Egyptian Dancing
With Hilary Thacker, Volume 3

A Video Review By Shira

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

The promotional information for this video identifies it as instruction for advanced dancers. However, the actual content is primarily a performance video showing Hilary Thacker dancing to Egyptian music. It includes some instruction, including a warm-up, a little information about various Egyptian rhythms, and beginning finger cymbals.

Why I gave it 3 stars:

  • It offers some ideas on dancing to Egyptian music, using songs that illustrate various rhythms.
  • Although postioned as an instructional video, it was more focused on performances, so its mission wasn't entirely clear.

To purchase this video from Amazon:

Item in U.S. in Canada in United Kingdom

DVD Edition U.S.
Not offered U.K.
VHS Tape Edition Not offered Not offered U.K.

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What Users Think

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The Chart

Recommended Level Intermediate
Formats Available NTSC, PAL
Overall Rating StarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 60:48 minutes
Performance Time 39:47 minutes (65%)
Teaching Time 10:23 minutes (17%)
Music Demo Time 8:29 minutes (14%)
Amount Of "Other" 2:09 minutes (4%)
Choreography No
Cultural Information No
Music Education Yes
Health Issues No
Number Of Models 1
List Price $29.00 for NTSC (in U.S.)
18.95£ for PAL (in U.K.)
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 49 cents (NTSC, U.S.),
32 Pence (PAL, U.K.)
Cost For "Other" $1.16 (NTSC, U.S.),
76 Pence (PAL, U.K.)

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This video is primarily oriented toward showcasing Oriental dance performances by Hilary Thacker to Egyptian music, with a small amount of instructional information included. Throughout the video, she is accompanied by live music played by Haggag Metqal on tabla (dumbek), Essam El-Matrawi on douf (frame drum), and Al-Gamal El-Saghir on keyboard.

Generally speaking, it seemed that this video couldn't make up its mind whether it was an instructional video or a performance video. The vast bulk of it consisted of performances by Hilary to Egyptian music, but the warm-up and the finger cymbals section were clearly instructional in nature, and Hilary did include a small amount of rhythm information and voice-over comments on suggested ways to dance to certain musical structures. In reflecting on the video's content, I concluded that it's really a performance video with some instruction.

After about a minute of opening titles, this video began with Hilary leading a 3-minute dance warm-up. The assumption was that the viewer already knew how to do the basic moves (which is appropriate to the fact that this video is aimed at more experienced dancers), and Hilary showed how to construct a warm-up using those moves. I was a little frustrated with the camera work in this section, because the camera didn't always show me what I needed to see. For example, at one point Hilary said to do "Egyptian arms", and the camera focused on her torso instead of showing me what arm movement I was supposed to be copying.

Next came the primary "meat" of the video: a tour of four typical Egyptian musical rhythms, including whada kebira, maqsoum, Saaidi, and fellahi. For each rhythm, Hilary offered some opening comments to introduce it, then there was a segment slightly longer than 2 minutes in which the two drummers played just the rhythm, then a longer segment in which the band played a full-length song and Hilary performed to it. These performance segments ranged in length from about 3 minutes to 6 minutes. Altogether, this rhythm demonstration section occupied about 1/2 hour.

I was a bit disappointed by the rhythm instruction. Hilary's voice-over identifies which time signature each rhythm is in (8/4, 2/4, 4/4, 2/2), and in some cases identifies which beats are used for the accents. As a person with extensive musical training, I understood what she was saying, but I didn't feel it was sufficient information for me to really understand the rhythm that the musicians then demonstrated. A person who has never learned how to read music would have been totally lost by the description that was provided. For those of us with the ability to read music, it would have been helpful to see musical notes on the screen showing the rhythm in terms of half notes, quarter notes, etc. For those who have not had such training, it might have been nice if Hilary had used spoken words to identify what to listen for in the music, such as "dun tek, tek dun dun tek" for Saaidi. When the drummers actually played the rhythm to demonstrate it, both played competently, but right from the beginning Metqal played complex variations and embellishments on his dumbek that masked the underlying rhythm. For someone new to the rhythm, it would have been confusing to pick out what the fundamental sound was. His playing was enjoyable for listening, but not useful as rhythmic instruction.

When each rhythm's demonstration ended, Hilary then did a dance performance to an Egyptian song that used that rhythm. Typically, at the beginning of each such performance Hilary's voice-over made some useful remarks about how to dance to that rhythm. But after about 10-15 seconds of such remarks, there was very little commentary for the rest of the dance. You could watch the dancing and figure out some step combinations to use on your own with that rhythm, but if that's what I wanted to do I'd probably prefer to work with a video starring one of the famous Egyptian dancers such as Nagwa Fouad or Sohair Zaki. This video would have been much stronger as an instructional video if Hilary had taught 2 or 3 step combinations for each rhythm before doing her performance of it.

Following the rhythm instruction section, Hilary then does a 4-minute performance to a song called Nassa. She instructs the viewer to improvise to it, then proceeds to do exactly that herself.

