Delilah's Belly Dance Workshop
by Victoria Anderson
from HABIBI Magazine, Vol. 10 No. 9
This belly dance instructional video is also as purely entertaining, or more so, as the previous two, even though it's not supposed to be something even a non-dancer would watch just for its beauty (with the first two volumes I had several friends do just that). There are some especially pretty moments in this tape. One of them is the opening piece where Delilah is posed with her back to the camera and her arms raised, her veil draped romantically about her under an unusual purple-blue light that cuts through mists and fog giving the impression of an exquisitely colored and clouded sky. Then the camera shifts to profile and the emphasis continues to be on the arms and hands as she moves to a delicate yet dramatic music. As her dance ends she is bathed in a golden sunset of light. The performance merges two elements not often paired: haunting mystery and deep serenity.
Undulations The first area of instruction is undulations: using hands, arms, elbows; full body undulations moving forward, backward, and from the side; and rising, falling, and consecutive full body undulations As always we are given appropriate visual imagery and points of mental focus along with the demonstrations. We are thus enabled to perceive clearly the movements we must master.
In the section on undulations our understanding is enhanced by following the path of a sort of white glowing "comet" as it traces the progression of the undulation that we then see flowing up the dancer's body in the sample demonstration. This teaching aid is most effective as the fading tail of the comet is like the fleeting successive memoria of movement that give undulations their impact. It is like that when we watch an accomplished dancer perform an undulation; what we are actually watching are individual movements of the separate body parts sweeping together in what appears to be one self-propelled ripple.
Through use of the "comet", her verbal descriptions, and her physical demonstrations, Delilah gives us the separate movements broken down so that we can learn them and put them together again. Then we, too, can perform them to appear as one movement. This breaking down of movements into their manageable parts and the use of a variety of teaching aids is Delilah's trademark and is what makes these tapes so effective.
Belly Rolls I don't think you'll find anywhere else such a complete and thorough demonstration of belly rolls. Included are inward and outward dropping rolls, successive loops up and down the stomach, rolls scooping in from the front and from the side, the diaphragm flutter, and tremors. Delilah also demonstrates several exercises designed to prepare the dancer for belly rolls by developing an awareness of the various stomach muscles and how they work. I have to hand it to Delilah on this section for her lack of personal vanity -- at least one of the learning exercises (where she completely sucks in her stomach) is almost horribly unflattering. This is a woman who has obviously put her commitment to teaching ahead of any self-conaciousness. Again, as throughout the tape, we are given invaluable tips on visualization, such as "imagine your naval riding on a little ferris wheel", that greatly help the student with the movements.
This section is one of several which were filmed on the beach at Maui, and the scenery is a marvelous change from the studio shots (I felt like I had been to the bach, too). However, particularly during a nice introductory lecture on the spiritual significance of the belly, one has to strain a bit to bear Delilah over the noise of the surf. Even so, this oral disadvantage is outweighed by the visual beauty of the beach and one can certainly hear Delilah well enough. Also, I found that after my initial viewing of the video I had become familiar enough with what Delilah was saying that the sound of the surf was just pleasant and no longer seemed to compete with the narration.
Coin Tricks So far belly dance video producers have neglected the area of coin tricks but here they are. Delilah presents them with a sense of humor. She demonstrates rolling coins up and down the stomach and flipping them into a cup. One of the advantages of this series of videos is that the number of repetitions of each movement is limited so that we can get the greatest amount of instruction in the time available on each tape (but get as many repeat demonstrations as we want by rewinding the tape). It looks like Delilah got caught up in the challenge and fun of coin tricks but, while it was amusing to watch, I think that she bent her own rule by spending more time her than was strictly necessary to get the material across.
Floorwork The last part of the video is divided into two sections: "Floorwork Made Easy" and "Advanced Floowork." These sections are preceded by a very helpful discussion of some important things to remember, points such as the danger of losing touch with your audience when you go to the floor and how to avoid giving a wrong impression while in this apparently "vulnerable" position. Delilah talks about the image you want to project and various responses an audience may have to floorwork. The discussion is presented over an illustration sample of still shots of several dancers including Delilah.
Floorwork Made Easy Here is all you need to develop quickly an easy but quite sufficient basic floorwork routine. A dancer could take this lesson and start including floorwork in her performances, then embellish her routine as she learns moves from the advanced floorwork section. Delilah gives us easy ways to get down to the floor, leads us slowly through a variety of basic movements to do once we get there, and gives us a graceful way to get up again. It is truly "made easy." We get an easy-to-do way into floorwork presented so that it's also easy to learn. The section concludes with a sample "made easy" floorwork performance by Delilah.
Advanced Floorwork It's all there -- Turkish Drops, Cleopatra Crawl, Back Bends, Spring Down Jump, Side Fall, Rocking Rise, Rise from Standing Backbend, and warm-up exercises for floorwork. The instruction here is of the same top qualiy that is consistent throughout these videos One example of the excellent imagery is the tip for back bends: "imagine a rope attached to thc bottom of your rib cage -- pulling you up." We see Delilah reach up the imaginary rope pulling straight up from the bottom of her rib cage and we immediately understand how it works.
The visual effects on the presentation of the Turkish drop are particularly impressive. A movement that happens so fast is hard to get across; Delilah accomplishes it with the use of slow motion photography and a series of stills along with her live demonstration. The demonstration itself is glorious. Delilah dances in a swirling costume of an incredibly lovely blue. As she spins into the drop she appears an exquisite twirling flower or butterfly. The end of this section includes a performance of a complete advanced floorwork routine.
Next we are treated to something I found very special -- a chance to sort of get to know Delilah and learn her feelings about the experience of dance. Seated on a branch of driftwood with the sound of the surf behind her Delilah reflects eloquently on what dance means to her. I found this inspirational and, while I don't think I'll listen every time I study from this tape, I definably benefited from listening to her. Delilah is clearly a master of belly dance and a dedicated teacher who wants every dancer to reach her fullest potential and get as much as she can out of the dance. I also get the impression that Delilah is a truly inspired lover of the dance who will never stop growing with it. Whether live or on video it's always a real bonus to like your teacher and l think you will like learning from this apparently warm and personable woman.
The last piece on the tape is a dance clip focusing on arms and hands. Steven Flynn, who wrote and performed the music for this video series, then appears from off screen and he and Delilah run through a brief comic conversation in which they note that they are out of tape but promise to produce a fourth volume covering "Guess what?" -- gestures and, in response to numerous requests ... choreography. Well, let's hope so. A year ago when I wrote about Volumes I and II of Delilah's Bellydance Workshop I ended my review with a sharp request for a volume on choreography. I'm now extremely impatient for that choreography promised for Volume IV. Nonetheless, I love what's in this Volume III, am delighted to have it, find it a perfect gift for friends and, sincerely and seriously recommend it to each and all of you.
Delilah's Belly Dance Workshop, Volume III may be purchased from Visionary Dance Productions. PO Box 30797, Seattle WA 98103. or call 206-632-2353.