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Overall Rating: (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)
This video teaches basic belly dance moves with an emphasis on technique and fitness. Its sections include a warm-up with flexibility exercises, strength training, technique-focused instruction of basic moves, an 18-minute workout routine using belly dance moves, comments on putting together a performance, and a restaurant performance featuring Michelle.
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|Total Video Length||72:29 minutes|
|Performance Time||7:02 minutes (10%)|
|Teaching Time||62:05 minutes (85%)|
|Amount Of "Other"||3:22 minutes (5%)|
|Number Of Models||1|
|Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time||36 cents|
|Cost For "Other"||$1.25|
Michelle Morrison, the instructor featured on this video, has positioned it as a practice and study-outside-of-class tool for intermediates and beginners who have a little experience. It could also be used by brand-new beginners to learn basic moves, but the practice/fitness routine section includes some moves that weren't taught in the instructional section so that might be frustrating to a total novice who hasn't previously studied with other belly dance videos.
In the first couple of minutes, this video cuts back and forth between introductory remarks by Michelle and brief clips of her performing.
Throughout the instructional segment of the video, Michelle stands in a corner with a light-colored wall behind her on one side, and a mirror on the other wall that shows her movements from a second angle. She wears a black unitard with a mesh midriff which shows up well against this background, making it easy to see all her moves. A simple coin hip scarf helps emphasize the positioning of her hips. Soft drums play in the background, and Michelle's voice is always easy to hear over the top of them.
The first instructional segment is a warm-up that emphasizes flexibility. This section, about 9 minutes long, works through some movements that are suitable for use in performance (for example, hip slides) and other movements that are just good for exercise.
Following the warm-up is a 4 1/2 minute strength training section. In this part, Michelle includes some abdominal exercises that would be excellent for developing control over the muscles used to do stomach rolls.
Next the video moves into the 29-minute technique section. The moves that Michelle covers here are fairly basic: hip lifts and drops, figure 8's, shimmies, and a couple of traveling steps. But unlike many teachers, she explains each move in detail and emphasizes proper technique. At the beginning of this section, I cringed a little because the slow shimmies she was doing were not in time with the background drumming. But synchronization improved as the section progressed. I liked how she explained the difference between soft shimmies versus accented ones, and the way she emphasized the timing of the 3/4 shimmy.
The camera work in this instructional section is not ideal. At times, it didn't show the feet when I wished I could see them, and at other times it cut off part of Michelle's head. Most of the time, the camera work was not too annoying, but a few times I found it interfering with my ability to focus on the content of the video. For example, I was particularly frustrated when it failed to show her feet on the 3/4 shimmy, especially since at the time she was describing how the hip movement related to what the feet were doing.
Next the video moves into the routine. This routine is designed for practice or fitness use - due to the amount of repetition it contains, I wouldn't recommend it for performance. For this section, Michelle dances in front of a more scenic backdrop, and wears a practice costume consisting of a crop top with hip coin scarf, a simple skirt, and leggings. She doesn't tell you ahead of time what the order of the moves will be: the style is simply "follow the bouncing butt". Each move is repeated enough times that you can catch up even if you miss the initial transition. As she dances, titles appear on the screen telling you which move to do with her.
The practice routine goes continuously for about 17-18 minutes. If you are accustomed to frequent aerobic exercise, you may find this routine to be a bit low-key and it might not be vigorous enough to move your heart rate into the cardio zone. But if you are not used to getting much exercise, you'll probably find this routine to be a good challenge, and using it every day will help you burn fat and raise your fitness level.
There were some moves used in the practice routine that were not taught in the instructional part of the video, such as rib cage undulation and tummy flutters. As I watched Michelle incorporate stomach rolls and tummy flutters into the routine, I found myself wishing she would have taught these moves as part of the instructional section because many teachers fail to explain these moves well, and I had been impressed by how well Michelle described the moves she did teach. Admittedly, the strength training section does introduce some abdominal exercises that help prepare students to learn these moves, but the technique section doesn't build on that to show the dance moves. It was clear from watching Michelle do these in the routine that she executes these moves very well, and it would have been nice to see how she explained them.
The next section consists of a couple of minutes of tips on how to assemble a performance. Michelle took an interesting approach to this. She showed brief clips of performances she had done, and for each clip there was voiceover commentary discussing the concepts being demonstrated. The video quality is a bit fuzzy, and the lighting isn't very good, but the information being conveyed is useful.
The video concludes with 7 minutes of a performance that Michelle had done at a restaurant called the Oasis. In this clip, she wears a beaded nightclub-style costume. Unfortunately, the lighting was very poor and it was difficult to see Michelle's moves against the background behind her. I found myself frequently straining to see what she was doing, and I became a little fatigued watching it. The camera showed Michelle only from the hips up. The sound wasn't great, but it was acceptable.
Still, even though I found this performance clip to be difficult to watch, there was some value in its being included on this video. It illustrates what it's actually like to dance in a restaurant with limited space available, and it emphasizes the importance for restaurant dancers to ensure that they're always doing something interesting with their torsos, heads, and arms because sometimes that's all the audience can see. Michelle shows that it's possible to do a good performance despite the clattering silverware, bustling waiters, and other difficulties of dancing in such an environment. The performance segment illustrates an aspect of the dance that can be helpful to beginners who may be interested in pursuing professional opportunities.
The closing titles lasted about one minute.
In conclusion, I think it's a good video for polishing technique, practicing at home, and doing a belly dancing workout. I wouldn't recommend it as a beginner's first video, but it could be good for continuing education after outgrowing a simpler video. Both beginners and intermediates are likely to find something of value in both the instructional section and the practice routine. I also think many teachers could benefit from studying how Michelle explains posture and technique, and use her approach as a role model in their own teaching. At $25 per copy, plus shipping, it's a good value for the money.
In short, I found this to be a great video for learning and polishing basic moves, with a good routine for practicing those moves and doing a brief fitness workout.
|Michelle and I have exchanged links to each other's web sites over the years, with occasional e-mails back and forth relating to the linking, but our relationship has never gone any deeper than that. She invited me to review her video because she liked the approach I took with reviewing other people's videos on my web site, and she was seeking a reviewer who would be more objective than her students or friends.|
Contact Michelle as follows:
Web Site: http://www.farfesha.com
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