The Golden Apple:
Belly Dance Stars of New York

A Performance Video Review By Shira

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Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

Summary

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

Jenna, Blanca, Neon, and Jehan, all from New York, offer a collection of 11 belly dance performances. Some are accompanied by live music played by the band Taksim, others by pre-recorded music. There is also a jam session of the musicians, without any dancers.

Cover

To purchase this video from Amazon:

Item

Amazon.com in U.S.

Amazon.ca in Canada

Amazon.co.uk in United Kingdom

DVD Edition U.S.
NTSC
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Canada
NTSC
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Not offered

To my knowledge, this video has never been released on VHS tape.

(Amazon's claim that the DVD version is Region 1 is wrong. Amazon doesn't offer a way for sellers to indicate that their DVD's support multiple regions, so they're forced to pick just one. I have personally tested this DVD and found it to enable all regions except region 9 for cruise ships and airplanes.)

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

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 The Golden Apple: Bellydance Stars of New York, produced by Neon?
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 March 13, 2005.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

The Chart

Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStar
Total Video Length 57:18
Performance Time 54:59 (96%)
Amount Of "Other" 2:19 minutes (4%)
List Price $14.98
Cost Per Minute Of Performing Time 27 cents
Cost For "Other" 61 cents

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

Description

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 madly about.
  • 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 and jazzy.
  • 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 have expected.

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 movement vocabulary.
  • 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.

In Conclusion

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.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • Each of the performers offers a professional quality of dance technique and performance artistry.
  • The video uses live musicians for some pieces.
  • The dancing is filmed at a couple of different sites.
  • The production makes tasteful use of artistic video effects without being intrusive.
  • It's possible to enable subtitles that introduce each piece with the song title, and display the lyrics as the performance proceeds.

What I Didn't Like

  • The subtitles introducing each piece don't include the dancer's name, only the information about the music.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

Reviews of Other Videos by these Artists

If you'd like to read my reviews of other works featuring the artists appearing in this video, choose from the list below.

Instructional by Neon:

Workouts by Neon:

Other performances by the dancers featured on this video:

Show Produced by Jehan:

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

Disclosures

I have never had any contact with Jenna, Blanca, or the members of the band Taksim. I have previously reviewed several videos including instruction, performances, or workouts led by Neon. Neon sent me a complimentary copy of the DVD used for this review.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

To purchase this video from Amazon:

Item

Amazon.com in U.S.

Amazon.ca in Canada

Amazon.co.uk in United Kingdom

DVD Edition U.S.
NTSC
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Canada
NTSC
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Not offered

To my knowledge, this video has never been released on VHS tape.

(Amazon's claim that the DVD version is Region 1 is wrong. Amazon doesn't offer a way for sellers to indicate that their DVD's support multiple regions, so they're forced to pick just one. I have personally tested this DVD and found it to enable all regions except region 9 for cruise ships and airplanes.)

Or, contact World Dance New York as follows:
Email: video@worlddancenewyork.com
Web Site: www.worlddancenewyork.com

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

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