Wings: The Complete Technique

A Video Review By Shira

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Overall Rating: StarStarStarStarStar (on a scale of 1 to 5 stars)

Ayshe teaches how to dance with the prop wings of Isis, with a strong emphasis on technique such as posture, arm carriage, spins, pivots, etc. Her approach is very ballet-influenced.


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The Chart

Recommended Level Intermediate or Advanced
Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 2:35:33
Performance Time 5:31 minutes (4%)
Teaching Time 133:25 minutes (86%)
Amount Of "Other" 16:37 minutes (10%)
Choreography No
Cultural Information No
Music Education No
Health Issues No
Number Of Models 1
List Price $35.00
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 25 cents
Cost For "Other" $3.74

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On this content-rich video, Ayshe teaches how to dance with wings. Although she shows how to incorporate some belly dance concepts such as Oriental arm positions, the bulk of Ayshe's instruction emphasizes ballet-like arm carriage, posture, and turning techniques rather than the hipwork and undulations we typically associate with belly dance. I am comfortable with this decision because it is true to the artistic roots of this prop.

Ayshe assumes that you are already experienced enough in dance to know how to warm up, so she skips the warmup and proceeds immediately to instruction. This seems reasonable, considering that this video is intended for intermediate and advanced dancers.

Ayshe opens with a review of anatomy to establish a foundation of common understanding. She talks about the spine, the shoulder blades, the arms, and how all are connected, then goes on to discuss the types of movements these body parts can do. From here she devotes about 27 minutes to a detailed study of moving the spine, controlling movement in the back, and building suitable posture. Neon assists Ayshe with this section, serving as a model Ayshe uses to demonstrate the points she is making. A dancer who doesn't have an instructor could videotape herself and compare that video to the corrections and observations Ayshe shows on Neon.

Once Ayshe finishes with the foundation of posture and body carriage, she turns her attention to the arms. She introduces the concept of "classical modality" with respect to arm positions as a means to maintain balance and symmetry, creating beautiful lines and framing the body. She describes and demonstrates how this positioning philosophy applies to different arm positions. Altogether, this section of the video spans 30 minutes.

Dancers who don't normally focus much on technique might start to feel impatient after an hour of instruction that doesn't include any moves, just posture, alignment, and arm carriage. However, Ayshe has very good reason for emphasizing these topics. When dancing with wings, posture and arm carriage play an enormous role in shaping the appearance of the finished dance, and they make the difference between "yet another person waving wings around" versus a memorable artistic presentation.

In the next 25 minutes, Ayshe shows how to hold the wings, then moves on to teach moving with them. The moves include some neck rolls, zar-style hair tosses, twisting, swirling, and wing tremors. All the moves in this section are arm, head, and neck oriented, no footwork.

The remaining 48 minutes of instruction cover footwork. Ayshe spends 6 minutes on several ways to walk and run gracefully with the wings. The sections on barrel turns and whirling cover advice on two different ways to spot while spinning. The kicks section teaches how to do turns in place pivoting on one foot while kicking the other either forward or backward into an Arabesque. These spins, kicks, and pivot turns will all be quite familiar to dancers with ballet backgrounds. All produce large, sweeping motions that look wonderful with the wings.

Six brief practice sessions ranging in length from half a minute to 2 minutes are sprinkled throughout the instructional section. Each of these leads a review of the skills that were just introduced.

The "Extras" section leads off with Ayshe presenting a passionate 5 ½ minute performance to the song "Oceans of Ecstasy" by Jehan Kamel. She uses two sets of wings, held together. The opening and closing parts of the song both utilize the large, sweeping movements taught throughout the video, and in the middle she changes the energy level of the dance by dropping the wings and doing more classic belly dance moves. Of the various wings performances I have seen, both live and on video, this one is my favorite because Ayshe appears to be completely immersed in the emotional and artistic expression, without ever losing the classical technique that sets her apart from the pack.

Ayshe not only teaches use of wings and performs with them, she also sells them. The second item in the "Extras" section is a promotion for her merchandise. With Neon's help, she demonstrates two different shapes of wings, the standard circular style and a narrower swallowtail style suitable for smaller spaces. Some are made of tissue lamé, and others of organza. While demonstrating a variety of colors to show the diversity of her merchandise, Ayshe explains how to use two sets of wings at once, with ways to vary how they are worn to achieve different looks. Most of the section is a collage of Ayshe's performances in assorted costumes and coordinating wing color combinations. It provides a review of the moves taught, and shows how they flow together. Altogether, this section fills about 14 minutes.

As a teacher, Ayshe is well organized and articulate. She shows each move from multiple angles, and repeats it several times. The instruction flows naturally from the most fundamental basics to more advanced topics.

