Flex Appeal: A Belly Dance WorkoutKathy Smith
Year Released: 2004
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This workout is divided into four sections. The first is “Slow and Sensual,” which is both an instructional and a warmup for the cardio section. Kathy dances between two pillars, with four dancers demonstrating the moves behind her. One move is introduced at a time, and Kathy’s explanations are clear. The best demonstration of the moves, however, are demonstrated by Ansuya and the other dancers behind Kathy. The last set of hip circles are performed only to one direction, but since they’re the last thing in this section, it’s easy to do the other side on your own. At about 20 minutes, I find this to be a lengthy warmup, but I’ve often used this section by itself on a lazy day.
The second section is a dance that you are supposed to learn and follow on your own. Ansuya dances alone, using the moves learned in “Slow and Sensual,” but there is no cueing or voiceover. I usually skip this section.
The third section is “Heat it Up,” which builds on the moves already introduced, and adding a few new ones. Kathy builds them into combinations. The pace in this section is faster, providing a light cardio workout. As a previous reviewer noted, although the costumes in this segment are beautiful (with the exception of the hot pink number that’s rarely in frame), Kathy’s solid skirt means you cannot see her legs well. Fortunately, Ansuya’s skirt is made of a different fabric and has slits that allow you to see what her legs are doing; I find it easy enough to watch the dancers rather than Kathy.
The last section, “Flex Appeal,” is a 10-minute stretch with some yoga moves. Kathy demonstrates this section alone, and the instruction is via voiceover.
Ansuya finally gets to “teach” in the bonus tutorial section. She provides a lot of instruction that doesn’t get covered in “Slow and Sensual”—further breaking down moves like the camel and explaining exactly what our hands should be doing.
Bonus features include a solo dance by Ansuya, a minute or so of “behind the scenes” clips, Kathy’s bio, and ads for other Kathy Smith DVD’s.
I suspect that this is probably not a great introduction to the art of bellydance, but I’ve had a lot of fun with it. I find it to be a nice light day workout, and it does have a certain amount of “fun factor.” Kathy’s “whooping” level is extremely low in this workout (especially when compared with, say, Cardio Fat Burner), but those who are usually bothered by Kathy will probably be bothered in this one, too. Kathy’s not the best dancer, but all of her background dancers are good; there’s even one woman who’s not super-skinny (proof that you don’t have to be rail thin to be a beautiful dancer!)
I like Kathy Smith, though part of that may be because the first workout video I purchased was one of hers. Her instructions are always clear and her form is usually good (she’s not the best bellydancer in the workout, but that doesn’t bother me since it’s easy enough to see the dancers behind her).
Even when her videos are too easy for my level, I'm always impressed with the thoroughness and professionalism of Kathy's work. This video is no exception. The video also has Ansuya, a veteran bellydancer. I like that Kathy finds an expert to "co-host" videos. It makes the videos seem accessible because Kathy is learning new stuff too. Frankly, Ansuya isn't one of my favorite dancers to watch perform, but she's fine in this video.
New to bellydance - no problem! Kathy gives clear instruction. You may feel a bit awkward, because your body isn't used to these moves, but you'll understand what your supposed to do. After the first instruction segment there is a short (3 minute) uncued dance by Ansuya. You just follow along and do your best. That actually works well, because if you don't know a move you can just improvise.
It's a very light workout. The first section is the "slow and sensuous" one. It would be perfect for someone who wanted a nice warm up or a relaxing stretch before bed. Bellydance requires flexibility in the lower back. Section two is faster, and a tad more challenging. Kathy does do some whooping - I know that's a real peeve for some VFers. It didn't bug me.
The music is only ok - I think she could have made a less bland choice, but it's not bad. The costuming is great in the first section. In the section section Kathy has on a long opaque satin skirt. It's lovely, but you can't always see her legs. A sheer dance skirt would have been a better choice. Also, one woman is in a pink lamé outfit that is distractingly horrible. Thankfully, she is rarely in frame.
Overall, I like this video. It's not a challenging workout, but it's fun to do.
Flex Appeal is a bellydance lesson, followed by a bellydance cardio and then an extended stretch. The DVD also has a performance by Ansuya (who helps Kathy in the workout) and an instructional session with Ansuya, as well as some other stuff. It isn't bad, its just that Kathy is not a very good dancer. She is thoroughly okay- this will either bother you as a commercial effort to cash in on the popularity of bellydance or will appeal to you because you can relate to Kathy since she's still working on her skills, but having fun, like you. I would have liked to have seen Ansuya take a more active role in teaching the class, or at least have been right next to Kathy (like Clara is in the Latin workout) rather than behind kathy so her dancing was more prominent. I also would have preferred that the dance she leads have an instruction option. The main market for this workout is bellydance beginners, so it seems odd that they would expect beginners could follow along with a professional dancer with no cues. Yeah, after a while you'll catch on, but it would have been nice to have some instruction. I'm no fan of voice over, but maybe voice over instruction with a music only option to facilitate learning the dance? Ahh, well. Ansuya's dance has some terrible camera work- the fast cuts, strange angles and close ups prevent me from watching and enjoying the dance since I could never really see her clearly. During the workout, one of the background dancers is wearing a hideous and distracting bright pink lame outfit that is so garish... she is seldom in frame thankfully. (Oddly enough, its Louchia, a very talented dancer herself.)
Despite the problems, this is probably the best of the recent spate of bellydance workouts that tries to put bellydance into a cardio session. the warm up introduces a series of moves that are then used in the cardio segment. Neither Rania's nor the Twin's workouts really teach the moves they use in the workout and Suhaila's have very little cardio work. Its pretty mellow cardio- someopne doing a lot of aerobics will probably not get a great cardio workout with this, but for a light day, if you want to try something different, you can still get an easy workout in. The stretch is quite nice, I thought. It was relaxing and I felt kinda graceful while doing it. This workout won't teach you bellydance, and if you take lessons, it isn't your best pick as a do along practice to work on your moves. It will however, teach a few bellydance moves and put them into a light cardio session. Kathy's rough dancing will either appeal to you, since you can relate to her still having fun and trying despite not being a natural dancer, or will irrate you, since you want someone teaching moves to do them well, with grace and skill. For people who want a light cardio workout, or to learn some bellydance moves or want some bellydance in their light cardio, this is a good choice.
I've always liked Kathy Smith, though I never really think of her when I think of my favorites. Her cueing is fine here, but she is not very believable as a dancer. The stretch she leads at the end of the workout is very relaxing.