Video Fitness

Fat Chance Belly Dance Woman Power Workout

Karen Andes, Carolena Nericcio

A brief note about me: I have been dancing for 4 years, although I have never formally studied Tribal style dance. I am an official Vidiot and have owned over 100 fitness and dance videos, including tapes by Suhaila Salimpour, Suzanna Del Vecchio, Fat Chance Belly Dance and Baraka.

The tape is listed at 75 minutes, but there are 4 minutes of "stuff" at the beginning, which includes introductions and a push for the items they sell. (Karen's books, Fat Chance Belly Dance (FCBD) videos, music, costume accessories, etc.. Oh, and Karen Andes apparently has a new book coming out, "A Woman's Book of Balance".) So the actual workout is about 71 minutes long. The workout consists of a warm-up and stretch, a veil sequence, a standing lower body toning sequence, a "Tribal Cardio" sequence, and upper body toning sequence, and the final cool down and "Temple stretch". The whole workout is led by Karen Andes, except the Tribal Cardio section, which is led by Carolena. There are 3 additional dancers/exercisers.

Production comments: The music used has kind of an African Tribal beat--not your typical Middle Eastern sound, and they don't do typical bellydance rhythms. The *really* interesting thing about the video is it's filmed from the back. The camera is in the back row of the dance studio (sometimes off to the side) and Karen faces the mirror, so you see Karen's back. (You get her front in the studio mirror.) I actually kind of liked this, except when it obscured what Carolena was doing with her weights (in the upper body toning section). There were a few other similar problems with the video production--times when a full-body shot would have been helpful but they did a torso or head shot instead. Also, I had a hard time hearing the instructors at points and had to keep turning up the volume on my tv.

Workout Breakdown:

The video starts with a warm-up and stretch (about 10 minutes total). Lots of toe touches while doing different things with your arms. A lot of dance-inspired type stretches that would look really weird to non-dancers. (Ex: In one you do a slow omi [a pelvic rotation]while in a squat which feels great in your hips, abs and low back, but *looks* really funky.)

Next comes the veil sequence. (5 minutes) They all have silk veils, so I used my silk veil, too. It's not really veil work, although you do some basic veil moves, but you're mostly doing them to give your arms something to do (while your lower body mostly does toe touches). Even the actual veil moves you do you whip through so fast that you would almost never perform them at that speed--you're kind of jerking the veil around instead of letting it float.

Next comes the leg sequence. (5 minutes) Lots of plie squats and leg lift type stuff while doing dancey things with your arms. This definitely gets your legs burning and heart pumping.

Then comes the tribal cardio section. You get 25 minutes of hip lifts, turns, shimmies, figure eights, undulations, etc.. They're all basic FCBD moves like you would see on stage, although, as Carolena says in the intro, not necessarily presented in the same sequence you would see them performed on stage. My only problems with this section are that a)

Carolena has you start everything on the right side, and seldom has you even it out on the left-- ex: all turns are counter-clockwise with right hip lifts leading; and b) if you don't have a least a passing familiarity with FCBD some of the moves may escape you because she doesn't really break them down. Particularly this upper chest circle they do that I need to go back to my Tribal Basics tape to figure out. Also the timing is different from what I'm used to as a non-Tribal dancer.

After this is the upper body toning section using a pole and resistance bands. You can use dumbells instead (I did--5 lbs) and follow Carolena, but the problem is the camera focuses on Karen with her resistance band, so it's hard to see exactly what Carolena is doing, and Karen doesn't provide a lot of form pointers for those with dumbells. You do overhead presses, chest presses (sort of a standing fly with the dumbells), rear delt lifts, tricep extensions and this thing where you hold your elbows at a 90 degree angle and then extend your arms out in front of you like you're offerring a tray (this works the biceps). All of these moves are done *slowly*--most in 1/4 time. The fastest most of them get is 1/2 time. The tricep and bicep work did burn. You don't do any other delt work, but since your arms were at shoulder level or over your head for the *entire* tribal cardio section, they're fried anyway. This section is 15 minutes long.

Finally is the "temple stretch", a series of poses inspired by figures from Indian temples. It's kind of neat. Not sustained stretches like Iyengar Yoga, more flowing and Tai-Chi like. You get 10 minutes of this and then you're done (and they throw in one last pitch for their stuff--including the pole and resistance bands.)

