Gilded Serpent presents...
In Search of the Perfect Belly Dancer’s Library
Unveiled: 3 Instructional DVDs on Veil Dancing

Reviews by Martha E. Duran

Fabulous 4-Yard Veils by Shoshanna
To many dancers, a 4-yard veil implies a lot of work—at least a lot of bodywork!  However, the purpose of a veil is to add style, artistry, finesse and grace to any dance performance.

Behavior of the type of material that becomes the veil is something every Belly dancer should understand before picking out her personal style of veil movements. After a brief introduction and the explanation of why you might chose to work with a 4-yard veil, Shoshanna advises a warm-up period that focuses on the upper body; I find this convenient since the whole DVD focuses on that part of the body alone. The entire warm-up choreography reminded me of those old-school ‘90s jazz class warm-ups.

After an explanation concerning what type of 4-yard veils are good for beginners, and which might best suit advanced dancers, whether or not to go to a hemmed or an un-hemmed fabric, and the benefits of a circular veil, Shoshanna accurately explains all the facts on veils as she demonstrates different mesmerizing movements. These moves might be used with a regular veil but they definitely “show off” with a 4-yard one! She demonstrates combinations throughout the 90-minute DVD--combinations that I found exceptionally useful for an intermediate or advanced level dancer. I found it practical to access different sections of this high quality DVD but a little difficult to understand concerning some points for dancers who use English as their second language. Shoshanna speaks with a pleasantly beautiful voice but quite rapidly. At times, in the first sections of the DVD where she is explaining a lot of important points, it seems to me that she’s in a hurry to “wrap it up”.  In most of her demonstrations, she speaks in a regular speed clearly, and with great knowledge of veil work.

The combinations and the different veil approaches Shoshanna demonstrates, with her 2 lovely assistants who following along with her instructions, and her skillful performance makes this DVD an excellent element for a Belly dancer’s DVD library! This disk sells on for under twenty dollars. I think it is an amazing value!

Zil Rating= 4 zils: for Intermediate and Advanced Levels

Seven Veils Romantic Bellydance by Sarah Skinner
Definitely a DVD for the passionate side in every Belly dancer, Sarah Skinner shows us in this DVD an elementary veil technique, wonderful costume making ideas (which, by-the-way, are used by Sarah and her dancers throughout their performances). Basic hip work is taught along with movement technique for the torso on the level of the beginning Belly dancer, focusing on fluidity of the movements. From the start, Sarah Skinner shares the history of the veil, its different versions, and how Oscar Wilde interpreted Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils! Sarah also explains very basic information about different types of veils, including detailed placement of the veil along the dancer’s body, and how to hold the veil properly.

In a brief section, Sarah teaches basic Belly dance skills along with the veil movements.  What makes this DVD particularly attractive is her clear interpretation from her personal experiences and knowledge, and she offers a wonderful idea to “theme” your dance. This DVD can instruct a beginning Belly dancer how to dance the Seven Veils, or could be an aid to a Belly dance teacher who needs an idea for a stunning Belly dance performance or recital-show.

I found professional photography, an appropriate set and lighting, and spirited music that I would love to own myself—perhaps for performing the choreography I’ve learned by dancing along with the instruction on the DVD.  I found that this choreography is constructed in a very elegant way. What makes this offering less attractive for the beginning Belly dance students is that you will not end up being an outstanding dancer simply by owning and following the instruction presented on this disk. Therefore, I would not recommend it for your first DVD purchase because many fundamentals of the dance are missing (like posture and placement). You will not find drills for practice here!  However, this instruction presents fresh ideas and a theatrical spin for all levels of Belly dancing.

Zil Rating=2 Zils

Bellydance With Veil by Sarah Skinner
Here is the most complete instruction on veil technique for all levels! For a beginner, this instructional DVD teaches all the movements, wraps, tips and tricks with basic terminology: you can end up learning technique of the veil as if you attended a Belly dance workshop on use of the veil. Sarah demonstrates the different styles of fabrics suitable for veils from the cheap chiffon to the highly priced Parisian silk and the sequin-trimmed cheap veils that accompany typical Egyptian made costumes.

She also teaches:

  • The 101 on thread count
  • How to choose the ideal fabric for performance 
  • When to dance with a heavy veil
  • When to choose a more translucent veil
  • Whether to edge or not to edge
  • Which veils are more suited to beginners
  • Which veil shapes are perfect for advanced dancers

In a complete dancing-with-veil segment (full of different kinds of wraps and unwrapping movements) she demonstrates clearly how to accomplish it softly with the music. She also cautions dancers not to disrupt the meaning of the dance with a segment of a dancer unwrapping and handling her veil as if she were “washing her dirty laundry”! Sarah Skinner teaches all the terminology there is for veiled Belly dance; she demonstrates all the moves with different types of veils, and she performs every move in a fitting set in complimentary costuming. Music, lighting, cameras are all tasteful and professionally suitable for a teaching video.

Sarah’s segment on dance turns is focused on:

  • Visual spotting
  • Appropriate body posture.
  • Tips for maintaining balance while turning,
  • Different kinds of cascades
  • Veil frames and switches

Frames and switches are two of the subjects I loved the most, and Sarah demonstrates them without the veil. She shows what your arms must be doing in order to accomplish the movements. Since she has perfect arm placement, it is easy to follow and learn the moves. A section concerning how to solve problems that commonly happen during the veil dance is included briefly (almost at the last part of this instruction) specifically naming the most common veil “Oops!” and demonstrates how to get out of them, too!

Sarah Skinner performs an exemplary demonstration segment with all the veil movements she taught throughout the video. As if that were not enough, she teaches that same choreography step by step, except that she leaves out the ending for dancers to choreograph for themselves. I did not appreciate that feature, however, because it leaves this 2-hour long (almost perfect) DVD of choreography a dance with no ending! I have seen already enough Belly dancers do amazing performances with lame endings!  This has to stop!  If you are making an instruction DVD, be sure to teach ‘til the end, and don’t leave your video apprentices hanging onto a pasted-on diva-esque pose with head to the sky and legs askew that destroys all of your instruction! In fact, I would like to suggest that perhaps someone consider producing an endings-only instructional DVD soon.

Zil Rating= 4 zils

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