Beginning Bellydance Technique

A Video Review By Shira

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

The members of the dance ensemble Khafif provide instruction on elementary belly dance moves, then show how to put them together into three simple combinations. The video ends with a performance by the group.


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The Chart

Recommended Level Total Novice
Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 53:46 minutes
Performance Time 9:17 minutes (17%)
Teaching Time 43:12 minutes (80%)
Amount Of "Other" 1:17 minutes (3%)
Choreography No
Cultural Information No
Music Education No
Health Issues No
Number Of Models 3
List Price $30.00
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 57 cents
Cost For "Other" 72 cents

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The Tribal-style belly dance troupe Khafif provides basic instruction on how to do elementary belly dance moves. The video opens with a 7-minute warmup consisting mostly of lunges and stretches, then devotes a couple of minutes to describing correct posture. From here, group members take turns demonstrating basic moves as voiceover instructions describe how to do them. A variety of moves are taught - some fluid, some sharp, some in place, some traveling, some with hips, others with rib cage, head, or arms. At the end of the instructional section, the video introduces three step combinations that use the elementary moves just taught.

The verbal descriptions of how to do each move are excellent. Frequently, vivid imagery is used to help the viewer understand how to perform the move correctly. For example, the head slide is described as a magnet attraction between the ear and the upraised arm, and undulations are described as a drop of oil running down the body. I find these very effective in helping the viewer form a mental picture of what the move should be like.

Each move is first introduced with a description of how to do it as the instructor slowly demonstrates it, then there is a brief practice session to drill it. The instruction occurs in a corner of a dance studio with a mirror on one wall and an Oriental rug on the other, which allows the viewer to see the model from two angles - in the mirror and direct to the camera. At times, two instructors appear on-screen - one showing the move from the front while the other shows it from a profile.

The voiceover periodically warns against making certain common errors, such as using movement of the hands to power snake arms. In these cases, the on-screen model demonstrates the error, and a red circle with a slash through it appears on the screen to drive home the point that this is an error.

The instructors wear simple workout clothes - crop tops, leggings, and plain hip scarves. It is always easy to see the movement of their bodies against the background. As dancers, they are competent to demonstrate the moves, though occasionally someone will forget to maintain proper form and make an error such as bouncing up and down on the hip lifts.

The instructors' on-screen personalities never really connect with the viewer. As they demonstrate the moves to voiceover, their facial expressions seem detached, as if they are concentrating and unaware of the camera's presence. At times there is an occasional scowl. This doesn't bother me, but viewers who prefer instructors with friendly, engaging on-screen personalities might not care for this video. At times, one of the instructors speaks on-screen, and her eyes never quite make contact with the camera. She gives the impression that she is reading cue cards off to the side.

The music for the video is performed by Khafif's own band. It consists of assorted folkloric pieces such as Uskudara, Erev Shel Shoshanim, and other classic songs from American-style belly dancing played on clarinet, violin, and percussion. Khafif has issued its own CD of this music which can be used as a companion for working with this video.

There are two performance segments at the end. The first one demonstrates the moves that are taught on the video. On-screen titles identify each move as it is used, making it easy for a beginner to recognize the building blocks and see how the moves look in the context of a complete dance. For this 2 ½ minute section, the three instructors perform together as a group, wearing simple but attractive student costumes of crop top, hip scarf, and skirt. The choreography demonstrates how the moves taught can be done in one's own circle, used to travel, and otherwise varied. The performers synchronize well with each other.

In the second performance, which is seven minutes long, the three dancers wear full Tribal costuming and makeup, with elaborate cholis, full skirts, eyeliner facial tattoos, etc. The choreography is a fusion style, which tends to make more extensive use of the arms than traditional Oriental style, and borrows moves from a number of Central Asian influences. For this section, their band plays live music on clarinet, violin, and percussion, which enhances the overall effect. Because this appears on a video for brand-new beginners, I wish Khafif would have introduced this segment with a few remarks about the American origins of this costuming and their fusion approach to choreography, to help beginners understand what they are seeing.

Khafif's dance style is distinctive, reminding me a bit of the original Bal Anat approach to ethnic fusion, and they dance well together as a group. In both performances, the facial expressions are mostly those of rote rehearsal, a common issue with video performances filmed in a studio without a live audience to spark their stage personalities. I would like to see them perform in person some time, when they have a live audience to relate to rather than just a camera in a studio.

The production quality is homemade, but definitely good enough. The simple set is well lit, and the camera shows what it needs to. The sound quality has some annoying abrupt volume changes in the background music, but these aren't frequent enough to ruin the video and more importantly it's always easy to hear the voiceover above the music.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You have never belly danced at all before, and you would like a video that starts at the very beginning.
  • You have previously learned basic moves from another elementary video and you'd like to learn some combinations to help you put them together.
  • You like the Tribal approach to costuming with cholis, tassel belts, etc.
  • You like to watch performances that mix belly dancing with Central Asian dance.
  • You have recently started to teach belly dancing and you're looking for ideas on imagery to use in explaining moves.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You have outgrown beginner-level videos.
  • You would prefer instruction that stays close to one of the Middle Eastern styles.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The voiceover uses helpful imagery to describe moves.
  • The instruction uses a mirror to show moves from two angles at once.
  • Sometimes two people show a move on screen at the same time from different angles.
  • The instruction warns against common errors.
  • The instruction teaches how to create combinations.

What I Didn't Like

  • The sound quality is messy.
  • Frequently the instructors scowl or look otherwise unhappy while demonstrating moves.

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Movements Included

  • Hip Articulations: 6 moves (hip snap, hip twist up, hip twist down, hip arc, Tunisian hip twist, horizontal hip twist shimmy)
  • Hip Fluid Moves: 4 moves (vertical single hip circle, hip slide, flat Turkish circle, flat figure 8)
  • Traveling Steps: 2 moves (Egyptian basic, paddle turn)
  • Rib Cage Fluid Moves: 2 moves (chest slide, elliptical rib cage circle)
  • Full-Body Moves: 1 move (forward undulation)
  • Arms & Shoulders: 2 moves (shoulder shimmy, snake arms)
  • Head: 2 moves (head slide, head circle)

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In Conclusion

This video has several positive features: the use of imagery to describe moves, warnings against making common errors, and demonstrating moves from multiple angles. I feel these override the minor flaws I described, and the video is worth considering for beginning students who would like to work with instruction in basic moves. Although the instruction is style-independent, the fusion nature of the performance segment makes this video best suited to people who would be satisfied with material that isn't purely Middle Eastern.

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I have not met any of the members of Khafif. They sent me a complimentary copy of this video to review.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Khafif as follows:

Phone: (+1) (724) 522-9925
Web Site:

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