Video Fitness

Stretch and Tone With Suhaila

Suhaila Salimpour

This video originally came out in 1993. I bought it at the time and was so irritated I returned it. The tape was broken into 3 main workout sections, totalling 20 minutes, but before and after each section was a clip of Suhaila being interviewed or Suhaila dancing (increasing the total tape length to 35 minutes). Things I wanted to see, but not every time I watched the tape and not in the middle of the workout! I am pleased to say that, at some point, they re-edited the tape so that the interviews and performance clips are now at the beginning and end of the tape. Fastforward 9 minutes in to get to the actual workout.

Stretch and Tone with Suhaila (1993) is filmed on a set with a blue platform and what looks like a patterned sheet hanging in the background. The lighting is kind of stagey. Suhaila, the only exerciser, wears a black unitard with "runs" up each side from the ankle to the rib cage. The music is not typical middle eastern dance music and has kind of a techno-dance drumbeat.

The first section (7 1/2 minutes long) starts with some fast warm-ups. Step-touches while reaching across or overhead for the first minute or so. You then stand in plie and do rib slides. Suhaila cues the workout in voiceover and reminds you here to keep your stomach in and seat tucked. This is followed by simultaneous rib and hip circles with a "coffeegrinder" effect. This move may confuse people who have never taken bellydance before and have a hard time seeing exactly what Suhaila is doing due to the black unitard. Next, she has you arch and contract your back, slowly first, then full-time, then double time. Side to side lunges follow, then you hold a runner's lunge, and then do this interesting combo where you stay in the runner's lunge, but alternate between bending the back knee and reaching the opposite arm forward. Finally you do pulsing squats, and the roll up to standing.

The next section, roughly 6 minutes long, focuses on strengthening those legs. You start with a slow windmill stretch (overhead to the side, straight to the side, down to your ankle and back up again). Then pulsing plies alternating lifting the heel to work the calves. Plie squats and squat pulses follow and then you finish with standing forward lunges. Here Suhaila appears to land with the ball of her foot (as opposed to striking with the heel) and as she comes back to standing she *drags* her lunging foot along the floor, rather than pushing off with the heel. I don't know how safe this is.

The final section of the workout (6 1/2 minutes) is done on the floor. In a seated straddle you work on pulsing your legs in time to the music. Then, Suhaila turns her back to the camera and shows you her famous glute pulses and vibrations. You do these by sitting in a staddle, leaning forward and alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles in your butt cheeks. These do help to strengthen your glutes and increase shimmy control, but I try to do them when no one is around because it looks very, um, interesting. After a full round of theses at various speeds, Suhaila turns back around and leads you through forward bends, crunches, tricep dips (when you're shimmying you only want your *hips* to move!) and a tricep stretch.

All in all, I think this is a good, brief conditioning workout for bellydancers. There are a few areas (such as those lunges) where people need to be very aware of their form, but I think overall it is a fairly safe video.

Instructor comments: Suhaila is the daughter of Jamila Salimpour, one of the legends of American Bellydance. Suhaila's dance training has included tap, jazz, modern and ballet, as well as middle-eastern dance and she fuses the styles together. She comes across as very friendly. Suhaila cues well and gives good form pointers.

Renee Drellishak

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