Egyptian Drum Solo Choreography
Video, Volume 1

A Video Review By Shira

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

This video teaches an energetic drum solo choreography designed for use by advanced-level and professional dancers. The music used is a drum solo by Egyptian drummer Reda Darwish. The choreography matches quite well with the music and uses an assortment of moves that fit well together to create an exciting dance. I would recommend this video only to dancers with 4 years or more of belly dancing experience, because the choreography is complex, with many challenging moves.

Why I gave it 5 stars:

  • Excellent production quality. The lighting, sound, and camera angles were effective without distracting attention away from Jamilla.
  • The drum solo was exciting to watch, which makes it choreography well worth learning. Even if you don't want to use Jamilla's choreography exactly as is, the moves and combinations will add spice to your own drum solos.
  • Jamilla taught the choreography effectively.

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What Users Think

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The Chart

Recommended Level Advanced (4 years or more belly dance experience)
Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 38:07 minutes
Performance Time 8:33 minutes (22%)
Teaching Time 28:50 minutes (76%)
Amount Of "Other" :44 minutes (2%)
Choreography Yes
Cultural Information No
Music Education No
Health Issues No
Number Of Models 1
List Price $40.00
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time $1.07
Cost For "Other" 80 cents

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This video, which features instruction by Jamilla al-Wahid, is designed to teach advanced-level and professional dancers how to do an exciting 2 ½ minute drum solo choreography. The music used comes from "Drum Talk", a collection of drum solos performed by Egyptian drummer Reda Darwish. It opens with Jamilla performing it in full costume, to offer a preview of what she will be covering. With her beautiful red Egyptian costume and the compelling choreography that fit the music perfectly, it was a very effective opening that left me thinking, "Wow, I'd like to learn that!" The setting for the performance was a sky blue background, with some subtle shadows, and several drums artistically arranged off to one side of center. The lighting was excellent - I was able to easily see Jamilla and her costume throughout the entire performance, and the colors were complementary rather than clashing.

Next comes the "meat" of the video: a 29-minute segment that teaches the choreography from beginning to end. But don't think you're going to learn this dance in just 29 minutes! In most workshops aimed at advanced-level dancers, the instructors allow approximately 1 hour of class time for each minute of choreography taught. If we applied that rule to Jamilla's 2 ½-minute choreography, that would mean that you should plan on taking no less than 2 ½ hours to learn it, and you probably should allow more than that because there's not much repetition in this dance. Jamilla follows this format to teach each move:

  1. She demonstrates the move.
  2. She shows how the move that she just taught ends, so that she can show you the transition into the next move that she's about to teach.
  3. Jamilla explains and demonstrates each move a couple of times when breaking it down into its component parts. Her explanations focus on what to do with the feet and the hips. Sometimes she also talks about body angle and arms, but at other times she leaves you to notice those details for yourself and figure it out. When you produce a video, each minute is costly, so it's necessary to think carefully about what to include and what to leave out. I felt Jamilla made the right decisions - in the cases where she did not explain the details, I had no difficulty figuring out what to do. But remember, she intends this video to be used by advanced-level dancers. I think a beginner or intermediate might struggle in some places.
  4. She does the entire dance from the beginning, up through and including the move just taught, then adds a demonstration of the move she is about to teach next. If you're trying to learn this choreography from the video, I would recommend rewinding and repeating this run-through of the complete dance taught so far about 4 times total before moving on to learn the next step.

It's hard to teach choreography on video, because it's just not possible to spend the time reviewing each step before going on to the next. I think Jamilla did an excellent job of attempting it, but even so I'd advise you to make friends with your rewind button and repeat each combination a few times before going on to learn the next. I expect some people may find her format of repeating the entire dance from the beginning after teaching each new step to be tedious, but I personally liked it because I liked putting the step just taught into context immediately. I also found that this format made it easier for me to retain everything.

