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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.