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Gilded Serpent presents...
Sacred Bellydance: Level One
DVD Review by Eugenia
Running time 190 minutes
Produced by Temple of Jehan 2003

From the very first screen one can see this is a high quality production: the two disc set of Sacred Bellydance: Level One begins with a visual introduction to bellydance through clips of Jehan dancing in various costumes, with different props, in diverse styles.

This is followed by a “body prayer” performed by a number of women in similar garb. While this segment is graceful and calming, I found it at the same time somewhat creepy, perhaps due to the haunting background music and repeating vocals.

However, once Jehan appears and starts bringing viewers through a very thorough stretch routine which includes even pointing and stretching the feet, Sacred Bellydance proves to be a wonderful beginner/intermediate lesson, sometimes even including helpful visual aids to explain certain movements (such as superimposing a large number “8” on the screen to help viewers better understand how an undulation works.)

This DVD is perhaps best for instructors or a student who has taken a beginner class/workshop or two. An absolute beginner may have trouble following along with the different movements and isolations such as snake arms, head slides, undulations, and shimmies. 

Jehan demonstrates then breaks down the movements, but soon moves on to combining and layering these steps with other movements and traveling, such as combining upper body movements with lower body movements, chest lifts and drops with turns, and combining shimmies with traveling.  Some of the combinations and layering require not just some skill and coordination, but also stamina, such as when Jehan speeds up the shoulder shimmy and invites viewers to continuously keep a shoulder shimmy going while doing rib circles and various traveling steps.

At the same time that Jehan moves quickly from the introduction of a movement to various combinations that show how the movement can be used, the combinations that she teaches are extremely useful for teachers and students who wish to improvise to music or put together their own choreographies in the future. 

It’s easy to learn a shoulder shimmy by itself, or a hip drop by itself, but to learn them in a context of how they can be added as colorful accents to rib circles and traveling steps is truly the most valuable way to add them to one’s dance repertoire.

Jehan also makes the learning process joyous through wonderful background traditional instrumental music, her soothing voice, the smile on her face, and her explanations and reminders given during demonstrations.  She says that chest lifts and drops are “a salutation that invite people into your heart, into the rhythm,” and also says that the hip drop kick shows that you’re “down with the rhythm” and are inviting people to join in. 

One unique and interesting segment is “fluidity exercises” which seem extremely useful for individuals who want to practice being “graceful” and who need ideas for some nice poses for photoshoots!  She talks about expanding the body into the space, which is a good way of teaching beginner dancers to be graceful without just telling them to be more graceful.

The last segments of Sacred Bellydance: Level One include an introduction to the veil, which teaches viewers some simple movements such as head slides, temple arms and traveling steps that are complimented by a veil, and also an introduction to finger cymbals.  Jehan teaches a great first lesson with a finger cymbal that includes doubles, triples, and the baladi rhythm.  Students who don’t already have a veil and finger cymbals will probably have to do some research online to find out how to select these props, but once they have purchased them, they should be able to follow along with Jehan’s introductory lesson with ease.

Though it may not replace a live class or workshop with a teacher, Sacred Bellydance: Level One with Jehan definitely provides a great series of lessons that one can practice along with again and again.

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