary techniques. It's possible to use this choreography as either a cymbal practice tool (which was its original intent) or as a piece to perform.|
|John Compton, one of the co-directors of Hahbi 'Ru, has been a friend of mine for many years. Although I've met his co-director Rita Alderucci several times, I don't know her very well. They gave me a complimentary copy of this video to review for my web site.|
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