American Tribal Style Belly Dance, Volume 1

A Video Review By Shira

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

On this video, Kajira Djoumahna teaches step combinations with cues for use in American Tribal Style belly dancing. You could certainly also use these same step combinations in your own solo dances or troupe choreography, but Kajira focuses on how to use the moves for group improvisation in the style that was pioneered by FatChanceBellyDance in the 1980's. At nearly 2 hours long, the video allows plenty of time for Kajira to teach both some combinations for slow music and also some combinations for fast music. She also builds in several practice segments to help you accustom yourself to watching for cues and making the transitions. The video ends with a performance in full tribal-style costume by United We Dance, Kajira's own dance company.

Why I gave it 5 stars:

  • At nearly 2 hours long, the video offers a large amount of material and a good value for the money.
  • Kajira explains things very well, and provides enough combinations for someone who has never previously done American Tribal Style group improvisation to get started with it.
  • The video production quality is excellent. At all times, the lighting, sound, and camera work make it easy to follow what is going on.

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What 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 think of it.

1) How would you rate American Tribal Style Belly Dance, Volume 1 by Kajira?
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 October 30, 2002.

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The Chart

Recommended Level Intermediate
Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 110:41 minutes
Performance Time 7:57 minutes (7%)
Teaching Time 97:05 minutes (88%)
Amount Of "Other" 5:39 minutes (5%)
Choreography No
Cultural Information No
Music Education No
Health Issues Yes
Number Of Models 3
List Price $45.00
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 43 cents
Cost For "Other" $2.25

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This video, produced by the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance, teaches the fundamentals that distinguish American Tribal Style from other variations of belly dancing, including posture, how to do group improvisation, and some sample step combinations with cues that are suitable for group improvisation. The instructor is Kajira Djoumahna, author of the book The Tribal Bible. She is assisted by two members of her dance company, United We Dance - Seana and Najla.

The video opened with about 7 1/2 minutes of introductory comments and a warm-up consisting of three different crunches. If you work with this video, you would want to add your own additional movements to the warm-up.

The instructional portion of the video is divided into two primary sections: technique for slow music, and technique for fast music. Each of these sections includes instruction in several step combinations and the cues used to invoke them accompanied by a practice session. Kajira teaches enough distinct moves to enable you to perform a short group improvisation to each speed of music.

Kajira and her two assistants, Seana and Najla, wear practice outfits that make it easy to see the moves. All three wear backless cholis on top. On the bottom, Kajira herself wears pants that make it easy to see what her legs and feet are doing. One of her assistants wears a full multi-tiered skirt that helps visualize what the moves will look like in full costume. The third assistant wears rayon fringe over leggings. Their clothing contrasted well with the background, so it was always easy to see exactly what they were doing.

The Technique: Slow Movements section covers a couple of figure 8 variations, rib cage isolations, cross-point, and pestle. Each of these sections is introduced with a demonstration by Kajira and her two assistants in their practice outfits, doing actual group improvisation with the movements that are about to be taught. Next comes the instructional section, in which Kajira is the only individual on-camera. She breaks each move down into its component parts, offering excellent explanations on how to do it, and she demonstrates each move from two or more angles. After Kajira finishes teaching a group of related moves, her two assistants rejoin her on camera and they lead a brief practice session in alternating between some of the moves that were just taught, giving practice in using the cues. At the end of the Slow Movements section, Kajira leads a 2 1/2-minute follow-along session that reviews all the step combinations and cues that were just taught. Altogether, the Slow Movements section is about 53 minutes long.

The Technique: Fast Movements section covers several 3/4 shimmy variations, Egyptian variations, vines, and Mo' Rockin' hip hop. As with the Slow Movements section, each step family is introduced with a demonstration, then detailed on instruction on several variations, and finally group practice. The follow-along at the end of this section is 1 1/2 minutes. Altogether, the fast moves section covers about 38 1/2 minutes.

