Joyous Laughter, Volume 1:
Belly Dance Basics with Michelle

A Video Review By Shira

Do you have questions about Shira's reviewing methodology, such as how to interpret the chart, what the categories mean, or what her biases are? Click here for an explanation.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers


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

This video teaches basic belly dance moves with an emphasis on technique and fitness. Its sections include a warm-up with flexibility exercises, strength training, technique-focused instruction of basic moves, an 18-minute workout routine using belly dance moves, comments on putting together a performance, and a restaurant performance featuring Michelle.

Why I gave it 4 stars:

  • Michelle does an excellent job of explaining proper technique.
  • The video is organized in a way that makes it useful for multiple purposes. Beginners can use it to learn basic dance moves, while more experienced dancers can use it to improve on their technique or use the workout routine for fitness.
  • The camera work could have used some improvement. At times it cut off the top of her head, at other times it didn't show her feet when it should have.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

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.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

The above poll includes responses submitted since January 24, 2003.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

The Chart

Recommended Level Beginner
Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStarStar
Total Video Length 72:29 minutes
Performance Time 7:02 minutes (10%)
Teaching Time 62:05 minutes (85%)
Amount Of "Other" 3:22 minutes (5%)
Choreography Yes
Cultural Information No
Music Education No
Health Issues Yes
Number Of Models 1
List Price $25.00
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 36 cents
Cost For "Other" $1.25

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers


Michelle Morrison, the instructor featured on this video, has positioned it as a practice and study-outside-of-class tool for intermediates and beginners who have a little experience. It could also be used by brand-new beginners to learn basic moves, but the practice/fitness routine section includes some moves that weren't taught in the instructional section so that might be frustrating to a total novice who hasn't previously studied with other belly dance videos.

In the first couple of minutes, this video cuts back and forth between introductory remarks by Michelle and brief clips of her performing.

Throughout the instructional segment of the video, Michelle stands in a corner with a light-colored wall behind her on one side, and a mirror on the other wall that shows her movements from a second angle. She wears a black unitard with a mesh midriff which shows up well against this background, making it easy to see all her moves. A simple coin hip scarf helps emphasize the positioning of her hips. Soft drums play in the background, and Michelle's voice is always easy to hear over the top of them.

The first instructional segment is a warm-up that emphasizes flexibility. This section, about 9 minutes long, works through some movements that are suitable for use in performance (for example, hip slides) and other movements that are just good for exercise.

Following the warm-up is a 4 1/2 minute strength training section. In this part, Michelle includes some abdominal exercises that would be excellent for developing control over the muscles used to do stomach rolls.

Next the video moves into the 29-minute technique section. The moves that Michelle covers here are fairly basic: hip lifts and drops, figure 8's, shimmies, and a couple of traveling steps. But unlike many teachers, she explains each move in detail and emphasizes proper technique. At the beginning of this section, I cringed a little because the slow shimmies she was doing were not in time with the background drumming. But synchronization improved as the section progressed. I liked how she explained the difference between soft shimmies versus accented ones, and the way she emphasized the timing of the 3/4 shimmy.

The camera work in this instructional section is not ideal. At times, it didn't show the feet when I wished I could see them, and at other times it cut off part of Michelle's head. Most of the time, the camera work was not too annoying, but a few times I found it interfering with my ability to focus on the content of the video. For example, I was particularly frustrated when it failed to show her feet on the 3/4 shimmy, especially since at the time she was describing how the hip movement related to what the feet were doing.

Next the video moves into the routine. This routine is designed for practice or fitness use - due to the amount of repetition it contains, I wouldn't recommend it for performance. For this section, Michelle dances in front of a more scenic backdrop, and wears a practice costume consisting of a crop top with hip coin scarf, a simple skirt, and leggings. She doesn't tell you ahead of time what the order of the moves will be: the style is simply "follow the bouncing butt". Each move is repeated enough times that you can catch up even if you miss the initial transition. As she dances, titles appear on the screen telling you which move to do with her.

The practice routine goes continuously for about 17-18 minutes. If you are accustomed to frequent aerobic exercise, you may find this routine to be a bit low-key and it might not be vigorous enough to move your heart rate into the cardio zone. But if you are not used to getting much exercise, you'll probably find this routine to be a good challenge, and using it every day will help you burn fat and raise your fitness level.

There were some moves used in the practice routine that were not taught in the instructional part of the video, such as rib cage undulation and tummy flutters. As I watched Michelle incorporate stomach rolls and tummy flutters into the routine, I found myself wishing she would have taught these moves as part of the instructional section because many teachers fail to explain these moves well, and I had been impressed by how well Michelle described the moves she did teach. Admittedly, the strength training section does introduce some abdominal exercises that help prepare students to learn these moves, but the technique section doesn't build on that to show the dance moves. It was clear from watching Michelle do these in the routine that she executes these moves very well, and it would have been nice to see how she explained them.

