Cardio Belly Dance, by Melissa

A Video Review By Shira

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

Melissa from New York leads a workout that uses Pilates in the warmup to tone the abdominal muscles, then moves into highly aerobic belly dance moves to drive up and maintain the heart rate in the cardio zone. The 7 ½ minute Pilates warmup could stand on its own as a mini-workout for spot toning. Cover

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To my knowledge, this video has never been released on VHS tape.

(Amazon's claim that the DVD version is Region 1 is wrong. Amazon doesn't offer a way for sellers to indicate that their DVD's support multiple regions, so they're forced to pick just one. I have personally tested this DVD and found it to enable all regions except cruise ships and airlines.)

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What Users Think

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The Chart

Recommended Level Intermediate or higher
Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStar
Total Video Length 55:35 minutes
Workout Time  49:49 minutes (90%)
Performance Time 4:49 minutes (9%)
Amount Of "Other" 0:57 minutes (1%)
Cultural Information No
Health Issues Yes
Number Of Models 1
List Price $14.98
Cost Per Minute Of Fitness & Performance 27 cents
Cost For "Other" 26 cents

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On this video, Melissa from New York leads a 50-minute workout that includes a core conditioning segment, a high-energy cardio segment, and a stretching segment. The cardio portion consists of belly dance moves such as shimmies and traveling steps. The sections of the workout include:

  • Pilates Warmup. 7 ½ minutes. As the title of the section implies, this consists of a variety of Pilates exercises for core conditioning. It includes 4-level breathing, bridges (shoulders on floor, raise hips off of floor), and some leg lift variations. This segment could be done by itself for a shorter spot-toning workout targeting the core muscles.
  • Warmup. 7 minutes. This still isn't really getting the muscles moving much. There are some gentle stretches to engage the obliques (muscles in the sides), and some crunch-like moves, but not much to promote circulation just yet.
  • 1 Movement Rehearsal. 5 ½ minutes. There are two purposes to this section. One is to warm up further by promoting circulation, and the other is to introduce the step combinations that will be used in the first cardio segment. This allows the viewer to learn the footwork and transitions at a slower speed before turning up the heat, and also avoids the problem I've seen on other videos where everything grinds to a halt to teach the next combination. Several moves are covered here.
  • 1.1 Cardio. 4 minutes. Using the moves just covered in the movement rehearsal, this section picks up the pace. At this stage, it isn't full intensity cardio yet, but it is definitely faster and provides a helpful structure for becoming more comfortable with the moves at the faster speed. Moves that it uses include shimmies, front/back step (which the Salimpour lexicon dubs Arabic IV and which some people call Turkish basic), twisting hip lifts, and grapevine with a variation Melissa has named "Anahid" after her instructor Anahid Sofian.
  • 1.2 Cardio. 4 ½ minutes. The pace picks up again. While it still uses the moves from Cardio 1.1, it adds sideways travel with undulation. Everything is done a bit more energetically than the previous segment.
  • 2 Movement Rehearsal. 6 minutes. This introduces additional moves, including the Turkish two-step, step-ball-change, and abdominal undulation (Egyptian camel). The pace of this movement rehearsal is brisker than the earlier one, so even though it's "rehearsal" it keeps the blood pumping. The step-ball-change doesn't feel much like belly dancing, but it will keep the heart rate up.
  • 2 Cardio Intervals. This interval training is designed to train the body to continue burning oxygen even after the workout ends. It consists of 5 sections, alternating fast / slow / fast / slow / fast. The fast segments are about 2 minutes in length each, while the slower ones are about 1 minute each. The fast portions consist almost entirely of the Turkish two-step and step-ball-change, which can start to feel rather monotonous after a while. The first slow part is largely hip drops, and the second slow part is mostly the side-traveling undulations and the camel step that was taught in the second rehearsal segment. Someone who is still trying to get into shape may find this section too challenging, but Melissa advises that it's okay to substitute the more mellow versions of the moves from the earlier section if necessary.
  • Cooldown. 6 ½ minutes. The cooldown includes some mellow belly dance moves such as mayas, but it's mostly a series of varying stretches that target the hamstrings, calves, abdominal muscles, and chest area.

Melissa demonstrates the workout as voiceover cues what to do next. She maintains a pleasant on-screen demeanor, as if she's enjoying herself, but there is an air of detachment. I like the personality that comes through in the voiceover comments - it's energetic without being excessively perky, and occasionally there's a bit of humor. For example, while the high-intensity part of the workout is in progress she says, "Abs in, as if you didn't have enough to think about!" There are reminders of correct form sprinkled throughout, and Melissa is conscientious about maintaining proper form herself throughout.

