Hollywood Babylon

A Performance Video Review By Shira

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Summary

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

This video, produced by the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (IAMED), depicts a live belly dancing show nearly two hours long whose theme is the romance of Hollywood's yesteryears. The lighting, sound quality, and camera work are excellent. While some of the dancers are skilled, others are disappointing. Not all the dancers embrace the Hollywood theme, but Dondi (the dancer featured on the cover) stands out in both her appearances in this show.

Cover

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What Shira.net Users Think

Have you actually watched this video yourself? If so, offer your own opinion in the poll below! Otherwise, click the "View Results" button to see what worldwide users of shira.net think of it.

 
1) How would you rate Hollywood Babylon, produced by IAMED?
Absolutely fantastic!
Definitely would recommend it.
Good enough to be worth the money, but not special
Disappointing, but had at least a little value
Nothing good about it at all
 

The above poll includes responses submitted since December 26, 2002.

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The Chart

Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStar
Total Video Length 1:51:52
Performance Time 1:49:27 (98%)
Amount Of "Other" 2:25 minutes (2%)
List Price $45.00
Cost Per Minute Of Performing Time 41 cents
Cost For "Other" 90 cents

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Description

What The Show Was Like

The theme of this show is the romantic yesteryears of Hollywood. Some of the dancers appear in costumes and choreography that match this theme, while others do just plain belly dance performances. Nearly all the dancers are skilled artists who deliver solid performances, but at times the show seemed to drag for me, and I found a couple of the acts to be a bit disappointing.

The performers, in order of appearance, are:

