Gothic Bellydance - The Darker Side of Fusion by WorldDance New York.
Shira's Review page for this video.
2006, Region free , run time 85 minutes.
The dancer Tempest joins others from the burgeoning Gothic Belly Dance movement to present this first of its kind video production featuring the genre.
Excerpted from the back cover:
"Gothic Bellydance" incorporates many Bellydance styles and motifs: Cabaret, Tribal Fusion, modern dance, echoes of Gypsy dance, Flamenco, Asian, and Indian dance - all called to ewxpress the darkness of the unknown, and the mysteries of life, death, and eternity that have inpsired Goth philosophies and lifestyles.
Thus this is not a video for Belly Dance purists, so I have endeavoured to review it in the spirit in which it was intended. Although I'm not a Goth, the subculture has much to recommend it; darkly beautiful artwork and jewelry (My favorite jewelry vendor is Gothic!), as well as interesting clothing including skirts for men, an idea dear to my heart. I do however, have some discomfort with some aspects of Goth life, and I don't generally care for much of their music. So a disclaimer of sorts!
As you'd expect from something labeled "Gothic", the sets are generally very dark, but in an artistic way that sets the mood. For the most part, the viewer can see the dancer well enough and within the intended context. Production values are high; soundwise, videowise, editing, etc. As is often the case with performance videos; MTV camera effects are employed, although not to the point of annoyance (for the most part). In a more "traditional" Belly Dance video, they might be a bit much, but here the effects generally add to the experience.
The DVD, which is in 16:9 widescreen format, has a main menu screen comprised of three elements:
The first, "Enter", is simply the "Play All" feature, and steps the viewer through all chapters of the disk.
The second, "Visions", is a feature I wish more performance DVDs would include. Selecting it brings you to a sub-menu of all the individual performers on the DVD. Selecting a given performer takes the viewer to a page where all performances by that particular dancer are listed - along with the musical artist, the track name, and the album from which it came! So VERY cool. You can select any of the performances by that dancer from this screen (many dancers have several performances), or view a bio of the dancer. Again, so VERY cool!
The last selection from the main menu is "Echoes" - leading to a sub menu with production credits, contact information for the dancers, contact information for the musicians, special thanx from the producers and several dancers, etc. A nice, and useful touch.
Rather than walk through the DVD from the standpoint of the "Enter" (Play All) selection, this review will instead give a brief description of dance grouped by dancer as found in the "Visions" selection.
Note: I make occasional reference to "Rachel Brice costuming" throughout this mini-review. This is not intended to be a criticism, only an observation. I like Rachel Brice and think she's a very cool lady.
Ariellah's performances are best described as "exTREEEEEEEEME Tribal" - she is of the Rachel Brice school of tribal costuming, and pulls it off well. She gives us no fewer than four dances:
- Flame - danced to funky music by Nikolaus Kramer. Set includes smoke, flame, and "winter woods" elements. Enjoyable enough although the music doesn't do much for me.
- Nataraja - with music by Solace. Danced against a pure black background, Ariellah grabs our attention from the beginning with excellent armwork.
- Siren - the next vignette by Ariellah, is also with Solace, and features a varying background: pure black, then "Winter Woods", then "Summer Woods", then mist/smoke. A nice number.
- Ritual Means - This one rounds out Ariellah's contributions, but is a duette with Tempest also danced to Solace music. It involves both dancers with what appears to be Organza or Chiffon veils over their heads dancing with unlit hand candles (Tempest), and a sword (Ariellah). Both the candles and the sword eventually go on a low table and the dance morphs into veilwork, then floorwork, then a standing dance. A very beautiful piece.
Asharah's costuming could be desscribed as "Yet Another Rachel Brice Clone", but on a closer look, she adds her own elements to it. Both her dances are performed to music by Solace:
- Exiled - starts with Asharah draped in a sheer veil shot through a water beaded lens. The veil is eventually discarded (as are the water beads) and she dances against a varying background of "Winter Woods" and similar. Very sultry, "Smokey" dancing!
