Facing Our Wealth of Bellydance DVDs
posted December 29, 2009
It seems that a new belly dance DVD is produced every day, and most of those DVDs are produced in the U.S.A., and I consider this a positive change from the times when VHS tapes were hard to get. Information is available now for anyone who’s willing to learn. However, I sometimes wonder how dancers are supposed to choose in the face of this overwhelming amount of information. For decades, the general consensus on intelligent choosing was reading the reviews written by other belly dancers. That would help you decide on the quality and content of the VHS/DVD, but here are a couple of reasons why this method is not working as well as it used to:
- First of all, you need to know what DVD you want to buy or wade through piles of reviews. For example, numerous drum solo DVDs are on the market. In order to know which one you might like best, you still have to read reviews on all of them.
- Secondly, reviews are biased by nature because they represent the reviewer’s opinion or point of view on the DVD. It’s possible that it doesn’t represent your needs. When you make a purchase, following the advice of a reviewer, you still won’t know if the DVD suits your expectations.
One of the solutions is reading reviews for several similar DVDs written in one composite article, like some recent reviews appearing in the Gilded Serpent. This is not a solution to the problem, merely an attempt to get a grip on the amount of DVDs out there. There’s another way to determine the importance of a DVD for your collection that will save you valuable time: you can look at the source where the DVD was made and the vision behind the product. Most DVDs are produced by dancers, producers, or entrepreneurs who are both.
DVDs made by Producers:
By comparing the vision of the producer, it is easier to determine whether their products will be valuable to you. Considering my personal DVD collection, the recording and sound quality of each disk is acceptable to excellent. What I need to know before buying a product is: what kind of information is on the DVD and what is the thought behind this information? The vision of the producer creates the framework for the format. Reading up on the vision is faster and easier then reading the reviews of the DVDs one by one. As an example, here are five different viewpoints from producers:
- IAMED:"The International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (IAMED) was established to provide belly dancers, belly dance enthusiasts, and the general public with high quality belly dance concerts and videos, and to recognize the international stars of belly dance, their achievements, and their contributions to this beautiful art form."
- Bellydance Superstars:"The first concerted effort to take this ancient art form into the mainstream of international entertainment up there along with ballet and shows like Riverdance."
- Cheeky Girls Productions: "Cheeky Girls Productions is committed to producing quality DVDs with professional dancers in an environment of dignity and respect. We try to equally showcase popular, in-demand dancers and lesser known, but equally talented, ones. All of the dancers featured in our DVDs were nominated by fellow artists. "
- Natural Journeys: "Naturaljourneys™ offers high-quality DVD, video, and audio programming in such areas as Pilates, yoga, tai chi, belly dance, dance fitness, pregnancy fitness, ball fitness, weight loss, meditation, and other fitness disciplines."
- World Dance New York: "Female-owned and managed, we produce, publish and distribute a wide variety of dance- and fitness-related video on DVD and in other formats."
Some companies specialize in belly dance while others have a broader view and create fitness DVDs. One company chooses local dancers nominated by fellow artists, while another wants to give recognition to the international stars of belly dance. There are pros and cons for every one of them and you can use this information to narrow your search.
DVDs made by dancers:
There are several DVDs that are used repeatedly. They contain information that is interesting for belly dancers, regardless of level. They are easy to use and put in a format that makes them suitable for short or long practice sessions. Not surprisingly, professional dancers have made most of these DVDs. My absolute favorites for practice are:
- Aziza Practice Companion (recently redistributed by Hollywood Music Center)
- Learn how to Bellydance series by Delilah
- Shape up ‘n hip out! By Jillina
- Stretch and Tone by Suhaila
These give me a good crossover between belly dance and working out, and they contain information to which I constantly return. Remember: just because they are my favorites won’t necessarily make them your favorites too! The dancers themselves produced these DVDs, and it shows!
I will have to admit that the producers who are run by dancers, like IAMED, Cheeky Girls and World Dance New York also create good products that are geared toward dancers. To be able to sell a large amount of DVDs the producer has to make them attractive to non-Bellydancers. For me, this makes them less suitable for the Bellydancer who is not specifically interested in fitness, pleasing her husband, or looking for a way to feel sexy.
Production companies that are run by dancers understand what dancers are looking for and know how to create valuable and useful products for the dance community. I applaud their initiative, and I hope that they will continue to produce DVDs in the future! Remember to ask yourself each time you consider a purchase: who made this product and what was their motivation?
Ready for more?
- 3-27-08 To Buy or Not to Buy – A Guide to Mass Market Belly Dance Instructional DVDs
Most producers ask or hire others to write glowing reviews. You will often see the same people reviewing a producer’s entire line of product. Those are suspect. Look for the one-off comments. They will give a better overview, along with anything less than 5 stars.
- 12-4-09 Drum Solos: 3 Masterful Approaches, 1-2-3 Drum Solo with Bahaia, Arabic Rhythms and Combinations with Tamra-henna, Dynamic Drum Solo: Technique & Choreography with Sadie
Overall, if I were an advanced beginner through advanced intermediate student with only enough money for one of these videos, I’d purchase Arabic Rhythms and Combination with Tamra-henna.
- 12-13-09 Two Finger Cymbal Products reviewed: Belly Dancing Book & Kit Zill Speak, CD and Booklet by Artemis
The finger cymbals: The cheapest money can buy, likely made by orphaned children in a third world country, yet an exceptional value for $9 at Borders books.
- 10-25-09 Astryd de Michele, A Workshop in Modern Egyptian Style,
And can we please ask all workshop instructors to show their feet? Maybe even knees?
- 10-16-09 Tasting Cairo Stars in Your Home: Randa, Diana, Leila, Natasha’s Video Package-"Masters of Egyptian Choreography"
Begin with the interviews and you will benefit from an understanding of their individual teaching methods.
- 10-9-09 “Habibi, You are My What?..”DVD- Essential Arabic for Dancers, Vol 1 reviewed
However, I have never had such insight into the words as this DVD taught me! Now, thanks to Leyla, I have an added dimension to teach my students.
- 12-18-09 Welcome to the 2nd Miami Bellydance Convention, A Selection of Photos
Intercontinental Hotel in Miami, Florida, on September 4- 6, 2009, Winners,Teachers, Performers
- 12-17-09 Ozgen in LA, Turkish Dance Star in Los Angeles
He charmed everybody with his cute non-traditional names for intricate footwork patterns as well as his verbal expressions – at one point he referred to the flirtatious shoulder movements of Turkish Oryantal as “cuddly”!
- 12-14-09 The Wine Glass or The Wine? Dance Conversation with My Mentor
Sometimes, the mere beauty of glassware can be so impressive that it can far surpass the content.
- 12-9-09 Here Comes the Aroosa! Cairo Weddings
Frankly, the Egyptian girls can get away with being a bit raunchier, and I do try to be more modest with my movements so as not to look like a saucy little American number straight off the plane.