Gilded Serpent presents...
Fitness and Dance Fusion

by Jawahare
  • “Cardio Belly Dance Workout”, With Melissa WorldDance New York.
  • “Ultimate Belly Dance Fitness Workout” -Temple Of Jehan and WorldDance New York.
  • “ World Dance Workout” with Elsa Leandros, WorldDance New York.
  • “ World Dance Aerobics”  by Keti Sherif

Since the beginning of the 21st century a major trend in both the dance arts and fitness programming has been the concept of fusion: the hybridization of several modalities or genres into novel, exciting formulas.  Now with an increase of interest in both belly dance and exercise, it seems inevitable that a blend of both entities enter into contemporary movement circles.  There are now many opportunities to develop dance practice into a cardiovascular exercise at the same time.

Ideally a fitness routine presented in the video or DVD format offers all three components of an exercise program: cardiovascular conditioning, stretching, and strength training. Many of the DVD’s that focus on a dance format for cardiovascular conditioning base this component on movements derived from a specific dance form. 

It may be a challenge to adequately achieve all three fitness parameters while also offering a technically solid and tasteful representation of the dance form. 

As an example, I will discuss some of the DVD’s recently submitted to this website for review.

Of all the titles listed above, Jehan’s “Ultimate Belly Dance Fitness Workout” appears to deliver the most promising format from the perspective of the dance and for the potential for improving aerobic capacity. 

Jehan focuses on pure belly dance technique using various steps and combinations which build in tempo over the course of the DVD.  The comprehensive nature of the technique make this a good choice for dancers who have had exposure to the dance form and who are familiar enough with belly dance terminology to follow fast movement combinations from a face to face perspective (as opposed to following behind the instructor).

Jehan expresses her knowledge and passion for the dance form though her original music and her voice over, but does not appear in the DVD. She has six fit and accomplished dancers who demonstrate the moves in various sections with impeccable form and innovative dance wear (how about tight jeans with hip belts and sleek bra tops?)

Jehan’s cuing is honey toned and she articulates movement specifics while also inviting qualities of energy and flow dynamics. The format is divided into sections with titles that bear, at best, a vague reference to the content.  For example, the “Strength” section includes strong hip lifts, drops and thrusts.  No squats or lunges here.  “Sensuality” incorporates slower serpentine movements such as shoulder rolls and undulations. Both “Passion” and “energy” are segments devoted to fast paced steps and shimmies combined to provide an aerobic workout.  The rapid change intervals of each combination or step grouping could be frustrating for less experienced dancers.  As a nod to the fitness realm, Andrew Troy, a personal trainer, discusses the basic approach to exercise prescription, including how to determine heart rate zones.

Overall this DVD is a great way for dancers to hone their skills while working up a healthy sweat.

Cardio Belly Dance features Melissa; a dancer and fitness instructor who has conjured a unique blend of Pilates based core awareness with belly dance. 

The “belly core” approach highlights the importance of core stability provided by Pilate’s principles while also explaining the quality of mobility and flexibility that belly dance offers.

Melissa’s instruction is systematic and easy to follow. She demonstrates solo and cues off camera.  Both front and diagonal camera angles give improved dimension making the movements easier to see.  She starts the DVD with a Pilates mat based warm up.  Most of the Pilates movements are basic preparatory exercises for more advanced mat work and she is quite thorough in explaining proper alignment.  There were two things about the Pilates section that detracted from the overall quality; the lack of focus on breath with the movements and the fact that the dancer wears Pedini style teaching shoes for her supine mat work.  For Pilates exercise, bare feet are more secure when anchoring and are more articulate in flexion and extension.

The belly dance section consists of “movement rehearsals” followed by ”cardio segments”.  The movement rehearsals include isolations and some basic steps broken down and then built back up slowly with variations.  The steps and combinations are easy to follow.  Melissa cues instinctively with a light, playful manner.  The cool down is precise and thorough, focusing on relieving any tension built up in the lower extremities and pelvis. 

This DVD presents a fairly complete fitness package, appropriate for many levels of ability.

Both “World Dance Aerobics” and “World Dance Workout” are exercise formats based on various ethnic dance forms with belly dance being featured as the primary medium.

Keti Sherif has a fairly organized format, which according to her promotional literature she has licensed as a teaching/training method for instructors. Her A-Z tiered training system sounds good on paper but I wasn’t inspired to sign up based on what I saw of the DVD. 

That said, the content of the DVD is interesting and provides an array of dance-based movements for instructors.

Keti, along with two other dancers move quickly through short combinations, each one with a catchy title ( eg. A for Aswan).  Some of the direction changes and footwork could benefit from a posterior camera angle.  Keti talks frequently but her words lack depth. Her cuing is at times shallow and irrelevant. In addition, there is no preface or mission statement for her business and nothing about fitness of exercise.  The content in itself is very good, fun and rhythmic with samba influences sprinkled here and there.  In spite of this, the production with its irritating techno music and vapid cuing lacks soul.

The “World Dance” DVD is the most low tech of the bunch.  No fancy sets or costumes, just Elsa and two dancers upstage demonstrating dance-based combinations in a simple studio setting. 

The instructor, Elsa has sub par technique but has an approachable sincerity that is appealing.  This DVD with its no nonsense simplicity may resonate with beginning dancers who can benefit from interesting content along with ample time for repetition. 

The combinations are innovative and easy to follow, the one caveat being the instructor’s lack of good technique and form.  The segments of the DVD focus on various dance forms (belly dance, samba, salsa, flamenco and Bollywood) and Elsa also leads a basic warm up and cool down of slow isolations and stretches.  I like this elemental approach.  Elsa seems to invite us in, relax and let the dance happen. This DVD can add an infusion of the ethnic dance arts to the movement vocabulary of both novice and experienced dancers.

DVD’s can be useful tools for maintaining technique or body conditioning, but I feel they are an adjunct to traditional training modes and expanding one’s knowledge through classes and workshops. The bi-directional relationship between teacher and student can’t be replaced with media innovations.

I personally own about 75 movement related videos and DVD’s and I enjoy them for what they are, but I also relish the experience of teaching or receiving a class while experiencing the spontaneous discovery of the learning process in live action.

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