Youtube Video of the Week: Yasmina Ramzy

My troupemate Stephanie posted this video on facebook, and immediately I knew I had to post this for y’all’s viewing pleasure. The past two videos I reviewed were solo performances. But hey, I think all of us at one point have danced in a group or troupe. Therefore, it makes sense to study videos where the group dynamic is powerful and effective in order to glean insights on how to be a better choreographer or troupe member. Without further ado, Yasmina Ramzy and Arabesque Dance Company:

— Costuming. In the “real world,” I work at a college theater department, sewing costumes. One of the golden rules I have heard in theater: Don’t put black costumes on dancers if you are performing in front of a black backdrop. However, as my boyfriend pointed out while watching the video, every time the dancers move, the light reflects off the sheen of the material. The result is a clean line that doesn’t blend in to the background. I feel the simplicity of the costuming helped accentuate the crisp choreography. Way to break the black on black rule and have an effective result!

— Staging. The staging of this piece almost reminded me of modern dance or some of Urban Tribal’s pieces. I think Yasmina Ramzy, the choreographer, used the space well and also used some really innovative formations and staging — level changes, dueling groups, circle formations, a weaving pattern. I also thought having one or two dancers represent different facets of the music was really visually interesting (I’m referencing the first minute or so). Yes, dancing perfectly in unison is impressive and powerful, but I also think highlighting each dancers’ strengths and personal stylization added a lot to this piece. The ONLY critique I had is that a few times, I was unclear what the formation was supposed to me — very few times it seemed like one dancer was standing in front of another, or someone wasn’t QUITE in the right window.

–Strong, graceful technique. The dancers poise and grace complimented their tight technique really well. It was like watching a troupe of Sonias from the Bellydance Superstars dancing. The arms were particularly lovely.

So what can we learn?

1) Be conscious costuming your dancers. Imagine not only what costumes would look like on dancers, but also in the venue you will be performing. After touring with the Bellydance Superstars, another tip I would give is that sheen, glitter, sparkle, etc. works exceptionally well onstage. You’d be amazed how much shimmery/glittery/sparkly elements go into their costuming — even the tribal dancers get glittery! I remember looking at one of Moria’s tribal outfits up close and being astounded by the amount of rhinestones and glittery bits on it. I remember having a revelation — tribal dancers can and do wear rhinestones!

2) Staging. Change up your formations! I get into the two-line formation rut ALL the time. If you watch these dancers, they’re not ALWAYS doing super-complicated belly dance technique. However, it stays visually interesting because they’re changing levels or formation frequently. Our eyes like to watch discernible patterns and big, visible movement — let your audience take a break occasionally from trying to analyze super-internal, complicated hip and torso work.

3) What pushed this piece into the “awesome” category was not the costumes or the staging. What I truly appreciate is that this troupe and choreographer did NOT sacrifice their technique and grace to take risks. We’re belly dancers, ladies and gentlemen. I feel like the most important part of our art is making sure we never sacrifice grace, good form, or solid technique (unless that’s the point of your piece — I once choreographed a dance for my senior project in college that was designed to be un-aesthetically pleasing).

Click here to learn more about Yasmina Ramzy and Arabesque Dance Company.

7 responses to “Youtube Video of the Week: Yasmina Ramzy

  1. 4) Creative lighting can make a big difference. After reading your comments, what I noticed that made the costumes work and the choreography stand out better was the lighting. The stage was not lit from the front. The lights were to the side, allowing the audience (camera) to see more reflections off the dancers’ hips against the relative darkness of the front of their bodies. Not to mention the way the light and shadow of the folds in the skirts enhanced shimmies.

    • Lighting always has the make it or break it. If your lighting designer knows you are using black, white, nude, whatever the forbidden color… they have enough tools at their fingertips to enhance what was meant for the piece when executed properly. I believe this was well done in that respect. I have worked as a Costume Designer and it is helpful to know the rules before you break them. You can break them if the purpose of the piece is executed correctly. I think the overall look of the piece was really well done it it’s simplicity to emphasis all details of the choreography. It is always refreshing to see amazing lighting designers do their best. I have had the pleasure of many of them making my work look fantastic! The choreography was well executed for the group. Little modern breaks here and there were refreshing to see in this piece which had a lot of traditional flavor to it. I thought it was pretty wonderful.

  2. This was nice, but I would have a hard time calling it Tribal. Their costumes were too minimal, and their movements a too choreographed.

    In my mind, Tribal has a more, well, Tribal feel… These ladies are all from the “Young and skinny” tribe, which is fine as far as it goes. Overall it reminded me more of a drill team, or half time show at an NBA game.

    Again, nice to watch, good work and obvious commitment from the dancers and kudos to them, just not really Tribal.

    • Whoops… I did not mean to represent this as tribal, but I can totally see how you would read it that way. I definitely consider this cabaret, I was just trying to point out that both cab and tribal girls can wear sparklies. Good point, thanks for posting!

  3. Threewinds: I wouldn’t call this tribal either, but I can’t see that anyone has said that it is? Your comments on their appearance is a little to harsh for me, I think that they are beautiful dancers – and I think they would be even if they weren’t in the “Young and skinny tribe”.

    My only critique would be that some dancers lost their positions at times and also that I feel that they were a bit too heavy on the formation-changing. Sometimes the eye wants to rest, at least mine does 😉
    Otherwise it’s definitely an inspiring video to watch. And I love their costumes!

  4. I’d really only want to see this performed once as an audience member and then would be ok not seeing something like it again. It’s more of a personal preference. The first part felt “modern-esque,” which I can appreciate but am not a huge fan of and it carried on into the rest of the piece. ((As this was ref’d to being like Urban Tribal, I’m not a fan of them either)) The girls’ timing was not down solid and you could see some of them rushing to get into place, which was mildly distracting. One thing I was impressed by was when the two girls in the middle of the circle were taking turns undulating. I have never seen it pulled off before and they did a fantastic job. Generally, you just can’t have matching undulations and by taking turns it was easier to lead meld them into looking like a unified movement.

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