A Review of
Nefertiti Presents: Belly Dancing "The Basics"
by Sherry Jeffries (Ankestamen)
Back in 1975, a belly dancer named Nefertiti (Doris Demarest-Nemeth) in Phoenix, Arizona began working on a "how to belly dance" book project. For unknown reasons, she did not complete the project. Decades later, her daughter decided to use the photos that had been taken for the book, add text, and finish the project. This book is the result.
[Note: I wrote the above paragraph in 2003 when I wrote the rest of this review. When the publisher known as Mud Puddle released their version of the book with Rachel Brice on the cover several years later, they plagiarized the above paragraph. I just want to make it clear that they stole my text, and not the other way around.]
The version of the book used for this review was the original self-published version published in 2002. A later edition with a different cover has been released by a commercial publisher as part of a kit with music and cheap finger cymbals.
|Nefertiti Presents: Belly Dancing "The Basics"
|Sherry Jeffries (Ankestamen)
|Original editions: Sherry Jeffries
Version with Rachel Brice on the cover: Mud Puddle
|Non-Fiction: How to Belly Dance
Number of Pages
The format of this book is that of a simple "how to" manual for beginning belly dance. There are about 20 basic moves taught, a page on posture, a page about finger cymbals, and a few veil ideas.
Some of the moves include hip bounce, half moon, hip thrust, hip shimmy, sit-kick front, sit-kick side, sit-kick back, lean-kick, single-leg shimmy, backward figure 8, shoulder thrust, shoulder shimmy, shoulder roll, pelvic tilt, belly roll, head slides, and snake arms.
The veil work section talks about how to wrap it, how to remove it, and how to do a few simple moves. The floor work section talks about how to do a Turkish drop (which seems a bit odd for what is otherwise a beginning-level book), the sway, the half wedge, and the full wedge.
For each item taught, there is a picture of Nefertiti accompanied by several bullets with explanation and a few tips. In some places, diagrams accompany the photo to offer further clarification.
Since the photos of Nefertiti were taken in 1975, the book definitely has a strong retro flavor to it.
Although I think it would be nearly impossible for someone to learn how to belly dance solely by using a book, it can be helpful to use a book when the explanation offered by your teacher or video on how to do a certain move isn't entirely clear. A book like this can offer another way of describing the same move, and help someone who is struggling see it in a different way. For belly dance teachers, this sort of "how to dance" book can also offer ideas for alternate ways to describe a move when teaching it.
I personally enjoy looking through the book simply because of the fun of seeing Nefertiti in her 1970's costume and hair style. It looks very attractive on her, and offers us a glimpse into what belly dancers of the past looked like.
The first and second editions of the book, which are what my review is based on, have a very "self-published" level of production quality.
I have not seen the kit that contains finger cymbals and music as well as this book, so I can't comment on the quality of those additional products.
Is It Right for You?
You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...
- You are a teacher of belly dance and looking for ideas on how to explain moves to your classes.
- You don't find helpful the explanations offered by your teacher or by the instructional videos on how to do certain moves, so you're looking for another description to see if that helps.
- You're interested in knowing more about how people learned about belly dancing without a teacher before the era of home video and the Internet made information more readily available.
- You're nostalgic for the style of belly dancing that was done in the 1970's and early 1980's and you'd like to see a resource created by a dancer who was working during that era.
- You would find it charming to see how a daughter brought her mother's project to fulfillment.
- You knew the dancer Nefertiti when she was alive, and you would enjoy having a book that honors her career.
- You would enjoy the insight this book provides into what belly dance was like in the 1970's.
This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...
- You're trying to learn belly dance at home without a teacher. (Videos would be more effective than a book.)
- You are looking for a book that catalogs a comprehensive number of dance moves.
- You would dislike a book whose illustrations show 1970's-era hair styles and clothing.
- You're looking for detailed, in-depth explanations of how to do moves.
- You think Rachel Brice's photo on the cover of the commercial publisher's kit version means that the book is somehow related to Rachel herself or tribal fusion belly dance.
What I Liked, What I Didn't
What I Liked:
- The book's simplicity makes it well suited to people who feel a bit intimidated about trying something they fear may be difficult.
- The photos and simple large-font text would be particularly appealing for younger readers
- The descriptions of the moves provide clear instruction.
- The text is simple, and it is very easy to tie descriptions to the pictures.
- Many of the photos illustrating moves are augmented with arrows, lines, or diagrams to help show the direction of motion.
- I was charmed by the fact that Sherry honored her mother by completing a project that her mother had begun in 1975. It's a lovely tribute, especially since her mother passed away in 1999.
- The spiral binding conveniently lies open to the page of choice, which can be useful when studying a particular move.
- On her web site (see "Where to Get It" below), Sherry offers sample pages from the book under "Online Lessons". This provides an opportunity to preview what the book looks like before buying it.
What I Didn't Like:
- With only 40 pages and a large typeface, the book is fairly short.
- It might have been nice to have either an index or a table of contents identifying page numbers for each move.
- The bulky plastic spiral binding is a nuisance when the book sits on the bookshelf, because it takes up more space than other kinds of bindings and it's impossible to identify the title by looking at the spine.
- The first edition contained a number of typing errors and misspellings, but this problem was corrected in later editions. The only way you would see this problem would be if you purchase a book from the original printing through a used source.
It's nearly impossible to learn how to dance from printed text. It's necessary to see the move in motion, and to connect it to the appropriate music. However, if you have access to either a teacher or a video that demonstrates what the move looks like in motion, the written text in a "how to dance" book like this can help clear up confusion. Sometimes, it's helpful for either a teacher or a student to have more than one explanation on how to do a move, and this type of how-to book can assist with that.
If you're looking for a glimpse of what belly dancing in the U.S. used to be like in the 1970's, I'd definitely recommend this book for that. It's also a fit for people who like to collect belly dance memorabilia. But it's not the kind of product I'd recommend for someone seeking belly dance instruction.
The author, Sherry Jeffries, contacted me to ask whether I would be interested in reviewing the book for my web site, and sent me a complimentary copy to use for the review. My only contact with her has been correspondence related to the book.
To Buy It
Via Amazon Stores
Phone: (+1) (602) 295-7928
Web Site: sites.google.com/site/ankestamen
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