Final Thoughts:

I'm not sure how I feel about the workout. It doesn't break down the moves much, there aren't a lot of form pointers and the cueing is so-so, so I would not recommend it for someone who has never bellydanced (whereas I think a newbie could do the intro section of Suzanna Del Vecchio's Precision Motion Workout and then successfully complete that video). And as I said before, even for regular dancers, a passing familiarity with FCBD's style is helpful. This isn't really what I would consider a regular toning or cardio or instructional tape--it's more of a bellydance conditioning tape. As such, I'm not really sure how it's going to fit in my regular workout rotation. It's good for nights when dance class is cancelled, but I don't know if I would use it on a regular cardio day, and it's not heavy enough [for me] for a strength day.

Though not without its drawbacks, I think this tape would make a fine addition to any dancer's video library.

Instructor comments: Karen and Carolena are both ACE certified trainers. Karen's personality is a little "goddessy" at times [not really my thing, but you might like it if it's yours], but I expected that so it was ok, although her constantly saying "Lov-lay!" during the warm-up bugged me a little. But I liked her. They left in a few bloopers and miscues and she kind of laughed them off and I liked that--very human.

Renee Drellishak

Since I have taken Middle Eastern dance, and read her two books, I decided to give this video a try. Karen teaches with Carolena Nericcio, the director of Fat Chance Belly Dance. The video starts with an explanation of the program. The workout starts out with a warm up and moves on to veil work and stabilizing exercises before you do the belly dance based work out. Then there is a toning segment which uses either a band with a bar or dumbbells (the women using the dumbbells are sometimes hard to see). Then there is a stretch that features poses derived from Indian temple goddess statues. Let me say first this work out isn't going to appeal to everyone. Some folks want a more straightforward, atheletic program that leaves you aching after. If you like a dancey or mystical approach, this could be what you're looking for. First, the veil work is tougher than you may think. I use a three yard piece of chifon, and let me tell you, it takes a lot of strength and coordination to move constantly through the air, to twirl it and give it form and shape for ten minutes. All of your muscles have to work in concert, and you feel it in you arms, chest and upper back. But you feel so graceful (until it gets caught on the coffee table)...

The stabilizing is great too. I can't remember if this is before or after the veil work, but it features, amoung other moves, alot of plies. You do them without weights but you try to lower deeper into them, hold it, lower further and come up slowly. Or lower and then bend forward. I can feel it working those turn-out muscles in my inner thighs. Whew! Then comes the belly dance aerobics, which are really fun and low impact. The steps themselves are fairly simple, a few steps and turns, but they are more challenging when you add the hip shimmies and lifts and so on that you do at the same time. Also, you are constantly in at least a slight knee bend so it gets you in the quads. Overall, its a very positive program. Carolena leads this section and sometimes her cues are a bit off.

This is a good program to watch before trying to get an idea of the movements so you can let go and dance and shimmie and just enjoy the movement. The video is also filmed in a studio and frequently they show the work out from behind but you can see the women in the mirror. This can be helpful to see the moves from a different angle, especially since they originate in the pelvis/hips frequently. The toning is throrough and Karen leads that. The bands/bar combo they use looks more challenging than the Dynabands/exertubes I've used in the past. They do include some unique moves in concert with more traditional ones. The stretch is lovely and leaves you feeling very refreshed.

Overall, this is a very "body positive" work out. Karen isn't about talking about "problem zones" or "trouble spots." She doesn't constantly remind you to feel the burn or even to think about burning fat or seeing results. Her encouragement seems to advocate self-love and acceptance, and working out to be stronger, happier, healthier people, and let the better body happen as a result. As a result, I feel better about myself when I've done this workout in a different way than with other videos. I criticise myself less for a little while for all the figure flaws I have. The women in the cast are very real looking and obviously at home in their skin. I recommend this one for intermediates to advanced.

It is a long work out and difficult in a different way than the Firm or more traditional programs are. Beginners will enjoy the aerobics and veil work, but will probably find the stabilizine and some of the toning quite challenging. This is a beautiful workout that encourages women to find their own beauty as well.

Instructor comments: Karen is a warm professional instructor. In her books, she has a real admiration for and appreciation of the female form in all its varieties, and has a mission to strengthen and empower our bodies and souls through, in part, fitness. This attitude shows in this video. A very positive, uplifting instructor.



