Al Rakesa. Egypt’s controversial belly dance show – Is it worth watching online?

Al Rakesa

The belly dance show we were all waiting for that got cancelled!

While it was cut from TV in Egypt, it is still able to be watched online via youtube and lets face it, most of my readers would have been watching it online anyway.

The show is still worth watching for the following reasons:-

  • Dancing (no brainer!)

These are a must watch. Some great dances, some not so great. Ala Kushnir is on board and regular readers will know I am a big fan of hers. Some other quite accomplished dancers drop the ball so to speak and let nerves get the better of them. No one dances terribly though, I really felt for the dancers and think it is great they gave it a go.

There were a few obviously bad music choices. The Americans seem to be favouring fusion choices eg. one hip hop and one to the old classic ‘sway’. These would be better choices for a an audience that was mostly English speaking but this was filmed in Cairo. Personally, I have found that Middle Eastern audiences love the Arabic music but Western ones need a bit of fusion and props to help them relate to the dance. Instrumentals are good if you don’t feel comfortable about correctly interpreting the lyrics.

Do you agree with my ideas on music choices for different audiences? Please share your thoughts below.

  • Language 

If you are learning Egyptian Arabic it is kind of fun trying to work out what they are all saying. Lots of repetitive phrases makes it actually quite a good for practicing your listening skills. The disadvantage of course is that if you don’t understand enough, it quickly gets boring. Personally, I hate reality television in any language … so repetitive and so little content. The great thing about it being online is you just skip ahead to the action. By persevering with the full show you learn a bit more about the dancers but if you can’t handle it Al Rakesa has also uploaded clips of the individual dancers.

Uploading is sporadic so I have been keeping an eye on things for you.

I have made a playlist on youtube with the individual dances that have been uploaded so far. The earlier episodes have yet to have the solos added separately. Really inconsistent format by the producers. I will add solos to the list a they are uploaded.

  • Background dancers!!!! OMG!

Like a car wreck that you can’t look away from – some of the worst and most distracting background dancers in television history. Incongruous, poorly choreographed and concept poor. The drunk greek statue in the 12/10 episode are particularly awful but the bizarre cheerleaders in knee length skirt 1950’s style with neon futuristic bobbed wigs leave me wondering what drugs the costumiers were taking. Imagine a bad eisteddfod going on in the background, with moves that only occasionally matching the beat or feel of the dance. The only ones that make sense are the folkloric ones.

UPDATE! the latest lot of finalist solos have background dancing that makes sense!!! What a relief!

 

Al Rakesa on youtube can be found here https://www.youtube.com/alrakesa

You can find my playlist of the solos only here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLApICzQclcZ5m-BtBJRX2QGV3Nnz6tBup

 

Who is Bollywood’s best belly dancer? – a belly dancer’s perspective.

Lately there have been a number of articles in Indian media about belly dance and who is the best bollywood starlet to try the style. Belly dance has held appeal in Bollywood films for many decades but seems to have made a recent comeback. So who is the hottest?

Katrina – hot stuff but barely a hint of the Middle East in the way she moves

After having read over yet another article – I just had to check out the clips and see what all the fuss is about. If you are not familiar with Bollywood films, then you are missing out! While there are many styles within the field, most commonly they are quite spectacular and almost always include several song and dance numbers. That’s why they are great for dancers to watch.

This article is inspired by the photo article and particularly the photo captions from http://ibnlive.in.com/photogallery/7592-13.html

I so disagreed with what they had to say I felt it necessary to speak up on.

First of all, in reference to another recent article in Indian media – Belly Dance is not an Asian dance, it’s Middle Eastern. I am sure Indians would not like it if Egyptians for example, claimed classical Indian style dance to be Eastern Middle Eastern dancing!!! (they haven’t btw, just making a point).

First up for discussion – “Mashallah” from  Ek Tha Tiger starring Salman Khan & Katrina Kaif

This was only released 15 August 2012 and is a great song. I love the blend of Arabic rhythms and sounds. It’s in Hindi with a bit of Arabic thrown in. The video clip has a Middle Eastern feel but ..

I am at a bit of a lose as to where the apparent belly dancing occurs.

The men do a bit of a pelvic thrust at one point and that’s about all the hip movement we see from them. The ladies and Katrina’s much acclaimed belly dancing??? Well there is a bit of a hip drop with a lean  that last for a few seconds at 1:21 and a shake of the shoulders, that’s not really a shimmy. She then rolls in sand and does a fairly vulgar bit of floor work with a body undulation, shoulders on the ground legs apart, pelvis in the air. Floor work has not been popular in Middle eastern dance for some time having been more of a piece of a classic American Cabaret set. Even so, I have not seen any respectable dancer perform this move – ever! Then follows some indistinct hip swaying and a few chest circles.

At best I would say it a fun clip with a tiny bit Belly Dance inspiration and that’s being kind. One of the captions refers to how Mallika (another Bollywood actress) could not compete with Rani and Katrina’s perfect moves. I have to assume they are referring to the bollywood dancing in the clip because Katrina would have had do some belly dance in order for it to be perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I like the clip and Katrina is gorgeous but her belly dance skills are not highlighted in this at all.

