Gilded Serpent presents...
Dancing the Big Belly
Bellydance Prenatal Fitness and
Dance Instruction Program
DVD review
by Erica

To start, I should clarify that I am not currently pregnant. My daughter, Natasha, was born six months ago. I did, however, attend my weekly bellydance class and follow DVDs at home throughout my entire pregnancy and was trying to figure out what I should and should not be doing in bellydance during pregnancy. I also currently carry Natasha everywhere in our Baby Trekker carrier, so I strapped our little 17 pounder to my chest to try out Naia’s Prenatal Bellydance Fitness DVD from WorldDance New York. I figured this and six months worth of caring for a baby and not sleeping through the night would approximate what a third-trimester pregnant woman would experience doing this workout.

The DVD is set up with standard workout options. The introduction, credits, and disclaimer are separate from the workout, so you can skip these one-time-viewing sections. The workout can be done with or without instruction from Naia, and you can choose a chapter to start on or do alone.

In her introduction, Naia explains that she is seven months pregnant and calms our North American concerns by telling us that she uses the language and guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She provides some useful all-round tips for exercising and dancing while pregnant.

There is also the obligatory and ubiquitous list of things to avoid, things to watch out for that could go wrong, and reasons to not exercise during pregnancy. (The list of what can go wrong is long and is everywhere when you are pregnant – in every book and on every website you read, at any prenatal class that you attend, and spread out over trips with your doctor. You would think that being pregnant is a medical problem or that there is something wrong with you!) The program consultant and editor is an OB/GYN nurse practitioner with her M.S., gives added credentials to the workout.

Naia has a small space to work with on this DVD. This is handy, as it is about the same as I imagine everyone has in their living room, so it minimizes the number of times you have to step around your furniture. 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. Naia’s studio has a wall of mirrors that she stands next to, and in some sections you can see both her and her reflection as she dances the combinations and shows you moves. This neither adds nor detracts from the instruction. The camera position changes a few times, but it is always a clear shot so that you can see what is happening and what you should be doing. If this workout is intended for beginners, there is a good variety of moves to learn.

For a 24-minute routine, Naia is very organized and is able to teach a full dance through the five sections. My sleep-deprived brain was not able to quite keep up on the first try of this DVD, but with subsequent tries I caught on.

She introduces moves, then forms combinations, and in the last section puts the four combinations together in a dance. The challenge with bellydance, it seems, is whether to teach it as a dance or as a fitness class or activity. Naia takes the fitness route by moving continuously and not giving as detailed a breakdown of moves. Her transition from individual moves into combinations works well, and for a dancer with any experience, the moves are familiar. Her dance works with the music she uses, but her counting does not. She counts to eight when a count of four would suffice, and her counting seems to always be a bit off the music.

I have been bellydancing for about five years now, so it is hard to put myself back in a beginner’s position. From the moves that Naia incorporates, it looks like this DVD is intended for beginners, though I think there is a little less instruction and break down of each combination and move than a beginner would need. The whole workout is only 24 minutes, and this includes a warm up, upper body work, traveling steps, combining all you learn into a dance, and a cool down. After doing the workout several times, anyone would be able to follow along, no matter how limited her bellydance experience. The workout may be too light and basic for a more advanced dancer. The solution for this person is simple, though. Do what I did and just continue attending your regular class but moderate the faster or more intense moves, take more breaks and drink more water, and don’t shimmy until you are at term. (Women in North African countries do not shimmy until they are ready to shake that baby out.) Also, do not do any moves that involve twisting at the waist. In yoga, these moves are done to expel any toxins, and the last thing you want to do when you are pregnant is encourage removal of anything in the pelvic area.

This DVD is a positive step for bellydance. It is the only prenatal bellydance workout that I have seen available. Considering the size of the prenatal market and bellydance’s rightful place in it, Naia has done us a great service in introducing our dance to a new group of women.

This DVD is available through or through the WorldDance New York website here

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