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Gilded Serpent presents..
DVD Reviewed by Two
Pop, Lock and Shimmy! Belly Dance with Michelle
by Yasmin and John Clow
with Introduction by Shira

As of October 2008, there are two controversies surrounding the video described in these reviews, as follows:

  • In September 2008, Michelle Joyce received word that another company (International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance, IAMED) was preparing to release a video of its own with a very similar title, Pops, Locks & Shimmies, featuring instruction by Kaya and Sadie. This has caused much debate in the online community over the question of whether a video producer should release a new video using a title that already exists in the market. Readers are advised to bear in mind when reading reviews and buying videos that two entirely different videos exist with very similar names, and take care to ensure they pay attention to which one they're currently thinking about.
  • Also in September 2008, Michelle Joyce's Pop, Lock, & Shimmy mysteriously began appearing as an upload to many file-sharing sites. In fact, these are beginning to clog the results of Google searches on the video's title, overpowering listings for legitimate sites that sell the DVD. Michelle has attempted to seek removal of her video from these infringing sites, but these web sites make it difficult to file such requests. As of October 13, 2008, the first two pages of results when doing a Google search on the title reveal 8 such file-sharing site listings.

Reviewed by John Clow

This instructional DVD, produced by Michelle Joyce, is correctly billed as ‘Drum solo Technique & Choreography for intermediate and advanced belly dancers’. And over 95 minutes, and 11 drills and combinations, Michelle delivers that . . . and more! As a studio-quality DVD, it serves as a guide to crisp isolations, and layered shimmies. She also designed “Pop’ Lock and Shimmy!” to increase the dancer’s stamina, and get the movements into her ‘muscle memory’.

After a brief introduction, Michelle, with style and her bubbly personality, leads you into warm-ups and stretches, beginning her instruction with a hip-bump review.

Then come the combinations: 7 in all, with explanations of pops and locks, and demonstrated in two speeds. Try medium to fast to get your heart pumping! Next are her shimmy drills---meticulously explained---with variations and level changes. To refresh the viewer, Michelle supplies an index of these combinations, executing them with both flair and precision. If that isn’t enough, Michelle strings these moves into a dynamic, fast-paced drum solo choreography for you.

Her philosophy is simple: “Practice is the key to sharp & intricate hip movements, drilling them until they become second nature. . . .” She accomplishes this in a non-stop practice session, which is followed by a cool down.

Completing the DVD are 2 performance by Michelle, taken from the ’Dancers for Dancers #2” DVD.

Certainly an asset for intermediate to advanced level dancers, this product will NOT be a ‘one-and-done’ for you. It is so enjoyable and professionally made, you’ll wear it out long before you grow tired of it!

For more information, visit Michelle’s site at:

Reviewed by Yasmin
It has been over a year since Michelle Joyce released her now famous Pop, Lock and Shimmy DVD. Its success has spawned a number of other instructional DVDs, and many sequels by Michelle, notably Drills, Drills, Drills. Perhaps it is a little late to review a product that is already in the Belly Dance Hall of Fame. Mea culpa, I was asked to review this DVD last March; but after investigating the belly dance instructional market, I chose to write To Buy or Not to Buy – A Guide to Mass Market Belly Dance Instructional DVDs instead.

With the current titling issues of Pop, Lock and Shimmy and IAMED’s upcoming Kaya and Sadie release however, I decided to pull out my notes and give the original drill DVD its due.

Since Amazon and the numerous belly dance chat forums describe its content, I will not waste time enumerating chapter outlines, etc. that are easily found elsewhere.

Full disclosure – I have worked as an Egyptian cabaret dancer for over 30 years, mostly overseas, and am a professional film distributor. My glasses are tinted when it comes to how I view belly dance product.

Michelle is to be applauded for finding a niche market and being the first to take advantage of it. She rightfully discerned that today’s belly dancer is willing to forgo some production value if they enjoyed the content, teaching style and cost of their purchase. As most fans have mentioned, Michelle’s $17.99 price (Amazon’s retail) is very reasonable compared to IAMED’s average $39.95 per DVD. Michelle recognized a desire for drills and filled it. As a working dancer and teacher, she knew what and how others wanted to learn and her pleasant on-camera presence and thoughtful script cinched the deal.

I do have a few issues with the product, however, even though I know Michelle has garnered many fans through this DVD. I readily admit the quantity and diversity of her product line proves she is in touch with the pulse of today’s belly dance student and is willing to work hard to please them. She deserves her audience’s admiration.


There are three things that bother me about this product (I know it was one of her first releases, so I am cutting her slack on the production side of things) – a few of her basic techniques, the lack of published credentials and the costume.

The costume issue is simple; I couldn’t see her knees and ankles. As a teacher, those are the first things I correct when giving technique. Do the knees move, are the feet turned in, are the ankles pretty? A dancer’s legs are very important and I couldn’t see half of hers because of the bell-bottom pants. But this was a minor issue.

More important to me was the lack of printed “credentials,” for want of a better word. What style was she teaching? How long had she been dancing? Was she working full-time? Did she have live band experience, and if so, was it extensive? Who were her teachers?

