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Gilded Serpent presents...
Dynamic Belly Dance
The Joyful Journey of Dancemaking and Performing
by Ramona
Published by American Bellydance Innovations $40.00 USD

Reviewed by Dina Peace

When I first got this book to review, I grew excited because the back cover boasted over 70 color and black and white photos to look at.  When I saw the price ($40.00) I must admit that I grew very discriminating towards my opinion of the book.  Of course, one of my first thoughts was, “what warrants this book to be priced at 40.00?”  I mean, if I was in a bookstore and I saw this with the price, then nine times out of ten, even if I did have the spare cash, I would by past this title and check out the newest BD DVD from some bigwig performer or something.  But I put my initial sticker shock mentally out of the way and continued to give this book the fairest review that I can give as an educated consumer and Bellydance enthusiast.

As far as photographs go, this book is filled with them, starting on the title page to the resource page on 151 at the very end of the book. I have always been a sucker for full color pictures and there are plenty of black and white ones as well.  As far as quality, it is a mixed bag.  There are some professionally done dancer pictures coupled along with snapshots that look to have been taken at a swinging party by your best friend and her Hello Kitty digital camera. 

In all seriousness, this would be a good coffee table book.  The photos are just that luminous. Okay, now here is the meat of the review and I can think of one word to sum it up: ambitious. 

Ramona’s book is an ambitious attempt to bring an instruction of dance to life within the confines of a book.  In comparison to workshops, classes, and DVDs, books rank a little lower on my list as an effective method of teaching dance.  It is difficult for me to read a particular exercise, do the dance, and then check the book to see if I was doing it correctly.  DVDs are painfully a close second, but nothing seems to beat a real live instructor who will observe your movements to make sure that you are doing the dance right or even more important, to make sure that you are not putting your body at risk.

I say all that to state that as far as books go, this is a pretty good project.  It is glossy, professional and polished but not of the sterile quality.  Ramona, a well-seasoned teacher and performer, has a mode of speech that is friendly for an absolute beginner but she invites the professional or experienced Bellydancer into her instruction with her oft-used Arabic vocabulary and technical dance jargon. 

I actually grew annoyed with this book, only because I was hard pressed to find anything to complain about it.  Nuts! 

So, I found it to be in my best interest to stop looking for chinks in the hip scarf, so to speak, and just notice what catches my eye.  Good or otherwise.

Ramona doesn’t make her instruction of dance into some isolated art that only the dancing elite with washboard stomachs and who wear fashionable jeans that come in single digits can enjoy.  She repeatedly makes the connection between bellydance and public speaking.  Indeed she uses the connection very effectively and articulates it on page 22 by stating: “Choreography is a plan for eloquent communication through dance”.

By the way, as far as the photos go, she has dancers who represent the beautiful shapes and complexions that we women come in.  You can find the standard skinny minnies here along with the queens who represent the B&B clique.  I actually enjoyed Ramona’s style because she seems like the type of down home girl who will regale you with an awesome performance and then have an after party complete with pizza, cake and Greek salad with extra feta cheese (okay, that is just my little wish).  She doesn’t seem like a vicious gym bunny but rather a regular woman who does extraordinary bellydancing.

The book is organized into five parts with several chapters in between.  The chapters are not very long and they are usually concluded with some questions to ponder over and an exercise to do.  She gives advice from how to use energy to express your dance’s mood, tips for a successful performance to the business of teaching belly dance.  Ramona even goes over common musical patterns found in many types of songs. 

This book would be excellent when coupled with a good dance instructor or Ramona herself.  She is thorough with her information and was successful creating a book that people can enjoy, if their wallets were big enough.

Yes, the price of the book seems to be the biggest complaint that I have.  In today’s interesting economy especially near the holiday time, one might spend more time vacillating whether this book would make a good gift.  The book is good and the information is useful.  I would never say that Ramona’s price is too high, considering her considerable skill and whatever the costs were to put the book into print.  I will say this though, if you ever catch this book on sale at your local bookstore, get it and get it fast!

Well, in respect to Gilded Serpent, I suppose that I should close with some critiques, huh?  I have three in total: the price is more than I pay for groceries for a week; Ramona waits until the third chapter to talk about stuff that I have interest in, like how to effectively express music; and oh yeah, the book is too informational and fun!  I forgot to mention all the darn pretty pictures that are resplendent throughout the book, which made me want to spend all my money on costumes.  I really had to dig for those criticisms.  So there!

Author's website with more information on this book- you can also purchase an autographed copy here.

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