Woman Power Workout
by Karen Andes & Carolena Nericcio

A Video Review By Shira

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

This low-impact exercise program, which is over an hour in length, includes sections on toning, cardio, and strength training. The cardio part is led by Carolena Nericcio, pioneer of American Tribal Style belly dance, and consists of belly dance moves, using shimmies and layering to drive the heart rate. The other parts are led by Karen Andes, author of several books, including A Woman's Book of Strength.


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The Chart

Recommended Level Intermediate
Formats Available NTSC on DVD (VHS tape in NTSC and PAL available by special order with longer lead times)
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStar
Total Video Length 1:17:10 hours
Workout Time  1:11:56 hours (93%)
Teaching Time 0 minutes (0%)
Performance Time 0 minutes (0%)
Amount Of "Other" 5:14 minutes (7%)
Health Issues Yes
Number Of Models 5
List Price $25.00
Cost Per Minute Of Fitness, Performance, & Instruction 35 cents
Cost For "Other" $1.70

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Karen Andes (also known as Aruna) and Carolena Nericcio teach 71 minutes of exercise on this video. Both are certified fitness personal trainers through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Karen is the author of A Woman's Book of Strength and other books, and Carolena is the founder of the popular American Tribal Style movement of belly dance. The workout is separated into different sections with different themes - leg toning, upper body toning (with veils used in a non-belly dance way), cardio (with belly dancing), and strength (with either weights or bands). These can be done all in one continuous session as shown on the video for a multi-discipline 71-minute workout, or any one section could be chosen for a shorter workout if you bracket it with your own warmup and cooldown.

The video opens with some remarks by Karen and Carolena introducing the workout that is going to follow. They then move into the workout itself, starting with a 9 ½ minute warmup led by Karen. I prefer this warmup to the ones I've seen on many other belly dance workout videos because its vigorous movement in legs and upper body alike truly will warm up the muscles that will be used later.

Following the warmup, Karen leads a 5 ½ minute section titled "Leg Power and Grace". This is a series of exercises designed to tone and sculpt the legs in a low-impact way. It includes lunges, pliés, kicks, and other moves that target this area. Next is a 6 ½ minute section titled "Veil Basics". Although it uses a 3-yard piece of fabric which is waved about, Karen's veil exercise is not based on belly dance style of veil moves, nor does it try to be. Her exercises consist mostly of energetically waving the veil in front of the body using a variety of sweeping arm movements, with no spinning, tucking, wrapping, playing peek-a-boo, or other belly dance veil technique. It provides a fine workout for the upper body and arms in the muscles used for maintaining lifted arms when belly dancing.

Next comes the 23-minute belly dance section, led by Carolena Nericcio, titled "Tribal Style Cardio." Gym regulars who are accustomed to driving their hearts into the cardio zone might not get their heart rates up from this one, but people who are still building their stamina would indeed gain cardio benefit from the shimmies and other hip work. It is assumed that viewers are either already familiar with belly dance technique or able to follow along on the fly, so this video would best suit someone who has already had some belly dance instruction in the past. This section is effective as a workout, but could separately be used as a home practice companion or drill for belly dance students. It starts with energetic moves such as shimmies, then slows down to the more fluid belly dance moves to cool participants down before moving on. This segment is more one-sided than I would prefer, always doing certain moves such as turns in the same direction. I would have preferred more symmetry.

The workout then returns to Karen's leadership for strength training. This 16-minute segment begins with exercises that target the arms and upper body, then moves on to exercises that target the lower body. For the upper body part, as Karen demonstrates the moves using a stretchy resistance band on a pole, Carolena demonstrates the equivalent exercise using dumbbells. This allows the viewer to choose either prop, or to use one sometimes, and the other the rest of the time and therefore makes the workout more versatile. Many women will find this section particularly challenging, because we're not accustomed to workouts that focus on building upper body strength. And that's exactly why we need it! The lower body part emphasizes moves using grand pliés (deep knee bends), which could be an issue for viewers with any history of knee trouble. I would urge anyone, whether they have a history of knee trouble or not, to be conscientious about listening to Karen's comments about proper technique in this section. Actually, the entire strength training segment is very physically demanding, and anyone with a history of problems with knees, elbows, or shoulders should talk to their doctors before proceeding with these exercises.

