Gilded Serpent presents...

Bottoms Up! Two Belly Dance Starters

2 beginner DVDs

Cory’s "Learn Belly Dancing" &
Said’s "Get Ready to Dance"

DVD Reviews by Zumarrad
posted September 5, 2011

Two videos are discussed in this review: Learn Belly Dancing – a Complete Start-up Guide by Cory Zamora of Fresno, California, and Get ready to Dance Bellydance Volume 2 by Germany-based Egyptian dancer Said el Amar. Cory’s DVD is aimed at giving dancers a basic grounding in Bellydance technique, while Said’s is a dance-based warmup to use ahead of performance or deeper study.


Cory“Learn Belly Dancing – a Complete Start-up Guide“ Cory Zamora

I was looking forward to trying this video as I have enjoyed watching YouTube footage of Cory’s unique vintage style of Bellydancing. I found it a solid introduction to what now has become an old-fashioned (back-in-fashion?) style, clearly and pleasantly presented.

Obviously, the video was shot in Cory’s small studio, including a number of her students dancing along with her. Cory wears an unadorned leotard while teaching, making it very easy to see her movements clearly. She is a small, compact person and her technique is strong. Although the vintage style she teaches uses much bigger movements than those of the modern style, it’s obvious that her movements are always well-controlled, making her an excellent model to watch as you learn.

Most unusually, Cory begins her class on the floor! I’ve never started a class this way and found it disconcerting at first, but I very much enjoyed this unique method of warming up and getting used to floor-work. I also appreciated Cory’s technical break-downs. Instead of talking about  specific muscle groups as many teachers do today (often incorrectly), Cory uses visual descriptions that are fun, making it easy to understand the moves, which reflect the old-school style differences for which Cory is known. The dancers also wore cymbals throughout and were taught to dance using a simple zill pattern from the very beginning of their travelling moves.

The DVD ends with footage of Cory in performance. I was a bit disappointed that it was not an example of the things she’d been teaching (floor, arms, and standing/travelling movements, all of which came together into a simple dance routine over the course of the lesson) but rather, she performed a drum solo. I confess that I’d preferred to have seen Cory’s floor or veil work. However,  it was nice to see her drum interpretation, and I enjoyed her dramatic use of stillness at the start, which is something you don’t see in our often overpacked drum solos of today.

Reviewers of Cory’s other DVDs have often complained that the quality of filming and lighting were not good. I didn’t find this to be a problem with Learn Belly Dancing. Although it’s not a slick production, you can see and hear everything you need to perfectly well. Cory has a clear, pleasant manner of speaking that is easy on the ear.

I am always loath to recommend any DVD to beginners;  I’d much rather see people taught directly by someone who can pick up on mistakes and risky practices in order to nip them in the bud, but certainly, this DVD  shows Cory’s teaching in a great light. I would also recommend this DVD to experienced Belly dancers who want to explore a traditional American Cabaret approach.

3 zil rating
Rating:  3 zils

Said“Get ready to Dance Bellydance Volume 2”  Said el Amar

Modern Cairo or Reda style? This warm-up DVD will probably be just your thing …if you can stand the music. Said’s choreography is a bit wacky, but undoubtedly fun to do, and it seems to hit all the necessary spots. If you don’t have a background in folklore or Modern Cairo style you may struggle, as there are fast turns, wild and crazy hip-drops and quite a bit of footwork and ballet terminology involved.

The DVD comes with a music CD, which means you can do Said’s whole warm-up all by yourself, if you want. The music used on the DVD alternates bash-crash remixed Arabic music with Latin-ish stuff in English and a Lorena McKennitt track for cool-down. The music is pleasant enough;  I actively like the first track, which is Bahlam Beek.  However, they all segue into each other, making them useless individually unless you like English-language pop mixed in with your Arabic classics, which I do not.

You can choose to do the DVD with or without Said’s voice-over, in English or German. I’d recommend using the voice-over, which helps keep you focused. Said teaches in front of a mirror in a well-lit studio, wearing fitted workout gear. While the whole warm-up is only 18 minutes long, it’s 18 minutes of hard work, so be prepared to get sweaty. Parts of this warm-up are fast! It features lots of turns, lots of rapid hip drops, and some rather disconcerting plié-straighten work for the legs. However, if you are fit, dance regularly and have pretty good in-built flexibility, I think you’ll quite like this DVD as a warm-up for your regular dancing.

If you teach, you may also find some innovative ideas here. Said includes some strange combinations, involving the hands and arms, which are not something you’d use in your dancing, but strike me as designed  to get your brain working with your body. I also enjoyed the way this DVD shifts pace from slower to faster back to slower, from feet and arms to full body and back again. By the end, you’re on the floor doing ab-strength work and more cardio. Eek!

Said has some appealing body combinations too, but they’re performed so fast that I, at least, found it hard to copy and learn them without a break-down of the movements.

Said pays a lot of attention to the feet. The exercises and terminology he uses for these are straight from ballet class, so if you’ve never had ballet training , you will probably be a bit confused.  He also makes you do grands plies in the centre, which is just evil.

I would recommend against using this DVD if you are a beginning dancer or unfit. None of the movements are broken down for you. In particular, I’d be very careful about a bent-over twisting stretch that Said uses almost at the start. It’s quite a nice stretch, but pretty hard with straight legs, as Said does it, unless you have that flexibility built-in. I think it would be a good stretch to do after cardio, not before.

Nonetheless, if you’re fit and flexible and want an Egyptian dance-based workout that will keep you on your toes (sometimes literally), this is great stuff.

3 zil rating
Rating:  3 zils

These are two quite different DVDs, targeted at quite different dancer markets. But Cory’s, as a beginner DVD, also has application as a warmup for more experienced dancers and gives a strong flavour of her traditional style. Said’s is better suited to dancers with previous non-Middle Eastern dance experience who want a warmup that makes them sweat, and that also gives some foundation in folkloric style.

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  1. TracyNo Gravatar

    Dec 14, 2011 - 11:12:27

    Really thoughtful reviews! Great job!


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