Roundup: Bellydance Floorwork

Readers, I’m starting a new series in the blog. It’s something I’ve wanted to do in a while: posts that give a list of videos for a particular dance specialty, be it a prop or a dance style, along with where to buy them.

I kept thinking I had to do reviews of all the DVDs in a certain area before I could publish a list, but let’s face it, that will take some time. So I thought: why not come up with the lists first, and then link to reviews as I write them?

In addition, just to make the resource more useful, I’ll add any interesting or useful articles I find on the topic.

One more thing: I really welcome reader suggestions. Please add any videos I’ve missed in the comments, and I’ll update the posts on a regular basis! These posts are meant to grow with time.

Bellydance Floorwork Videos

Ruby’s Flawless Floorwork: The Lost Art of Belly Dance Floorwork.

Anaheed’s Classic Cabaret Floor Work

Tanna Valentine’s Floorwork: Bellydance for Body Shaping

Sarah Skinner’s The Celebration Bellydance Workout: Mood-Lifting Bellydance Flow & Workout (one of the workout sections is floor work, and some of the instructions are specific for floor work)

Fat Chance Belly Dance’s Tribal Basics, Vol. 8: FloorWork

Saqra’s Floor Dancing Technique

Rachel Brice’s Laybacks, Drops, Zippers & Floorwork (parts of this video rental are useful for floorwork)

Veda Sereem’s Floor Work

Cory Zamora’s Cabaret Bellydancing Floor Moves Advice

Delilah’s BellyDance Workshop Volume III

Articles on Floorwork

Shems’ Floor Work in Oriental Dance (history and cultural context)

Nita’s blog post, “bellydance floorwork & Purvottanasana: upward plank pose“(on using yoga to build strength for floorwork)

Morocco’s essay Getting Down to Floorwork (also historical and cultural context)

 

photo credit: Alaskan Dude via photopin cc

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Review of Sarah Skinner’s Bellydance Shimmy Workout for Beginners

Sarah Skinner’s The Bellydance Shimmy Workout is a really smart, useful program, and one that could be adapted to a number of different dance practices. At its core are five shimmy drills of five minutes each. The idea is that you could do one a day if you were pressed for time and wanted to get a bit of regular practice in. In fact, the very last drill incorporates all kinds of shimmies, so you can work on a bit of everything in just five minutes. The drills include upper and lower body shimmies, basic bellydance moves and traveling steps, layering, and traveling with shimmies. While this isn’t a video a beginner is likely to be able to do, I do think The Bellydance Shimmy Workout is a great tool to go from beginner-level shimmies to advanced beginner and further.

 

I am personally unlikely to get my workout clothes on and the computer set up just to do five minutes of dancing. But I’m thinking maybe I should change that. And I could imagine incorporating one or two of the five-minute drills into a longer practice, perhaps with another technique or choreo video.
What I like even more is that if you play The Bellydance Shimmy Workout all the way through, it’s more than just a collection of workout segments. You have a warmup and cool down, a great strength-building drill for dance, and oh-so-necessary stretches between each of the shimmy drills. Do the full hour, and you have a real workout, but done in beautiful, dancey, WDNY-style: cardio, stretching, strength, coordination, balance, dance technique, all in one package.
In fact, I think you could even take the warmup, strength drill, and one shimmy drill and use them as a solid prep for some improvising… now that would be a fun dance practice.

The quality is, as is to be expected with WDNY, high. Sarah Skinner and her two backup dancers are beautifully dressed and well filmed. Sarah’s voice cues are right on and encouraging, with good reminders to breathe. The music is upbeat and gets your energy going for some serious shimmying – some new agey stuff, some Balkan, some clearly Middle Eastern. You also have the option of doing the workout with music and no voice cues. The variety of shimmies covered is really good – it’s not just about a knee-driven shimmy and a choo-choo, but you get to practice ¾ shimmies and the Arabic hip walk.

I do have one beef with this otherwise excellent video, though, and that’s right in the title: “for Beginners.” The Bellydance Shimmy Workout for Beginners is not for beginners. I’m not saying a beginner couldn’t work with this video and have fun, but if she expects to be able to follow along with much of it, she will be disappointed. Shimmies are hard to get. While some dancers pick them up fast, many take years to really learn the more challenging ones. They really are not a matter of watching them a couple of times and following along.
The “cutesy butt” shimmy!

The video includes a brief (circa 15 min) tutorial on the basic moves and all the shimmies used during the workout. This is great as a review of shimmies, but it’s not lengthy and detailed enough instruction for someone who doesn’t know a shimmy at all. Sarah’s teaching is clear and beautifully filmed, but you’re really not going to learn to layer a ¾ shimmy on a traveling step in a minute’s instruction. It’s just a matter of packaging. I know in the world of live bellydance courses beginner classes can go on forever and cover truly difficult material, but I think expectations are different with a video.

If you’re not an absolute beginner though, and you want a shimmy drill, this video’s the thing. I’m thinking of putting The Bellydance Shimmy Workout on high rotation. It’s exactly what I need to progress in my dance, it’s short enough to do on a regular basis but long enough to get good and warmed up, and, well, it makes me happy!

I received a review copy of The Bellydance Shimmy Workout

Finally got a veil!

So, I have quite a few veil DVDs, some of which I also need to review, and I thought the next few months would be a great time to do so. My torso and belly might not be as flexible, but I can still use my arms, right? The thing is, I’ve done very little (like, really, really little) in-class veil work, and even that was years ago and rather randomly taught. And this week, when I was working with Jennifer Jimenez’ “Lets Dance Together – Prenatal Dance Fitness” (review coming soon) and got to the scarf/veilwork section, I went to find the piece of chiffon I’ve had lying around for years and — could not for the life of me find it. I found practice zills, hip scarves, poi, all kinds of little props I have hanging around, but no chiffon! I realised the awful truth — I badly needed a veil.

But what kind? It turns out that bellydance videos have varying amount of information on choosing a veil. Veil with Aziza and Kaeshi Chai’s Expressive Bellydance Veil both go over the basics, silk and chiffon, and Kaeshi also shows how to steam iron your veils to keep them looking fresh. There’s a small section on choosing veils in Sarah Skinner’s Seven Veils, but the really long introductions are in Skinner’s Bellydance with Veil and Shoshanna’s Fabulous Four Yard Veils. Skinner’s intro is more of a show-and-tell — you can tell that she’s really in love with her veils! — and she focuses quite a bit on the makeup of the fabric and the look, weight, and hemming of the veil, going through varieties of chiffon and even more unusual fabrics. Shoshanna doesn’t deal with quite as many kinds of fabrics, but she gives more examples of how particular veils might work in dance, what moves she likes to do with what kinds of veils, and also which veil fabrics are too heavy and might cause injury!

Other resources I like are Dina Lydia’s article, “Making a Veil,” and Zorba’s “So Many Veils, So Little Time!” In the end I went to Little Egypt, a store and bellydance school here in Dallas, and picked up a couple of silk veils at their sale that were pretty much cheaper than on eBay! (And a little practice cane… because I’m bad.) I’d still like to get to a fabric store nearby and see what kinds of chiffon are out there, and if I can make a really sturdy — or at least disposable — practice veil out of some on-sale fabric, but for now I’m ready to go!

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.)