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A Retro Choreography;
Fire at the IAO PART TWO

12 months after the release of Fire at the Iao, a belly dancing performance video/DVD.

By Delilah

The energy behind that performance just will not quit. After “Fire at the Iao” was released in April 2001, I began using one of the videotaped parts of my dance performance from the show as a teaching vehicle. The part I choose is a 5 minute dance section that features a multitude of transitions, step combinations and floor design patterns. It makes a fabulous dance lesson for intermediate and advanced dancers. I started teaching it at local classes and workshops and soon realized that this really was a worthwhile lesson for me to share with dancers. However, they could work with it on their own . It should be a home video program!

So I set out on the long process of deconstructing my own dance and writing an instructional program. I owe a bit of gratitude to my Tuesday night intermediate class in Seattle and a special summer workshop in Salt Lake City sponsored by Thia. These venues served as models and inspiration for my work on this project. (See review written by Sharina of Salt Lake workshop in "Zagareet "Sept/Oct 2001 Issue)

I call this Instruction “A Retro Choreography” because retro means to look back. That is what I’ve had to do; look back at a spontaneously performed choreography and bring it back to the forefront of my experience to map it out, nail it down and commit it to a choreographed dance. Then teach it as a lesson.

This project was an incredible learning experience for me. I basically had to reconstruct a dance I did in the spirit of spontaneity. The substance of this dance represents an accumulation and culmination of my entire life's experience with this art form. Through this process I found myself between mind sets, and able to observe the process of switching thought perspectives; from analytical left brain to anological right brain. It was a fascinating prospective, and as I worked with this, it became an even more important part of the lesson’s documentary aspect of the total project.

Order A Retro Choreography on DVD or VHS now!

The Creative Process

This is how I went about designing the lesson. I created a work station by positioning an ironing board in front of a video monitor in my dance studio. The ironing board was tall and narrow so I could stand in front of the monitor and go from dance mode, to writing, or drawing quickly. On the ironing board I placed my lap top computer, and a large artist drawing pad and pencil, and a remote control.

I then began the long process of analysis and breakdown. I would rewind, hit slow motion, count and recount as I cataloged every step. At the same time I was drawing patterns of body movement, shapes and floor design. The finger print of my left brain personal/spontaneous choreography began to reveal itself. As I compared it to other pre-worked choreographies I have done from my right brain, I could see their unique finger prints coming into focus too. They were recognizably different. I was seeing the difference with my left brain but I was feeling the difference with my right brain. One was concrete, the other was a diffusion of impressions. Both are real. Both are important. They are as different and as similar as my right and left hands.

Another creative aspect of the project was revealed in the drawings. I drew storyboards so the crew could envision my ultimate goals. All of the crew learned a lot about bellydance and I bet each of them could do a bit of it after this project was complete. Laura would fly out of the editing room asking, “Is this right?” She would be doing a double bump pyramid step. She basically had to learn how to do the move to best design the video graphic I ordered up. (that's one way to get your kids to follow in your foot steps).

The process began in May and continued throughout the summer. I drug the TV monitor outside on the back deck and would work on the script and get a sun tan at the same time. One day this squirrel started yelling at me for playing my finger cymbals outside. It was really funny. I went up to it and it didn’t even run a way. It just kept yelling at me! Go figure? So I stopped playing my zills.

We shot the instructional sequence at American Productions in Seattle. It was so nice to have such a professional space to work in. We actually shot parts for three videos. Depending on the success of the two programs we are releasing this December, the other two will follow. We will be working on editing in the spring or summer (so stay tuned, we are working very hard).

  1. Absolute Beginning Bellydance with Delilah,
  2. A Retro Choreography,
    and if all goes well. . .
  3. 9/8 Gypsy Veil, with John Belizikian and Var Dagbrian,
  4. Delilah’s Intermediate Advanced Combo Workout with music by Sirocco and Steven Flynn.

Advantage of DVD for instruction

After we shot the footage, we began work on extra voiceovers and this is where the true advantage of DVD for a instructional program comes into play. You can choose what sound track to play. You can just play the dance and music and dance along in your living room or studio, or you can add my coaching voice calling the step changes. or you can have me call out just the count as I’ve applied it in the lesson, or you can have me do both in stereo, or back to neither!

This idea came about many years ago. I have actually re- recorded music and added my own choreographic voice cues as a practice tool for learning and memorizing my own pre-choreographed dance works. It works great because you can’t read notes while you dance, but you can hear directions.

During this project, I literally had to watch this dance more than anyone could imagine. In a days time I probably watched it 20 times or more. I’ve sat through many showings of the entire dance of Fire at the Iao. At times I have made a conscious attempt to observe the audiences reactions. It’s hard because I still fall into the story of the dance even though I did it, told it , danced it, and it has become something objective to me. I don’t see myself any more. Something interesting to note is that when I try hard to just observe the dance in my left brain, I become overwhelmed by my left brain analytical mind set. I actually see the same dance differently! I become self conscious, critical, and doubtful. I’m ordinarily a very confident person. I usually don’t feel this way at all. Maybe it’s because I’m overly right brained compared to other people. When I loose myself in the dance I notice in retrospect that I loose sense of time. This is one of the first signs of the right brain process. It’s the left brain that keeps time. Since the left brain is the judge and jury, self doubt can creep in. Isn’t this interesting, I say to myself. In the instance of students stage fright perhaps we can apply this observation. This insight leaves me to believe that the way to open up students to true self-expression is through right brain warm up exercises, the left brain mind set is too brutal at first . . .

Order A Retro Choreography on DVD or VHS now!

Finger Cymbals

Basically the reason I didn’t put a Zill (finger cymbal) lessons on the project is the program was getting too long, and the zill sounds alone are tricky and problematic to record . The basic technique for zills is really simple, yet they take a lot of practice to play well, so I thought a lesson was better left to a web club activity. You will find a finger cymbal lesson on Delilah’s Bellydance Workshop Volume 1.



A RETRO CHOREOGRAPHY; a Bellydance Lesson with DELILAH for Intermediate & Advanced dancers and professionals.
Music by Sirocco

  • Begins with the 5 minute Dance Performance we will work on.
  • Introduction and discussion of Right and Left brain thought processes,
  • Notes on how to study with this video lesson.
  • Preliminary Dance Exercise and warm up
  • A Retro Choreography; Lessons 1-7 . . .
    Alternating sections of performance demonstration and in-studio instruction.
  • The dance with voiced over stereo coaching instruction.
    **Additional Choice of sound tracks offered on DVD.

Theater Show


  • Introduction and dance collage
  • Nikki Conti in 2 Dances: Solaris & Bolaris
  • Sulyman el Coyote in Male Dance Bolaris
  • Delilah and Sirocco burn up the stage together in a 30 minute featured dance performance! Fire at the Iao!

  • Artists commentary: Nikki, Sol, Armando and Delilah
  • Delilah’s solo commentary
  • Bazaar, trailers, credits and Visionary Bellydance Web Club membership

Other articles:

What's a DVD?

Interviews with the producers

Fire at the Iao story

Visionary Belly Dancing
4115 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 USA

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