- Opaque - is her second contribution. Totally different from "Exiled", it is essentially a Drum Solo - Tribal style. Very well executed, and Asharah shows off body waves and similar snakey torso moves that I can only dream about being able to do!
Ayshe is, as they say, a horse of a different color. I'm a long time fan of her's, and her two Isis Wings videos are reviewed elsewhere on this site. Ayshe contributes two vignettes to this collection:
- Kali/Isis, Mystery of Life and Death - performed to music by Jehan. Ever the one for dramatic entrances, Ayshe enters a darkened, "smokey/misty" stage balancing some kind of firepot on her head (with the aid of a Shemadan type crown) from which there is either smoke or mist arising. She is trailing a rather large ultra-sheer but sparkely veil behind her, and she has, SURPRISE! Isis Wings which she starts to dance with. Her dance eventually morphs into a kneeling floorwork show, with firepot still smouldering on her head. Eventually, she removes the firepot, and then proceeds to dance to it - obviously symbolizing worship of one of the two Goddesses of the title. Later, the music changes and so does her dance as she portrays a Goddess herself. (Interpretations are mine, yours may vary!). Very dramatic and enjoyable, as Ayshe's dances tend to be.
- Metamorphosis - music by Solace. This one is quite different. Ayshe starts out in a semi-sheer "sack" made of a very clingy stretch fabric. She is completely enveloped and is writhing on the floor. The symbiology is obvious, Chrysalis coming from the cocoon to become a Butterfly (or similar). Not much dancing going on in the beginning (what else to do in a sack anyways), but as she gradually emerges, then tries oh-so-hard to get to her feet, the dancing component becomes much larger. A very well though out piece, beautiful in its own way, but it didn't do too much for me.
Blanca contributes one number, "Lovers of Teruel", done to music by Jehan. Blanca appears in Goth attire, no Belly Dance pretensions here. Her dance dance flashes between a "Winter Garden" set and a dark stage, with various fade-ins and outs to different scenic elements - very MTV-esque but effective here - especially as the sound track is a kind of Rock music. Interesting.
Jehan also does one piece - to music by, you guessed it! Jehan! Her piece is called "Goddessence". Oh my! This one doesn't do anything for me, containing elements of BDSM and veiled Lesbo-eroticism. Fortunately, nothing explicit.
Now, I'm a guy, and I like kink as much as the next guy, but not in a dance video. For that matter, I can't say as I see much dancing going on in this segment, "Belly" or otherwise (There's some, but not much.). It has its place, but not here. Your Mileage May Vary!
Jeniviva has two segments, "The Journey Within", and "One Night in Gotham".
The first, "The Journey Within" is performed to music by Gypsy Caravan (The Huntress, which many will find familiar). Jeniviva has a Gothic looking outfit on (and I'd KILL for her earrings!), and dances well to a varying backdrop that is "Beautifully Gothic". Midway through, her costume changes to a more Belly Dance style, kind of "Triberet" looking. She then continues to dance (well) with a pair of knives that she uses to pantomine various cutting/suicidal acts. Not my cuppa, but not out of line with the "Goth" theme. Eventually she morphs into having "dagger fingers" on all digits - the possibly symbiology I'll leave as an exercise for the viewer.
The second, "One Night in Gotham", is danced to Techno-music by Jonathan Daly. A rather short piece, it is what I'd called "Gothic Belly Dance" allright. Well done with a bit of veilwork and a bit of floorwork, it entertains well.
Martiya Possession, Raven & Ya Meena
The next two dances are done by the duo "Martiya Possession". As the DVD has a text description of what they attempt to portray, I thought it appropriate to quote it here:
Martiya Possession's Dagger Dance and Skirt Dance, "Two Gypsies" and "Shawazaa" by Solace... Tribal and Turkish Belly Dance, Flamenco and fierce vampire-like passion fuel the fire, in this furious yet festive tornadic displayh of swirling silk, fringe, and shiny blades! These two dances are perfect examples of very early Martiya Possession choreography. These were two of the first dance pieces that Ya Meena had choreographed for the troupe five years ago, when they first started performing professionally in the Washington DC area. "Martiya" is the name of the Romani Spirit of the Night! Ya Meena and Raven dance as if they are possessed by this mischievous nocturnal spirit!
