Hahbi 'Ru Live!

A Performance Video Review By Shira

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

This 48-minute video consists of live performances by the San Francisco based troupe Hahbi 'Ru in front of a Renaissance Faire audience. Accompanied by the live band Helm playing traditional instruments such as mizmar (ancestor of the oboe) and kawala (type of flute), Hahbi 'Ru performs mostly folkloric-style belly dancing with some line dances as well.


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The Chart

Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 48:35
Performance Time 47:37 (98%)
Amount Of "Other" 58 seconds (2%)
List Price $25.00
Cost Per Minute Of Performing Time 52 cents
Cost For "Other" 50 cents

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What The Show Was Like

Hahbi 'Ru's dance style is folkloric in flavor. Their shows are a combination of baladi-style belly dancing and folkloric line dances. The dancers use folkloric props such as jugs and swords in the belly dancing segments. On this video, the music is primarily Arabic, played on traditional instruments such as kawala (a type of flute) and mizmar (ancestor of the oboe).

This video was filmed on an outdoor stage at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Northern California in 1996 in front of a live audience.

The band appears on stage with the dancers, dressed in traditional garb such as gallabiyas and turbans. Unlike some shows where the band simply serves as background, in this performance the band is very involved in the overall presentation.

The dancers wear pre-FatChance U.S. tribal costuming in the style that arose in the San Francisco area in the 1970's. Each dancer wears a tunic of black tulle bi telli (called assuit by many American dancers), a pair of cotton pantaloons, a hip scarf, a black closely-fitted vest, long blousey sleeves, and a pillbox headdress. The one male performer, John Compton, varies the look just a little, but not by much.

The show is structured in a series of songs in which different members come forward to perform. At times, the entire ensemble is on stage. Other pieces are solos, duets, or trios. Some pieces use folkloric props such as jugs or sword. This variation in number of dancers and types of props is well structured to vary the energy level and hold an audience's attention throughout.

The pieces performed in this show include:

  • Egyptian Celebration. The entire dance company performs as an ensemble. In some parts, the dancers sing while dancing, and in other parts they play their finger cymbals. At times, a couple of the musicians even do a few dance steps in unison with the dancers. The song used is Yalla Al-Nahr. About 5 minutes in length.
  • Sabre Dance. This is a 5-minute sword balancing solo by Bàraka. The song used is Sharia el Souk. It begins with a slow section, to which Bàraka does floor work. She rises to her feet as the music speeds up, and finishes it with rapid shimmies and spins.
  • Fertile Crescent Debke. Using the traditional Lebanese song Lorke Lorke, the entire ensemble performs a line dance using real debke steps. This piece presents an excellent example of how to adapt a traditional repetitive line dance to stage in a way that preserves the integrity of the original dance form while making it more interesting to watch. About 2 minutes.
  • Egyptian Jug Dance. Features three of the ensemble members. The song is Birdala Iki Kiraz. About 4 minutes.
  • Humorous Folk Dance. A line dance featuring five performers. They encourage the audience to clap along as they playfully sing and dance. The song is Bint el Sheik. About 2 minutes.
  • Oriental Style Women's Dance. This is a belly dance troupe choreography, baladi style. About 2 1/2 minutes. The song is Farasha.
  • Veil Taqsim & Romantic Chiftetelli. This piece opens with several members of the ensemble performing a simple veil choreography. Eventually, the group takes a seat, while Paula dances a sensuous chiftetelli duet with John. The song is improvised taqsim. About 7 minutes.
  • Drum Solo with Audience Participation. Rebaba performs an energetic dance to a drum solo played by Mark Bell on darbuka. She finishes it with a Turkish drop. As she lies there, John drapes a veil over her and the musicians begin to play a soft flute number. She rises to her feet, then goes out to the audience and recruits several victims to come up on stage with her. She then leads them in further dancing. About 8 minutes.
  • Balancing Tray Dance. No Hahbi 'Ru performance could be complete without John Compton (my favorite male belly dancer) balancing a Moroccan tea tray on his head. He begins this set with regular belly dancing, then places the tray on his head. The songs used are Insabah and Ya Hwedalak. About 6 minutes.
  • Egyptian Line Dance. The full ensemble comes forward to bow for a curtain call, and the audience begins to chant, "We want more!" The group then proceeds to perform a troupe belly dance to the song Habibi ya Weladi. About 6 minutes.

The sound quality is excellent. Lighting is daylight on a sunny day, and is just about right. The camera work focuses mostly on the dancing rather than close-ups of faces, which is exactly what I prefer.

Hahbi Ru's performances offer an excellent role model for how to structure a folkloric dance show that will hold the attention of both dancers and non-dancers alike. Dancers will appreciate their precision and their ability to perform difficult moves with apparent ease. Non-dancers will appreciate the variety of the pieces and the charismatic stage personalities.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You enjoy traditional Arabic music played on traditional instruments such as mizmar and kawala.
  • You enjoy belly dancing with a folkloric flavor.
  • You're already an enthusiastic fan of either the ensemble Hahbi 'Ru or its co-directors, John Compton and Rebaba (Rita Alderucci).
  • You love the style of show that was spawned in the 1970's by the San Francisco troupe Bal Anat and you'd enjoy seeing a presentation in the spirit of the costuming and performance flavor that they pioneered. (Several of the dancers appearing on this video used to be members of the original Bal Anat troupe back in the 1970's.)

You Probably Won't Care For This Video If

  • You're not a big fan of folkloric music on traditional instruments.
  • You prefer to see dance performances that adhere closely in costuming and dance style to the Oriental dance seen in nightclubs "over there".

In Conclusion

As an ensemble, Hahbi 'Ru puts on an excellent show. The staging and choreography are structured to portray a spirit of fun and togetherness among the performers, and the entire group demonstrates a very charismatic stage presence. Every performer on this video is individually a capable dancer, and the precision of movement in the ensemble numbers demonstrates that this group pays attention to detail when rehearsing. With the varying of how many people are on stage at once, and the assorted props, the show is well structured to hold audience interest.

Although based on folkloric music and movements, this show is not intended to be a documentary of authentic folk dance and costume, so don't expect that. It's meant to be entertainment, and it achieves its objective very well.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • Hahbi 'Ru's members are skilled dancers, capable of performing difficult techniques such as abdominal work, backbends, and layering.
  • The performers' stage presence is enjoyable. They interact well with each other and also draw in the audience.
  • The show is structured well to hold audience interest. It varies the energy level both through different types of songs and also through number of dancers performing at any one time. The props are varied, and it alternates between belly dancing and line dances.
  • The lighting and sound are clear.
  • The camera work does a good job of showing what I want to see, with about the right amount of closeups and shots of the musicians. The editing switches angles at about the right frequency - it introduces variety into the on-screen image without feeling jumpy.

What I Didn't Like

  • At times, the on-screen image is slightly blurry, but most of the time it's fine. Even when blurry, it's still good enough to see the dancing.

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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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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 Rebaba (Rita Alderucci), I don't know her very well. I purchased my copy of this video.

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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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