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About the New Belly Dance Programs on DVD and VHS

Interview with the Producers:
Steven and Delilah

By Cythia Kramer

What is the difference between VHS and DVD?

Delilah: Oh my goodness! DVD is another world! Producing these projects was far more complicated than producing a regular video program. It was like making a video, creating a web site, and remodeling a kitchen all at the same time! The picture quality is much better, but the fact that it's non-linear makes it truly unique.

Steve: At the click of a couple buttons you can go to different parts of the video. You also can access different soundtrack options.

For example:
• In "Retro Choreography" you can choose to have Delilah call out the steps to the music or just call the count, or have her do both at the same time (each coming from different speakers) or neither! What a great tool for studying dance!

• On "Fire at the Iao" DVD you can watch the dance as a performance or switch to the artists' commentary and hear Sol, Nikki, Armando, and Delilah talking about their art or listen to Delilah’ s personal commentary about doing the entire dance. It’s a little like crawling inside the artist’s head while she’s dancing!

• On "Absolute Beginning Bellydance", you can choose which section you want to go to instantly. You can also view three extra dances in their entirety. These dances are only passing excerpt on the VHS version: "The Cane Dance", "The Rose Dance" and "The Blue Enchantress Dance"

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Where were these productions filmed?

Delilah: Fire at the Iao was a live performance recorded in 2000 at the Iao Theater on the island of Maui. It was an especially hot performance by all the players, thus the title: "Fire at the Iao". We were burning up the stage!

Steve: It’s a funny story, really. It was shot with two cameras by professional videographers by accident (see Delilah's article “Fire”). We released Fire at the Iao in April this year (2001). Soon after, Delilah started teaching a section in her live classes and workshops as a lesson plan that was really exciting and challenging. Then this summer, Delilah wrote a script and we set up a three-camera shoot (close up, far and over-head) at American Productions Studio in Seattle. My crew consisted of Victoria, Herman, Nancy, Laura Rose, Pablo, Fran, and myself.

Steve and Laura Rose worked for months editing and creating soundtracks and video graphics to really make the program instructive beyond a doubt. I’m so impressed with their skill and artistry.

Steve: The "Absolute Beginning Bellydance" program was filmed in 1999 but we couldn't get around to editing it because for the past couple of years, Delilah was busy traveling all over the globe teaching and performing, and we actually did remodel our kitchen and rebuild our web site along with a bunch of other projects on-line. The editing process takes a lot of uninterrupted time and concentration. It was filmed at Mana Lea Gardens, home of our legendary Visionary Belly Dance Retreats. It was a great place to make our program and a familiar studio to dancers from all over the world now.

What's on Absolutely Beginning?

Delilah: The "Absolute Beginning" Video is a "prequel", I suppose, to our staple series of instructional bellydance videos “Delilah’s Bellydance Workshop Volumes I, II, III". While the program is called "Absolute Beginning", however, it really is not an easy video. It’s meant for both teachers and students! It’s information and experience I’d like to pass on to every dancer no matter her style or perspective. I think we all gain from each other and can be better teachers if we share. This video is full of information and pleasant surprises!

I put the hardest and rarest belly roll (horizontal) on this video because it fell in line with the same foundational theory as the basic hip circle. However, it’s a lot harder. If we start with the biggest challenge, all belly rolls will seem easier from here. The rest of my extensive belly roll work can be found on "Volume III" of my workshop series.

There is a lesson on this video called "Mapping the Internal Realms of the Body" that is a 35-minute deep and complete exercise workout for absolutely everybody! It’s hard to get off the coach and get motivated at times, no matter what level you are. Video programs help! Anyone could do it every day of the week and really stay flexible and in tune with both body and feminine energy. That is what I feel is the most important aspect to participating in bellydance, touching base with our feminine life experience and expressing ourselves.

An exotic hand move everyone always wants to learn is the “lotus hands”. It can be confounding to learn at first. So we put it on this video and spent extra time and devoted several camera angles to it. It introduces the hour glass concept, and we continue on with Kali’s arms and then introduce enough moves for a simple "Candle Dance".

There are lots of tips on what to wear to bellydance class and why what you choose to wear will help you learn various aspects of the dance. I’ve tried to relay a lot of tips I’ve cultivated over the years on teaching and performing. There is also a bit of my personal philosophy distilled in the dialogue section called “Belly Talk”. I’ll admit I’m a bit eccentric but hey that’s me. What am I going to do? I hope dancers find it inspirational.

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What does A Retro Choreography mean?