The video closes with an 8-minute performance in full costume by Kajira, Seana, and Najla, members of her troupe United We Dance which appears to have been shot in a dance studio that has been decorated for mood. The group incorporated many of the combinations that were taught, but also included some additional moves that were not part of this video. It did an excellent job of demonstrating how the material taught on this video fits into an overall presentation while showing a broader view of what American Tribal Style is capable of. I found the draping sleeves of the costumes to be somewhat distracting, but otherwise enjoyed the performance. If you've never previously watched a performance of American Tribal Style, you might find their stage presence to be puzzling (focused on each other rather than on the audience), but it's definitely representative of the style and appropriately presented.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You have a passion for everything connected with American Tribal Style.
  • You already know some American Tribal Style step combinations created by teachers other than Kajira, and you'd like to learn some of Kajira's own unique combinations to add variety to your dance.
  • You're an intermediate- or higher-skilled belly dancer who has never previously been taught American Tribal Style, and you'd like to work with a video that gives you enough step combinations, cues, and other tips to get started experimenting in this style with your own tribe.
  • Even if you're not specifically interested in American Tribal Style, you've done some work with videos that teach basic belly dance moves, and now you'd like to try a video that assembles them into combinations that you can use in creating your own solo dance or group choreography.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • Your passions run toward non-tribal forms of belly dancing, such as Egyptian style or folkloric.
  • You're such a brand-new beginner that you don't yet know basics like how to do a hip lift or a rib cage circle.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • At nearly 2 hours long, the video offers a large amount of material and a good value for the money.
  • Kajira provides enough combinations for an intermediate or more experienced belly dancer who has never previously done American Tribal Style group improvisation to get started with it.
  • The video production quality is excellent. At all times, the lighting, sound, and camera work make it easy to follow what is going on.
  • Kajira uses two assistants with body types quite different from her own to help her lead the practice sessions. This helps dancers of various body types to envision how the moves might look on them.
  • Kajira does an excellent job of breaking the moves down into their component parts, and her verbal explanations describe each move very well.
  • Each move is demonstrated from at least two angles - one facing toward the camera, and the other facing away from the camera. In particular, when she did them with her back to the camera it made it very easy to follow along with what she was doing.
  • In the cases where Kajira teaches moves that she either learned from someone else or created by adapting someone else's move, she identifies the dancer she learned the original move from.
  • The background for the video was very simple and pleasant. Its color contrasted well with the clothing worn by Kajira and her assistants.
  • Text titles on the screen introduced each section, which made it easy to rewind to parts I wanted to review or fast forward to the next.
  • Each move was introduced by a demonstration of the group doing it together, so that I knew what I was aiming for when the explanation began.
  • In the closing credits, the video identifies the music and costume sources used.

What I Didn't Like

  • The name "Mo' Rockin' Hip Hop" for one of the step combinations Kajira taught somehow annoyed me, but I really don't know why! (But that tells you just how good this video is - if that was the only thing I could find fault with!)

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Movements Included

  • Warm-Ups: 3 moves (3 different crunch variations)
  • Hip Articulations: 3 moves (3/4 shimmy with variations, Egyptian, hip bump)
  • Hip Undulations: 5 moves (vertical figure 8, maya, hip slide, pestle, mo' rockin' hip-hop)
  • Traveling Steps: 2 moves (cross-point, vine)
  • Rib Cage Undulations: 2 moves (slides, circles)

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In Conclusion

If you're interested in American Tribal Style, even if you have not previously had any exposure to it, this video is an excellent choice. Although on the surface the price looks higher than many other belly dance videos, its length (nearly 2 hours) makes it a good value for the money. For people who don't have any knowledge of American Tribal Style, Kajira offers an excellent introduction that includes both moves and philosophy. Beginners with some previous knowledge of belly dance may find the step combinations useful even for their own solo dancing. For those who are already familiar with American Tribal Style, this video offers some of Kajira's own step combinations and cues to add new variety to your group improvisations.

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Reviews of Other Videos Produced by IAMED

If you'd like to read my reviews of other videos produced by IAMED, choose from the list below.


Performance compilations:

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Kajira and I originally met over the Internet around 1997, and over the years we have become friends. I respect her on many levels: as a dancer, an event sponsor, and a writer. IAMED (the organization who produced this video) sent me a complimentary copy to review for my web site.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact IAMED as follows:

P.O. Box 7666
Van Nuys, CA 91409

Web Site:

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