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Gilded Serpent presents...
Working the Core
Bellydance Core Fitness DVD review
by Erica

The title of this DVD, Bellydance Core Fitness, available from WorldDance New York, made me wince a little and expect another hokey, jump-on-the-lingo-trend-bandwagon workout. All this dissipated, however, when I finally got over my reluctance born of the above concern and put on the DVD.

What I found instead was a not-very-flashy production of a good workout that is filled with unexpected and unusual (for bellydance) moves accompanied by sound anatomy and posture advice and coaching.

This DVD has the standard workout options that are found on all DVDs, but also has some great things that are missing on other workout videos. Ayshe takes full advantage of the benefits that DVD technology has to offer by including a tutorial with a detailed breakdown of each movement, a biography, credits, and music details that include the song, musicians and where you can find the CD. I have always thought that there should be more details about how to perform dance moves. So many muscles are used for each move, and with bellydance not having standardized names, everyone may know a move by a different name or perform it slightly differently. Once you know the correct muscles to use, however, you do not want the breakdown happening each time you perform the workout. Ayshe and the DVD possibilities have found a way to deal with this dilemma. And why don't more DVDs tell you where to find the music they use?

In her welcome, Ayshe explains that her goal is to develop "deep abdominal core strength and awareness." She shows us the main muscle groups that she will be working. These include the expected abdominal muscles but also leg and back muscles. She is obviously a student of anatomy. Ayshe has a college degree in human movement, and in her tutorial, she really shows us what knowledge this degree gives the learner. She introduces us to the psoas muscles, the illiacus, quadratus lumborum and inner thigh adductors. During the tutorial, Ayshe mixes this terminology with the word "hinny," making it hard to always feel serious when listening to her talk.

My first impression of the DVD is that it is not as professionally produced as what I am used to. The room that the three dancers are in for the workout is very large and empty. It looks like a perfect place for a class, but with only three people dancing, it seems too vast and lacks the intimacy of DVDs filmed in smaller spaces. Ayshe and her two dancers are not always quite in synch, and during the tutorial, it looks like the students were not aware that they would be used to demonstrate movements.

However, when I watched the tutorial section, I realized how professional Ayshe is. She takes anatomy and the details of each move very seriously. The information she imparts is impressive and in depth, but her delivery could use a bit of work. Her speech is often clipped and halting, but once she gets going, she can be fairly eloquent.

The tutorial should definitely be watched by any dancer, either student or teacher. If you have read any of Hadia's anatomy articles in Habibi magazine, this tutorial will feel and sound familiar. This is the kind of detail Ayshe goes into. But at 1 hour and 40 minutes, don't try to watch the whole tutorial at once! It is far too much to digest in one sitting. She spends 20 minutes explaining how to stand so that your back is in good posture before she even tackles the moves in the workout. Watching a few moves at a time is enough, and any dancer will benefit from the pickiness. Ayshe uses her students in the tutorial to show us what a typical dancer will do right and wrong. She is able to correct someone else, and also point out things on another person's body that she could not on her own.

The workout itself is short - 29 minutes including cool down. The warm up and isolations is followed by combinations, which are then put together in a dance and finish with a cool down. When she says "isolations" she means it! During the Turkish rock, we are told to rock our pelvis using the psoas muscles, but not the abs or the butt. This makes the move look fluid and elegant, rather than the "power move" look that she calls a tilt that is done with the butt. Many of the moves are familiar to bellydancers, but some moves will feel more like they are out of a fitness class. This is the kind of drill that most dancers dread, as they would rather be dancing. For a person like me who likes technique and drills and learning combinations so that she can create her own choreography, it is perfect. And because not all moves are strictly dance moves, there are likely some exercises not being taught in your dance class. However the benefits of working those muscles come through in your dance. I would have preferred more arm changes, but arms are not part of your core, so the lack of emphasis here is forgivable.

I found the workout on this DVD a bit too short to draw me into doing it regularly on its own. It does provide some unique moves that I will incorporate into other workouts. The tutorial, however, makes the disc worth owning and reviewing to make sure you are working all those inner muscles properly.

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