Gilded Serpent presents...
Azar’s Belly Dance Workout Volume 1 
DVD review by Monet

Total time of DVD is 43:10

The video is well made and has nice graphics, sound quality and good cinematography.  She has selected very good music which includes Mary Ellen Donald and the late Mimi Spencer.  She uses a standard disclaimer to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise regiment and to stretch well prior to beginning. 

From the beginning of the video I immediately like Azar. 

She has a nice calm demeanor and is clear and concise in her speech. 

Her voice reminds me of the actress Geena Davis.  Her purple ensemble is a nice contrast to the neutral “Egyptian” style living room in the background. 

The first section is “alignment” which I was thrilled to see. Far too few teachers stress the importance of proper alignment. 

She has three basic alignment positions she teaches: Basic #1, Basic #2 and Basic Hip Lift Position which will be the foundation for all of the movements she will be teaching.  She mentions that she will be covering 8 weeks of beginner belly dance class material and to take your time and not rush.  This is key to the beginner dancer or someone who is using this video as exercise.  Since the time in a video is short I found it refreshing that she mentioned she is condensing 8 weeks into 40 minutes.  An enthusiast can choose to go as fast or slow as they want or need.   

Next we move into the Workout section.  While Azar is focusing on the movement a voice over instructs what to do.  The video shows several angles and views.  She reminds the student to breathe and to go slow.  This section begins with basic movements: head rolls, shoulder rolls, chest stretches, and a triangle stretch. 

We progress to chest circles starting side to side which she offers a quick explanation then quite a few minutes of practice.  This is shown from several views.  We repeat with hip circles.  Belly rolls are next and the explanation is very brief as is the practice. 

Snake arms focusing on alignment including elongating the neck are discussed.  Big, small, fast and slow are shown.  Next up are the downward 8’s. 

Using the infinity as a guide, she explains the concept.  I know most new dancers find that comparison very helpful

The basic walk section is perplexing.  It is a sway walk and I really have not seen it used much.  I keep going with the hope that she will explain it better later or add movement.    

Hip drops, walking with a drop accent and other drop variations are explained then practiced.  The front back step with a walk looks like a basic ¾ shimmy but it is missing the shimmy accent.   She adds the sway walk to the front back step.  I get it now.  She is showing it as it progresses so it will be easier to do.

Her explanation of the Egyptian hip lift is easy to understand and she continues with variations.  Grapevine step with hip variations and carousel turns with mixed hip lifts and accents are also covered.  

Then we move onto the shimmy section.  She covers basic side-to-side, front back or washing machine, up/down, ¾, chest and shoulder shimmies. She very quickly goes over chest drops then moves right into shimmy variations and layering shimmies.  The final movement taught is the hip freeze. 

Azar moves into a “dance set”.  She shows one way to combine the movements for an aerobic workout.  It is only a suggestion and shows that the possibilities are endless and that you can combine just about anything. 

Azar encourages the dancer to really let go and have fun at this point. 

She does fast movements first then shows how to do a slow (or Taksim) section.  She also includes a drum solo section, which a beginner or someone who is not familiar with Middle Eastern Music or movements might find a bit challenging valuable to include nonetheless.  

The final section is Azar’s performance.  Her costume is beautiful and she looks lovely.   I found her a better teacher than performer even with her excellent use of zils. 

Maybe it was hard to really feel her performance as a lot of the shots were overhead.  She does show the movements she covered in the video so it is worthwhile for a new student to see it all put together.  After the credits roll she also includes some great basic and well-known belly dance resources which any new student will appreciate!   

I would recommend this video to a beginner with little to no knowledge.  It is a good quick overview that would benefit a beginner or someone looking to belly dance as a form of exercise.   

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