So, armed with this knowledge, the first, "Two Gypsies" is danced with knives in a pantomine fight - to a Solace number called "Two Gypsies"! Fortunately, the performers don't lose sight of the fact that this is a dance. As a result, this performance is very enjoyable and artistic. The costuming is Tribal with a hint of Rachel Brice influence.
The second, "Shawazaa" is kind of like "Tribal meets Gypsy on a dark stage", with similar costumes as the first piece, and lots of skirtwork. I don't mean this in a bad way at all, its very well done and enjoyable. The Solace music of the same name is signature Solace - lots of zaghareets and yips in the background of the music. Very cool.
Neon is Ayshe's sometime assistant and sidekick. She is also an excellent dancer in her own right and is the producer of this video.
She has two dances here, "Delete All" with music by Jehan, and "Island of Dr. Moreau" with music by Michael Dommes. The first has a definite Techno flavor with a lot of visual overlays, both modern and ancient. Neon's costume is best described as "Gothic Cabaret", and her dance is excellent and enjoyable.
"Moreau" is both similar and different. Costuming is similar, but skimpier. There was a bit of body paint in the first number; this one has a lot more. It too has a techno feel, but edgier than the first. Like the first, Neon dances excellently with wonderful undulations and hipwork. Still, I prefer the first out of the two.
Tanna's first piece is "Serpent Rising" with music by Jehan. I like this number - the dancer is wearing what I'd call an old school Turkish Cabaret costume, and her dance involves a candle, a Gothic serpent or dragon statue, and unpleated wings. Quite a bit is done on the floor, and is very dramatic. Later, we are treated to a skilled drum solo!
Turkish costumes of the type seen here are quite dangerous from a modesty standpoint - Tanna is obviously accomplished with this style as there are no "accidents". Very nice costume and great dancing!
Her scond number, "Come Darkness" is also performed to a Jehan number. This one is essentially a veil piece danced with a black Organza or Chiffon veil - in a darkened set, of course. Her costume here is very simple, a black bra with black skirt.
The first lady of Gothic Belly Dance, Tempest gives us three of her interpretations. "Homage to Theda", with music by "Collide" is the first, the second is "Fallen Angel" with music by "Knossos", and the third is "Ritual Means" with music by Solace.
We'll cover the first two here, as "Ritual Means" is a duette with Ariellah and has been written up under that dancer's heading.
"Homage to Theda" is danced in a white (!) Cabaret style costume with a veilwork beginning, morphing to "plain ol' dancing", and good floorwork. The set is dark and the dancer is spotlighted with lights of varying intensity - sometimes you can barely see her, other times she's brightly lit.
"Fallen Angel" - dark misty set, black unpleated wings, simple mostly red with a bit of black costume. A hint of Rachel Brice in the hairstyle. A "Fallen Angel" perhaps? Wingwork comes first, then some nicely done floorwork. Lighting of varying intensity as with "Homage".
What I liked about this video:
I don't know if Solace's music is considered strictly Gothic or not, but it is beloved by the Tribal community and I like it as well. Their music is very enjoyable to listen to, and I recognized several pieces.
Overall, the dancing was very good by everyone in the video. A couple of numbers didn't feature a whole lot of dancing, but what was there even in those was very well done. Not necessarily to a Belly Dance purist's taste, but we are told up front that this is not your Mother's Belly Dance.
What I didn't like about this video:
Parts are just too dark. I understand the darkness is a part of the artistic vision of this DVD - but there are parts I would have preferred slightly less. Being able to mostly see the dancers most of the time isn't as good as being able to mostly see the dancers ALL of the time. Its a nit, and a hard line for the producer to follow in the balance of what this video tries to acheive.
I could have done without the BDSM segment.
You can purchase this video from Artemis Imports.