I finally worked through Sera’s Bellydance: East Coast Tribal after owning it for a while, and I was stunned at how excellent it is. There are a few flaws (which I’ll get to later), but those aside, it’s a superb video.
First things first. This is not a beginner’s DVD. Sera neither gives the kind of explanations of basic movements a beginner would want, nor does she present all the basics of bellydance. No way. It is, however, a great DVD for intermediate dancers. Sera goes over some basic movements (especially in the warmup), but in such a way as to help you increase your flexibility and power.
The 20-minute warmup and the 10-minute drill section get you doing some basic stretches, focusing on your isolations, and quite importantly, working on powering moves from particular muscles. The dancers mirror your movements (so when she calls “left,” they actually move to their right) which I prefer. Sera is extremely thorough about calling out which muscle to use for a move, and always managed to remind me as soon as I forgot. I *was* worried about the neck stretch, since she moves the head all the way back, and some moves also seemed quite hard on the knees, so I modified them. In the choreography Sera is careful to point out which sections are knee-unfriendly, and sometimes offers a modification, but this is not the case in the workout. She does, however, tell you when certain moves are difficult for beginners, so you don’t get discouraged.
I would say that, considering how cheap the DVD is, the warmup is worth the price alone. I know I’m going to use this (with some extra stretching) as an introduction to other bellydance videos.
Next comes a demonstration of the combinations to be learned, and then very detailed instructions for each of six movement combinations. I had watched the video before, but only by doing it could I see what a brilliant teacher Sera is. She has that uncanny ability to know *just* when you’re relaxing a certain muscle, or doing a movement lazily, or forgetting about your posture, and to give a perfectly-timed reminder.
On the other hand, the combos themselves are challenging and, to my eye, beautiful. It’s not hard to get the basics of each, but to do them right, with the correct arm movements, good timing, and perfect form, is hard. This is a major strength of the DVD: you can grow into it a little. Both the warmup and the dance instruction are basically doable for an advanced beginner/intermediate, but they have enough layering and little details that you have a reason to go back and do the video again.
As you can probably tell by the length of this review, I am impressed! I do want to say though that it’s not the right DVD for you if you just want to pop something in the player and shake your hips around. Some of the muscular movements can be quite strenuous. You need to pay attention to the instructions, you need to listen to your body to avoid injury, and you may even need to pause it and practice a movement slowly and carefully on your own. And you need to stretch thoroughly at the end. But this is what makes it so good.