A Performance Video Review By Shira

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

This hour-long video collects several of Margo Abdo O'Dell's performances together into a single volume. Four of the performance segments are in classic Egyptian Oriental style, and two are theatrical fusion pieces. Margo's passion, precision technique, originality, and elegance make her a performer well worth watching.


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The Chart

Formats Available NTSC, PAL
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 1:00:27
Performance Time 59:20 (98%)
Amount Of "Other" 1:07 minutes (2%)
List Price $40.00 for NTSC
$55.00 for PAL
Cost Per Minute Of Performing Time 67 cents for NTSC
93 cents for PAL
Cost For "Other" 74 cents for NTSC
$1.02 for PAL

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This video consists of six solo performance segments by Margo Abdo O'Dell. Four of these are in the Egyptian Oriental style, and the other two are fusions of Middle Eastern dance with modern dance and other forms. Throughout the video, Margo is an elegant, charismatic performer. In the Oriental sections, she demonstrates precision technique including complex layering. The fusion segments allow her to explore artistic directions outside the Oriental framework, which she does with fire and passion.

The video opens with a beautiful slide show featuring Orientalist paintings of dancers accompanied by text from a segment of Khalil Gibran's The Wanderer titled "The Dancer" which ends with the statement that the soul of a philosopher resides in his head, the soul of a singer in his throat, and the soul of a dancer resides throughout her entire body. A soft oud taqsim (solo improvisation) plays in the background, providing a suitable background for the poetry and images. This segment runs for about 1 1/2 minutes, and sets the mood for the dancing to come.

The video opens with a medley called Oriental Suite about 8 minutes in length played by the live band with keyboard, percussion, violin, and guitar. For the first song, "Hamama", a strong Saidi beat underlies the melody line played on violin and a keyboard tuned to sound like a rebaba. Margo enters wearing red and gold bedleh (bra/belt/skirt set), carrying a large, silky red veil. She does a wider range of veil movements than most Egyptian style dancers, while remaining true to the nature of Oriental veil entrances. At the conclusion of this song, the band moves into a soft, dreamy taqsim (improvised solo) on violin, which the guitar then takes over. Then the beat picks up and the finale for this section returns to a Saidi rhythm. Margo injects just enough folkloric moves into this section to acknowledge the folk origins of the song, then smoothly returns to Oriental style.

Following a costume change, Margo returns to the stage to perform the 7-minute piece that gives this video its name: Tajdeed ("renewal"). This is my favorite piece on the entire video because to me it feels very powerful and spiritual. In this dance, Margo departs from the intricate technique of Oriental style, and instead performs a fusion piece that draws influence from modern dance, Zambra Mora, and Turkish Rroma (Gypsy). The song by Natacha Atlas alternates between soulful vocals singing in the Arabic mawwal style (improvising) and bright, upbeat segments between. Margo's passionate interpretation makes me feel indeed as though I am viewing the soul of a dancer.

I was so moved by the Tajdeed segment that I asked Margo to tell me how she came to create it. Here is her reply:

Much of my dance career focused on the study and performance of traditional regional dances of the Middle East and North Africa. Pressure for scrupulous authenticity marked the development of Middle Eastern dance in the United States and strongly influenced attitudes toward the dance throughout my career. In Tajdeed, I allowed my dance to undergo a transformation into an artistic style that remains rooted in tradition but one that transcends the limitations of strict ethnic movements and customs. I gave myself permission to bring in my modern dance training as well as influences from other dance styles.

In a contrast to the passionate piece preceding it, Wa Hast Aini returns to the sophisticated Egyptian Oriental style of dance. A man in Saidi garb opens the piece with a cane, works with it a bit, then sings the song. About 3 minutes into it, Margo enters the stage in an evening gown style of costume in black and silver and an elegant updo hairstyle. She plays sagat (finger cymbals) and interacts with the singer throughout her piece. The total segment is about 7 1/2 minutes. I find that having the two on stage together creates an interesting energy change compared to the other pieces on the video.

