Video Fitness

The Sensual Art of Bellydance

by Veena and Neena Bidasha

This title is the name of a series of three videos by Veena and Neena: "Basic Dance," "Beyond Basic Dance," and "Mystic Dance." I am reviewing these three as a set, thus my comments will remain general. I highly recommend this set as a good introduction to belly dance for beginners. More advanced dancers can use it as a warm-up or as a way to practice their isolations.

Each tape follows the same general structure: there is a brief warm up, then moves that use the upper body are shown, then the focus is on the lower body, then you do turns and combinations. To wrap up, a simple choreography is taught that uses the moves previously taught. The tapes are valuable for showing beginners how moves are strung together and layered (e.g., arms doing one thing, hips another, feet another) to form a dance. They are meant to be used in sequence, with Mystic Dance being the most advanced of the three. However, I found as a one-year dance veteran that there was something of value for me in each tape.

Neena and Veena appear side by side to show how the moves are done. I observed that one of the sisters sometimes exhibits a more advanced or extreme version of some of the moves, for example, when doing hip drops and lifts one will bend her back more deeply than the other, who stands relatively straight. This is helpful for showing beginners that there can be slight individual differences while maintaining correct form.

There is more instruction on these tapes about how to perform the moves than there was on the "Belly Dance: Fitness for Beginners tape" (Neena and Veena's previous series). Veena and Neena model the moves first, then they are described and modelled very slowly for the viewer to follow along, then the pace quickens. The tapes are narrated with a voiceover. I was not always satisfied that I understood each move completely. For example, in "Beyond Basic Dance," we are supposed to lean into some of the arm moves. I wasn't always sure which direction I should be leaning--sideways? slightly forward? The camera work did not always answer my questions.

Neena and Veena are heavily made up in these tapes, to the extent that they resemble the FIRM instructors. I found their sweet, fresh-faced appearance in "Belly Dance: Fitness for Beginners" more appealing. The emphasis on sensuality as the main theme for the tapes became slightly annoying after the third or fourth run through. Apparently the producers wanted to grab an audience of women unfamiliar with belly dance, in other words, a new market, and played up the sexual allure angle to attract them. The content of the tapes is solid, though, and the occasional "feel how sensual!" comment is easily ignored.

The music uses traditional Middle Eastern rhythms but uses synthesized instruments. I enjoy it and think it will stand up to many hearings. I think that this fusion of east and west is a good way to introduce newcomers to the kind of music they will hear if they continue on in Middle Eastern dance, without being so different that it would off someone who didn't have much previous exposure to world music.

Some VFers might wonder where these tapes fit into a rotation. The heart rate can rise in it, but it will not provide an extended cardio session. These tapes probably fit into an uncategorizable group like Kari Anderson's "Angles, Lines, and Curves" does. They work different muscles of the body, but cannot be considered either strength, cardio, or flexibility workouts. They teach posture, grace, balance, and flexibility, but most of all, they teach you how to belly dance. If you want to learn to dance, this is a great place to start.

Belly dance tapes are often of lower production quality and higher cost than regular fitness tapes. Neena and Veena provide tapes of the same high quality that VFers are accustomed to. If you are at all intrigued I advise you to try them, as the cost for these three titles is equal to one of more traditional belly dance instruction. If you like them, then seek out a local teacher. You will enter a world of fitness, drama, music, costumes, and welcoming, encouraging people. Plus there is a whole new world of tapes to explore on the subject!

Margaret Mary

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