  • Anaheed. A 3-part performance about 7 1/2 minutes long using live music. Some lovely floor work. Serves as appealing role model for how to interact with the drummer during a drum solo. Pearls on her costume reminiscent of Maud Allen.
  • Rana. Dances with Isis wings on sticks using taped music in the modern-day Egyptian orchestral style. About 7 minutes long.
  • Anisa's Orientale Beledi Troupe. Fairly standard troupe choreography to Egyptian-style music. I didn't feel much of a Hollywood tie-in on this one. About 9 1/2 minutes long.
  • Marula. Dances to live music, has a pleasing rapport with band. Style is very theatrical, and I didn't care much for her artistic interpretation. In the slow song the band plays for her, which is a soft flowing interpretation of Erev Shel Shoshanim, her high kicks seem just plain weird and her dancing feels as if someone hit the fast forward button. I didn't feel much of a Hollywood tie-in on this performance. About 10 minutes long, which was longer than it needed to be.
  • Dondi. Wears a fabulous Hollywood fantasy costume, a very revealing sheer dress with strategically placed glitter teamed with a towering feather headdress. One of the best interpretations of the Hollywood theme of this show. The dress is much too risqué for restaurant dancing, but entertaining for this type of theatrical production. I could have done without the long, droopy sleeves - although she does some interesting dance moves with them, after a while they just seemed to be in the way. About 9 minutes long.
  • Brandi. After all the glitter immediately preceding it, this performance is a welcome change of pace. The performance opens with four drummers playing a heavy, repetitious beat walking on stage. They are followed by four dancers in dark-colored robes reminiscent of those worn by desert nomads who kneel on the floor. The drumming transitions into music with a 6/8 beat as Brandi enters, also wearing a costume inspired by desert nomads. She performs a hypnotic "trance dance" resembling the zar, most of it done on her knees. The set was darkened for this performance, which fit the mood of the dance, but at times it was almost too dark and I had trouble seeing Brandi despite the spotlight on her. About 4 minutes long.
  • The Sahlala Dancers. The four dancers wear long, flowing dresses which are a theatrical interpretation of classical Persian-style dance costuming. Each carries a candle in her hands. The choreography captures the flavor of Hollywood production numbers. About 4 minutes long.
  • Jillina. Her somewhat risqué costume consists of a beige body stocking similar to her skin color with glitter sprinkled across it, worn with a simple white satiny charmeuse circle skirt whose slits are arranged to show a continuous line of her leg all the way up her body. I admired the daring spirit that led her to wear it, but I didn't think it looked particularly flattering on her. She dances to modern Egyptian orchestral-style music doing classical-style Oriental dance. The performance is about 10 minutes long, which is longer than I thought it needed to be.
  • Jillina. I assume this came after an intermission in the live show. Jillina re-enters the stage wearing a "typical" belly dancing costume and performs to a drum solo. At one point, the sound went entirely silent for a couple of seconds, but then was fine again. About 3 1/2 minutes long. Skilled dancing, but didn't seem to match much with the Hollywood theme of the show.
  • Marguerite. She uses the live band for her performance, dancing to a lively 9/8 karsilama with a momentary touch of Turkish Rroma flavor. A welcome change of pace from all the Egyptian style music and dance that appeared earlier in the show. Skilled dancing, but didn't seem to match much with the Hollywood theme of the show. About 3 1/2 minutes long.
  • Leyla & Saharan Silk. This is the weakest act for me on this video, because the group does not dance well together as an ensemble. One of the dancers in particular seems to lag behind everyone else on every turn, every arm movement, every transition. In a show that otherwise features mostly professional dancers, this act creates the impression that a student troupe has taken the stage. Although the choreography fits with the theme in its resemblance of Hollywood production numbers, I didn't find its artistic vision to be particularly inspiring. I was also amazed at how many costume parts they managed to discard over the course of 9 minutes. There's not a feeling of striptease to the performance, but three times in a short performance they toss something aside.
  • Farhana, Princess of Hollywood. I never did figure out why the words, "Princess of Hollywood" appear after Farhana's name. She wears an attractive belly dance costume, but there's nothing particularly regal or "Hollywood" about it, and her performance with the live band is reasonably standard with no particular "Hollywood" flavor. I found her sword balancing to be a bit disappointing, not quite up to the overall standard of other performances on this video. About 8 1/2 minutes long.
  • Tut Sisters. After all the sequins that precede them, the Tut Sisters are a welcome change of pace. Dressed as mummies and wearing masks similar to King Tuthankamen's funeral mask, this foursome performs an interpretive dance to alternative music. Unfortunately, they could have used more rehearsing to synchronize their moves more effectively. About 4 minutes long.
  • Mesmera. The set opens with two people holding a pair of enormous feather fans. Slowly, they draw them apart, revealing Mesmera behind them. Throughout Mesmera's performance, her two attendants stay on stage, matching each other with subtle backdrop dance movements and fan positions, lending a Hollywood flair to Mesmera's solo performance in front of them. Mesmera wears a very skimpy costume, consisting of medallion bra/belt set and circle skirt showing her legs all the way up to the belt. About 9 1/2 minutes long.
  • Jillina and the Sahlala Dancers. The group enters wearing India-inspired costumes of cholis teamed with saris. Their choreography somewhat captures the flavor of Hollywood production numbers.
  • Marilyn. The show closes with a portrayal of Marilyn Monroe done by Dondi. In this enjoyable comedy act, she enters wearing an Egyptian-style beaded evening gown, dancing and posturing to the song, "I Wanna Be Loved By You, By You and Nobody Else But You." At one point, she struts over to the band quietly sitting off to the side and plays up to one of them as if he were sitting at a table in a nightclub. Following this song, the music moves into a lively drum solo, and "Marilyn" alternates between fiery drum solo dance moves and cute poses. It offers a perfect ending to a Hollywood themed show.

This video doesn't include any American Tribal Style performances, and Brandi's appearance is the only folkloric-flavored section. For the most part, it's a collection of standard "beads and sequins" performances delivered by skilled artists. The mix of troupe numbers versus soloists felt about right to me as I watched it, although I did not find the troupe choreographies compelling and several of the troupe acts could have used more rehearsing before taking the stage.