I haven't really felt qualified to review this video as I have no dance experience whatsoever (except as being voted wildest dancer in the bar once during a ski trip - but that's another matter), until it occurred to me that it might be of use to anyone else similarly uneducated, but still interested in trying out a belly-dance oriented tape.

I bought this tape because I really enjoyed Karen Andes book, A Woman's Book of Strength, as well as her more recent book, A Woman's Book of Balance. This video was in the very first issue of the Collage catalog that I ever received, and I excitedly ordered it without too much thought. Only after ordering it did I find and the reviews on it, and I may not have ordered this tape at all had I read the reviews first, as it became apparent that I would be sadly lacking the belly dance experience.

However, on the whole I enjoy this tape and am going to hang onto it and continue to use it. Others have broken it down well, so I'll just give my non-dancer impressions.

I really enjoyed the segments led by Karen Andes. Her personality is warm and encouraging, and even a little lyrical in her presentation of the movements and cueing. As Renee mentioned, the "Love-lay" can get a little annoying, but it doesn't happen too often. The warm up is a lot of fun, and pays more attention to hip and oblique flexibility than most warm ups, which feels really great. Both the leg strengthening and veil work segments are easy to follow. The leg strengthening is mostly plies and leg lifts with kind of dancer pose things with your arms. It has a nice rhythm and flow and Karen makes it easy to follow.

Karen cues very well and gives great visuals, for instance "Shake the veil like you're shaking sand out of a blanket". As someone who has never tried to throw a veil around in the air before, I found this section really a blast - "hey look at me! I'm keeping this veil in the air!" You definitely know when you've done something wrong because you will suddenly have this crumpled up knot of fabric between your hands. Not to worry…the pace here is pretty relaxed so it's easy to catch up and start again. The matador move and funnel move are especially fun. It adds a bit of drama to the movement without being overwhelmingly complicated.

Then you get a 25 minute cardio dance section led by Carolena. This is where a non-dancer will start to run into a little trouble. As others have mentioned, there is no breakdown of the moves, so that you pretty much watch and learn. Two things I found particularly irksome is the lack of symmetry - ie. All the moves and turns go one way and are never countered by spins in the other direction, and finally towards the end of the segment she cues by telling you the name of the move. "Arabic" she'll say, which she earlier described as a "full body wave" or didn't describe at all. So I agree with the others that prior experience in this dance style would definitely help.

However, I do think you could learn it pretty well by watching and doing the video a couple of times. The one thing I simply can NOT get is the hip shimmy at the fastest speed. I'm okay at the single speed, fine when she says double it, but when she says "double it again" there is no way I can get my hips to shimmy without the girls up top going along for the ride. Yikes!

Furthermore I have yet to figure out what to do with my hands and arms. I just try to put them somewhere they won't get in the way and try to get them to float along gracefully. However I usually feel (and probably look) like a drunk middle aged businessman among hula girls at the luau. It is a real toss up as to which I would least want my DH to watch me doing - this segment of this tape, or the Hips and Ribs thing from Firm's Vol. 1.

The cool down to this segment is really neat! Slow ribcage circles, again doing stuff with your hands that I just can't comprehend - but the way this works your torso feels really cool.

Back to Karen and a relatively straightforward upper body conditioning segment. I don't have the same pole and band system they have but the one I have worked great. There is only one set of each exercise and only one exercise per body part, but done slowly enough with some tempo changes that you will feel them. I wouldn't consider this a really heavy or thorough strength workout, but nice catch up secondary strength work to throw in your week. The bicep "tray" exercise is a nice variation and also hits the front of your shoulders. I enjoyed this one. The tricep exercise is an overhead french press using the band, done slowly enough that you get a good burn. During this part Karen says through gritted teeth "It's not easy for us either!" which cracks me up.

The tape concludes with a "Temple" stretch inspired by dance like postures found on temple friezes. It's poetical and lovely and each pose has names like "smelling the flower" and is referenced to gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology. If I never do the rest of this video again, I would keep it just for this stretch segment.

On the whole, this makes a really nice change of pace, when you've pounded your knees out or just can't stand the thought of hauling out your barbell and step, for whatever reason. There is virtually no impact, and the intensity level is moderate. Karen in particular is very positive and encouraging, and gives the workout a very accepting feel. Though I don't do this tape often, I enjoy it whenever I do and find it very refreshing.

May 24, 2001

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