Overall, the video has been carefully crafted to provide an in-depth study of the classical dance techniques required to do an impressive dance with wings. The only thing I felt was lacking was advice on the wings themselves - how to decide what size to buy, pros and cons of organza versus tissue lamé versus other fabrics, pros and cons of wings attached at the neck versus those attached at the upper arm, etc. There is no information on how to care for wings, how to store them, or what kind of rod to use. I wish some of this information would have been offered as voiceover in the segment where she demonstrates the colors she sells. Including it would have enhanced the value this section offered the viewer, without detracting from the purpose of the video "catalog".

The "Extras" section also includes several slides. One lists workshops and products available from Ayshe along with information on how to contact her. Another lists other resources she recommends, including yoga instructors, ballet instructors, anatomy and kinesiology texts, rolfing practitioners, and another body worker. This would be helpful for someone who lives in the metropolitan New York City area, but doesn't offer much to the rest of us. A credits slide identifies the individuals and businesses involved in the making of the video, including song titles for the music used. The final one includes the customary "don't blame me if you hurt yourself" disclaimer and an apology for using the term "belly dance".

The production quality is excellent. The camera always shows the necessary body part. The set is a plain black curtain in a dance studio. Ayshe wears a crop top and Capri pants that contrast well with this background. A different outfit would probably have been more flattering to her figure, but I appreciate the fact that this garb allows me to see exactly what her body is doing at all times. There is plenty of light, and it is always easy to hear what Ayshe is saying. There is no background music when she is talking, only when she is leading a practice session.

The music used on this video is composed by Jehan Kamel. The lyrics center around a Goddess spirituality theme. The melody line and instrumentation carry a strong New Age style. I am comfortable with Ayshe's decision to use music that is not Middle Eastern, because using the wings as a prop is not part of traditional Middle Eastern dance so there really is no need to adhere to Middle Eastern music.

The DVD menu system is easy to navigate. A "Play All" option allows the viewer to enjoy the continuous flow of the instruction, and a series of well-organized scene selection sub-menus lead to chapter breaks at the level of individual moves.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You are fascinated by performances you have seen featuring wings of Isis.
  • You enjoy dancing with props.
  • You already dance with wings of Isis yourself, and want to make your performances look more impressive.
  • You don't know much about belly dance, but you love to do modern dance and/or ballet.
  • You love dancing with veils.
  • You have the opportunity to rehearse and perform in a large, wide-open stage area.
  • You enjoy New Age style music.
  • You appreciate a disciplined approach to teaching proper dance technique.
  • You enjoy instructional videos that move at a slow, detailed, deliberate pace.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You prefer to stay close to Middle Eastern styles of belly dance.
  • You don't like a disciplined approach to technique.
  • You just want to learn some easy moves and combinations for waving the wings around.
  • You prefer to stay close to the essence of belly dance with hip work and undulations rather than using moves strongly influenced by ballet and modern dance.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • Ayshe is certainly skilled in the topic she is teaching.
  • Ayshe offers detailed information about posture, arm carriage, spins, pivots, and other technique issues.
  • The video embeds several practice sessions using moves just taught.
  • Everything is clearly explained and demonstrated.
  • The production quality is excellent.
  • The credits identify the music used.

What I Didn't Like

  • The instruction doesn't cover information on how to choose wings (size, fabric, etc.), store them, or care for them.

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Movements Included

  • Using Wings: 7 moves (holding, neck rolls, zar movement, twisting, swirling, face angles, wing tremors)
  • Traveling Steps: 4 moves (foot exercises, Pharaonic walk, Pharaonic run, ball-of-the-foot walk)
  • Kicks & Turns: 7 moves (hitch kick, whirling spot, barrel turns, classical directions when moving in space pivot turns with back Arabesque kicks, pivot turns with front kicks, pivot turns with knee kicks, arm variations)
  • Arms & Shoulders: 7 moves (classical arm positions, path of arms with respect to torso, coordinate elbows wrists and fingers, V arms or bird arms, corkscrewing, snake arms, armpit positioning)

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In Conclusion

Strictly speaking, Ayshe doesn't teach "belly dancing" on this video. However, there are many belly dancers who enjoy experimenting with props and other fusion ideas that fall outside of orthodox Oriental dance, and wings of Isis are popular among this group. Ayshe does a superb job on this informative video of teaching the techniques that are crucial to making wings look good, particularly posture and arm carriage. With more than 2 hours of instruction, there is plenty of material here to keep a wings student busy for a very long time. Someone who just wants to learn a bunch of moves would probably feel impatient with the structure of this video and its emphasis on technique, whereas someone who aspires to presenting a breathtaking performance will find it to be extremely valuable.

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Ayshe sent me a complimentary copy of this video to use for review purposes. That is the only contact I have had with her.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Ayshe as follows:

Phone: (+1) (212) 564 5529

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