The workout uses a number of moves that would be familiar to people who are comfortable with Turkish-style belly dance but perhaps unfamiliar to those who have studied exclusively Egyptian style, such as sideways-traveling undulations and twisting hip lifts. Melissa assumes the viewer is already comfortable with foundation moves such as hip lifts, drops, grapevines, and others. She assumes the viewer will be able to take the moves covered in the rehearsal segments and speed them up without extensive drilling. For these reasons, the workout will fit best with people who have intermediate or higher level of belly dance skill.

I find that I really like the way Melissa explains things. She frequently uses imagery to help envision how to do the move, such as that of a marble rolling on the abdomen, or that of the spine being a string of pearls picked up from the floor one by one. She tends to use familiar names for body parts, such as "heart" rather than "pectoral muscles", which should make this workout feel more friendly to people who aren't very familiar with anatomical terminology. In the Pilates section, she suggests some modifications for people whose lower back issues may prevent them from doing the full expression of the exercises.

Following the workout, Melissa does a dance performance based on Oriental dance moves. The music, which is very repetitive, is by a band called Knossos. This part doesn't really engage my attention. In general, it seems rushed - I find myself wondering what it would look like if done half that speed. In keeping with the interpretive nature of the piece, her clothing for it is simple exercise garb (yoga pants, choli top, coin hip scarf) rather than a dance costume. She uses many of the moves from the workout in this performance.

Generally speaking, the production quality on this video is excellent, but it misses on a couple of points. In the 1.1 Cardio section the synchronization of sound with image needs improvement. There's a lighting "hot spot" on-screen in some sections that can be a bit distracting. The set is a simple dance studio, with register grates and a ladder in the background. Melissa's clothing contrasts well with the background, and in the workout section there is plenty of light to see what she is doing.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • Your level of belly dance skill is intermediate or higher.
  • You want to use belly dance moves in a cardio workout.
  • You prefer videos that don't interrupt the pace of the workout to teach moves.
  • You appreciate exercise DVD's that provide a music-only option, with no spoken cueing.
  • You plan to combine some core conditioning into your exercise regimen.
  • You enjoy moves that are typical of Turkish style Oriental, such as full-body undulations.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You think belly dancing should be done only to Middle Eastern music.
  • You want performance segments to be standard Oriental dance, rather than interpretive.
  • You're still at the beginner level of learning to belly dance.
  • You want workouts to maintain the graceful aesthetic of belly dancing even while driving the heart into the cardio zone.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The workout design is carefully crafted to eliminate the teaching interruptions that are so typical of other belly dance workout videos.
  • The well-rounded routine includes some strength training for core muscles, some cardio, some stretches.
  • Melissa teaches and rehearses transitions.
  • Melissa utilizes imagery to describe what to do.
  • Melissa suggests modifications for people who need them.
  • I enjoy Melissa's pleasant voiceover style.
  • The DVD structure offers a music-only option.
  • The workout maintains a cardio-level pace.
  • The routins has modest impact levels which are easier on the joints than high-impact workouts.
  • The credits identify music used, at the level of identifying which song is used with each segment of the workout.

What I Didn't Like

  • Some workout segments are too repetitive.
  • Parts of the video have some sound synchronization problems.
  • The on-screen image occasionally has some glaring lighting "hot spots".

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In Conclusion

I really like the way this cardio routine breaks the instruction out separately. With this design, the user can treat the instruction as part of the warmup, rather than having it interfere with maintaining the heart rate once the high-energy work begins. The footwork moves in the high-energy section become a bit monotonous, and don't feel so much like dancing, but they do help reach and maintain the target heart rate. Generally speaking, I can comfortably recommend this video to people who are looking for cardio exercise based on belly dance moves.

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I have never had any contact with Melissa. I have reviewed many other videos produced by World Dance New York, and have come to have favorable preconceptions about them as a result. I received a complimentary copy of this video to use for this review.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

To purchase this video from Amazon:

Item in U.S. in Canada in United Kingdom

DVD Edition U.S.
All Regions
All Regions
All Regions

To my knowledge, this video has never been released on VHS tape.

(Amazon's claim that the DVD version is Region 1 is wrong. Amazon doesn't offer a way for sellers to indicate that their DVD's support multiple regions, so they're forced to pick just one. I have personally tested this DVD and found it to enable all regions.)

Or, contact World Dance New York as follows:

Web Site:

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