None of this information was available, either on the sleeve, in the DVD or on her web site. Perhaps she has added this information since. At the time, I couldn’t tell whether she had been dancing three years or thirteen by looking at the packaging. Granted the monetary risk factor at $18.00 is much less than at $40.00, but there is another risk that is far more costly – learning poor technique.

Michelle correctly states that to dance well, the muscles need to commit to memory the movements they will be expected to repeat. It doesn’t matter how inexpensive a video is, if a student learns bad habits, it is time and money wasted. From the beginning, Michelle emphasizes that posture is important and that the back should be straight. This is absolutely true. But when you watch her in the mirror, her back is arched. A curved spine changes the way hip bumps are executed.

Other major technique problems I had might have been solved with a label - such as “Suhaila Technique” or “American Cabaret Style” or “Vintage Orientale.” Each style of dance has its own movements, which are not necessarily done by other styles, or if they are, they may be done very differently. For example, Michelle taught one shimmy, a freeze, which was impossible to see if you covered the screen where her belt was. You knew she was vibrating only because you saw her fringe sway. Cover it and her torso hardly moved at all. In a large restaurant or theater this would be invisible to the audience. In Egyptian style, tightening the thigh and buttocks muscles certainly produces frozen flesh, and I did not see it done when I worked overseas. Yet freezes are widely taught in the United States and have been since the 1960’s.

As an instructor, I would prefer to know which technique is on a DVD before recommending it or not to my students. As a student, I would want to know which style I was learning. Obviously, once you watch the DVD, you know - if you have experience with the various styles. But what if you didn’t? What if you didn’t want to learn AmCab? Unlearning muscle memory is much harder than learning something the first time around.

Overall, Michelle’s maverick product deserves its place among the Belly Dance Top 40 if your style is American Cabaret or any form of Tribal.

Most of her content builds a solid foundation for the format, including her choreography, which highlights continuous beat accentuation, a cornerstone of Western musical interpretation. But I would not recommend this DVD for those interested in Egyptian style. Traditionally in the Middle East, not every beat is hit. Filler is used far more than accents. Different strokes for different folks. But no matter the style, I feel the consumer should be informed before they buy which technique is being taught and the instructor’s qualifications to teach it. Simply mentioning how many countries the instructor has traveled to or the competitions she has won is not enough. But I went over all that in the first article. For someone who is their own producer, editor, graphic artist and distributor, Michelle has done a wonderful job.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
7-30-08 Ahlan Wa Sahlan 2008, Not So Welcoming this Year by Yasmin,
Prices have gone up everywhere, and Egypt is no exception. The reality hit me as soon as I walked into the Mena House. Bottled water was $4.00, where out in the street the same bottle was $.50. A bottle of beer was $10.00. Internet connection was $30.00 / hour. At those prices, life's little pleasures didn't seem important anymore.

9-29-08 Bible-Belt Belly Dancing in the 1970's: An interview with Azur Aja by John Clow
Azur Aja (Sharon Wright), a belly dancer from the Nashville Tennessee area, is endearingly known as ‘The Lady With The Veils’. Her career has spanned over thirty-five years, and her style has been influenced by some of the most recognizable names in American belly dance history.

5-6-07 How to Charge What You Are Worth by Michelle Joyce
The first step to becoming an effective negotiator is to emotionally detach yourself from the outcome. If you can’t walk away from the deal, you have already lost.

3-27-08 To Buy or Not to Buy –A Guide to Mass Market Belly Dance Instructional DVDs by Yasmin
Most producers ask or hire others to write glowing reviews. You will often see the same people reviewing a producer’s entire line of product. Those are suspect. Look for the one-off comments. They will give a better overview, along with anything less than 5 stars.

10-24-06 Adventures in Turkey 2006 by Michelle Joyce, photos by Michael Baxter
I am not exaggerating when I say that Sandra actually threw herself into Bella's arms and wept when she first laid eyes on her.

6-22-08 American Belly Dancing 1966: B.C. (Before Choreography) Schehera of Ohio Interviewed by John Clow
The censors didn’t want me to show my stomach because you couldn’t reveal the navel on television back then. Keeping the veil on was kind of hard to do, dancing with a snake.

10-8-08 Dance - Deeper than the Moves by Keti Sharif
A dancer who feels “safe”in the rhythm, footwork, technical movement feels grounded and secure as she dances. A grounded dancer will be less "in her head”and allow the authenticity of feeling to come through her body as a flowing, emotive movement that expresses the music and how she “feels”the music.

10-6-08 "Just feel the music when you're on stage!”Interview with Ozgen, Male Turkish Belly Dancer, by Nini Baseema
Well, I think my heart still beats for big shows and productions, as much as I know how stressful and difficult that show-life can be. I seem to not be able to live without it.

10-2-08 Self-Esteem and the Bellydancer by Taaj
…but then, I wondered, why are so many belly dancers jealous, unhappy, competitive and insecure? Does belly dance really build self-esteem?

10-1-08 North Beach Memories- Casbah Cabaret, Part I Circa 1973 by Rebaba
We performed what I have dubbed “conveyer belt dancing”, that is three dancers doing three shows each, starting promptly at 8:30 p.m. without stopping until 2:00 a.m., whether we had an audience or not.



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