review by Rebecca
is an excellent value for the money, containing exercise
routines and dance demonstrations by Aruna.
She's an accomplished fitness trainer, bodybuilder, and dancer
who looks like a superwoman and wants you to be a superwoman,
DVD came with a very sweet personalized note signed by Aruna,
wishing me a strong body. And that's what this DVD is all
about: strength, body sculpting, and physical integrity.
A lot of the exercises are done very slowly, with the weights,
which is a challenge like no other.
of Aruna's claims to fame is being 50 and being tougher
than chicks half her age. And it's true, at least with
regard to the strength training - which was her profession
for many years. Considering that most belly dancers want
to be as youthful as possible, it's a nice change to have
someone so athletic who's still improving with time.
as a reviewer, I go through these things with a notepad,
hitting the pause button every 3 seconds before my thoughts
disappear. This time I decided to do a pre-warm-up for my
tweaky back before daring to run through this one full tilt.
It says on the back, "this is not a girly workout",
and knowing Aruna, I took her at her word. I also followed
up with a phone interview, which Aruna very obligingly agreed
I mostly focused
on the exercises.
and back lifts
body dumbbell work
there's a belly dance drill section, followed by
- a fusion
belly dance performance.
standard warning that most exercise videos show was pretty
good - it basically says: Muscle burn is OK, joint pain is
not. My old yoga teacher used to say "If you feel a
sharp, knifelike pain in your joints, time to back off the
pose." Over the years, I have found that advice to be
sound, and I was glad that Aruna included it as well.
" There's a difference between good pain and bad pain. Good pain
tends to occur on both sides of the body at the same time. It comes on
slow, and goes away fast. Bad pain happens on one side of the body, or
in one joint, is very sharp, and doesn't go away quickly. I tell people
who have bad pain to avoid those exercises or to work around it... maybe
don't go as deep into a lunge, for example."
exercises seem designed for minimal risk of injury. Even
if you can't do them all, I don't think you'll hurt yourself
all that much. That's a big plus if you're trying new routines
for the first time by yourself, without a teacher or spotter.
verbal instructions and her form are clear and easy to follow.
Several angles are used to show each movement. The staging
is clear, with easy-to-see costumes, a mirror, and an attractive
backdrop. I noticed a couple of shots with what appeared
to be Kwan Yin in the corner. (She also gets points for wearing
my favorite color, sea green).
of them will be very challenging for the average dancer.
Yeah, yeah, we're all special, not average... quibbling aside,
I don't think many of us will be able to follow Aruna all
the way through the first time. I did pretty well but even
then had several points of muscular failure. I also took
2 to 3 minute breaks between the exercise chapters. Aruna
includes encouraging remarks during some of the hard stuff
to let you know that it's supposed to be challenging.
my own trainer said to me one time, "Failure is our
business," meaning, you WANT to work to the point of
failure for certain types of training.
form is flawless. Her athlete's body is almost too magnificent.
She's tall and willowy, with the upper-body development
that one normally only sees in female trapeze artists.
It's a little odd to see her doing such feminine movements
in her belly dancing. With a body like that, I'd be doing
men's dance or martial arts.
do this workout, you'll need a couple of sets of small hand
weights, and a mat, and that's about it. I tend to run these
things on my laptop, making image quality less vivid and
the sound a little too low. I found that putting the laptop
on a low chair allowed me to see the screen for both the
floor sections and the standing sections.
things I would have liked to see more of are listed below,
although I must admit that putting all this in would be pretty
expensive to produce.
I couldn't do the exercises and simultaneously be craning my neck to look at
the screen. In yoga classes, one style of teaching is to keep up a constant
stream of hypnotic babble: instructions, reminders, or whatever, so that the
student knows what to focus on in each pose or movement and they've always
got a little more to strive for. An experienced yoga practitioner can thus
go through an entire yoga workout without ever having to look at the instructor.
reason to include verbal instructions is to free the viewer
from having to exactly copy the demo. Sometimes the same
movement can look very different on different body types.
Knowing what is really important in the movement can allow
each person to work it out for themselves and make adjustments.
... going from slow to fast for each exercise. Many of the exercises were unfamiliar,
or only partly familiar. I always like to do the first 2 or 4 reps at half
speed just to make sure I know what I'm doing. Many of the exercises were,
I thought, worthy of more drilling time. Of course, this isn't really a "workout" tape;
it's more like a training program or a recipe perhaps.
derivation or origins of each exercise or movement.
During her introductory speech, Aruna listed a huge array of sources, from
Chinese martial arts to bodybuilding to Pilates, as well as several dance styles.
I would have liked to know, for each movement she was showing, where it came
from, how she had adapted or changed it, and why. And which Chinese martial
arts? Which teachers? There are so many styles, all very different. For some
exercises that may have very exotic or unfamiliar movement derivations, I would
have liked to see a few film clips of these movements being done in their original
specific benefits for each exercise.
Sometimes she did this, other times not quite. For example, "This exercise
will strengthen the [Latin name here], which are the tiny muscles right next
to your spine, that do X," or "This exercise will train your balance
and coordination for back bending." That way, the viewer has some idea
of what the effect is supposed to be, and then they can tell over time if it's
actually working the way it was intended. It's also nice to know the physiological
benefits, such as whether it slows heart rate, deepens breathing, prevents
atrophy from too much desk work, helps with PMS, cures warts, prevents tooth
anatomical diagrams of the muscle groups being targeted.
