ad 4 Dhy & Karen

Gilded Serpent presents...
Four Bellydancers...  I AIN'T SCARED!
Bellydance Superstars Introduction to Bellydance
DVD review by Dina

Is it just me, or does it seem that videos from Bellydance Superstars are like a throwback to that TV show, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?”  Glossy production, flawless and precise movements, glamorous costumes and heavy make-up all weave into a rich tapestry of artistic creativity and of course, solid, solid financial backing from a wealthy patron (read: music mogul and diplomat Miles Copeland).  I feel divided at times with the Bellydance Superstars: do I  embrace the videos, internalize and savor the instructional aspects, like a tall glass of Grandma’s lemonade; or do I stand in awe and intimidation of the dancers’ technique of enormous magnitude and decide not to even bother, like that $900 bottle of champagne chilled on ice?

I am a beginner and in sight of the big picture, Introduction to Bellydance feels very user-friendly despite its über-imaging and professional packaging. Now mind you, I am not a “hater” of the dancers involved in this project: Amar Gamal, Sonia, Bozenka and Saida.  All of them are excellent, proficient and accomplished dancers. They even give the impression that they are genial enough to be in your living room, giving lessons on undulations for you and five of your closest friends.

The ladies seem to enjoy each other’s company (except for an occasionally withdrawn Sonia) and the chemistry that they have with each other comes across well in their instruction.  That is if you don’t get bored or tired before the video ends. 

I’ll say it now, this video is long, about an hour and thirty minutes type of long.  In the past, to get some morning practice in, I would usually pop in a DVD before heading out the door for the day.  Do not attempt that with this DVD, unless you wake up an hour earlier or don’t mind being late for work.  I found it best to do the practice from this DVD in increments.  In fact, that is how this project is set up.  Except for the warm-ups, cool-downs and the “final performance” (I use that term loosely), the ladies give instruction on certain body parts that highlight their strengths.  Sonia focuses mostly on the upper body; Bozenka schools you on the middle section; Amar Gamal shows you how to master basic hip action; and Saida finishes off with legwork.

In the area of presentation, this video is not that much different from the other videos from the Bellydance Superstars catalog.  It’s well... perfect.  I guess.  The set is adorned with colors of mahogany, black, russet and burnt orange.  There are candles, Persian-style rugs, gauzy cloth hanging overhead.  Pretty standard.  Each lady has chosen different music based on the moves being taught, or just her own taste.  In the warm up, you have two ladies (Amar and Sonia) who go through a quick routine in the hope that your muscles will be stretched enough.  They are wearing black midriff tops and capri-like pants and this is where I am puzzled....

Why do fitness video instructors choose to wear black?  I know that it is a popular color for many reasons, but if the objective of the video is to teach certain moves, wouldn’t it be easier for me to see the body?  I mean, the set is lit well enough, and I have good eyesight, but I would prefer to see the ladies show some variety in their wardrobe.  I really feel that with all the colors of fabric at our disposal in modern-day society, we can do more than just wear black!  Okay, my temper tantrum is over with now.  Moving right along....

This video starts off with Sonia teaching mostly upper body techniques, such as shoulder rolls, snake arms, head and ribcage slides.  She does the demonstration as her voice dubs the instructions.  Sonia seems to concentrate very deeply on what she is doing.  She hardly ever smiles or even grins for that matter.  Her approach to teaching emphasizes focused concentration.  That is even apparent with her voice which is monotonous and dry.  She is good and her instruction is to the point, but it just doesn’t seem like she is enjoying herself.

Bozenka is next and she proves herself to be the undulation and figure-eights queen of this video.  Truly, she looks happy when she is doing her instruction.  Her eyes light up and she made me smile too.  Her voice was soothing and encouraging, kind of how I remember my mom was when I was learning to drive for the first time.  Sure I may have almost driven into oncoming traffic or ran over a squirrel or two, but despite my mistakes, mom’s voice was soothing enough to make me do better.  Bozenka accomplishes the same thing (especially with those tricky pelvic undulations).                   

 Amar Gamal shows us some of her hip moves.  The mood she sets is very upbeat, from the movements, to the music and her voice.  Girlfriend is having a ball, or at least is faking it.  Either way is fine with me, because I was having fun.  That’s important.  I wouldn’t want to watch a bellydancer that looked uninterested. 

Anyway, Amar smiles throughout her instruction, especially when she does her Hagala hip shimmies (you go girl!).  She even quips perkily “good job” or “nice!” as if she is assuming that you are already a success, no matter what level you are . 

Saida is last with her focus on the lower part of the body.  The music in the background sounds like muted elevator music and really didn’t complement her techniques.  She speaks with authority and she even points to the starting leg or hip before she begins.  She unflinchingly looks directly into the camera, this is a marked difference from Sonia.  Sonia is well-qualified to teach, but Saida exudes confidence.  She gazes at the viewer as if to say, “get up, learn these moves and become a bellydancing goddess.”  At least that was my thought.

The four-minute cool-down is demonstrated by Saida and Bozenka and the video finishes up with the finale.  In the special features of this video, the ladies do an interview and they explain, almost apologetically, that they had two days to come together and do this project.  The finale unequivocally shows this video to be a rushed job.  The choreography is very basic and the ladies wear their black (urgh!) work-out gear, paired with glittering hip scarves.

 To say that this is Americanized Pop Bellydancing, for me, would go without saying.  We are talking about Bellydance Superstars here.  That’s like me going into McDonald’s and asking for a completely organic salad with dressing free of salt and alkaline filtered spring water served in recycled paper cups certified by Greenpeace. 

The cashier will look like I just stepped from the dark side of the moon.  It was not my intention to judge this project on the merit of whether it was “authentic” or not.  I was looking for how the techniques were demonstrated, the music chosen, and the dancers’ own personalities.  In life, I take the good with the bad and it is no different with Introduction to Bellydance.  It is a good buy if you want to focus on different parts of your body and as I said before, it is user-friendly.  Especially for beginners, like me.

Still, I prefer a real person teaching, but until I attend my next bellydancing class, then this DVD will do for me to practice with.  Especially those pelvic undulations, hagala shimmies and the omis.  I haven’t mastered them yet!

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
10-10-07 Belly Dance Wisdom–For Fitness, Pregnancy and a Divine Sexuality Book Review by Surreyya
This book, although not as deep on certain subjects as some may expect, does a great job at rustling the leaves away from a crooked sidewalk or blowing the dust off an old spice jar revealing an inner glow of warmth to share with others.

10-9-07 Working the Core, Bellydance Core Fitness DVD review by Erica
What I found instead was a not-very-flashy production of a good workout that is filled with unexpected and unusual (for bellydance) moves accompanied by sound anatomy and posture advice and coaching.

10-7-07 Glimpses Into the Past:On DVD at Last! by Terry Del Giorno
Some current dancers may find that the sentiment of the 70’s feels alien and therefore unable to relate to it. However, I believe many dancers will be thrilled to see faces attached to the names of some of our dance legends like Bert Balladine in Gameel Gamal.

9-14-07 Dancing the Big Belly, Bellydance Prenatal Fitness and Dance Instruction Program DVD review by Erica
The slow pace may seem agonizing for a fit, nonpregnant dancer and may seem slow during earlier stages of pregnancy, but as that weight starts adding up and the fatigue returns in the third trimester, I have a feeling the pace does not seem so slow.

ad 4 Casbah Dance


 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines