A Retro Choreography

An Instructional Video Review By Shira

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Summary

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

This video teaches a collection of step combinations suitable for intermediate and advanced level dancers. As a companion to a performance video by Delilah titled Fire at the Iao, this video selects a 5-minute segment from that 30-minute performance and breaks down how it was done. The intent is not to teach a specific dance to a specific piece of music to be performed intact (although it could be), but rather to use this improvised performance as a structure for teaching selected step combinations with variations and combining them with transitions to complete a finished dance.

Cover

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What Shira.net Users Think

Have you actually watched this video yourself? If so, offer your own opinion in the poll below! Otherwise, click the "View Results" button to see what worldwide users of shira.net think of it.

 
1) How would you rate A Retro Choreography, by Delilah?
Absolutely fantastic!
Definitely would recommend it.
Good enough to be worth the money, but not special
Disappointing, but had at least a little value
Nothing good about it at all
 

The above poll includes responses submitted since April 6, 2003.

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The Chart

Recommended Level Intermediate or Advanced
Formats Available NTSC, PAL, DVD
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 65:31 minutes
Teaching Time 62:51 minutes (96%)
Amount Of "Other" 2:40 minutes (4%)
Choreography Yes
Cultural Information No
Music Education No
Health Issues Yes
Number Of Models 1
List Price $39.95 VHS tape edition
$59.95 DVD edition with additional material
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 59 cents (VHS tape edition)
56 cents (DVD edition with additional material)
Cost For "Other" $2.00 (VHS tape edition)

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Description

In "A Retro Choreography", Delilah analyzes an improvised performance and teaches the step combinations that it uses. The emphasis of the instruction is on the combinations and showing how transitions can be used to move from one to another.

This video teaches a collection of step combinations suitable for intermediate and advanced level dancers. As a companion to a performance video by Delilah titled Fire at the Iao, this instruction focuses on a 5-minute segment from that 30-minute performance and breaks down how it was done.

The intent is not to teach a specific dance to a specific piece of music to be performed intact (although it could be), but rather to use this improvised performance as a structure for teaching selected step combinations with variations and combining them with transitions to show they can be used together in a finished dance. The step combinations are interesting, and combine very well together. At the beginning of the video, Delilah offers some insightful comments on how her spontaneous improvised performances (such as the one on Fire at the Iao) tend to be different from her pre-choreographed ones.

The production quality is excellent - the set is not distracting, the lighting is done well, and the sound is easy to hear. Delilah teaches wearing the same white costume she wore in the original performance, and when necessary she picks up her skirt to show what her legs and feet are doing. The camera angles consistently show me what I want to see.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You're an intermediate or advanced level belly dancer.
  • You're looking for new step combinations to incorporate into your dance.
  • You enjoyed Delilah's performance in Fire at the Iao and you'd like to study how to do a portion of that dance yourself.
  • You enjoy the U.S. style of belly dance that prevailed around the 1970's and earlier, before the classical Egyptian style rose to popularity.
  • You have mastered the moves taught in Delilah's 3-part video series Delilah's Bellydance Workshop, and you would enjoy learning choreography that uses many of the moves taught on that video series to help learn how to transition between them.

This Video Probably Isn't Right for You If

  • You're interested only in Egyptian style or American tribal style.
  • You're still very much a beginner.

In Conclusion

For intermediate and advanced dancers looking to reinvigorate their performances with some new moves, this video offers a collection of interesting combinations to study. It examines a performance in which Delilah improvised spontaneously to live music, and teaches how to do each of the step combinations used in that section.

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Features of the DVD Edition

This review is based on the DVD edition of this video. The DVD edition features two of Delilah's programs on a single disk: A Retro Choreography instruction reviewed on this page, and the performance which includes the analyzed segment titled Fire at the Iao. The VHS editions of these two programs are sold separately as two independent videos, although Delilah offers a special price to buyers who purchase both VHS tapes together.

The opening DVD menu presents two choices: The Theater and The Dance Studio. Selecting "The Dance Studio" leads to this instruction as well as the extras that come with the video. Selecting "The Theater" leads to the Fire at the Iao performance of flamenco (by Nikki Conti) and belly dance.

Summary

The summary of features below refers specifically to those that apply to the Retro Choreography instructional portion of this video. Please see my separate review of Fire at the Iao for information about the DVD features and extras implemented for that program.

Feature

Available on This DVD?

Fast-forward through introductory screens Supported
Pause Supported
Chaptering Chapter breaks occur everywhere I want them
Menu, Sub-Menus Occur everywhere I want them
Fast Forward  Works at all speeds supported by my equipment
Forward to the Next Break  Jumps to next chapter break, available where I want it to be
Rewind/Reverse Works at all speeds supported by my equipment
Slow Forward & Reverse Slow forward is supported, slow reverse is not
Zoom Not supported
Other Extras Web club, trailers for other videos, bazaar

Chaptering

"The Dance Studio" leads to a sub-menu with options for "Play All", "Introductory Comments", "Teacher's Notes", "Preliminary Lesson", and "A Retro Choreography". Under the choice for "A Retro Choreography" is a sub-menu with choices for "Play All", skipping directly to each of the 7 instructional segments, and "Coached Choreography". Everything is chaptered so that a tap of the fast forward button on the DVD machine's remote control will skip forward to the next segment. The chapters include:

  • Chapter 1 - x
  • Chapter 2 - x
  • Chapter 3 - Teacher's Notes
  • Chapter 4 - Preliminary Lesson
  • Chapter 5 - Introductory Screen
  • Chapter 6 - A Retro Choreography in Seven Parts, Part 1
  • Chapter 7 - A Retro Choreography in Seven Parts, Part 2
  • Chapter 8 - A Retro Choreography in Seven Parts, Part 3
  • Chapter 9 - A Retro Choreography in Seven Parts, Part 4
  • Chapter 10 - A Retro Choreography in Seven Parts, Part 5
  • Chapter 11 - A Retro Choreography in Seven Parts, Part 6
  • Chapter 12 - A Retro Choreography in Seven Parts, Part 7
  • Chapter 13 - Coached Choreography
  • Chapter 14 - Final Comments & Closing Credits

I found the approach to chaptering to be satisfactory. Within a chapter, it is possible to rewind and fast-forward at varying speeds. I was able to use all the speeds supported by my DVD equipment.

Extras

The Extras choice under The Dance Studio section of the DVD leads to a submenu with these options:

  • Bazaar. This menu choice leads to a submenu of various options, including:
    • Rapture Rumi (a CD of music composed by Steven Flynn)
    • Delilah's Dresses for Dancers (dresses sold by Delilah through her web site)
    • Coin Hip Scarfs (sold by Delilah through her web site)
    • Visionary Dance Productions Catalog (music and videos produced by Delilah's own production company)
    • El Coyote Zills (finger cymbals manufactured by Sulyman, the melody instrument musician for Sirocco)
    • Uncle Mafufo (music CD's and instructional videos produced by the percussionist for Sirocco)
    • Gilded Serpent (web e-zine dedicated to Middle Eastern dance)
    • Magic Circle (manufacturer of coin bra/belt costumes)\
  • Trailers. About 14 minutes total. This section consists of trailers for several of the videos sold by Visionary Dance Productions. Choice leads to a submenu with these options:
    • Play All
    • Fire at the Iao
    • A Retro Choreography
    • Delilah & Sirocco Live & Wild
    • Delilah's Bellydance Workshop 3-volume set
  • Web Club. Provides a brief explanation of what the web club offers. It doesn't actually describe how to access the web club, because that information is contained in the package insert that comes with the DVD. This is intentional, to ensure that only people who receive a legal copy in the original packaging have the information on how to access it.
  • Commentary by Delilah and Sirocco on Bellydance. This section leads to a replay of Delilah's 30-minute full-length belly dancing performance, with voiceover spoken commentary by Delilah, Armando, and Sulyman. The musicians offer their comments on the music they played and the instruments they used, and Delilah discusses her interpretation of it. The information focuses on the craft of dancers and musicians working together.
  • Nikki Conti & Sulyman el Coyote on Flamenco. This section leads to a replay of the flamenco section of the performance, with voiceover spoken commentary by Nikki and Sulyman regarding the music and Nikki's interpretation of it. As someone who doesn't know much about flamenco, I found this section to be very educational.
  • Delilah's Commentary. This section leads to a replay of Delilah's full-length 30-minute belly dancing performance, with voiceover spoken commentary by Delilah. While the other commentary with the musicians is mostly factual in nature, this one is more meditative and spiritual in nature, with a look at the archetypes portrayed by each section of the dance. People who use belly dancing as part of their spiritual journey will find this commentary particularly meaningful. Those who prefer not to view the dance in such terms probably won't care for it.

Web Club

The label inside the DVD package includes instructions for accessing the Visionary Dance Productions Web Club, which is a companion web site specifically designed to complement the contents of this DVD. Whereas some other dancers have distributed companion booklets with their videos, Delilah has opted instead to create a companion web site.

Because the Internet is fluid, with web sites always changing, it is possible that by the time you read this Delilah may have modified the site, either adding new information or removing some things. The information below represents the contents of The Web Club as of early March, 2003:

  • Links for the products identified in the Bazaar section of the video extras.
  • Tips for using a weight belt at the hips for belly dance training
  • Text transcripts for Delilah's opening comments about the difference between a spontaneous improvisational performance (such as the one she did on Fire at the Iao) versus a pre-choreographed performance, the preliminary belly dance lesson, and the seven-part belly dance lesson.
  • Step list for the choreography, in order.
  • Notes on the African hop step, which is one of the steps taught on this video.
  • Creative exercises.
  • Floor design for the choreography.
  • Additional information to complement the other program, Fire at the Iao, which also appears on this DVD. (See the review of that program, which will be published separately on this web site, for details.)
  • Information on how the costume Delilah wears for the instruction is made. (It's the same costume she wore for the Fire at the Iao performance.) Although these aren't detailed how-to instructions, there is enough information for someone reasonably skilled at sewing to figure it out.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • Delilah opens the video by discussing the difference between dancing a pre-choreographed piece versus improvising, and talks about how the resulting dance is likely to be different for the two approaches.
  • The dance combinations taught are all interesting to look at, and transition smoothly from one to another in the dance.
  • Although a specific dance serves as the framework for the instruction, Delilah emphasizes technique rather than choreography memorization in her approach to teaching it.
  • The DVD edition is masterfully designed, and serves as a superb example of how someone producing a dance-related DVD can use technology to enhance the customer experience. The extras complement the main program very well, and the Web Club offers significant added value, with choreography notes, finger cymbal insights, transcripts of the entire instruction, etc.
  • The production quality is excellent. The lighting and sound quality are clear, and the camera angles always show exactly what they should.

What I Didn't Like

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Movements Included

  • African hop step in place, traveling, square, and swivels
  • Side-to-side shimmy, front and back shimmy
  • 6/8 side shimmy
  • Rocking shimmy
  • Alternating pivot turn
  • Pyramid, double bump pyramid, vertical pyramid, double time pyramid
  • C, C with hop
  • Hip pump down
  • Carousel
  • Horseshoe
  • M, N, O, O with stop, U, syncopated U
  • Tail spin
  • Floppy figure 8
  • Temple step
  • Vortex

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Reviews of Other Videos by this Artist/Instructor

If you'd like to read my reviews of other videos by Delilah, choose from the list below:

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Disclosures

I first became interested in Delilah when I saw her do a captivating veil work performance at a dance festival called Rakkasah in California around 1986 or 1987. Seeing this performance led me to buy her videos that were available at the time. I was impressed by the rich content and good production quality of her videos. Over time, I sought her out for a private lesson when I happened to be in Seattle, attended some workshops that she taught in my area, and attended one of her retreats. I've been a fan of hers ever since seeing that original Rakkasah performance, but didn't really get to know her until I attended her Inanna retreat in 1997. She sent me a complimentary copy of the DVD edition of this video to review for my web site.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Delilah as follows:

Visionary Dance Productions
PO Box 30797
Seattle, WA 98103
U.S.A.

Phone: (+1) (206) 632-2353
Web Site: http://www.visionarydance.com/
E-Mail: info@VisionaryDance.com

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