DVD Review:American Belly Dance Legends Vol 1

Produced 2009 by Amaya Productions, www.maria.amaya.com

Review by Ma*Shuqa Mira Murjan

 For many dancers long since retired and those still in the dance, this video is a trip down Memory Lane and insight into the lives, careers, and performances of some of the great professionals of this dance. It’s important for all professional dancers to know the rich history and details of the development of this dance across America.Whenever a dancer considers a video purchase, the product must answer the questions:Why should I purchase this video?What’s in it for me?This video provides answers to some of these unique questions.

FAQs of our dance genre that make our dance history so rich:1.What dancer started the “tribal style” of dance?2.Which dancer performed as a gypsy dancer in the Spanish movie “King of Kings”?3.Who was the first American dancer to perform with the Banat Maazin?4.Which dancer appeared in movies and performances with the famous: Josephine Baker, Samia Gamal, Tahia Carioka, Nagwa Fouad and Sohair Zaki?5.Who was the first dancer to adopt Egyptian Assuitfabric for costuming?

6.Which dancer was recognized for teaching and given the Award of Honor by Governor Ronald Reagan?7.Which dancer was inspired to dance after watching Rita Hayworth dance in the movie “Salome”? 8.Dancers from what country were observed performing with “pots balanced on their heads” and initiated the inclusion of the “sword dance” in American belly dance?9.Which dancer was a former “MissSonomaCounty”?10.Which legendary dancers were members of “Bal Anat dance troupe”?11.What band has a ballet composition named after it?12.What dancer starred in Las Vegasproductions?13.Which dancer received a degree from the Boston Conservatory of Music?14.Who was mentored by Adriana and invited to dance at Port Said in Washington, DC? 15.What dancer made body jewelry for rock star Jimmy Hendrix?16.Who first codified and forever changed the face of this dance?17.Who was called the “Valentino of Dance”?18.Who starred in “Shadows on Silk” a documentary in the Gehman Library Collection in Washington, DC?This video is a must have for all serious students of Oriental Dance, Teachers of Raks Sharki, Ethnic Dance Studios and Fans of Belly Dance.Amaya says, “To know your dance history is to know your craft.”“American Belly Dance Legends” features the dance pioneers that started the Belly Dance movement in the United Statesfeatures the Greats in our dance world. Viewing this DVD with a learned eye is important to appreciate what you are watching. Improvisation may be deceivingly simple.However, look more carefully and you will observe the finer points of improvisational performance.Improv mirrors the music and feeling of the dance through the subtle movement, grace, flair, and a personal dramatic style that is oftentimes lacking in choreographed dancing. Whereas a beautifully choreographed performance looks great – unfortunately, it may leave the audience wanting more when they see the same choreography performed exactly the same way a second, third, or fourth time.That is the beauty of what Amaya has captured in this video---those truly special and inspiring improvisational performances by great icons of the dance.The performances are short and the biographical information more extensive – giving the viewer an understanding of the development of this art form in America that later spread from America to Europe. Most of the dance videos shown are nightclub improvisational style for a close and personal audience – a totally different animal from today’s choreographed dances performed on large theatre stages. And yet, this DVD captures the "in-person, you had to be there to see/feel it" dynamics of great performances by master teachers and professionals.This project has both the historical look of "old movies" and the feeling of being in the audience viewing the performance.Unfortunately with some Legends there are really no videos available as their “hey day” was when video was not yet available (e.g. Adriana). All we really have to appreciate them are photos, workshop flyers, show posters, and brochures. This video is a great value with a run time of DVD 1:20 minutes. When the video seems to end, hold on! Don’tmissthe performances of Ahmed Jarjour, and also Amir of Boston, two noteworthy bonus dance performances included on the DVD.Although the video quality of these shows isn’t great, their excellent dance dynamics and audience response are captured in the video. Not all of the greats of American Belly Dance were included in this Volume 1.Amaya says, “It may seem that some dance icons overlooked. Not necessarily. In some cases, their documentary material just did not come in time for this DVD.” Perhaps we will see them in the next American Belly Dance Legends DVD Volume 2???A sincere thank youto Adriana, Aida Al Adawi, Aisha Ali, Aziz, Dahlena, Jamila Salimpour, Roman “Bert” Balladine, De Ann Adams, Helena Vlahos, Ibrahim “Bobby” Farrah, John Compton, and Morocco for sharing highlights of their esteemed careers.Also, avery special thanks to Amaya, who dedicated years of time and effort to produce this labor-of-lovevideo to honor the Legends of American Belly Dance.Performances in this video withstand the test of time, offer high entertainment value, and capture the great moments in performance history for this dance genre.Viewing this video made me proud to be a part of the lineage of American Belly Dance Legends that spread this beautiful dance genre beyond America’s shores to every other country in the world.I highly recommend this DVD as a “must have” for dance libraries of every teacher and troupe leader who respect these legends, have been proud to know them, and have taken the stage and participated in workshops with them. This video should also be shown to all students starting in the dance, and also those who are “turning professional.” They will finally have the knowledge to respect the professionals who have provided the foundation, education, and performances in our American dance history.See clips of this video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hy2wk43E6tYThis historic high quality video may be ordered through Amaya Productions (www.maria.amaya.com), Hollywood MusicCenter(www.HollywoodMusicCenter.com), and Audrena’s International Bazaar,(www.Audrena.com).

Teachers, consider hosting a screening party and provide your students with the list of questions for a fun learning opportunity. Make up your questions from facts in the video and give a list of “20 questions”. I know I’m planning to purchase autographed copies of this valuable video resource and host just such a party and also show it at my Summer Dance Camps and Haflas.Author’s BiographyMa*Shuqa Mira Murjan (Los Gatos, CAwww.MaShuqa.com) is a colleague of Amaya, has taken classes with these dance masters, and shared many wonderful performances with them.We’d love to hear your comments and stories about your special memories of workshops and performances with these American Belly Dance Legends.Send us messages about your dance experiences to Amaya at Maria@Amaya.comand to Ma*Shuqa Murjan at MaShuqaDancer@gmail.comwww.MaShuqa.com 

Send me an email if you wish to be invited to the screening.  MaShuqaDancer@gmail.com