What The Show Was Like
This video, filmed in various studio environments, uses a
cast of 5 men and 5 women to portray 10 different folkloric Egyptian
dances. Both the dances and the costuming are liberally adapted
for stage presentation, therefore making the video enjoyable
to watch but I wouldn't recommend it as a tool for understanding
what the original traditional dances and clothing may have looked
When watching it, I discovered that the contents of the screen
do not match the dances listed on the label. The label is correct
through the 10th dance, but instead of the 11th dance claimed
on the label, the video repeats the dance titled The Fisherman
and the Fish (which had appeared as the 5th dance). There is
no 12th dance on the video, although the label claims there is.
The video opens with the credits in Arabic superimposed over
a compilation of assorted Egyptian scenes, while the song O Fortuna
from Carmina Burana plays in the background. (O Fortuna appearing
on a video of folkloric Egyptian dance? Huh?) As it showed me
Egyptian soccer players, and Egyptian dignitaries shaking hands
with Jimmy Carter, I scratched my head and wondered just what
on earth I had bought!
Once the credits are concluded and Carmina Burana winds down,
the video moves forward into what I expected: Egyptian folklore.
Most of the time, each dance is introduced first by a title in
Arabic, then a title in German.
Generally speaking, I found this video to be interesting,
but not special. Too many times, the camera zeroes in for close-ups
of people's faces and lingers there, which is annoying when I
want to see what the dancers are doing. The lighting is sufficient
but a bit flat. I was disappointed with the Ghawazee and Tahtib
section because it seemed more like half-hearted posturing than
like a martial art. The video overall is good enough that I will
periodically take it off the shelf and watch it, but not compelling.
The 10 dances include:
- Upper Egypt Girls. The video opens with a closeup
of a man playing a rebaba (a traditional instrument from Upper
Egypt) for about 2 minutes. Then four dancers enter wearing glittery
black dresses, dancing in balady style. Eventually, a fifth dancer
enters wearing a showy red dress, and dances in front of the
group as a headliner. About 11 minutes in length total, 2 for
the rebaba solo, 9 for the dancing.
- Hagalla. Portrayed by the full ensemble of 10 people.
The women wear the peplum-style garb associated with this dance.
9 1/2 minutes in length.
- Nubian. Portrayed initially by the men, with the women
entering the stage later. About 8 minutes long.
- Zar. The men serve as a frame for the lead female
dancer as she enacts the possession that the zar ritual seeks
to release. The other women dance in a way echoing the possession
of the lead dancer, but more subdued, as background. About 9
- Fisherman & The Fish. The set is draped with fish
nets, and a solo male dancer casts his line and reels it in.
He "catches" the lead female dancer, and the rest of
the dance is a playful duet. This was my favorite dance on the
whole video because of the excellent dancing by both people,
the cute spirit, and the lively music. The steps use extensive
footwork, and remind me of the footwork in some Macedonian folk
dances, which probably makes sense given the history of Egypt.
It seems a bit odd that the woman portraying the fish is wearing
blue jeans, but they do showcase her intricate footwork well.
Nearly 9 minutes long.
- The Airplane. As this one began, I was confused. I
can't read Arabic, but the German-language title informed me
this one would be "Freude der Jugend" (The Joy of Youth),
even though the video package identified it as The Airplane.
This began with a solo dance by one of the men based mostly on
debke moves. Then two women enter and the rest of the dance is
a trio in which the man appears to show off for the women. It's
cute, but I never figured out why it is called The Airplane.
Almost 10 minutes long.
- The Joy of Youth. This too is identified in German
as "Freude der Jugend", so I guess the title for the
earlier song was an error. In an ensemble including both women
and men, the group appears to celebrate the joys of being young.
About 6 1/2 minutes long.
- The Ghawazee & Tahtib. This video opens with the
lead male dancer entering the stage holding a stick. He puts
it aside and picks up a drum, then dances while "drumming"
(his strokes don't match the music). The other men enter the
stage carrying their sticks, and for a while the one with the
drum harasses the ones with the sticks until the ones with the
sticks drive him off. He returns with his stick, and begins battling
the other men, defeating them one at a time. I've seen better
portrayals of Tahtib. About 10 minutes long.
- The Horse. This number opens with three men dancing
around a beautiful woman. Then two people enter wearing an elaborate
horse costume. The men all try to capture the horse, and naturally
fail. It's the woman who successfully tames it in the end. About
10 1/2 minutes long.
- Siwa. The complete ensemble dances, with the men and
women taking turns being featured. About 13 minutes long.
- The Fisherman & the Fish. The package claims that
this one is "Oriental Dancers" but the actual contents
of the video show a repeat of "The Fisherman & The Fish".
Same set, same costumes, same song, same dance. There is no German
title introducing it, only Arabic.
The video's label claims that there is one more dance after
this, "Peasant Dance." However, the reality is that
there is not. The video ends following the second showing of
Fisherman & The Fish.
You Will Probably Like This Video If
- You would enjoy watching a sampler of assorted Egyptian folkloric
dances which have been adapted for stage.
- You are planning to adapt some folkloric dances for stage
and you would like ideas on how to modify dances and clothing
for a more theatrical effect.
- You're a male dancer looking for costuming ideas. Although
the dancers' costumes on this video are folkloric flavor, with
fancier fabric and trim many could be adapted for a more nightclub-oriented
You Probably Won't Care For This Video If
- You want to see "belly dancing".
- You're looking for a video of folkloric dance that stays
quite faithful to the original form, to use as a basis for learning
such dances yourself.
- You think folkloric music played on rebaba and mizmar sounds
like the neighbor's obnoxious Siamese cat howling outside your
I wouldn't recommend this video as a tool for researching
historical dance and clothing because everything has been liberally
adapted for stage. However, it's enjoyable as entertainment,
and it also offers some useful insights into how to adapt folklore
for theatrical presentation. Male dancers may find the men's
costumes on this video to be an interesting source of costume
ideas. Someone who has not previously been exposed to folkloric
dance may find it to be a pleasant introduction due to the fact
that its production quality is better than what videos showing
documentary footage of "real" folkloric dances.