Desert Dreams appears to be filmed at a separate event. The stage is different, and Margo dances to recorded music instead of live. The style of music and dance is Egyptian, with veil entrance, red/gold bedleh (bra/belt/skirt) costume, and intricate Oriental interpretation. The part of this performance that really stands out for me is Margo's exciting interpretation of a rich drum solo from volume 6 of the Oriental Fantasy CD series. Overall, Desert Dreams is a bright, joyful performance that I very much enjoy watching - probably my favorite of the Oriental segments on this video.

The next piece, In The Fringe, is another interpretive performance, though more strongly tied to Oriental than Tajdeed was earlier. Margo enters with a very long, narrow scarf trailing from her neck, wearing an outfit similar to what a student might wear for a performance - a simple but attractive blouse, full skirt, and coin hip scarf. It's definitely a contrast compared to her glittery Oriental costumes throughout the rest of the video, and it establishes the mood that this is going to be a different kind of dance. This 9-minute set opens with orchestral Egyptian-style music, then moves into a Celtic violin solo. Next comes a moody drum solo by Setrak Sarkissian with some techno embellishments. Margo begins it kneeling on the floor, with ritualistic arm movements that make me think of the zar. She continues using floor work for the opening of the drum solo - something people rarely do, but very effective for this particular music. Gradually, she rises to her feet and completes it standing.

I asked Margo about the artistic origins of In The Fringe, and she replied:

In The Fringe is a continuation of the personal freedom I explored in Tajdeed. The other half of my heritage (not the Lebanese half) is Irish and I was instinctually drawn to the taqsim. The unusual drum solo by Setrak intrigued me because of his own experimentation with his musical form.

The video ends with Raksat Margo, an 11-minute Oriental routine to Egyptian music, in another of Margo's beautiful bedleh costumes. Although her choreography and technique are just as strong in this piece as they are in the earlier performances, the production quality is not quite up to the standard of the earlier segments. The lighting is flat, and the camera's auto-focus seems to have difficulty staying sharp. Frequently throughout this piece, there is an instant of blur before the focus snaps into place. The image quality is still good enough to appreciate Margo's skill as a dancer, but it doesn't show her to best advantage the way the earlier segments do.

For all segments, the performance is presented on a stage in front of a live audience. The filming is done by a single camera placed in the audience, which varies its zoom level just the right amount. At all times, the angle remains far enough out to see Margo's entire body - at times, she fills the frame, and at other times the camera pulls back to show more of the stage. I'm very grateful that her videographer never zooms in too close for me to appreciate overall impact of the dance. At times it might have been nice to zoom just a little closer to show her face and upper body for a better look at her facial expressions, but this is a very minor point. In some pieces, the stage is darkened to set a dramatic mood, but there is always enough light on Margo herself to see the dance.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You enjoy dancers who stay true to the Egyptian style of Oriental, interpreting the orchestral music with complex layering and precision technique.
  • You appreciate well-designed fusion of Middle Eastern dance with other influences.

You Probably Won't Care For This Video If

  • You prefer to watch American Tribal or folkloric style of dance.
  • You don't care for Egyptian-style orchestral music.

In Conclusion

Margo is an elegant dancer who performs Egyptian-style Oriental with her own flair. Her technique is sharp and precise, perfectly joined to the music, and her artistic interpretation captures the joy she finds in dancing. This enjoyable video showcases both her skill with the Oriental style and her creative interpretation of more introspective themes.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • Margo is a talented dancer, both skilled at technique and creative in artistry.
  • Credits at the end identify the music used, including both artists and album names.
  • The camera work is designed to showcase the dancing, and is free of annoying too-close closeups.

What I Didn't Like

  • In the final dance segment, the image frequently blurs for a brief moment as the camera adjusts its auto-focus.

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Margo and I have exchanged occasional e-mail and web site links, but we've never had the opportunity to get to know each other. She sent me a complimentary copy of this video to review for my web site.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Margo Abdo O'Dell as follows:

Margo Abdo O'Dell
Center for the Performing Arts
3754 Pleasant Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55409

Phone: (+1) (612) 239-9004
E-Mail: margo@margo1.com
Web Site: www.margo1.com

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