What The Show Was Like
This video was produced by a Lebanese musician named Raja
Zahr who lived in southern California at the time, and it was
designed to showcase performances to music he composed and/or
arranged. Raja selected three different dancers (Delilah, Malika,
and Shahira) to interpret his music, each in her own unique style.
Over the years, I've heard some fellow dancers say that they
buy only videos featuring dancers that they've heard have a reputation
for being very skilled. These people believe that this will protect
them from wasting their money on garbage. This video demonstrates
that this is not a safe strategy - even highly talented dancers
sometimes appear on crappy videos.
Of the three performers, Delilah was the only one I really
enjoyed. She delivered a solid performance on each of her numbers,
and interacted with the camera just as capably as if it were
a live audience.
Shahira seemed to be struggling with performing in front of
a camera rather than a live audience - her stage presence came
across as apathetic. Malika seemed to rely on a pouty seductive
attitude combined with an athletic "see what I can do with
my high kicks" style for her presentation. Although from
a technical perspective, both Shahira and Malika were competent
at executing the moves, the performances by both of them felt
empty to me.
But even Delilah's performances were ruined by the editing
that was done on this video. Some fool seemed to think that the
dancing wasn't interesting enough in its own right, so he (and
yes, I'm sure it was a male - women typically don't get this
carried away with their technology toys) started embellishing
it with a bizarre portfolio of special effects. The video managed
to fit all the following into just 36 minutes of dance performance
- Image of dancer shrinks to make room for a brightly-colored
frame with an oval center to surround her and fill 1/3 of the
- Camera angles placing the dancer at a diagonal.
- Camera angles looking up at the dancer from below (and catching
a leering glimpse of her butt cheeks when she spun).
- Camera angles filling the screen with breasts, belly and
- Bizarre dithering effect outlining Malika and her veils
- Background constantly changing color
- Swapping back and forth between indoor filming of Shahira
on the stage and outdoor filming of her (outlined in the ever-ready
oval frame) in a different costume
- Twelve flourescent green blobs (three rows, four per row)
superimposed over Shahira that ooze into varying shapes while
she dances behind them
- A second image of Shahira superimposed over the first
- Strobe effect switching between two different camera angles
of Shahira until I felt at risk of having a seizure
- A return to the wonderfully artistic oval frame, this time
with horizontal green lines inside it covering up Shahira, as
if I were a voyeur peering through the blinds of the auditorum
where she was dancing
- A split camera image that showed two identical images of
Delilah on screen at the same time while she danced.
- That split camera image superimposed over a third image of
Delilah wearing a different costume
The content of the video included the following dance performances:
- Hayati. Performed by Delilah. A solid belly dancing
performance in beautiful green bra/belt/skirt costume. About
3 minutes long.
- Misty Cloud. Performed by Malika. Nearly the whole
time, the camera stayed focused on her head and shoulders. At
one point, she poured water into a glass and balanced it on her
head. The camera failed to pull back to show her descent to the
floor, although once she got there it did a somewhat better
job of showing some of her actual dancing, but still made it
difficult to see what she was doing. About 2 minutes long.
- Drum Solo. Performed by Delilah. About 3 1/2 minutes
- Careless Flame. Performed by Malika. One of the worst
offenders in the excessive special effects department. This was
the one that used all the bizarre dithering to blur the outline
around Malika and her veils, and flashed between different colors
of background. About 4 1/2 minutes long, which was much too long
to sit through all those special effects.
- Ancient Memories. Performed by Delilah and Shahira,
but most of the time the camera emphasized Delilah. It rarely
showed both on-camera at once. Both dancers used canes, and both
wore baladi dresses. Delilah's dress was slit all the way up
to the hips, while the height of Shahira's slit was a bit more
modest. About 3 minutes long.
- Shamoosi. Performed by Shahira. This one alternated
between two different views of Shahira - part of the time she
was indoors performing on the stage. The rest of the time she
was performing in a different costume outdoors somewhere. This
is also the section where the oozing green blobs were superimposed
over her on screen. About 4 minutes long.
- Talaa. Performed by Malika. The slits in her circle
skirt were arranged to show as much leg as possible, and I was
certain that any minute I'd be seeing what my grandmother used
to call "the bird's nest". At one point, she performed
a slow backbend from a standing position all the way down to
the floor. I was very impressed by the flexibility and
control that enabled her to do it, but unfortunately her widely-straddled
legs made it look more awkward than elegant. She did several
high kicks worthy of any Rockette or Ziegfeld Follies girl. About
5 1/2 minutes long.
- Ah Ya Zein. Performed by Shahira. At times, a shot
of her from one angle was superimposed over a shot of her from
another angle, therefore making it nearly impossible to tell
what she was doing. At another point, the on-screen image flashed
back and forth from one angle to the other, at the speed of a
strobe light. Then the infamous oval frame appeared, and inserted
its bright green horizontal bars so I could feel like a voyeur
peering between the slats of hideous green blinds to see the
show. Overall, quite annoying. About 5 minutes long.
- Midnight Promises. Performed by Delilah. The poor
editor must have been so exhausted after making a mess of Shahira's
performance to Ah Ya Zein that he no longer had the strength
to put the title for this segment on-screen. I had to wait until
the summary in the closing credits to figure out which song this
was. But then he must have gotten a second wind, because he returned
to his old games. First came a series where the identical same
image of Delilah appeared twice on screen, then that was superimposed
over footage of her dancing in a different costume. About 3 1/2
- A Drummer & a Dancer. Performed by Malika. About
2 1/2 minutes long.
Mercifully, this was followed by the closing credits.
You Will Probably Like This Video If
- You're more interested in seeing what can be done with fancy-shmancy
special effects than you are in watching dance.
- You're a man who thinks belly dancers are really sexy and
you'd like to see a video that offers many glimpses of butt cheeks.
- You're so enthusiastic about watching dancing by Delilah,
Malika, or Shahira that you would like even a crappy video that
- You're enthusiastic about the music on Raja Zahr's "Dance
Illusion" album and you'd like to watch a video of performances
based on this music.
You Probably Won't Care For This Video If
- You actually want to see what the dancing looks like.
- You prefer to watch classical Egyptian-style dancing.
- You're not particularly fond of Raja's musical fusion style.
The idiot who edited this video was more interested in playing
with the special effects tools in his toybox than he was in creating
a good video of dancing, and the cameraman seemed to spend most
of his time shooting upward from below the stage so he could
catch a glimpse of people's butt cheeks. Delilah's performances
sparkled, but even she couldn't rescue this mess. Malika's performances
showcased her flexibility and athleticism, but not her understanding
of Middle Eastern dance - she came across as a jazz dancer who
had added shimmies and undulations to her jazz style. Shahira's
mind seemed to be somewhere else, even though her dancing was
technically competent. On a more positive note, Raja's dramatic
compositions provide an interesting change of pace from typical
Middle Eastern music. Overall, I don't recommend this one.