Riverside Dance Festival

A Performance Video Review By Shira

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

This video records a 1986 dance concert consisting of folkloric dances from the Middle East and North Africa. Except for guest star Sergio, the performers are members of the dance company known as Morocco and the Casbah Experience, based in New York City. It offers an excellent sampler of assorted dances from the region, with ethnically-appropriate costuming and traditional music. At 2 hours in length, the show offers a satisfying value for the money.


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The Chart

Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStar
Total Video Length 2:00:16
Performance Time 116:44 (97%)
Amount Of "Other" 3:32 minutes (3%)
List Price $40.00
Cost Per Minute Of Performing Time 34 cents
Cost For "Other" $1.20

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What The Show Was Like

This concert features folkloric dances from Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, and the Arabian peninsula, performed by Morocco and the Casbah Dance Experience with guest star Sergio. Only two of the dances are Oriental style (i.e., "belly dance") - everything else is folkloric in nature.

The performances included on this video consist of:

  • Fella/Fellaha. Features music by Metkal Kanawi, done in the folkloric style of the Said (Upper Egypt). Performed by Tarik abd-el Malik, Djinii, Anisa, Leora, Suzanna, Shashi, Varvara, and Zanna. Portrays a fickle young man looking for love among the local women. About 8 minutes.
  • Raks al Assaya. The women's cane dance from the Said is performed by Fatima and Danita. About 3 minutes.
  • Folkloric Karsilama. Turkish village dance performed by Zanna Lanfray, Suzanna, Varvara, and Leora. Portrays four sisters celebrating the engagement of the youngest. About 6 1/2 minutes.
  • Saidi Women's Dance. Music used is Tfarrak al Helawa by Metkal Kanawi. Solo dance by Anisa. About 3 minutes.
  • Crooked Camel. Playful fusion of 20th-century swing dance and Oriental. Performed by Djinii, Morocco, and Leora. About 7 minutes.
  • Ottoman Odalisque. Sad, meditative song, quiet mood. Solo dance by Fatima. About 6 1/2 minutes.
  • Saudi Women's Dance. Done to the song Aba'ad. Performed by four dancers, Djinii, Suzanna, Leora, and Varvara wearing the Saudi-style embroidered thobes. About 5 1/2 minutes in length.
  • Moroccan Tray Dance. Solo performed by Sergio to the 10/8 song Lama Bada Yata Thanna. Around the time he balanced the tray with lit candles on his foot my attention was glued to the screen. About 4 minutes.
  • Schikhatt. Seven dancers perform this traditional Moroccan pre-wedding dance. Performers include Leora, Suzanna, Zanna, Djinii, Anisa, Shashi, and Varvara. About 7 minutes in length.
  • Raks al Chemodan. Morocco performs this traditional Egyptian wedding dance, wearing a tall candelabrum. About 10 minutes.
  • Hagallah. Seven dancers perform this traditional Egyptian dance, including Danita, Suzanna, Zanna, Leora, Anisa, Fatima, and Shashi.
  • Guedra: Benediction & Betrothal. This was the only dance on the video that disappointed me, because the lighting was so dim that I couldn't make out what the people on stage were doing. This segment consists of two dances: the ancient trance dance of blessing from the "Blue People" of Morocco, and the Tissint Betrothal Dance (also Moroccan). Despite my disappointment in the lighting, I appreciated the opening narrative comments introducing this segment that described a bit about the dance. About 12 minutes.
  • Raks Sharki, Male Dancer. Sergio performs an Oriental style ("belly dancing") solo. About 12 1/2 minutes. He is a skilled dancer, and an excellent role model for other men who are interested in Oriental dance.
  • Tunisian Women's Dance. Performed by Leora, Zanna, Varvara, Suzanna, Djinii, Shashi, Danita, and Anisa. About 6 minutes.
  • Raks Sharki, Female. Morocco closes the show with an Oriental style solo. About 21 minutes.

For the curtain call, the dancers re-enter the stage wearing costumes from earlier scenes in the show, and as each comes forward to bow, s/he does so using moves in the style of the dance represented by the costume being worn. This offers an enjoyable brief review of the overall show.

As the closing credits roll, Morocco performs an additional Oriental dance in the background behind the credits.

Generally speaking, the production quality is "good enough". Except for the Guedra/Tissint piece, the lighting is always sufficient to see the dancing. At times, when the camera either zooms in or zooms out, the image is blurry for a second or two until the auto-focus resets itself. I found it refreshing to watch a video in which the camera does not excessively zoom in for too-tight close-ups. The camera's level of zoom does vary enough to hold interest, but the angles always stay back far enough to see the dance. At times, a slightly tighter zoom might have been welcome in order to take a closer look at the costume details, but this was a minor point for me.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You don't know much yet about folkloric dances of the Middle East and North Africa, and you're looking for an informative video that will offer an enjoyable introduction.
  • You have taken some classes in folkloric dances from this region, and you would appreciate a video that shows them in a well-produced performance setting.
  • You would like to learn something of the ethnic and cultural context underlying Middle Eastern dances.
  • You are specifically interested in finding videos featuring performances by talented African-American dancers. Several of the artists on this video would qualify.
  • You would like to see an Oriental dance ("belly dance") performance by a skillful male dancer.
  • You're enthusiastic about one of the artists featured on this video and you would enjoy seeing that individual in a performance.

You Probably Won't Care For This Video If

  • What you really want is a "belly dancing" video featuring performers wearing midriff-baring nightclub costumes. Only two of the numbers on this video are Oriental dance - everything else is folkloric.

In Conclusion

If you're interested in folkloric dance forms from the Middle East and North Africa, this video would be an excellent choice. For people who know very little about folk dances from this region, the on-screen titles and printed program that comes with the video offer an educational introduction. For those who already appreciate dances from this region, the well-produced show presents them effectively. The choreography adheres closely to the traditional dances, and the lineup is well structured with varying energy levels and contrasts from one dance to the next to hold attention. The music is traditional (some recorded "over there"), and the costuming ethnically appropriate to each dance.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The video offers a very informative introduction to folkloric dances. Each dance is introduced with an on-screen title identifying the dance's name and the region it comes from, and the video comes with a printed program that provides some background about each dance.
  • The show is structured in a way that alternates between high-energy pieces and mellower numbers. This use of contrast holds audience attention better than a show that maintains a constant energy level would.
  • In their native community settings, folk dances are often repetitious and therefore not exciting to watch. On this video, the choreography does an excellent job of retaining the folkloric essence of the dances while staging them in a way that is interesting to watch.
  • Only one of the performances is a fusion of folklore with Western influences, and that number is clearly identified as such in both the program and the on-screen introduction. Everything else adheres closely to the original dance's flavor.
  • The camera work is intelligently done. The camera operator has the good sense to avoid showing tight close-ups of people's faces or hips, but does vary the angle enough to hold my attention.

What I Didn't Like

  • On the Guedra/Tissint section, the lighting was too dim. I had difficulty seeing what the people on stage were doing. Fortunately, the problem applied only to this one number. The rest of the video was fine.

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Reviews of Other Videos by Morocco

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

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Morocco and I have been friends since about 1998, and I have been an admirer of her dance research work since the mid-1980's.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Morocco as follows:

Casbah Dance Experience
6 West 20th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10011

Web Site: www.casbahdance.org
E-Mail: morocco@casbahdance.org

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