In this instructional segment, Jamilla wears a black unitard with mesh midriff area, and over it a contrasting belt with beaded fringe. The instruction occurs against the same sky blue set as the performance segment, except that the drums have been removed. Once again, I found myself enjoying the excellent lighting and sound quality.

I've mentioned several times that this video is intended for advanced-level and professional dancers. Here's why I would not advise a beginner or intermediate to tackle it:

  • There isn't much repetition in the choreography, which makes it more difficult to learn but also more interesting to watch.
  • Jamilla doesn't explain how to do fundamental moves like shimmies and body waves. She assumes you're already quite familiar with those.
  • Each step combination has some complexity, teaming 3 or 4 moves together to make a single combination. Also, some moves have several things going on at once with the head, body position, feet, hips, and arms. Such intricacy is more challenging to learn.
  • Drum solos, by their very nature, tend to be very vigorous, and this one is no exception. You need good cardiovascular fitness to stay with this dance. Although some beginners and intermediates are reasonably fit from other exercise that they do, those who are not would struggle with this very aerobic exercise.
  • When teaching a combination, Jamilla doesn't always explain every detail. For example, she might tell you how to move your feet and hips, but she doesn't always tell you which foot to put your weight on, how to move your arm, etc. This was okay for me, because it was easy enough to see those details and I have enough dance experience to know I should be paying attention to, but a newer dancer might have difficulty picking up on what she doesn't say.

At the end of the instructional segment, Jamilla performs the choreography one more time. It's the same dance as the opening performance, in the same costume. I did like the fact that I didn't have to rewind all the way to the beginning to see the dance performed again once I had completed the instructional part, but I would have preferred to see Jamilla wearing a different costume this time around, just to give it a somewhat different look.

The video closes with a performance that Jamilla did in 2001 at a belly dancing event in California known as Rakkasah. She improvised a drum solo that was nearly 4 minutes long with Reda Darwish (the musician whose drum solo was used for the choreography on this video) sharing the stage with her. The combination of an excellent live drummer teamed with a talented dancer created a very dynamic performance, and it was nice to have the additional performance showing more of Jamilla's style. Unfortunately, the Rakkasah videographer's equipment produced a blurry result that was hard to watch because of the poor video quality. It was a stark contrast to the superb production quality of the rest of the video.

You Will Probably Like This Video If You're An Advanced-Level Dancer And

  • You are looking for new step combinations to build into your drum solos to make them more exciting.
  • You're interested in learning a complete choreography that you can incorporate into your performances.
  • You have attended and enjoyed a workshop taught by Jamilla al-Wahid in the past.
  • You'd like to incorporate belly dance choreography into your aerobic workout schedule. Once you've learned this dance, you can do it several times in a row back-to-back and feel your heart rate move into the cardiac zone!
  • You would find it inspiring to work with a video featuring a talented African-American instructor.
  • You prefer belly dancing videos that feature curvier dancers rather than the anorexic body types promoted by Hollywood and fashion magazines. Jamilla is certainly not overweight, but her body does look like that of a healthy "real woman".
  • You like Egyptian-style drum solos.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You've been belly dancing for less than 4-5 years.
  • You don't have much experience with memorizing choreography (this one doesn't have much repetition, and therefore is harder to learn than simpler choreography might be).
  • You're not particularly interested in working on your drum solo technique or learning additional step combinations for drum solo.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

For advanced-level or professional dancers, this video has a lot to offer. I liked it because:

