What The Performances Are Like
This collection of belly dance performances features several
professional-level dancers from the New York area, including
Jenna, Blanca, Neon, and Jehan. Some of the performances utilize
music played onscreen by a live band named Taksim, while others
use pre-recorded music created by Jehan. The dance segments,
in order, include:
- Jenna. Length is 4:18. Song is Nassim Alayna El Hawa
played in the Egyptian big-orchestra style. Dance style is inspired
by Egyptian with strong Westernized influence (kicks, spins,
extensive use of arm movements as the focus).
- Blanca. Length is 3:12. Song is Enter the Temple by
Jehan, which has a techno flavor. Dance style is interpretive
based on belly dance vocabulary. Begins with Blanca descending
a dark candle-lit staircase, holding a candle in each hand and
doing some Pharaonic-style arm moves. She then sets the candles
aside and continues dancing without them.
- Blanca. Length is 4:07. Song is Oceans of Ecstasy
by Jehan. The dance style, although based on belly dancing, feels
very jazz-inspired with large, bold movements. I find I'm not
too fond of the rapid veil work - she seems to be whipping it
- Neon. Length is 3:40. Song is Sacred Ground by Jehan,
which has a rapping quality. Neon performs an interpretive style
of dance with a jazzy flavor. Her green costume includes leafy
fabric effects on the sleeves and skirt which complement the
music and the dance moves she does. The lyrics say, "Take
me to that sacred ground and let my heart be free."
- Jenna. Length is 4:06. Song is Lama Bada, a classic
Arabic piece played live onscreen by Taksim. Jenna confidently
delivers a beautifully improvised performance to a rhythm (10/8)
that most dancers find quite challenging.
- Neon. Length is 4:30. Song is Again and Again by Jehan,
which has a strong techno flavor. Neon's dance style is flamboyant
- Blanca. Length is 4:49. Enter the Temple, which is
different from the earlier Enter the Temple. Music by Jehan.
Blanca's costume evokes a priestess flavor, with a simple bra
top and full chiffon skirt. But I'm puzzled by her decision to
wear a bulgy diaper-shaped undergarment under a sheer full skirt
- it distracts from the elegant line of her movements. Blanca's
dance begins with standing undulations, then moves into floor
work. Her kneeling backbends are strong and confident.
- Jenna. Length is 3:29. She performs to a live percussion
solo played by the band Taksim. The piece begins with some playful
interactions between Jenna and the musicians that truly capture
the experience of working with a live band. It's fun to watch,
and makes the viewer feel more involved.
- Jenna & Blanca. Length is 3:47. Poem of the Sword,
a duet performed to live music with Taksim to slow chiftetelli
music. They begin each holding two swords draped under a veil.
After some initial poses, they discard the veils and do a series
of poses with the two swords. They then discard the extra swords,
each balancing her remaining one, and finish the duet with balancing.
- Neon. Length is 3:21. Song is Bellydancer by Jehan.
Neon's interpretation is fun-loving and playful as the lyrics
chant, "Feel sexy as your sweat drips down your face to
your secret place, down your neck, down your belly, down your
thighs to your secret place."
- Jehan. Length is 8:36. Song is 21st Century Priestess
by Jehan. She performs an improvised dance to it, incorporating
a veil into part of it. It consists mostly of belly dance moves
but Jehan's training in classical dance is apparent in her limb
extensions such as kick turns. Her belly dance technique shows
years of training and experience in this dance form, with delicate
shimmies layered over undulations, shifting the focus from one
area to another with ease. She dances with passion to lyrics
such as "My body is the temple where flesh and spirit unite,
dance is my prayer". This performance is very uninhibited,
with a celebration of female sexuality that stays on the artistic
side of the line but may challenge viewers who prefer less frankness.
- Souren Baronian, Haig Manoukian, and Mal Stein. Taksim
Trio. Length is 6:04. This segment spotlights the band Taksim
in a jam session. With no dancers to distract, the camera can
linger on the musicians themselves and show how they work together
as a band. It's possible to see the subtle interactions between
them as they cue each other for transitions.
For those not familiar with Jehan's music, she is a poet/lyricist
and composer who creates music with a very modern sound. Much
of it embraces a New Age temple theme, with fusions of world
beats, techno, and rapping.
The music played by the band Taksim has a strong Turkish folk
music flavor with a touch of jazz, played on oud, clarinet, and
percussion. It makes me want to jump out of my seat and start
folk dancing. Their jam session is particularly entertaining
because they're not constrained by the need to stay with rhythms
that are familiar to dancers, giving them the freedom to explore
some of the regional rhythms of Asia Minor that aren't normally
used for belly dancing.
