Gilded Serpent presents...
Bellydancing the Sacred Shapes
with The Goddess Dancing

DVD Review by Eugenia Chao

Bellydancing the Sacred Shapes reminds me a little too much of my ENGL 230 class, Symbolism in Literature, back in college.  "The Goddess Dancing" teachers Anita-Cristina, Karen, and Cathy teach with a near religious and poetic air, dwelling extensively upon the symbolic imagery of each of the five Sacred Shapes: the circle, the crescent, the figure eight, the shimmy, and the undulation.

"A circle is perfect in its wholeness.  One of the oldest symbols found, it has represented the mystery of being throughout the ages. Circles are seen everywhere. In the full moon, ripe fruit on vine and limb, in the belly of a pregnant woman. Circles are within our bodies too. They are in our eyes, our belly buttons, our spinal columns.  Even our cells are in the shape of a circle." (Bellydancing the Sacred Shapes

A poetic introduction like the above precedes every shape that Anita-Cristina, Karen, and Cathy teach. 

According to the teachers, the crescent reminds us of the smiles on our faces and the arms that hold us; the figure eight symbolizes infinity and the blood flowing through our bodies; the shimmy is an invisible shape that expresses excitement; the undulation recalls the belly of a woman in contractions, a snake, and the curve of our spines.

Each of the teachers' backgrounds informs the presentation in this introductory video.  Anita-Cristina holds a Masters in Education and learned drumming and ritual with the EarthDrum Councel and EarthSpirit Community; Karen has a bachelors in writing, literature, and publishing; Cathy is a certified Family Nurse and Nurse Midwife.  Bellydancing the Sacred Shapes talks about the "Goddess Culture" as one of the philosophical, ritualistic sources of goddess dancing (perhaps Anita-Cristina's influence).  The teachers emphasize the symbolic imagery of each sacred shape and the music sounds rather New Age (Karen, Anita-Cristina).  Each movement is broken down and explained in anatomical detail (Cathy). 

The Shimmy

Ultimately, this is an excellently taught video which a beginner bellydancer may benefit greatly from, if only for the anatomical breakdowns of movements. 

In my opinion, however, I could do with more traditional Middle Eastern music.  I would also do quite well without the extensive symbolism and dwelling on words and poeticism (and I'm a creative writing and literature major.)

A first-time bellydancer may not be able to dance along to this video from beginning to end with the limited amount of time allowed for the viewer to learn each movement before progressing to full speed.  While the teachers explain each movement anatomically in detail and start off at a slow pace, after a few rounds of eight beats they speed up and invite the viewer to do a full time shoulder or hip shimmy or undulation, just like them.  While the beginner may still be trying to keep a shoulder shimmy going for longer than five seconds at a time, the instructors are already smiling and floating about, traveling with their full time shimmies and undulations.  Hopefully this will impress and inspire rather than discourage the new bellydancer/viewer.

Below are the list of movements covered in the framework of the five sacred shapes in Bellydancing the Sacred Shapes:

Karen, Cathy and Anita-Kristina doing the Creation Dance
  • The Circle: the horizontal hip circle, the vertical and horizontal chest circles, and head circles.
  • The Crescent: horizontal and vertical hip and chest slides, and head slides.
  • The Figure Eight: horizontal and vertical figure eights with the hip.
  • The Shimmy: twisting hip shimmy, regular hip shimmy, shoulder shimmy, and the "earthquake shimmy" (full body vibrations.)
  • The Undulation: body waves, snake arms.

At the end of the lesson, Anita-Cristina, Karen, and Cathy put the sacred shapes together into "The Creation Dance."  Anita-Cristina's poem about sacred shapes is recited while the dancers dance according to the words being read.  Viewers may dance along to this fairly simple choreography/poem and enjoy the movements as well as the words and imagery.  As dancers, we may be more used to letting the music or rhythm dictate our movements and choreography (especially since not all of us understand the lyrics to Egyptian or Turkish music), but with this video, we can experience dancing to pure words, for a change.

With a little extra poetry and a dreamy atmosphere throughout, Bellydancing the Sacred Shapes may just be that special Christmas present you're looking for, especially for your more literary-minded friends. 

Who knows, this may even be something you'd like to buy for yourself, too--after all, where else will you get a private lesson taught by three teachers who are a musician, a writer, and a nurse, and all fun, hippy women who do excellent belly flutters and embrace bellydance with all of their hearts?

Cathy, Karen, and Anita-Cristina

This DVD is available for purchase here-

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