What The Show Was Like
This video is effectively a recording of a live theater production.
It features a Japanese dancer named Maha and her troupe, Al Camarani
Danse Orientale Company. Most of the video is a showcase of Maha
herself, but there are also some group numbers. Although Maha
is a very good dancer, her solo numbers were not particularly
The show opens with "Serpent With Wings", a sequence
in which Maha dances with a flowing semicircular cape which has
sticks to extend the size of it beyond her reach. The entire
stage is completely dark, with a spotlight highlighting the cape
and her skin. With a slow chifte-telli rhythm in the background,
she undulates and spins, emphasizing the flow of the cape. The
second song is "Isis", which is the chifte-telli from
the Desert Wind CD named Kali Ma. This too is very dark, with
just a tiny bit of light on Maha's skin. Her dark skirt is nearly
invisible. Against this dim backdrop, she undulates, assumes
a variety of Pharaonic arm poses, and does snake arms.
Next comes an ensemble number with four dancers called "Voices
From Darkness". The set is completely dark, and they wear
dark dresses. A minimal spotlight calls attention to their arms
and faces. Each holds a candle in one hand. As a group, they
call attention to the candles through spinning and snakey arm
movements. The choreography is interesting, but this dance would
have been much more effective with lighter-colored dresses and
just a little more light on stage to showcase the graceful movements
of the dancers.
A smooth transition leads into a solo dance called "A
Woman Dancing In The Desert." It features Maha in a folkloric
costume, including a face veil that covers her entire face below
the eyes. This scene has just a little more light than the earlier
ones, but again Maha wears a dark-colored dress that makes it
difficult to appreciate her dance moves. I became extremely frustrated
with the camera angles: far too frequently it focuses on tight
close-up of the feet, tight close-up of the hip, tight close-up
of the face, then far, far away from somewhere high above in
the auditorium. Even when it's just at the right level to see
the dancing in context, it keeps cutting away from one view to
another. Following this, Maha transitions directly into the next
song called "Asaya" (cane). Using music from the CD
"The Gathering Season" by Solace, she removes her face
veil, picks up a cane, and does a pleasant Egyptian-style cane
dance. Again, the set remains quite dark and it's fatiguing to
try to watch Maha dance in this darkness while wearing a dark
The first half of the show closes with "Dervish".
This consists of a drummer alone on a darkened stage, playing
a drum solo. There is no dancing, just video footage of the musician
as he plays.
The second half of the show opens with "Gypsy".
The camera follows the dancers as they weave their way down a
backstage hallway, through a crowd, and onto the stage. Again,
the problem with camera angles and insufficient lighting continues.
Once on stage, each of the four dancers takes a turn doing a
solo as the others sit on the floor in the background. The worst
part of this section was when the cameraman decided to zoom in
and out in time to the 9/8 karsilama rhythm of the final soloist.
I found myself getting seasick. It was hard enough trying to
watch the dancing with almost no light, but I gave up when the
cameraman started playing his zooming games. The "Gypsy"
sequence ends with the three dancers together doing what appears
to be the FatChanceBellyDance style of dance, only they don't
execute it as well as FatChance. However, I was able to forgive
them for this when they completed the sequence with all three
executing a Turkish drop in unison.
The next item on the show is "Mandala", a fascinating
choreography that starts with floor work and very soft music.
As the song continues, the music builds and the dance movements
carry the energy level gradually higher and higher with it until
the dancers are standing in a single file line and undulating
in opposite directions at the end. This particular choreography
was one of the reasons this group captured the attention of everyone
at the Rakkasah Middle Eastern dance festival in California in
1999. I found it fascinating in 1999 when I saw them perform
it live. However, I found the video to be extremely disappointing.
The scene for this dance is even darker than the rest of the
video. It's nearly impossible to see what the dancers are doing,
and their sinuous, undulating movements are completely lost in
the darkness. It's really a shame, because this is a superb troupe
choreograph, and the dancers skillfully perform it.
The next number is "Sword Dance", also performed
by the ensemble of three dancers. The music is fast, and the
dancers do a number of hip articulations to it. Maha balances
the sword on her chin, then sinks slowly to the floor all the
way into a backbend, then gets back up. At the end of the number,
all three dancers sink rapidly into a backbend, each with her
sword balanced on her head as she does so. Again, the video is
much too dark and the ever-changing camera angles are much too
distracting. This choreography too is wonderful, and skillfully
executed, but it's nearly impossible to see it in the darkness.
"Violin Solo" comes next on the program. The violin
player stands alone on the darkened stage and sings. He plays
skillfully, in the dark. There is no dancing.
"Line In Paradise" features a solo dance by Maha
consisting almost entirely of sinuous arm movements and undulations.
The set goes totally dark, so that there's literally nothing
to see except a totally black television screen.
Finally, for the final segment which is titled "The Deer
Of Paradise", Maha performs a full Oriental routine. She
enters to a drum solo with Egyptian-style veil work. She then
discards the veil as the violin begins, and dances to rapid,
upbeat music. As the music slows down, she goes into undulations
and performs a Turkish drop. From there, she does some lovely
floor work in a backbend, gets back to her feet, and dances to
a lively drum solo. She goes into a spin with rapid head circles
that made my neck ache just to look at them, and closes the dance
in the splits.
After this comes "Epilogue", which is just the dancers
and musicians taking bows together followed by the closing credits.
You Will Probably Like This Video If
- You enjoy fast-cutting camera angles that change every time
you blink your eyes because you think they add drama.
- You think that a set so dark that it's almost impossible
to see the dancers is good because it's dramatic.
- You have enough theater experience to be knowledgeable about
technical aspects of producing a live show such as lighting,
and you would be able to appreciate a video on the level of noting
the techniques used to produce the show.
- You've seen Maha and the Al Camarani Danse Orientale Company
dance in person, and you absolutely want to have a video of them
regardless of how poor the lighting is.
You Probably Won't Care For This Video If
- You're not particularly interested in appreciating the technical
skill of sound and lighting technicians in theaters and you'd
prefer a video that emphasizes dancing over "look what I
can do with my equipment".
- You prefer a good view of what the dancers are doing rather
than artsy-fartsy camera angles and lighting.
- You can't see any better in the dark than I can.