The dancers are all professional-quality performers with a
strong foundation in dance technique and performing skills. For
example, Jenna's spins are strong and confident, Blanca's spots
are precise and on the mark, Neon projects a playful stage personality
that invites the viewer to join in the fun, and Jehan's dance
to her own music captures the passion of that music. Although
their dances are based primarily on a foundation of Middle Eastern
movement vocabulary, all fuse it with a Westernized, limb-oriented
dance style with extensive focus on the arms and footwork/kicks
(as opposed to a more Oriental core-focused style). All of the
dancers have done an effective job of choosing costumes that
match well with how they dance, such as Jenna's mermaid-style
velvet dress with chiffon gores that open like the petals of
a flower as she spins in the opening song.
The dancers also represent different body types from Jenna's
slim silhouette to Neon's athletic well-muscled form to Jehan's
full-figured curves. Each shows how beautifully and femininely
her own body type can move.
Artistically speaking, the dancers are skilled at the style
they choose to do, but appreciation of art is always a matter
of the viewer's taste. People who prefer a more traditional interpretation
of Oriental dance, with Middle Eastern music, movement vocabulary,
and stage persona, would probably not find these performances
to their liking, but those who prefer a Westernized influence
probably will enjoy it.
The production work on the video is beautifully done. It utilizes
just enough artistic effects such as overlay and dissolve to
set a mood at the beginning of each dance, but stays true to
the purpose of showing dance, first and foremost. "Artistic"
camera angles are used in ways that enhance the viewer's ability
to see the dance, such as shooting down from above during Blanca's
kneeling backbend. These effects are woven subtly into the presentation
in a way that feels natural to what the dancer is doing, and
they are sparingly used. Transitions from one camera angle to
another match transitions in the music and dance, so they seem
to blend into the overall effect rather than intruding.
All of the performances done to pre-recorded music take place
on a darkened set. I usually cringe when I see such mood lighting
on a video because brunette hair and dark costume colors tend
to blend into the black background, but Golden Apple's lighting
technicians got it right. On this video, even the brunette hair
colors are still clearly distinguished from the black background.
The performances to the band Taksim all occur on a brightly-lit,
attractively-decorated set. In the flow of the video program,
these segments are interspersed with the pre-recorded pieces,
which introduces enough change in both musical style and visual
effect to hold my attention all the way through.
The DVD authoring allows the viewer to access the dance scenes
through various paths. "Play all" shows all the performances
consecutively, and the "Chapter" menu allows the viewer
to jump directly to the desired performance. Submenus for each
of the dancers and the band make it possible to focus on the
performances, photos, and biography of favorite artists. The
viewer can opt to enable the subtitles track to see the song
titles and lyrics onscreen throughout the program. There are
some minor problems with the DVD authoring. For example, pressing
the "Disc menu" button on my remote control when viewing
Blanca's sub-menu doesn't return me to the top menu as I would
The video is designed for viewing on one of the newer widescreen
television sets. Viewers with a traditionally-sized television
set will see the images in letterbox, meaning dark margins above
and below the image. On the pre-recorded music segments with
the darkened set, the letterbox effect is barely noticeable because
the dark background blends with the margins.
You Will Probably Like This Video If
- You're comfortable with belly dance performances that deviate
from traditional Middle Eastern music and movement vocabulary.
- You like to see belly dance portrayed with a sense of sophistication.
- You enjoy seeing belly dance performed to New Age and techno
styles of music.
- You like seeing interpretive dance built on a belly dance
- You enjoy watching fusion of Western dance forms such as
jazz with belly dance.
- You prefer to see belly dance interpreted with a Western
theatrical, expansive style of dance with large limb moves (kicks,
focus on the arms) rather than the more Oriental internal focus
and core-oriented moves.
You Probably Won't Care For This Video If
- You prefer Egyptian, folkloric, or Tribal style of dance.
- You don't care for belly dance performances done to music
that's not Middle Eastern.
- You would be uncomfortable with musical lyrics celebrating
Goddess, temple, and priestess themes.
All of the dancers perform at a professional level of technique,
with a jazzy, expansive style. If you like a Westernized style
of belly dance with strong jazz influence based on original musical
compositions, then you'll probably enjoy the performances on
this video. If your artistic taste runs to more of an Egyptian,
folkloric, or Tribal style of music and dance, this collection
might not be right for you.