It's a relief after this intense strength training section to move on to the 11-minute cooldown! For the cooldown, Karen uses a series of poses from classical Indian temple scenes. As she leads each pose, she indicates the god/goddess and/or sacred principle it represents. People who enjoy Indian mythology will particularly appreciate this section; for the rest of us, these exercises provide valuable practice in balance and centering.

I enjoy both Karen and Carolena as instructors. Their encouraging comments seem natural, without fake perkiness. For example, I smiled when, in an intense part of the strength training, Karen says, "It isn't easy for us, either!" Three members of FatChanceBellyDance do the workout along with Karen and Carolena. They include Rina Rall, Karen Gehrman, and Sandy Opsomer.

The music used for this workout centers around pieces by American composers such as Light Rain, Gabrielle Roth, and Jeremiah Soto. The closing credits identify specific song titles, artists, and albums, in the order in which they were used in the workout. I wish more belly dance videos did this!

For the most part, the production quality is reasonably decent. There is plenty of light, and it's always easy to hear the instructions over the background music. The set is a studio with a mirror, which frequently allows the viewer to see both the back of the instructor and her reflection in the mirror. The instructors wear black unitards with hip scarves, which make it easy to see the outlines of their bodies, although I would have preferred a lighter color. When the camera angle shows a black-clad instructor in front of a black-clad fitness model, it can be hard to distinguish the instructor's body.

The editing has room for improvement in its use of camera angles, especially in the strength section. There, the camera angle makes it easy to see how Karen is using the stick and resistance band, but very difficult to see Carolena's corresponding technique with the dumbbells. This is a problem for those of us who want to try using the dumbbells for a change of pace but don't have sufficient experience with them to know proper technique. Technique is important to getting maximum benefit out of a particular exercise and avoiding injury, and it's frustrating when the camera fails to provide a clear view of the instructor. Another editing issue is that the scene frequently shows close-ups of faces when I would prefer it to pull back a bit and show me more of the body. After all, part of the point of having multiple fitness models demonstrating a workout is to allow the viewer to see how each move looks on different body types and that is lost when all you see is the person's face. At least it shows the instructor's full body at the beginning of each move before it starts wandering, so there's not a problem determining what to do.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You would like to supplement your belly dancing with some cross-training in other exercise types.
  • Your level of belly dance experience is intermediate or higher.
  • You would like some exercises that help you build your upper body strength.
  • You have been studying American Tribal Style belly dance and would find it useful to have a practice companion that drills in some of the moves of this style.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You have a history of knee trouble that would prevent you from doing grand pliés (deep knee bends).
  • You prefer to stick with videos that use exclusively belly dance moves in their workouts.
  • You prefer to use traditional Middle Eastern music for your workouts.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The video provides useful cross training for belly dancers.
  • The exercises are designed well to achieve their intended purposes (strength, toning, cardio).
  • The personalities of workout leaders are pleasant and feel sincere.
  • The fitness models display a variety of body types.
  • The credits precisely identify the music used, including artist, song titles, and CD titles.
  • The lighting and sound quality are excellent.

What I Didn't Like

  • The camera work and editing are sometimes frustrating.
  • The moves are one-sided in the belly dance segment.

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Reviews of Other Videos by this Artist/Instructor

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

The following are opinion polls only for other videos by Carolena:

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In Conclusion

The workout on this video includes some belly dancing, but mostly other types of exercise. As Karen says on the video, it's good to "surprise" your muscles with exercises different from what they are used to, because that encourages them to strengthen. For this reason, I think this is a great workout video for a belly dancer to use for cross training. I would recommend it to either an experienced beginner in American Tribal Style of belly dance or an intermediate level of belly dancer in a different style who incorporate cross-training into their exercise regimens.

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I have had some professional dealings with Carolena, but we have never had the opportunity to truly get acquainted. I respect her highly for her innovation in creating the American Tribal Style variation of belly dancing and her astute marketing skills which fostered the phenomenal popularity of this style. She sent me a complimentary copy of this video to review.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Carolena as follows:

P.O. Box 460594
San Francisco, CA 94146

Phone (+1) (415) 431-4322
Email: fcbd@earthlink.net

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