Review: Neon’s Luscious: The Bellydance Workout for Beginners

Did we really need another bellydance-based workout? I wouldn’t have thought so, but Neon, as usual, has gone and proven my expectations wrong.

Luscious – The Bellydance Workout for Beginners is an exquisitely made program, with more good qualities than I can enumerate. The costumes and setting are gorgeous — nothing like the typical brightly-lit aerobics studio — and Neon advises you at the beginning to dress up for it and join the three dancers here in making the movement special. This is the kind of thing that sounds cheesy, but I did it, and it makes sense: how will you forget about bad body image or those extra pounds if you’re wearing ugly workout wear? Dressing up makes you feel like you’re dancing, not punishing yourself.

The instruction itself is taught in sections themed “Circles,” “Infinity Loops,” “Undulations,” “Hip Accents,” “Shimmy,” and “Body Line.” Each dancer leads two of the sections: she stands at the front and her voiceover describes the movements to be done. What I really like about this is that the sections weren’t assigned randomly; instead, each section bears the particular dancer’s imprint, and showcases her strengths. It’s subtle, but you start to notice that Neon leads complicated, quick-changing combinations, Blanca shows her wonderful, large, and sensuous movements, and Sarah Skinner adds an upbeat Turkish feel to the shimmy section. This made the instructors seem much less like exchangeable dancing bodies, and much more like teachers with particular areas of expertise.

On-screen graphics show you the move

The movements are varied, and quite a few combinations are introduced and repeated from two to six times. This is not a “four of this and four of that” drill. In fact, I would suggest that complete beginners start with a different video. This would be great for advanced beginners like me, who are not expert enough for a complicated choreo with tons of layering, but get bored when everything comes in fours and is repeated ad infinitum.

All along, the dancers offer tips on putting emotion into the steps, on maintaining form, and on making movements deeper and stronger. While the dancing is rarely fast-paced, the slowness of the movements is often more challenging and grueling. The workout made me sweat (though it might not make everyone), but more importantly, it challenged me to maintain grace, form, and muscle control while learning the combinations. I couldn’t believe it when the forty-five minutes were over — it felt like fifteen!

If you have weak knees, you might want to be careful with some of the lunges and plies; on the other hand, there aren’t a lot of them, and they’re done slowly enough that you can be careful. I’ll also repeat the warning that this might be a little hard for complete beginners who aren’t already good at picking up choreography. However, the video does have a well-indexed instructional section which describes all the movements used in the workout. As a step up, there’s a version of the workout with music alone, and no voice over.

In case my enthusiasm wasn’t clear enough, I really think WDNY has a winner with this video. It’s simple, but also simple enough to do regularly and to grow into. At the same time, even once you have learned the step combinations, adding graceful arm and handwork (to say nothing of being aware of facial expressions, head positions, and dancer’s poise) poses an extra layer of difficulty. And finally, the movements are, quite simply, beautiful. You will be happy to be dancing.

(Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this video from WDNY.)

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