DVD Review -
Crash Course in Belly Dance"
Review by Mara al-Nil
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!
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.
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.
was quite clear from watching her and hearing her explain the
moves that she was a very experienced dancer. No bellybunny
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.
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.
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!
Belly Dancer, the name notwithstanding, is more than a quickie.
It’s a real love affair with Middle Eastern dance.
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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for other possible viewpoints!
More by Mara
6-1-04 "Raqia Hassan presents
Ahlan Wa Sahlan Oriental Dance Festival Opening Cairo 2003."
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.
A Whole Latte' Shaking
Going On, Belly Dance Comics by Alexandria
I think we can stop now!"
Belly Dance Superstars at DNA
Lounge page 2, photos by Lynette
eye candy! Performing in one of the most trendy clubs in San Francisco!
Leila, An American Dancer in Cairo
by Catherine Barros,
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.