Review: Rachel Brice’s Bellydance Arms and Posture

Rachel Brice’s Bellydance Arms and Posture is a good, self-contained practice for arm and shoulder work with a distinctly tribal flavour.

What it’s not:
It’s not a thorough guide to tribal bellydance arm work, nor does Brice go over hand movements. The important distinction to draw is that this video is actually not instruction in using your arms to dance, although it includes some dance components. There are two aspects to arm movements: what the muscles and joints should be doing (pull arm up, rotate elbow, shoulder down, etc.) and what you should be visualizing or feeling in order to get the look right (feel as though you’re pressing, pulling molasses, moving your hands through water, etc.) Rachel covers the first part, the muscles and joints, very well for the moves she shows, and I was able to “get” some tricky moves after her explanation. She doesn’t explain how to get her “look”, that is, her way of moving her arms through space veeeery slowly and deliciously and graciously. If you’ve had some dance instruction, you can probably imagine visualizations for yourself, but this DVD is not a key to that.

I should also mention that the DVD is slightly misnamed. It should have been called “Arms & Shoulders.” Although Brice does give posture reminders, there is no longer discussion of or practice for correct posture.

 What it is:
It’s a great little practice you can do all in one go (and it lasts under an hour). (I did skip two leg-strengthening parts involving deep squats that would have killed my knees.) There are many exercises for improving shoulder mobility and strength, some of which I had not seen before. Some of the arm movements reminded me of the arm practice session of my flamenco class.

If you’re interested in tribal, you’ve probably already bought this video. However, it would be very useful for any dancer looking to work and stretch the shoulder region, bellydancers, yes, but if you’re learning flamenco this would be great too. This is also a video I’d file under “Great for People Sitting at Desks/Computers All Day Long” — if you’re even a bit curious about this kind of dance, this video will help you move exactly those muscles which are most damaged by sedentary desk work.

Other notes:
The video is also a really good deal for the price. I like Brice, but am not an acolyte, and her choreographies kind of all look the same to me (amazing, but the same), so I’m not in a position to judge the performance. There is a cute chit-chat segment between her and Miles Copeland in the “Extras” section in which she comes across as funny and down-to-earth. I would also add extra stretching to the end of the program.

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