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Gilded Serpent presents...
Keti Sharif's
A to Z Advanced Stage
Instructional DVD and booklet

review by Monica Berini

Australian instructor Keti Sharif has created a treasure for dancers desiring advanced material to work and study with at home.  Hers is the rare instructional DVD that has the potential to appeal to a variety of dancers.  Those who value their dance in an ethnic context will appreciate the consistent references to Egyptian stars such as Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioca, Soheir Zaki and Farida Fahmy.  Those who enjoy a spiritual dimension in their dance expression will perk up at the concept of sacred geometry and combinations named after ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.  Fusion dancers might enjoy the salsa and bollywood combinations.  Likewise, myriad folkloric elements and stylizations are present for the dancer who wants to incorporate a little beledi or folkloric feel into a performance. 

Through it all Keti Sharif manages the rare trick of presenting belly dance as a challenging and ethnically rooted dance form, as well as a constantly growing and dynamic art form.

It is rare that an instructional video marketed to advanced dancers follows through to actually challenge experienced students or performers.  This one does.  There is no breakdown or explanation of movement.  The assumption is that the student can do the basics, can layer movements, can embellish technique and is comfortable with rapid transitions. 

What Ms. Sharif offers, then, is not movement after movement or repetitive drills, but a series of combinations.  This is where the 'A to Z' in the title comes in; combinations are named and presented alphabetically.  Each combination is presented three times, with two breakdowns and explanations and then a slow-motion demo to music. 

Some of the combination names call for a bit of a reach.  She mixes made-up names ("Divine Wave"), places and landmarks ("Luxor", "Nile"), items ("Gallebeya"), and ballet terms.  There is a larger organizational pattern to the combinations as well:  for example combos F through J are "Folkloric Stage Style", K through O are classified as "Classical Oriental and Taqsim", P through T are "Theatrical Belly Dance". 

The video was filmed in the grand ballroom of a five star hotel in Cairo, and the light-colored background is lush and lovely.  Ms. Sharif wears fitted pants, a coin hip scarf and a cut off top.  It is quite easy to see her legs and body line.

All of the demonstrations are fun to watch.  She is a gifted teacher and her explanations are thorough and creative.  Even when I occasionally found the names or the commentary to be somewhat esoteric I was never overwhelmed by that; everything she says clearly comes naturally to her and she seems very real and down to earth.  She is clearly having a great time and comes off as very personable.  A dancer that can translate this well into video must be quite dynamic in real life!

Her teaching style is such that I felt both included and as if I were really dancing while also inspired and challenged.  I highly recommend this as a tool for dancers at an intermediate level looking for a challenge and to anyone up through a professional level looking for inspiration.

The DVD also comes with a booklet that is extremely helpful.  I decided to go through the DVD without the booklet first.  While it does stand alone, when I added the written choreographies into the mix it was wonderful.  I imagine the intrepid student writing notes, variations and inspirations into the margins of the booklet!

Ms. Sharif has done a wonderful job creating a product that caters to dancers who are well beyond a beginner level but who want to work with an instructional video.

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