Gilded Serpent presents...

3 Instructional DVDs for Beginners:Wide Range in Quality

3 DVDs for Beginning Dancers

A Course in Belly Dance by Galit Mersand
Aziza’s Ultimate Practice Companion
1-2-3- Belly Dance with Bahaia

Reviewed by Tracey Farmer
posted May, 2009

 I am going to review 3 videos that are mainly for beginners or practice.  They are from 3 vastly different dancers who each have unique styles. 

Bahaia's 1 2 3 BD1-2-3 Belly Dance with Bahaia
This is a well-produced DVD by Cheeky Girls Productions. (You’vegot to love the name!)  The concept is: Breaking down the steps, Drilling, and Choreographing them.

Bahaia covers moves like the basic Hip Drop, Figure 8, Maya, 3-step turns and a small amount of  veil movement that included Flourishes and the Toreador.  After each explanation and demonstration, she includes a drilling section in which she drills, using the movements with music for about 1-2 minutes.  Then, Bahaia blends all the moves together in choreography set to “Midnight Fantasy” by Harry Sayoran on his classic Cairo CD.  When Bahaia does the chapter on steps, she’s facing the audience.  However, in the choreography section, she demonstrates facing a mirror so you, the viewer, are behind her just as if you’re in class.  Her choreography is broken down into sections just like the 1st section; then, she performs the complete choreography in costume.

Bonuses include a live performance of Lissa Fakir by Bahaia that is dynamite, to say the least!  I’ve met Bahaia a few times, and she’s a sweet person and one “heckuva” Egyptian dancer—not bad for a small town Texas girl!

Bonus material includes a scrolling history of all Bahaia’s accomplishments, appearances and work as a producer/promoter.  This is all helpful, but the scrolling goes a little too fast and the words are a bit too small, causing me to pause the disc to be able to read it. Next, there is an instructional section on how to make a veil.  This is a nice idea, but would have been better as a live demonstration, rather people just reading instructions.

Aziza's Practice CompanionAziza’s Ultimate Practice Companion
This practice companion came out a few years ago and is now re-distributed by Hollywood Music Center (Peko) with slightly different packaging, so if you already possess that DVD there is no reason to buy this one. This is not a “how to” instructional but rather a technique and practice DVD, showing how and what to drill and practice in the correct way. By using this DVD, your dancing will improve.  Aziza focuses on the most used areas of your body when you dance: arms, ribcage, hips and shimmy. The drilling is to teach your body to get used to the moves so that they become natural and build stamina (especially during the shimmy drill). She teaches facing the viewer in front of a live class which gives you the feeling that you’re actually in a workshop in your living room.  As an instructor, she advises to always check your stance to be sure you’re using proper posture.

Next, we are treated to 2 of Aziza’s performances, including a drum solo in which you can see all of that practice drilling and layering comes in handy. (I swear that girl is on rollerblades; when you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about!)  Aziza is fun and entertaining to watch and is more than a capable dancer, but this doesn’t need to be said, judging by her popularity over the past few years.  Whether you are an American Cabaret, Egyptian, or Tribal dancer, this DVD will be fundamentally useful for your dance.

Galit Mersand’s website

price of DVD- £26.99GBP

Galit's Course in BDA Course in Belly Dance by Galit Mersand
(I wasn’t familiar with Galit Mersand until now, so I checked her website to become more familiar with her and found she has extensive knowledge and is very popular in the UK.)  

Galit’s DVD is an instructional, like Bahaia’s, and is for absolute beginners or those who’ve taken, maybe, 1 or 2 classes. There is a lot of material on this 2-disc set from Hips, Hip Circles, Arms, Camels, Undulations, Combinations, etc. The only thing different for us Yanks is different terminology. (For example: a Twist is called a Swerve).  Galit is a competent instructor and there’s nothing wrong with how she teaches or the amount of material she presents.

This DVD was released in 2007 and the only thing that might prevent some success of this DVD is its production quality.  It’s filmed with one camera in the same angle and there has apparently been no sound editing. This gives the appearance of a low budget production, and unfortunately, people tend to be picky when it comes to production quality.  Due to the competition and availability of so many instructional Bellydance DVDs on the market, this could be detrimental for her, especially stateside where she may not be as well known. Watching this particular DVD is like choosing to watch something on VHS when you could watch HD TV or Blu Ray instead.  

Though there is no introduction, the DVD is divided into chapters, and there is a “drill” section after each learned step, but there is no actual full or bonus performance by Galit, even though she’s a good dancer! See youtube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9C-0Xsw5tQ&feature=channel.
On the plus side, this production does include a bonus CD with original Middle Eastern music by Tim Garside/Garsaaidi, which is the music used on the DVD.  (I plan on using Garside’s CD for a zil playing class I will be teaching very soon.)  However, this DVD would not bad by itself alone, and all of the instruction is useful and thorough. Still, in comparison to others, it may get lost in the sand. Maybe it could be re-mastered and re-released one of these days.

Instruction Skill:
Bahaia, Aziza, & Galit—all are qualified and give clear detailed instruction.

Quality of Production:
Bahaia—high quality from Cheeky Girls.
Aziza—medium to high quality production, re-distributed by Peko; Aziza produced it originally in 2005.
Galit—poor quality of sound and color. (Startling—since it was filmed in 2007!)

Level of Instruction:
Bahaia—suitable for beginners.
Aziza—suitable all levels, covers only technique and drilling, knowledge of dance should already be present.
Galit—suitable for beginners.

Ratings:
Bahaia—3 zils
3 zil rating
Aziza—3 ½ zils
3.5 zil rate
Galit—2 ½ zils

2.5 zil rate

Studio and Purchasing info:
1-2-3 Belly Dance with Bahaia: Michelle Joyce and Cheeky Girls Productions
Aziza’s Ultimate Practice Companion: Mher and Hollywood Music
A Course in Belly Dance by Galit Mersand: Artist’s website

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