Beginning dancers would probably find this video to be quite educational. The interactions that some of the dancers have with the live band serves as a fine role model for up-and-coming dancers, and the diverse dancers demonstrate a variety of techniques, including floor work, drum solos, Isis wings, sword balancing, and comedy. But more experienced dancers would probably find it less interesting.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You're relatively new to the world belly dancing and you would enjoy watching a video that shows a diverse group of U.S. dancers each interpreting the art form in her own way.
  • You've been around the belly dance scene longer, but you still enjoy watching skilled performances by talented dancers even when they're doing fairly standard interpretations.
  • You're intrigued by the vintage Hollywood theme and you think it would be fun to see how various dancers interpreted it.
  • You're enthusiastic about one or more of the dancers appearing on this video and you would enjoy seeing a well-produced video that includes her.

You Probably Won't Care For This Video If

  • You've been around the belly dancing scene so long that you are no longer interested in seeing the same old moves, even when performed by skilled dancers. Except for a couple of the acts, most of the artists deliver fairly standard belly dance routines.
  • You'd be squeamish seeing some performances in risqué costumes.
  • You much prefer American Tribal Style or folkloric dance performances rather than the "beads & sequins" look.

In Conclusion

When it comes to performance videos showcasing a collection of diverse U.S. dancers, this is reasonably good, but it has its warts. The lighting and sound quality are excellent, and the camera angles enhance the effect rather than distracting from the dance. Most of the soloists are skilled dancers, but some wear unflattering costumes that detract from their performances. Some group numbers are disappointing due to looking insufficiently rehearsed. The Hollywood theme doesn't come through as strongly as I had hoped, but some dancers embrace it effectively. I would particularly recommend this video for newcomers to belly dancing who would enjoy owning a video showing a diverse group of performers. Although it's not what I would call a ground-breaking show, at nearly two hours in length, this video offers a solid value for the money.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • Most of the dancers invited to appear in this production are skilled performers who are enjoyable to watch.
  • The show includes periodic "change of pace" performances such as those by Brandi, the Tut Sisters, and Marilyn. (Although the Tut Sisters could have used more rehearsing to better synchronize their moves...)
  • IAMED's web site at www.bellydance.org features brief video clips of some of the performances (including Dondi's adorable Marilyn Monroe) so you can preview before you buy.
  • I like the Hollywood concept, and my favorite interpretations of it are Dondi's two performances. Honorable mention for Hollywood-izing goes to Mesmera for her two attendants with the fans and the Sahlala Dancers for injecting a little production number flavor in some of their choreography.
  • I enjoyed seeing a live band playing for some of the dancers, particularly for those who interacted effectively with it.
  • The overall production quality is excellent. For the most part, the lighting was usually bright enough for me to see what the dancers were doing, and the camera work was pleasantly varied without interfering with my ability to see the dancing. There was one tiny 2-second gap in the sound, but aside from that the sound quality was clear and easy to hear at all times.

What I Didn't Like

  • The dancing of Leyla & Saharan Silk and Farhana, Princess of Hollywood, which don't seem to be quite up to the polished quality of the rest of the performances.
  • Some of the performances dragged on too long.
  • I was disappointed that some of the dancers didn't pay much attention to the Hollywood theme, either in their costumes or in their dance performances.

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Reviews of Other Videos by this Artist/Instructor

If you'd like to read my reviews of other videos produced by IAMED, choose from the list below

Instructional:

Performance compilations:

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Disclosures

Although I'm professionally acquainted with Suzy Evans, the president of IAMED, I've not had the opportunity to get to know her well. Over time, we have corresponded about video issues and linked to each other's web sites. Suzy sent me a complimentary copy of this video for review.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance as follows:

IAMED
P.O. Box 7666
Van Nuys, CA 91409
U.S.A.

E-Mail: iamed@bellydance.org
Web Site: http://www.bellydance.org/

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