Just about 5-10 seconds is all you need for an image.
exercise session did not appear to include a cool-down. (I
haven't fully gone thru the belly dance drill section
ballet turnout more.
The plie section was a little baffling for a non-ballerina
like myself. Aruna tells you to turn out, but doesn't give
many specifics on HOW. There's a set of muscles close to the
hip joint that are supposed to be used for turnout to save
your knees and ankles. Of course, I never knew about them when
I took little-girl ballet at age 6.
performance goals for each movement.
Partly so the viewer knows if she's doing the movement right, and partly to
aid in a phased approach. Something like "Your heels should stay on the
floor as long as possible," or "You should work up to doing 3 sets
of 20 repetitions of this movement, and then go to a higher weight." Or
even, "Once you can do this many repetitions, you can try changing the
movement by doing it one-handed... strongmen in India have been known to do
this exercise with weights of up to 70 lbs."
visualizations for each movement.
We've all had our favorite images that helped us do an exercise, that as soon
as we used the image we went "AHA!" or our teacher did. Sometimes
telling someone to "engage your psoas" is hard to do, even if we
know what our psoas muscles are. But saying "push out your toes like you're
trying to poke someone in the back who's just a little too far away" will
often cause the right muscles to recruit better than a lot of technical jargon.
examples of visualizations of everyday movements that I've
heard at various times:
that you are covered in a huge cocoon of bubble bath suds
and are stroking them about a foot away from your body
(arms and hands)
a car door with your butt (hip bumps or back circles)
your armpit for just a second (sounds weird but it worked)
a tiny, adorable kitten in one hand while stroking it with
the other (Uzbek hand movements)
over a tree branch to spy a nightingale hidden in the leaves
a shallow tray filled with water or an unimaginably fragile
and beautiful object (Movement theater)
tips about diet.
I don't mean the latest fads. If you're training
hard, you NEED to eat enough of the right foods. But what are
those, and what about alternatives for, say, vegan bodybuilders?
mentioned to me that time and budgetary constraints forced
her to be briefer than she wanted. She kept the price point
on this one low, because there is already so much competition
out there. She wanted to create something that would be valuable,
new, and beneficial - something that her students already
need and would use, and something tailored for the average
dancer. Apparently, many belly dancers are not hard-core
gym nuts or muscle heads. They don't like to go to gyms and
pump iron. This DVD will challenge them without killing them.
felt that each of the "sessions" (i.e. legs, upper
body weights) was in fact worthy of a much longer session
all by itself. The exercise portion of the tape took about
an hour all told. What I might try is doing a workout where
all the sessions get covered, but I spend extra time on one
portion or another, depending what I want to work on that
day, or that week.
this was more than a one-time workout, but less than a fully
comprehensive, stand-alone training program. It was a glimpse
or taste of what slow weight training can do, shown by a
very well qualified fitness professional. I have to admit,
somewhat regretfully, that I'm less enthused with the dancing
on this DVD than I am with her exercise program. There's
nothing wrong with it, it's just not quite as inspiring to
me as the fitness part. I've seen Aruna do some great comedic
and character sketches in her live troupe choreographies,
but the studio demos seemed to lack liveliness, and seem
intended mostly for technical demonstration.
Aruna personally, and have great admiration and respect for
her as a fitness instructor and as an athlete. I was very
happy with the purchase, which cost only $15. I can't wait
to see her next exercise video, which will hopefully pick
up where she left off with this one. Ask her when she'll
be making a DVD about "The Dreaded Chair"!
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Fusion, Bedouin, What's the Difference? 4 DVDs reviewed and compared by
I see a dancer I really like, I want to *be* her, or him, right
at that moment. My heart leaps at the music and then leaps again
when I see what they're doing. With this one, I was interested,
but not that engaged.
The Classic Style Prevails, Workshop review by Rebecca
does everything from the knees, and Dahlena said not to do that!
What's a girl to do?
and Power, A Weekend Workshop with Raqia Hassan, Gala Performance
Show, Review and Report by Rebecca Firestone
April 21 and 22, 2007, Odd Fellows Hall, Redwood City, CA. Her personal style
was an oddly elusive mixture of street attitude and elegance, both "fierce
and friendly" as one person said.
Afsaneh and Carmen Carnes Dance Ensemble Reviewed by:
Circle Little Theater Marin Civic Center, San Rafael, CA February
16, 2007 And
since when was Rumi associated with Mother Earth?
Bellydance CD Reviewed by: Rebecca Firestone
On one of
the mailing lists I'm on, there was recently a heated discussion
on whether there was such a thing as "Balkan bellydance".
Today! Bellydance with Neon DVD review by Dina Peace
My pride, however, was not insulted. Go ahead Neon, clap
your hands and count from one to eight as if I just stopped teething
yesterday. I don’t care; I want to learn how to be a better
bellydancer and if I learn effectively from a professional performer
who reminds me of my kindergarten teacher, then so be it.
Adventure " Prop til ya Drop" The San Francisco
Chapter of MECDA Gala Concert Dec 3, 2006 Reviewed
by Renee of Australia
A stage presentation is totally different from dancing
at a restaurant, party entertainment, school concerts, haflas
At these venues you do not necessarily expect all of the above. The stage gives
dancers the opportunity to strut their stuff in an entirely different light.
Review of 2005’s Tribal Fusion Bellydance, Yoga,
Isolations and Drills: a Practice Companion with Rachel
Brice, review by Erica
Overall, this is a fantastic workout that I recommend
to anyone. It will tone and strengthen your abs like a lying-down,
crunches workout cannot do.