Gilded Serpent presents...

Layers and Levels:

“Layers with Leyla”,
“5-Layers from the Ground Up” with Nadira


DVD reviews by Martha Duran
posted September 18, 2012

If you are a dancer who loves dancing with the guidance of a choreography involving complex moves and intricate combinations (like me, for instance), then you are always on the lookout for the release of new DVDs about layering–in search of fresh new combinations that can enhance and advance your performances. Recently, I was given the opportunity to review two DVDs that offer completely different perspectives concerning layering:

leylaA DVD with Leyla Jouvana “Layers with Leyla”

This is another outstanding production from a leading Belly dance instructor, Leyla Jouvana; it is a formidable DVD of dance drills that superimposes shimmies (and shivering also) while working various parts of your body.

In this lesson, Leyla teaches several different layers that may be used in one’s formal choreography or worked into casual improvisation. Leyla demonstrates, teaches, and practices vertical figure eight hip work (called “Mayas” by some dancers) with nicely layered arm and hand movements, traveling Mayas, and other alternative choices. In these cases, the term “layering” denotes accomplishing complete and finished dance movements in separate parts of the dancer’s body at the same time rather than superimposing two types of movement to the same basic dance movement in one location.

Leyla takes time to demonstrate her suggestions and explain how to do each move aided by her drummer, Roland, who accompanies her with his clearly delineated drum rhythms, making it easier to relate and integrate one movement with another.

This DVD starts from a simple beginning level and works up to a level suitable for seasoned dancers. “Layers with Leyla” is a two hour DVD and after the first 20 minutes run-time, dancers are in for a heavy workout; it is a non-stop dance-along style DVD. One can learn a lot from Leyla; so, be ready to work and learn! The DVD is as high quality as Leyla’s other productions; recorded in a calm, pleasant atmosphere. The menu of the DVD contents is segmented in an logical way, helping the viewer to located whatever is wanted without the necessity of going through the whole DVD to get to one particular section.

Roland’s percussion fits the moves that Leyla teaches, letting viewers feel each beat, just as if he were drumming in your own studio or living room! The bonus performance alone included in this production was worth purchasing the DVD.

I rate this DVD four zills for students and three zills for a teacher or professional dancer.

Rating: 4 zills
Zil Rating- 4




A DVD with Nadira “5-Layers from the Ground Up”

The DVD title designates five layers; so we Belly dancers expect five layers of movements, such as a hip circle added onto an undulation, at minimum. I watched and danced along with this DVD about five or six times and never found myself addressing five separate layers.  Instead, I saw myself learning a step like “the Jewel” movement by movement, which made me understand that by using the term “layer, Nadira refers to the level of the movement’s location on the body. She started teaching the moves simply, from the ground upward–just like the title of the DVD implies. After a few somewhat uneven repetitions, she added into the movements a pull here and a twist there–finally completing a not-so-beginner’s complex step.

I am comfortable with the way Nadira teaches; she is concise, detailing almost every single sensation of movement–a method that, personally, I would think helpful for an absolutely beginning-level student. Nadira teaches eight basic movements in eight different combinations, leading to more advanced-level steps such as the “walking shimmy” or, perhaps, a tribal step that involves figure eights with ribs and hips (some call the “Ooey-Goey”). There is a selection in the menu, (quite a confusing section of the DVD) where you can practice all the steps, located at the end of the DVD. Viewers can pick and choose the steps needed for practice. The production needed a little bit more organization and attention to make it easier to access all the sections in the menu (and correct all the misspellings of words, by-the-way). Sometimes, Nadira began executing an Arabic-style Arabesque, but what she was actually doing was a simple balletic Releve’.

Additionally, I would like to mention that t
he setting was too small; it felt a little weird watching such a beautiful dancer pressed against the mirror because she was running out of space while dancing.

In closing, I must conclude that this is an absolute beginner’s DVD with a misleading title.  It is misleading mostly because one never layers movements as I understand the term “layering”; for example, it teaches movements layered with breath. It somewhat reminds me of the Veena and Neena DVDs–overly simplistic, yet racing ahead to complexities that have not been carefully explained. The production wasn’t high enough in quality to my way of thinking, and the dance space allowed by the camera is too small for Nadira’s use, causing her to crush the steps into the mirror. Additionally, the moves she makes to the right are different than those she makes to the left.

Rating: 3 zills
rating-1 zil



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