Delilah: The dance I’m teaching is a five-minute dance from the once live performance of the "Fire at the Iao" show. It was performed as a spontaneous choreography as opposed to a preset choreography. The difference being: in traditional bellydance, the dancer knows the songs and rhythms, she knows her steps and her body's expressive capabilities, she knows the map of where she’s heading, but she doesn’t think out each step on the path. She leaves those choices to the true moment at hand. In a preset choreography the dancer remembers a series of movements to a piece of music so she can design and duplicate her message within a time frame. What I did for this lesson is look back at a dance done in that spontaneous mind set, deconstruct it, and then turn it into a preset choreography for the lesson. Retro means to look back, thus the title.

Now, the lesson involves learning the dance in which there are over 45 different step/movement techniques. By dancing it as a choreography we also learn transitions and how steps fit together and also how to travel in space. This is a great workout! However, it is also a valuable documentary to further an understanding of bellydance. Even non-dancers find it fascinating. I hope it is viewed by more than just the bellydance audience, so please show it around to all your friends (don’t let them copy it, please).

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What challenges arouse during production?

Steve: The "Absolute Beginning" project was a challenging project to film in that the entire time we filmed it, it was raining on Maui. We have been going to Maui for 14 years and never saw rain like this. It was torrential by Seattle standards. Red rivers ran through the hillsides of the island paradise! It was a great time to be indoors making a video, because we sure weren’t feeling guilty missing any sun, surf or site seeing in Hawaii that week. It was not a big deal, except for one aspect. The rain was so loud it posed huge challenges for our soundtracks. We were able to mask it out, but it wasn’t easy.

Delilah: Sound and lighting is the most difficult and the most time consuming. I get all dressed and psyched up and then technical delays can go on for ever until I barely can say my name anymore. I’m not good at memorizing choreographies or scripts. When you want to be succinct and provide a message in a certain time frame, you have to memorize it. I’m much better teaching in person than in front of a camera, but I enjoy the creative process that goes into creating a video program. It’s rewarding in the end, even though I have to live with a lot of little things I wish I could do or say over . . .Oh well.

What is the Visionary Bellydance Web Club?

Delilah: It’s an idea that came to me because there is always something after you get done with a project that you wished you had included. Then I realized that the DVD could be put into your computer. Then my mind jumped to how we are all fostering new relationships on the computer. I realized I could basically hold a class internationally on computer. Since these videos would give us common ground, I could direct my attention to a specific group of dancers and continue the relationship that often gets started in front of a TV set. By using the Internet, I could add to the existing program, make instantaneous updates, give dancers the transcripts and written choreography notes, answer questions, give resource information, reward students for supporting my work with special offers, and stay in touch with those who are interested with out e-mailing and bothering folks that aren’t. The difference between our public web site and our web club is that this information has to do with a specific program people have purchased. It isn’t for the general public. We will start with two different clubs. One for “Absolute Beginning Bellydance” for Students and Teachers, and the second for “A Retro Choreography" for intermediate-advanced students and professional dancers.

Steve: We take a lot of love and pride in doing our best with the resources at hand. Delilah is soulfully dedicated and has a unique message to relay to the dance world out there that is on fire. Our work has been totally supported buy the dancers who by our videos, take classes and workshops and come to our retreats. That is our best credential we can offer anyone who inquires. Our goal is to elevate the art of bellydance and still keep it accessible. We want the benefits of the art to be enjoyed by everyone.

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“ After watching this performance I had to sit and catch my breath because it is impossible to view without getting caught up in the magic and excitement . . . How lucky we are to be able to witness this performance . . . wait until you see this exhilarating display! . . . This video is a must see for anyone who wants to see how to put passion into their dance, or spark into their performance!”
— Sharina, Zagareet magazine

"Fire at the Iao creatively and passionately combines images of flamenco and Middle East dance to reveal the limitless expressive possibilities of the female body.”
— Barb Sellers, Professor at California State

“Let us embody the passion and soul of the music and dance! Let us be put to the fire! Let us be cooked! Let us be food!”
— Souls of the performers, from the back cover of Fire at the Iao

“I just finished watching a few moments ago. Before I did another thing, I wanted to take a moment and tell you the video is absolutely "brilliant". Delilah, you were magnificent - your performance electrifying. Nikki Conte was also excellent - she has quite a bit of stamina, not to mention puts a lot of passion into her dance as well.

Full marks to all of you, dancers and musicians, and everyone who had a hand in this phenomenal performance video.
All the best to you,
— K. M. Munin Miami, FL

Back to the Belly Dancing Instructional Videos and DVDs page

More Articles:

What is a DVD?

Fire at the Iao story

12 months later: A Retro Choreography

Enter Belly Dancing Web Clubs Here

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