An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance
EEMED Audition

BD-TV Volume 1 – Review
by Kajira Djourmahna

Djourmahna, Kajira. “BD-TV Volume 1 – Review.” Zaghareet! July/Aug 2004: 58-59.

I'm new at DVDs and was skeptical I'd ever find them fun or close to entertaining. Thanks to my patient husband, I finally have learned how to play them! Which is a good thing, or I'd have missed the first issue of BDTV! Which would've been a shame. In fact, I'm so excited about this cutting-edge product I offered to write this review so I could help get the word out!

First, it's about two hours long, so there's lots of room for lots of info, a fact the producers skillfully take advantage of so the time flies by. It begins with gorgeous graphics and your options for chapters, or you can select "play" to run it from the beginning. Also right from the start, they grab you with an amazing collage of dancers of all genres and styles - and somehow their movements fit the musical score so well you'd think the dancers were using that piece! How'd they DO that?

Very simple to navigate (even I could do it!) and seamlessly put together, this DVD excels in educational value. One of my favorite parts throughout the entire video is the way the producers put together the interviews. They are SO interesting and include gems from people we know as stars, to some participants and the producers of the various events shown. There must be literally dozens of these peppered throughout the two hours, which really add a human element that can't be done when not in that person's own words, with their own mannerisms and expressions! This medium - video - is so much better for understanding people, their motives and inflections than written interviews can ever be (and that's a hard one for me to admit, as I conduct so many written ones).

The very pleasant Paulina is our narrator, who helps transition us from one section to another and kindly explains what's coming. She participates as interviewer on occasion and even doubles as a helper in the costume care section - but I'm getting ahead of myself!

There is plenty of variety in this magazine (yes, it's a magazine, just one you put in your DVD player instead of in your hands), surely something for everyone.

The first section is called "News and Events" and covers such notable happenings as MECDA's 26th Anniversary Party, IAMED's Sixth Awards of Belly Dance, Festival Fantasia and more. I think this section is fabulous, as if you've ever thought of attending one of them, you could get a very good idea of what it's like from watching this, before you spend the money to go. This section includes clips of various performers, interviews and general ambience shots. Only California events were featured in Volume l due to the producer's lack of starting budget, but they plan on traveling far and wide as soon as possible. (So buy a copy and help the cause!)

The "Feature Story" in this issue is about the controversial annual production, "An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance." Producer Amara speaks at length about her ideas and how her shows became so famous - or infamous, depending upon whom you ask. Shots of the backstage production and dancers are fascinating! So much to think of when putting on such a lush, extravagant event such as this. The props and stage sets alone are enough to keep my mind boggled for some time! I wonder, do you pick up knowledge like that by just living in Los Angeles? Great productions by osmosis?

Next section is "Rising Stars" and are they ever! Urban Tribal Dance Company talked about their style and gave us interesting personal tidbits as well. Heather, the Director, told how they came to evolve into the phenomenon that they are, including costume and musical choices. The many clips of them in action show why they were chosen and why they are truly unique, which seems a difficult thing to be these days.

There's even a section on costume care, called "Hip Tips". Here Paulina and Anaheed explain how to care for your bra and belt sets after gigs and other must know tips to make your life as a dance performer easier. (And certainly that of your costumes!) Even I learned a few new ideas after all my years of experience hauling expensive costumes from gig to gig! Perhaps you can teach an .old dog new tricks? In future volumes, the "Hip Tips" will be on various topics; Volume 2 will be on hair pieces! I can't wait! Wonder if they'll have tips for dreadlocks?

The "Spotlight" went to the very deserving Ansuya, now of Miami, Florida. This was an amazing section! I learned so much, Ansuya is a stellar interview subject and very at home in front ofthe camera. She tells all, from her childhood growing up in Ojai, California, then her move to Hawaii, then back to Los Angeles. Now Miami! You can't keep this girl in one spot for long, as she's also on the Bellydance Superstars tour! The interview is complete with shots of stills and videos from all the stages of Ansuya's career, from one of her first solos to the present. What's more, it includes superb insights from one of Ansuya's early influences, the incomparable Alexandra King. A superstar in her own right, Alexandra pioneered new paths for our dance and currently teaches

An accredited course in Middle Eastern Dance at UCSB. Alexandra's personal recollections made this section even richer, and her archived photos and video clips included herein are priceless.

A candid speaker, Ansuya tells honestly her thoughts on a great many subjects ranging from different styles to sensuality in the dance. We even get to see her in action in both the classroom and at several stages of her performance career! She tells us of how she got her start (so aspiring young dancers, watch and learn!) and how hard she worked to get where she is from a young age. It didn't hurt that her mother was a renowned dancer herself, Janaeni Rathor, who taught Anusya just as if she were one of her regular students, no holds barred on criticism or the truth. But Ansuya persisted and insisted to her mother from a very young age that this is what she wanted, this and an acting career, and she did what it took to get them, the old-fashioned way, through hard work and time spent. It doesn't hurt that she's such a sweet person despite her stardom, and this comes across as well. This is the best videotaped interview with a Middle Eastern dancer I have ever seen. I was pleasantly blown away by its thoroughness and the engaging manner in which it flowed from head shot interview to photos, to videos and in between. What a life she has had, how determined she is, how incredibly skillful! Definitely a woman to admire.

Lastly we have the Marketplace, or Bazaar Section. browse the pages (or screens, as it were) to find out how to contact your favorite stars, vendors and event producers. And if ads annoy you, on a DVD you can conveniently Skip them all if you like!

Wait, no, that wasn't the last thing after all. Look around and find the oh-so-funny hidden blooper section that's included! It's there and will have you rolling in your living room aisles. Yup, even stars can flub lines or spray it when they say it, and you should see the event participants freakin' in the background of a done-over interview! Oops!

And, as if that's not enough, each volume comes with its own collectible bookmark featuring a photo of that issue's Spotlight dancer. So this one has Ansuya and the next Volume, #2, will feature Carolena Nericcio of FatChanceBellyDance of San Francisco.

To order your copy before Volume 1 sells out, or to order upcoming issues, please see the ad in this issue of Zaghareet! or visit