  • The choreography is exciting to watch, and therefore is worth the effort it takes to learn it. When I watched Jamilla perform it at the very beginning of the video, I found myself thinking that it looked really great, and I looked forward to learning it.
  • The choreography fits very well with the music, and it incorporates an excellent variety of hip, torso, arm, and head movements. When the music has accents, Jamilla builds in accented moves. When the drum rolls, the choreography features shimmies, spins, and circling moves. It works.
  • Even if you don't feel like learning specific choreography to a specific piece of music, this video is still worthwhile because it teaches a variety of combinations that you can incorporate into your own drum solos.
  • The video is well organized. Jamilla clearly knows exactly what she wants to teach next, and demonstrates that she has given thought to how best to present each section. She also has a clear vision of what level of dancer the video is intended for, and she teaches to that level.
  • For the performance segments, Jamilla wears a beautiful red costume that flatters her figure attractively and also shows off the choreography with its fringe and swirling skirt.
  • The production quality is excellent through all but the last 4 minutes of the video. Throughout the opening performance, the instructional section, and the performance immediately after the opening, the lighting makes it very easy to see what Jamilla is doing, and the sound quality is crisp and clear. I could relax and enjoy the content of the video without straining to see and hear.
  • For the instructional segment, Jamilla's clothing (black unitard with mesh midriff teamed with red hip belt) makes it very easy to see exactly what she is doing. Her clothing contrasts well with the sky blue background behind her.
  • The camera work is exactly what it should be: unobtrusive. It varies the angle just enough to avoid monotony, but never distracts attention from what Jamilla is doing. It always shows her feet.
  • At times, Jamilla suggests alternative ways to do a given combination. For example, she might suggest adding a shimmy in a certain place if you feel like it, or offer some ideas on ways to vary your body angle for a different look. These ideas for variations are nice because they give you ideas on how to build on Jamilla's combinations for your own distinctive look.
  • Jamilla's build is curvier than the anorexic look that Hollywood and fashion magazines promote. I'm certainly not saying she's overweight, but average-sized and plus-sized dancers are sure to embrace seeing an attractive "real woman" proudly doing an exciting dance in a beautiful costume.

What I Didn't Like

  • Jamilla performs the choreography in full costume twice: once at the opening of the video to give a preview of coming attractions, and again at the end of the teaching section. She wears the same costume both times. On the one hand, I did like the fact that she performed the dance a second time because it saved me the effort of rewinding back to the very beginning to see it again after working through the instructional section. On the other hand, I would have preferred to see Jamilla wear a different costume for the second performance because a different costume would have given a different look to the choreography.
  • The final performance segment, which is just under 4 minutes long, shows Jamilla doing an improvised drum solo on stage at an event called Rakkasah with live drumming by Egyptian drummer Reda Darwish. The two of them deliver an exciting performance together, but unfortunately the video quality for this segment is very poor and doesn't do justice to her talent.
  • Because the dance is very complex with minimal repetition, it would have been nice if the video had included written choreography notes to help learn it.

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In Conclusion

There aren't many good "continuing education" videos available for belly dancing, and this one is excellent. Even if you're not interested in learning a specific choreography to specific music, you may find this video offers good ideas for spicing up your own drum solo performances. It's like having a drum solo workshop in your own living room which you can review over and over. If you're an advanced dancer with experience in memorizing choreography, you'll find that this video is aimed at your level.

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I had the pleasure of meeting Jamilla's mother (Fatima al-Wahid) over dinner at a belly dancing event in the late 1980's, and had a delightful time laughing throughout the meal at her steady stream of hilarious comments. I have also purchased a lot of merchandise from Fatima's vending business over the years.

More recently, I've had the opportunity to get to know Jamilla herself at belly dance events, and I've always enjoyed chatting with her. I don't know either Fatima or Jamilla well enough to claim that they're friends, but I do always look forward to saying hello to them both at belly dancing events.

Jamilla provided me with a free copy of this video to review for my web site.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Or, contact Jamilla Al-Wahid as follows:

Al-Wahid Productions
P.O. Box 2139
North Highlands, CA 95660

(+1) (916) 331-6452

or order her video from Fatima's Bazaar at:

Fatima's Bazaar & Cultural Dance Studio
6241-3 Fair Oaks Boulevard
Carmichael, CA 95608

or (+1) (916) 482-3568


Web Site:

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