So I looked up the apparently sultry but belly dance impaired  Mallika Sherawat in ‘Maiya Maiya’ from ‘Guru’.

The description for this song is ‘ sexy’ ‘big boobs and sexy thighs and waist’, hmmm I think this gives us a clue as to the real reason belly dance is being included into bollywood clips – its the sex appeal not any appreciation for the art form. I think it is of real concern that Bollywood choreograhers all seem to think that belly dancers spend a good deal of their time rolling around the floor. From this selection of clips that would be the only continuous theme despite them all being ‘belly dance’ clips.

So Mallika, can she dance? Yes! She is actually doing recognisable belly dance moves in this clip. There is a definite belly dance flavour to this bollywood piece although please disregard some of the strange contortions on the floor.

Mallika loves to writhe on the floor – unfortunately!

Katrina’s other belly dance offering ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ from ‘Tees Maar Khan’ features mostly bad English lyrics and a montage of dance styles including being wrapped in a sheet on a bed on the stage and what I think is a broadway fusion section. She sings that she is ‘tooo sexy for you’ and ‘ain’t no body got a body like Sheila’. LOL. Anyway there are far more belly dance moves in this including some maias (downward fig 8’s) and bit of a choo-choo, some camels, some hip drops, etc. Predominantly the clip isn’t belly dance even when she is in the belly dance inspired costumes, it is very much a fusion piece. She dances well but I don’t know if she has the feel of the Middle Eastern style.

Scheduled to be released on October 12, 2012 is Rani Mukerji in ‘Aiyyaa’ – ‘Aga Bai’.

I am not sure if by scheduled to be released they mean the movie or the song because the clip was easily available on youtube when I looked it up while writing this on the 10th!

It features a very well built male star Prithviraj Sukumaran whose main job it seems is to be oiled up, look moody and flex .

The belly dancing includes hip flicks and hip drops, a fast popping accent combination, maias, shimmies and fig 8’s. There are other moves that I guess are supposed to look a bit belly danceish but the wide leg stance is not a feature real belly dancers aspire too especially in the Egyptian style. Again its fusion but with a much greater belly dance component than Katrinas numbers. So I say – not bad Rani!

Going back in time to 1979, Zeenat Aman for red costume in the song ‘Raqqasa Mera Naam’ from ‘The Great Gambler’. This is much less of a fusion and more a serious attempt at belly dance. The moves are simple and she isn’t as WOW as the other dancers in the clips above but at least I was not left wondering where the belly dancing was.

Then we have Helen in Mehbooba’ song from ‘Sholay

Sigh – she maybe well loved and lively but her graceless and completely inaccurate ‘belly dance’ left me cold. A few hip bumps was about all I could say were true to style and I had to endure watching yet more rolling in sand.. groan.

Rani wins the modern stakes in my books and thumbs up to Zeenat for a good try.

Do you agree? Comment below

Free – Learning Belly Dance by DVD

Can Belly Dance be learnt by DVD?

Yes and No!

We are so blessed to have so many wonderful and affordable Belly Dance DVD’s on the  market these days. With the internet, websites and youtube having gained so much popularity in the last decade or so there is so much to choose from particularly if you are wanting to learn American style Belly Dancing. All you in need is a dvd player that is unlocked and the world is your dancing oyster. Even more recently there are free classes, downloads and DVD’s available online. BUT can these resources substitute for face to face class time?

It is my belief that they augment your dancing and add new ideas but can never really replace the experience of class time. It can be really tricky to know if you are doing a move correctly for example. Having a teacher break it down and specifically alter the instructions to help you best understand can help you progress so much quicker and saves you from having to later un-learn sloppy technique. Classes have their own sense of fun and learning with others can be a really uplifting experience.

SO do we simply ignore all these wonderful freebies and cheap well produced dvd’s???  NO of course not. Let’s embrace both!

My hot tip for getting the most out of your online purchases and downloads is to set up a mirror right next to your tv or computer. This helps you check that what you are doing looks the same as what is being taught.

OK so whats free at the moment – check out the cheekygirls website. http://cheekygirlsproductions.com/downloads.html

It has a free downloads page that is currently showing the entire ‘Flawless Floorwork” DVD by Ruby. I already own this DVD and think its great. It starts with a pilates exercise routine to help you develop the core strength required to execute some of the moves presented later. This is not a DVD I would recommend for beginners but the initial pilates bit would be beneficial to anyone and you can still enjoy her dancing. The page also gives you snippets of other great DVD’s they offer – so enjoy.

Youtube – always worth a look. Although quality of instruction varies considerably, there is much of value here. Try typing in ‘how to belly dance’. There are also great performances you can watch.

All that should keep you happily learning for a while….

Comment below or send me an email (jadebellydance@hotmail.com) to share your favourite online belly dance find!

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