Morocco's #6:
Folk Dances of Egypt, Nubia, & the Sudan

A Video Review By Shira

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

This is a documentary by Morocco on the folkloric dances of Egypt, Nubia, and the Sudan. It consists of footage shot in several performances that she attended between 1979 and 1983. Although the picture and sound quality are poor due to the limitations of the technology that existed at the time, this video offers an opportunity to view folkloric dances from southern Egypt - dances that are slowly vanishing due to changing cultural conditions. It's a valuable learning tool for anybody with a serious interest in the dance traditions of the region.


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The Chart

Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStarStar
Packaging Star
Total Video Length 60:15 minutes
Documentary/Performance Time  57:57 minutes (96%)
Amount Of "Other" 2:18 minutes (4%)
Cultural Information Yes
Music Education No
List Price $35.00
Cost Per Minute of Documentary Time 60 cents
Cost For "Other" $1.40

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This video consists of a series of folkloric dance performances that Morocco filmed on her trips to Egypt from 1979 through 1983. It includes footage of some performances that it is no longer possible to see today, such as the Banat Maazin Ghawazee. For a dancer interested in learning about traditional dances from Egypt, Nubia, and the Sudan, this video offers a rare opportunity to see some vintage dances from before Islamist fundamentalism, urbanization, and other cultural changes led to the near extinction that exists today.

I praise this video because of the educational value the video offers regarding traditional dance forms. If you don't share my interest in studying ethnic and historical dances, then you may not share my enthusiasm for it. Because of the rugged production quality, it is not a good match for people who simply want entertainment. But for someone who wants accurate information about the rich dance legacy of the region, or for someone who wants to understand Middle Eastern culture more fully, it's valuable.

In all cases, Morocco makes a concerted effort to capture the best possible footage of the dancing itself. However, "home movie" technology back around 1980 when she filmed these performances was very primitive compared to what is possible today, and the environmental conditions were beyond her control. Therefore, throughout this video the lighting and sound quality are poor. The very first "camcorder" appeared in the market in 1982, so the performances on this video were filmed using pre-camcorder technology known as Super 8, which was light-sensitive film similar to the type used in photographic cameras, but designed to capture moving pictures. A canister of film was threaded into the machine, exposed, then removed and sent off for development. Typically, such films were only 3 minutes in length, so every 3 minutes the camera operator would need to rewind the exposed film inside the camera, remove it, and replace it with a fresh one. As a result, shows like the ones on this video that were filmed on Super 8 consist of scenes that end about every 3 minutes, with a gap in the action before the next segment.

Morocco introduces each dance segment on this video with voiceover comments explaining its ethnic context. She identifies which ones portray real folk dances, versus which are theatrical creations. These comments provide valuable education into understanding the dances seen on-screen.

The performances on this video include:

  • Tanoura. This is the Egyptian flavor of the whirling dervish. About 2 1/2 minutes long.
  • Raqs al Shamadan. This is the candelabrum dance. On this performance, the dancers are balancing free-standing candelabra rather than wearing the helmet-style used by the nightclub dancers. About 2 1/2 minutes long.
  • Tanoura. This is another clip, about 3 minutes long, of additional whirling.
  • Sudanese. This has a strong flavor of sub-Sahara African dance. It is accompanied by strong African-style drumming. The dancers include a woman and two men. About 4 1/2 minutes long.
  • Nubian. This too has a definite sub-Sahara African flavor, though less strong than the Sudanese. It opens with the women dancing in one line, the men in another. About 11 minutes long.
  • Sudanese & Nubian Together On Stage. About 1 minute long.
  • Tahtiyb. This is the men's stick dance, which originated as a martial art. About 1 1/2 minutes long. I was disappointed by the brevity of this segment. It showed the men posturing as if in preparation to fight, but the battle never really commenced.
  • Ghawazee Banat Maazin. At first, the two sisters dance in the knee-length, swingy skirts. Later, they dance wearing sparkly baladi dresses. About 13 1/2 minutes long.
  • Mahmoud Reda's Troupe. About 18 minutes long. It opens with Reda's interpretation of the hagalla, then is followed by more theatrical presentations. These include a scarf dance which is reminiscent of an elaborate Hollywood production number, a flirtatious jug dance duet with a woman and man, a baladi dance by a group of women, and a grand finale.

At the end, the closing credits are superimposed over Morocco in full bedleh (bra/belt/skirt costume) performing Oriental dance.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You have a strong interest in learning more about the folkloric dance forms of Egypt, Nubia, and the Sudan.
  • You're interested in the Ghawazee, the Egyptian tanoura (dervishes), the tahtiyb from Upper Egypt, the hagalla, Nubian dance, or Sudanese dance.
  • You're interested in seeing some traditional sub-Sahara dances from East Africa.
  • Your interest in any of the above is strong enough to make you willing to endure poor lighting and sound quality.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You're looking for a video with "belly dancing" performances by dancers garbed in nightclub-style midriff-baring costumes.
  • You would be alienated by poor picture and sound quality.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • I appreciated Morocco's voiceover in many places explaining the dance that was on-screen. She told me what I wanted to know about what I was seeing, but also knew when to be silent.
  • I found the on-screen titles introducing each section helpful.
  • I was fascinated to see these portrayals of traditional dances, some of which are all but extinct in their own communities. This is as close as I will ever come to seeing "real" performances of some of these dances.

What I Didn't Like

  • The poor picture and sound quality were frustrating. I realize they were the best I could hope for from film shot in the early 1980's under environmental conditions that were beyond Morocco's control, but it would have been nice if they had been better!

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In Conclusion

I definitely recommend this video for people who are interested in learning more about the folkloric dances of Egypt, Nubia, and the Sudan, some which are nearly extinct in their original communities due to changing cultural conditions in Egypt. It offers a valuable educational opportunity, despite the difficult production quality. If you're looking for performances of Oriental dance (the performing art that many people call "belly dancing"), this is not the right video for you, because it has very little of that. Its focus for the content is folklore rather than nightclub.

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Reviews of Other Videos by Morocco

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

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Morocco and I have been friends since about 1998, and I have been an admirer of her dance research work since the mid-1980's.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Morocco as follows:

Casbah Dance Experience
6 West 20th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10011

Web Site:

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