Cassandra’s Conditioning Class
Ruby’s Flawless Floorwork
DVD review by Samira Shuruk
posted February 3, 2012
Let me start by saying a little about my experience and expectations. I’ve been teaching fitness and movement over 20 years. Currently, I perform belly dance, I teach both belly dance, and Pilates full time. It was with a bit of concern that I agreed to review these DVDs, as I have an extensive background in these topics. While it would seem that that makes me the ideal candidate for this task, I am also very particular about these subjects. I know that sometimes a high level of critique is not well received in the belly dance world of reviews.
This is a two disc DVD that includes two complete workouts. DVD 1 incorporates more explanations and fewer repetitions, which is the appropriate place to start. Because the basics are covered in the first disc, the second allows more time for repetitions and also covers advanced exercises. Each DVD includes approximately a one hour workout, which is chaptered if you don’t have a complete hour for exercise or if you prefer to focus on individual body parts.
“It is very important we present well-trained dance bodies on stage” Cassandra explains in the intro.
This DVD class not only helps a dancer learn the exercises to support the well-trained dance body, but also to enhance a longer dance career. Cassandra provides clear and concise descriptions for body awareness, information that is also invaluable in dance refinement and performance.
This 2 DVD set includes on each disc:
- warm up
- standing series (balance and feet),
- spine and back exercises
- core and abdominal strength moves
- hips, thighs and gluteal exercises
- upper body strength
- a performance by Cassandra.
The production was filmed in a simple studio and includes different views of the exercises which can be quite helpful. Cassandra’s teaching method offers both excellent explanations for body awareness and wonderful technique. The body awareness stems largely from her descriptions of how a move should feel physically, something often absent in some teaching videos or classrooms. If you, as a student feel this is lacking in your classroom environment, then I highly recommend this video to help you gain that crucial awareness. If as a teacher you feel you could offer more in depth explanations to your students, this video provides excellent examples. She employs careful choice of words and verbs that engage your mind in noticing the body.
The moves to improve balance were excellent and she gives clear explanations for both effective technique, as well as safety, throughout. I truly have only one critique. I wish she had covered foot mistakes such as sickling (a dangerous bending of the ankle inward, creating a sickle shape). The exercises were great – but some people benefit from seeing their mistake in addition to how to fix it. This is so very minor and I only mention it so that I don’t seem biased.
Both of Cassandra’s performances were in an intimate small stage/studio environment with a live audience and were thoroughly enjoyable. With lovely musicality and technique, Cassandra commands the stage in a beautiful and relaxed manner.
I give Cassandra’s DVD set 4 zills!
Rating: 4 zils
Ruby is another wonderful instructor whom I have never met, but now hope to after watching her DVD. I chose to review these DVDs together because of their shared component of conditioning exercises, but this DVD, of course, also covers Vintage Oriental style floorwork.
The DVD begins with a Pilates based conditioning section. Ruby incorporates very important precautionary notes and presents many of the exercises in their “modified” (AKA easier) version, something I find to be quite appropriate in a DVD of this nature.
I will note that there are two things Ruby does differently from my own Pilates experience. She incorporates kegals (pelvic floor exercises) into her Pilates breathing. I’ve come across that in some West Coast training, and have not seen it directly in Joseph Pilates writings. Kegals are, however, fantastic exercises and an important part of a person’s health. Incorporating it into these exercises makes good sense.
Based on my studies in physical therapy, I incorporate oblique stabilization through the mid back while doing many of the lying-down reaches in Pilates and Ruby doesn’t address this possibility in the exercises. I may be totally biased in wishing she did, but I feel they are incredibly important in developing muscles and awareness for excellent posture.
Ruby’s manner of addressing postural awareness in another section is superb. She covered the most common mistakes and then also addressed how to fix them. This is excellent teaching and a vitally important part of the dance, whether it is floorwork or standing. I literally cheered that she did this.
In her floorwork technique section, Ruby explains healthy knees, different foot positions and also provides easier options for many of the moves. She demonstrates and explains less physically demanding “cheats” for getting up, for example, and she demonstrates everything with graceful technique and control.
The actual combinations chapter breaks down into four smaller chapters comprised of two combinations, each with an explanation chapter and a drill chapter. These full costume demos, as well as her costuming tutorial chapter are great at both showing and explaining what must be done with costuming and hair during floorwork.
The DVD chapters include an intro, Pilates terminology, strengthening routine, technique, descents, ascents, combinations and extras. The DVD total is approximately an hour, most of it in a dance studio with mirrors. Don’t discount the importance of the extras as these include a ten minute backstage warm up, a costuming tutorial and her engaging performance. The warm up offers great ideas of how to safely and effectively prepare the body for a dance show when in a small space. Ruby’s performance extra is gorgeous – she is a dancer who has a liquid grace in addition to strength.
If you want more floorwork, a floorwork practice companion or if floorwork is simply not available in your area, I highly recommend Ruby’s DVD.
Also 4 zills.
Rating: 4 zils
Cassandra’s Conditioning Class and Ruby’s Flawless Floorwork DVDs provide excellent instruction, detailed body awareness and good exercises.
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