I was puzzled by the 7-minute finger cymbal section. The back cover of this video positions it as an instructional video for advanced dancers, and yet the finger cymbal instruction was at the same introductory level as what I teach my brand-new beginners in their second class. Such beginning cymbals seemed out of place on a video that was supposed to be aimed at advanced-level dancers. Hilary teaches two basic sounds: "tinging" (which I call "ring"), and "clicking" (which I call "musted"). She then demonstrates how to use each of these sounds with three different cymbal rhythms: 3's, roll, and 3-3-7, showing each of these slowly at first, then faster.

I was frustrated by the sound in the finger cymbal section. When I had the volume on my television adjusted to the correct level for Hilary's explanations, I had to strain to hear the cymbals. If I turned the volume up loud enough to hear the cymbals, then Hilary's voice was much too loud when she resumed speaking.

The video ends with a segment titled "Baladi", which is a 16-minute performance that begins with Egyptian-style veil opening and moves on to a masmoudi section, a maqsoum section, a drum solo, and a finalé.

Throughout the video, Hilary demonstrates a comfort level with Egyptian music and rhythms. In the performance segments, she consistently dances to the music. Her arm gestures are based on the confined close-to-the-body Oriental style of arms, rather than the ballet-influenced extension-oriented arm poses used by most U.S. dancers. In doing so, she was true to the Egyptian styling of the dance she was performing, but at times I found her constantly-moving arms to be a bit busy for my taste.

The closing titles run for about a minute.

As an instructional video, this one doesn't quite work because it doesn't contain enough explanation to provide much guidance to the student working with it. As a performance video, it doesn't quite work because there's not enough variety from one segment to the next to hold a viewer's attention all the way through to the end.

It's disappointing, because Hilary clearly understands this music and knows how to dance to it. She could have produced a valuable instructional video if she had offered more explanations, because the information that she does provide in her voice-over tips is always interesting and appropriate. Similarly, with her ability to dance to the music she could have done a fine entertainment video if she had focused on the things that hold audience attention such as varying costuming, scenery, and prop from one dance to the next.

You're likely to enjoy this video if:

  • You have a passion for Egyptian music.
  • You'd like to become more familiar with some typical Egyptian rhythms.
  • You're looking for a video showcasing performances to Egyptian music, with some tips on how to handle certain rhythms.

This video is probably not right for you if:

  • You're looking for a video that provides suggested step combinations for Egyptian music.
  • You already know basic finger cymbals technique and you're ready to learn more advanced skills.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • Hilary demonstrates an understanding of Egyptian music and its rhythms.
  • Hilary's performances were competent, choosing appropriate moves to do to each of the rhythms. She demonstrates well how to dance to Egyptian music.
  • The video illustrates how to dance to a variety of different Egyptian rhythms, including whada kebira, maqsoum, saaidi, and fellahi.
  • The instructional comments gave appropriate advice.

What I Didn't Like

  • The purpose of this video wasn't entirely clear to me. The back of the video's cover led me to believe that the intent was to provide education to advanced-level dancers, but there wasn't very much instruction, and the finger cymbal section was taught at a beginning level.
  • I had some frustrations with the sound quality. I needed to consistently adjust the sound on my television. If I increased the volume to clearly hear Hilary's voice as she introduced a rhythm, then the demonstration of that rhythm by the musicians was much too loud in comparison.
  • The lighting was not very good. The overall effect of the too-dim lighting was to make the video seem a bit dull, visually speaking.
  • Hilary wore the same costume for every performance segment. Although it was a very nice costume, the performances would have been far more striking if she had worn different costumes for each segment.

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Movements Included

  • Warm-Ups: 8 (stretch arm in air, side-to-side undulation, snake arms, reverse vertical figure 8, head slides, hip circles, rib cage circles, large full-body circles)
  • Finger Cymbals: 3 Rhythms (Threes, Roll, 3-3-7)

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In Conclusion

You may find that the instruction in Egyptian musical rhythms will help you understand Egyptian music better. You can listen to each rhythm as it is introduced, listen to hear it in the song being played, and carefully watch the moves Hilary does to it. If you've never worked with finger cymbals before, this video provides some good fundamental information. But the level of instruction on this video was not as strong as it was on Hilary's first one.

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Reviews of Other Videos by this Artist/Instructor

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

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Hilary and I have exchanged web site links for a few years. 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

To purchase this video from Amazon:

Item in U.S. in Canada in United Kingdom

DVD Edition U.S.
Not offered U.K.
VHS Tape Edition Not offered Not offered U.K.

Or, contact Hilary in the U.K. as follows:

Hilary Thacker
8, Bellevue Terrace
Edinburgh EH7 4DT
United Kingdom

Web Site:

Or, contact Donna Carlton (Hilary's U.S. agent) as follows:

International Dance Discovery
P.O. Box 893
Bloomington, IN 47402-0893

Phone: (+1) (812) 330-1831
Web Site:

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