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Gilded Serpent presents...
Princess Farhana's Instructional DVD
Bellydance Basics

Reviewed by
Monet

The video begins with footage of Princess Farhana dancing at various events and performances, and some of this performance footage is not the best quality video. Next, we see her seated, discussing a brief history of Bellydance.

She repeatedly turns her eyes to the left, until it becomes a distraction. Is she reading from a cue card or watching someone?

As the camera pans in for a close-up, it stops. This stoppage detracted from her informative introduction.  Then the video instruction began…

There is no disclaimer – verbal or otherwise – as we start the warm-up section. Again, she continues looking off to the side. You can clearly see what she is doing with the exception of her knees. She failed to mention whether one’s knees should be soft, bent, or straight. Princess Farhana did not give much explanation during the warm-up. At some points, the music is louder than her voice and I had to make repeated attempts to raise the volume.

The next section had the title: "Posture". Farhana does a very good job of stressing the importance of a good dance posture and one’s stance.

The arm section of the video covers a couple of basic styles but is quite brief.

P. Farhana discusses hip in the following sections:
Basic hip is next. She gives good explanations on “lift, drop and flick.” However, as we move into small circles, there is no explanation regarding one’s knees or feet. She uses a "magic marker" analogy to help us with the visualization.

P. Farhana calls the large hip circle a "butt wipe" that I thought was funny (although a bit coarse). She shows these movements well in the large circles so you can see her knees, but when she does the small circles, and side circles on one hip, conceivably, beginners would be clueless as to what to do with their knees and feet. She does a cutesy combination in the circle section, but she assumes some basic knowledge that may not exist. There is no explanation given during the first two times she does a "front, side, back" combination, but it is possible to see what she is doing! The third time through this move, she explains it.

Moving on to the shimmies and traveling steps:
She explains the Basic Shimmy (bending and straightening knees) thoroughly, but I found the section too short with no practice, for a dancer attempting to do the movement along with her.

She proceeds on to talk about doing an "Up Hip Traveling Choo-choo Shimmy," again, assuming more knowledge than a beginner might have.

P. Farhana does the move later, but she gives no knee info and never mentions to do it on the balls of the feet although clearly she is perched on her toes.

The hand movement section of this video is very short, but the explanations are clear and complete. Again, she does not allow much practice time, and she only demonstrates it on her right hand. Her hand articulations are very smooth!  The arm and hand technique section could have combine easily with both the arm and the hand movement sections. I wished that she had spent more time on her explanation of the movement she called “Snake Arms.”

The section on layering the basic shimmy allots more time for practice of the arm and hand techniques previously demonstrated. This section is long and includes good practice using all of her techniques.

The best section in the video is the “Figure Eight.” P. Farhana does an excellent job explaining all types carefully. Again, my only complaint is her lack of explaining placement of one’s knees!

You can see that she holds her knees in a soft position, but a mention of what they are doing would have been even better. She uses good hand movements to help one visualize the “Figure Eight” movements. She focuses on technique and shows variations of each movement, including level changes.

On undulations, she jumps right in. She accomplishes her camel with little explanation, while her “Chest Lift” variation receives a more thorough explanation. She does level changes with the undulation but does not talk about them. She explained her “Rib Cage Camel” well with visualization, but as you are practicing the move, the instruction becomes a voice over the image of Farhana dancing and the video proceeds into her performance. It is an interesting segue, --but what if her student is still working on the “Camel?”

Before the beginning of her performance, a scroll comes across the screen to warn one to keep an eye open, as she will be doing some of what she has taught in her performance! Her performance is creditable and she includes much of what she covered in her instruction.  However, the performance was a little too long.  Yes, it was good, but quite long.

              Overall, this is a decent video!

She smiles many times during her instruction and has a pleasing personality. This video gives a slight “homemade” impression—compared to some other videos I have purchased recently. The Introduction of Princess Farhana’s video is a little unimaginative on its graphics, but the musical selections are quite good. For whatever reason, graphics in the menu are much better than those used in the Introduction. 

The quality overall is good, but the music (at times) over-powered her voice in volume. The volume of her vocals in the beginning was better than it was later in the video. The video was well lit and shot straight on, employing many close-ups. The background of a blue satin curtain “displayed” her well, costumed in a black Choli, stretch pants, and matching hip belt.

While this video is may work for a beginner, I do think it would be best suited for a beginner who already has taken a few classes and has some basic knowledge of Bellydance techniques and movements. I do not think this video would be of great interest to intermediate or advanced level dancers.

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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

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