The next section consists of a couple of minutes of tips on how to assemble a performance. Michelle took an interesting approach to this. She showed brief clips of performances she had done, and for each clip there was voiceover commentary discussing the concepts being demonstrated. The video quality is a bit fuzzy, and the lighting isn't very good, but the information being conveyed is useful.

The video concludes with 7 minutes of a performance that Michelle had done at a restaurant called the Oasis. In this clip, she wears a beaded nightclub-style costume. Unfortunately, the lighting was very poor and it was difficult to see Michelle's moves against the background behind her. I found myself frequently straining to see what she was doing, and I became a little fatigued watching it. The camera showed Michelle only from the hips up. The sound wasn't great, but it was acceptable.

Still, even though I found this performance clip to be difficult to watch, there was some value in its being included on this video. It illustrates what it's actually like to dance in a restaurant with limited space available, and it emphasizes the importance for restaurant dancers to ensure that they're always doing something interesting with their torsos, heads, and arms because sometimes that's all the audience can see. Michelle shows that it's possible to do a good performance despite the clattering silverware, bustling waiters, and other difficulties of dancing in such an environment. The performance segment illustrates an aspect of the dance that can be helpful to beginners who may be interested in pursuing professional opportunities.

The closing titles lasted about one minute.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You're a beginner or intermediate who wants to use a video in between your weekly classes to give structure to your practice at home and help you polish your technique.
  • You're a brand-new beginner who wants to learn basic moves from someone who emphasizes proper posture and technique.
  • You're a beginner or intermediate wanting to do a fitness workout based on belly dance moves.
  • You're new to teaching belly dance, and you'd like to see teaching by a good role model who explains moves well and emphasizes correct technique.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You prefer videos that have a strong performance segment.
  • You're a somewhat experienced dancer looking for a video that teaches combinations.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • Michelle provided excellent information with respect to correct posture and technique. Following her advice will help you minimize your risk of injury.
  • Michelle used good descriptive words when explaining how to do each move.
  • The video was well-lit. It was easy to see Michelle's movements against the background.
  • Michelle danced in a corner in which one wall was painted a light color, and the other wall had a mirror that showed all her movements from a second angle. This made it easy to see what she was doing.
  • It was easy to hear Michelle's explanations at all times - her voice was not drowned out by background music.

What I Didn't Like

  • The camera doesn't always show Michelle's feet when it should.
  • In some places, the camera cut off the top of Michelle's head.
  • In the shimmy section, Michelle's movements were not synchronized with the background drumming.
  • In the performance section, the lighting was so poor that it was difficult to make out what Michelle was doing.
  • In the performance section, the camera showed Michelle only from the hips up.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

Movements Included

  • Warm-Ups: 5 moves (deep breathing, wrist circles, lean to side, rib cage forward-and-back, hips forward-and-back)
  • Strength Training: 5 moves (squats, stomach muscles in/out, stomach muscles alternate up/down, foot circles, lean)
  • Hip Articulations: 9 moves (hip shimmy single, hip shimmy double, hip shimmy jello, accented shimmy, 3/4 shimmy, hip lift, hip drop, Arabic step, Arabic step with 3/4 shimmy)
  • Hip Undulations: 3 moves (hip slide, hip circles, vertical figure 8)
  • Traveling Steps: 4 moves (dancer walk, basic Egyptian, folkloric grapevine, cabaret grapevine)
  • Rib Cage Articulations: 1 moves (shoulder shimmy)
  • Rib Cage Undulations: 2 moves (rib cage slide, rib cage circles)
  • Arms: 1 move (snake arms)

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I think it's a good video for polishing technique, practicing at home, and doing a belly dancing workout. I wouldn't recommend it as a beginner's first video, but it could be good for continuing education after outgrowing a simpler video. Both beginners and intermediates are likely to find something of value in both the instructional section and the practice routine. I also think many teachers could benefit from studying how Michelle explains posture and technique, and use her approach as a role model in their own teaching. At $25 per copy, plus shipping, it's a good value for the money.

In short, I found this to be a great video for learning and polishing basic moves, with a good routine for practicing those moves and doing a brief fitness workout.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers


Michelle and I have exchanged links to each other's web sites over the years, with occasional e-mails back and forth relating to the linking, but our relationship has never gone any deeper than that. She invited me to review her video because she liked the approach I took with reviewing other people's videos on my web site, and she was seeking a reviewer who would be more objective than her students or friends.

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Michelle as follows:

Web Site:

Bellydancing Bellydance Bellydancers

General: | Home | Shira's Classes | E-Mail Shira | About Shira | Shira's Photo Gallery | Shira's Performances | Troupe |

Belly Dancing Information & How-To's: | About Belly Dancing | How-To's | Middle Eastern Culture | Belly Dancing Fun & Frolic | Belly Dancing Poetry & Art | Reviews: Books, Music, Videos | Find Belly Dancing Teachers/Performers | Tech Talk | Links |

Using This Site: | Table Of Contents (Site Map) | Search This Site | Survey | Behind The Screens |