Hahbi 'Ru Level 3 - The Cymbal Dance

A Video Review By Shira

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Overall Rating: StarStarStarStarStar (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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The Chart

Recommended Level

Dance Skill: Experienced Intermediate or Advanced

Finger Cymbal Skill: Intermediate or Advanced

Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStarStar
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%)
Choreography Yes
Cultural Information No
Music Education No
Health Issues Yes
Number Of Models 2
List Price $35.00
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 51 cents
Cost For "Other" 92 cents

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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.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You love folkloric music.
  • You're a somewhat experienced intermediate-level dancer, both in your ability to do dance moves and also in your ability to play simple finger cymbals.
  • You have previously worked with another cymbal video that teaches a step combination to go with each rhythm taught, and you find that this instruction style works well for you.
  • You're looking for choreography with a folkloric flavor that you can use in a performance.
  • You would enjoy instruction led by a male dancer and a performance by a group that includes a couple of male dancers.
  • You're already at an advanced level in your ability to play finger cymbals, but you'd like some new ideas to freshen up your technique.
  • You have already mastered Hahbi 'Ru's first two instructional videos and you're ready to learn choreography that puts the moves taught on those videos together into a finished dance.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You prefer pop or highly orchestrated music.
  • Your level of cymbal or dance skill is still that of a beginner or early intermediate.
  • Your primary interest lies in the style of dancing done in Egyptian nightclubs today.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The choreography itself is appealing to watch.
  • During the cymbal rhythms instruction, Rita's back is to the camera while John speaks facing the camera, so the hands playing the cymbals can be seen from both angles.
  • I like the methodology used to teach the choreography. A group of three or four step combinations is taught, and then Rita and John lead a practice of the entire dance up through that point.
  • The video comes with written choreography notes to assist in memorization.
  • Both Rita and John emphasize correct posture and technique in their instruction. Periodically through both the warm-up and the choreography sections, they inject a brief reminder.
  • At the end, the entire Hahbi 'Ru troupe joins John and Rita for an enjoyable performance in full costume of the choreography just taught.

What I Didn't Like

  • During the warm-up, some of the students helping Rita demonstrate it have rather sour faces.
  • It might have been better if Rita had worn lighter colored clothing - at times during the choreography instruction, her black leggings blend into the background and it's hard to see what her hips are doing.

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Movements Included

  • Warm-Ups: 18 moves (head to each of 4 sides, head slide, vertical head circles, hand pull-downs, hand shoot up, shoulder up-down, hand push to sides with variations, shoulder down, rib cage slides, rib cage forward-back, rib cage box, rib cage circle, glute tighten & release, pelvic tilt shimmy, hip sway side to side, hip side-to-side shimmy, stretch over to side, stretch to floor with feet in straddle)
  • Combinations: 17 moves (Raqia with twist, chooch, chooch square with fwd/back accent, turn with hip lift, forward 123 with shimmy angled, back pigeon-toe 3/4 shimmy, rock fwd/back hip lift push-off, step foot swing hip drop, back x's, nailed 1/4's, basic Egyptian, backward-traveling figure 8, fwd/back 3/4 turn step square, circle and 3/4 shimmy to front, Arabic 3, chunky shimmy, regular 3/4 shimmy)
  • Finger Cymbals: 16 Rhythm Combinations (3-3-3-4, singles, singles-3-4, 3-1-3-1-3, 7's alternating, 4's, 7's left, 4's-r-l-r-l, 3-3-7, 4r-l-r-rlr, 4-4-7, 4-4-4-4, lrr-lrr-lrr-lrr, dry singles, 3's, 4-1-4-1-4-4-lrr-lrr-lrr-lr

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Reviews of Other Videos by this Artist/Instructor

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

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In Conclusion

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.

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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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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Hahbi 'Ru as follows:

Hahbi 'Ru
220 Esmeralda Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94110

Phone: (+1) (415) 641-4510
E-Mail: hahbiru@earthlink.net
Web Site: http://www.hahbiru.com/

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Buying the Music Used for the Choreography

Cover The choreography for The Cymbal Dance uses the song Shashkin from this album.

U.S.<==Click here to order on CD from Amazon.com in the U.S. Prices in U.S. dollars.

U.K.<==Click here to order on CD from Amazon.co.uk in the U.K. Prices in British pounds.

Canada<==Click here to order on CD from Amazon.ca in Canada. Prices in Canadian dollars.

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