Video Fitness

Bellydance with Suhaila - Fitness Fusion Pilates for Beginners

Suhaila Salimpour

The workout is mislabeled. Other than talk about keeping your belly button to your spine, I saw no Pilates in this workout. I saw more yoga (i.e., stretches) than pilates. This is a decent bellydance abdominal workout.

Instructor comments:



I approached this video with a bit of trepidation, based on previous reviews and my experience with the Bellydance/Yoga Fusion tape. It wasnít that the tape was so horrible, it just wasnít quite what I was expecting or looking for in a workout. I guess I was looking for a workout that helped me to refresh my memory of my belly dance classes and the DVD didnít quite fit the bill. A few of the exercises (in the yoga DVD) were too advanced for me in terms of coordination, even though this was a beginner tape and I am an advanced exerciser and have previously bellydanced.

Some pluses: You can tell from the initial trailers for some of Suhailaís other DVDís that this woman can dance. I like the fact that she instructs the video, rather than uses voiceovers. That makes me feel more connected to the workout.

Suhaila has about 6 backup dancers/exercisers in her video. They are diverse, at least in terms of body type (which is also nice to see). In fact, even the Ďsmallerí women often have noticeable bellies. Suhaila is round and curvy, which I definitely appreciate in a world where size two instructors predominate. She is dressed simply in a black top and pants and always has a smile. However, the background exercisers are wearing shiny silver lame or velour outfits, which some may find a bit flashy or distracting. Also, I couldnít really catch them smiling very often-some of them had rather dour looks on their faces. (Come on girls, lighten up!)

The warmup consists of a series of static stretches. If youíve read any of my previous reviews, you know I hate static stretches in the warmup in general, especially if you havenít done any movement beforehand to loosen up the muscles. This is perhaps the fitness instructor in me. However, many of the dance teachers Iíve had (African, ballet, bellydance) tend to do them. Also, the stretches are yoga-based (but isnít this a pilates workout??). There are a plank pose or two given in the warmup. Suhaila also gives a few form pointers (i.e. knee over ankles, etc.)

The core conditioning workout begins with a plie squat sequence that will truly have your thighs begging for mercy. I have to admit, I had to stop once or twice-and not to write some things down for this review. :) After the squats, there are some side stretches. Then come those glute isolations again-they were easier the second time around but still difficult. Also included are standard pulsing crunches. Afterwards, Suhaila moves onto standing corework consisting of bellydance isolations (i.e. circles). I liked these, but I think theyíd be a bit difficult for someone who hadnít had any experience with bellydance. Although there are form pointers and instructions given, I think it would be helpful had the DVD included a separate instruction portion carefully reviewing bellydance terminology and moves. She does occasionally give modifications, but there are so many background exercisers that one of them could easily have provided modifications.

The next portion consists of actual bellydance. The background exercisers now have on some horrendous blue-green skirts over their silver outfits. (Blech!) Basically, you are using some of the isolations that you learned (i.e. glute squeezes and hip slides) and combining them. Itís pretty short. One thing I should mention is that there are times that youíll be holding your arms up a lot so definitely take a rest if you need it. The cooldown is much too short and nondescript. The hamstrings and calves and back are stretched. Iíd definitely add on some stretching at the end.

The bonus performance is good. You finally see the backround exercisers smile and really get into the dancing, which is nice. They also dance with zils (finger cymbals) which always frustrated the heck outta me! It made me want to go back to class so I can perform in a skimpy outfit on stage! There is also a bonus workout (with voiceover) that I didnít go. It looked like it incorporated more traveling moves than the first workout.

I liked this video, but notice I said nothing about the pilates-because there isnít any! I couldnít believe it. But, for some reason that didnít bother me because I felt my core had been worked and my body stretched out and I felt this section and the warmup had pretty much done the job. All in all, I actually kind of liked this video (even though there is not a hundred or single leg stretch to be found). So if youíre looking for video that will work your abs in fun and new ways, check out this video. If youíre looking for pilates (of any kind) give this video a pass. I like Suhaila as an instructor. Her philosophy on respecting where you are and loving your body (as evidenced by her dancers and herself) is really inspiring. I may pick up one of her workouts to do on those days when I just want to relax and move my body in a different way.

Instructor comments: I like Suhaila. She's a beautiful dancer and is not afraid to show off her curves. She smiles a lot and has an engaging personality. I would definitely love to take a class with her.


February 23, 2005

The main workout on this DVD is divided into 5 chapters: warm-up, core toning, dance workout, cool-down, and group dance. During the 7-minute warm-up, instuctor Suhaila leads a large class of women through mostly static stretches without warming up the muscles first; she includes a few yoga moves such as plank and child's pose. The core segment begins with a series of standing pulses in a plie position; this part challenged my legs as well as my shoulders, as the arms were held in the air the entire time. Suhaila then moves to a seated straddle position for glute isolations, which I absolutely could not do--anyone who has not learned this move through prior bellydance experience will struggle here. Suhaila finally starts doing some actual core work with traditional abs crunches done to a pulse count. She also does a series of seated abs isolations; again, my lack of bellydance experience made these moves virtually impossible to execute. Returning to a standing position, Suhaila continues the isolation moves, this time with somewhat easier rib and chest isolations, eventually blending them into a circle. This ends the core segment at about 22 minutes total.

The 7-minute dance section doesn't feel much like dancing, as you are standing in place the entire time doing a range of abs and glutes isolations. Suhaila does a few quick stretches to finish, bringing the entire time for the workout in at about 38 minutes. Following the workout, there is also a short (2 1/2 minutes) group dance. The DVD includes a bonus 9 minute workout; this was very similar to the dance section of the main workout except that the isolation exercises are performed while moving from front to back and side to side, which did little to make the workout more interesting. Other DVD extras include trio and circle performances (the latter has one performer dancing in the center of a circle with the others sitting around and clapping; I found this to be a little odd, although the little girl who danced at the end was cute), a workout without narration option, trailers of the other three videos in the "Fitness Fusion" series, and a photo gallery (I can't understand why Natural Journeys always includes these--why would I want to see still photos of Suhaila?).

You may have noticed that I did not mention Pilates--that's because there is absolutely NONE in this video! Yes, there is some minimal core work, but I wouldn't even go so far to call it Pilates-inspired. It's things like this that make you understand why there were those who wanted the Pilates name to remain trademarked; use of the name here is really an outrage. Overall, I felt that my inability to perform many of the movements--based on my lack of previous bellydancing experience--made me unable to enjoy this workout. If you already know how to do basic bellydance isolations and are looking for an opportunity to strengthen your skills, you might like this video, but those who are new to bellydance should definitely look elsewhere.

Instructor comments: Suhaila appears to be a very good dancer. Overall, she cued well, but she did not fully explain how to do the movements, seemingly assuming that the viewer had prior experience with bellydance.

Beth C

July 29, 2005

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