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Gilded Serpent presents...
DVD Review -
"Instant Bellydancer, Curves,
A Crash Course in Belly Dance" by Neon
Review by Mara al-Nil

OK, I have to admit that I went into this one thinking probably the same thing you’re thinking: “Instant?! Yeah, right! 'Probably another bellybunny wannabe!” But…there was something about the cover, with its tasteful, flawless photography and graphics that made me decide to do more than toss it aside with a derisive snort. I took the time to read the DVD’s back jacket, where I found that Neon’s niche is “belly dancing for club goers and party girls”…wait, hold on, just keep reading!…and that Instant Belly Dancer is an innovative program that helps with dance step memorization and improvisation. Hmmm…this was starting to sound interesting! And, at the bottom was a photo of a Middle Eastern guy (Zafer Tawil), a musician with some serious credentials! Maybe this “club goer” knew a thing or two after all!

So, with a somewhat more open mind, I popped the DVD into my computer and from the opening shot found myself captivated!

I will admit to being a sucker for great cinematography/videography, so when I saw the stark black background with a close-up of a delicate, antique-looking coffee cup being filled with…what else but instant coffee!, I knew right out of the gate I’d have to give kudos for creativity, humor and exceptional camera and post-production work. As a bedlah-bedecked Neon rose out of the cup, I had to admit…this “party girl” could dance!

The rest of the DVD lived up to the opening shot’s promise of a high-quality product. Throughout the DVD, Neon’s demonstrations of basic dance moves were very easy to follow because she stood out clearly against the plain black background. Simple and clear graphics accompanied her demonstrations, sometimes overlaid on her image, at other times next to her on the background. They made it easy to visualize just what was happening in various parts of the body as she taught the moves. I particularly liked the way she overlaid moving arrows on the legs showing the simultaneous opposite directions of movement, as well as arrows and titles showing which foot carried the weight at a given time.

Neon’s friendly and engaging onscreen personality made it look like fun. Her encouraging words seemed genuine and sincere, unlike those chirpy, artificial, “You’re doing great!” comments so often heard on exercise or instructional dance videos. Her entire demeanor was professional, polished, and self-assured. Even when she was doing some very sexual moves, such as a big hip circle with pelvic bounces, there was not a trace of vulgarity or lewdness. Her expression was fun and flirty, rather than having any “come hither” or pouty look which would have pushed the move into another realm.

It was quite clear from watching her and hearing her explain the moves that she was a very experienced dancer. No bellybunny here!

While some people might not have enjoyed the trance/house music on her DVD, I found it consistent with her upbeat style and stated nightclub niche. She also included Arabic percussion, which brought the dance back to its roots.

After demonstrating and breaking down various moves, all based on Circles (horizontal, vertical, “infinity loops”), she showed how the individual moves could be combined, layered or converted to travel steps. Although this DVD targets beginner dancers, even experienced dancers could find something of value in this well-organized compendium of circular dance moves.

My favorite parts of the DVD, though, showed Neon improvising using the moves taught in each section. How many times have you seen a dancer do something that looked great, but you couldn’t figure out just what it was she did? What was especially appealing in the improv sections was the voiceover in which she named each step as it was done. What a fantastic way to train a dancer’s eye to identify moves in a combination!

Instant Belly Dancer, the name notwithstanding, is more than a quickie. It’s a real love affair with Middle Eastern dance.

There is a wealth of good, solid dance instruction here. While it is marketed as the salvation for party girls who need to be good dancers by Friday night, it also is a genuine foundation in the classic vocabulary of Middle Eastern dance. This is not some watered-down “shake your tail” version of Middle Eastern dance—Neon keeps the essence of Middle Eastern dance alive in Instant Belly Dancer. I would highly recommend this DVD, not only for its stellar production quality, but also for its excellent dance instruction.

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Ready for more?
More by Mara al-Nil
6-1-04 "Raqia Hassan presents Ahlan Wa Sahlan Oriental Dance Festival Opening Cairo 2003."
While my personal preference is to focus on the dancers, some people may enjoy celebrity spotting, or looking for friends and fellow dancers fortunate enough to have attended the gala.

8-2-04 A Whole Latte' Shaking Going On, Belly Dance Comics by Alexandria
"Ok, I think we can stop now!"

7-27-04 Belly Dance Superstars at DNA Lounge page 2, photos by Lynette
More eye candy! Performing in one of the most trendy clubs in San Francisco!

7-21-04 Leila, An American Dancer in Cairo by Catherine Barros,
She would walk into these huge ballrooms filled with thousands of people with a huge stage in the middle of the room while television cameras on cranes are taking note of everything.

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