Art of Belly Dance for Beginners:
Arabian Sands

A Video Review By Shira

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

In this video release from the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (IAMED), Paulina teaches some introductory belly dance moves and puts them together with a practice session. Jindra leads a workout based on those moves. Paulina and Aleya each do a performance. Cover

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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 Belly Dance for Beginners: Arabian Sands, by Paulina?
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 March 2, 2005.

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The Chart

Recommended Level Total Novice
Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating StarStarStarStar
Production Quality StarStarStarStarStar
Content Value StarStarStarStar
Packaging StarStarStar
Total Video Length 1:37:34 minutes (i.e., 97:34 minutes)
Performance Time 10:23 minutes (11%)
Teaching Time 54:27 minutes (56%)
Workout Time  28:10 minutes
Amount Of "Other" 4:34 minutes (5%)
Choreography No
Cultural Information No
Music Education No
Health Issues Yes
Number Of Models 1 for instruction, 3 for workout
List Price $29.99
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 32 cents
Cost For "Other" $1.40

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This video consists of three major sections: an instructional section taught by Paulina, a practice/workout section led by Jindra, and a performance section with dances by Paulina and Aleya. ike its companion videos, Art of Belly Dance - Desert Dreams and Art of Belly Dance - Enchanted Nile, this video teaches elementary moves, offering a level of explanation suitable for someone who has never belly danced before. It doesn't really matter which of the three videos is used first - each can stand on its own, without needing any prior knowledge of material taught on the others, and both are taught at the level of a complete beginner.

Paulina has designed the instructional section for the needs of people who have never before set foot in a belly dance class or worked with a belly dance video. Her pace would be particularly well suited for someone who has never before studied any kind of dance. Each segment begins with a brief 30-60 demonstration of the move(s) that will be taught in that section. Paulina then patiently explains in great detail how to do the move, demonstrating each from both the front and from the side. She lingers and drills it before proceeding to the next. At the end of each section, a screen of text lists the key points for doing the move just taught, which could be a helpful guide for someone who wants to take written notes. The instruction is divided into 8 major sections, as follows:

  • Dance Posture. 1 minute. Excellent description, hits all the key points.
  • Horizontal Figure 8. 6 minutes. Includes both front-to-back and back-to-front.
  • Twisting Shimmy. 12 minutes. Includes doing in place and walking with it
  • Hip Drop. 9 minutes. Both normal drops and drop with kick/release.
  • Chest Circles & Slides. 7 minutes. The slide is taught as a sharp move.
  • Arm Positions. 7 ½ minutes. Series of poses designed to be used as frames to coordinate with the moves already taught.
  • Hand Ripple. 4 minutes.
  • Let's Belly Dance! Follow Along. 7 minutes. This section pulls everything together. Paulina leads a 3 ½ minute run-through of the moves that have been taught, accompanying them with the arm positions. Only music accompanies this, there is no spoken or onscreen cueing. It doesn't really need cueing, though, because it moves slowly enough and contains enough repetition that anyone who has mastered the previous sections should be able to figure it out. At the end, she says, "Let's do it again" and does a second run-through.

As Paulina teaches the various hip and rib cage moves, she keeps her arms outstretched to either side. This looks a bit awkward to me, but it accomplishes her aim of keeping the focus on one body part at a time.

The instruction doesn't follow the customary "warm up", "teach", then "cool down" format that most instructional belly dance videos use, because it assumes you will warm up and cool down on your own.

Throughout this instructional section, Paulina wears a matched set of bra top and leggings with a hip scarf. Her body contrasts well against the background behind her, and it is always easy to see what she is doing.

Following the instruction, Jindra Payne leads a 28-minute workout with the help of two fitness models, Laura Peterson and Mari Fresquez. Their attire matches Paulina's, which makes it easy to see the moves. The routine starts with 5 minutes of stretches, so I'd advise warming up on your own to avoid injury before beginning to follow along, though if you do it immediately after following the instruction you'll probably be warmed up enough. (Current fitness "wisdom" is that stretches shouldn't be used for warm-ups, because stretching a cold body can cause injury.) The 20-minute main body of the workout consists of belly dance moves. It ends with a 3 ½ minute cooldown that includes some stretches. The workout uses the moves that Paulina taught, plus adds hip slides and large hip circles. Oddly, Jindra takes time to re-teach the moves that Paulina taught. This interrupts the pace of the workout and makes it more tedious to use repeatedly. It also seems rather unnecessary after Paulina's thorough descriptions.

Jindra and her assistants don't demonstrate optimal technique. For example, while Jindra is saying, "Toes straight forward," one of her assistants has turnout at a 45 degree angle from center front. Their heads bob up and down as they do hip drops. Jindra says the hips should remain parallel to the floor on hip slides, but she herself allows her own hips to tilt up on one side. There are several such issues, so while the spoken instructions are appropriate, the leaders are not ideal role models.

All in all, the benefit of this workout is that it provides a structure to drill on the moves that the video teaches and put them together into a dance. But it's weaker than some of the other belly dance workouts available out there. If I were rating this video on the merits of the workout alone, I'd probably give it 3 stars.

There are two performance segments, as follows:

  • Paulina. 7 ½ minutes long. Begins with American-style veil work, using a rainbow-colored silk veil. After about 4 minutes, the song trails to an end and she discards the veil. The music moves into a drum solo which serves as the opening for Shik Shak Shok.
  • Aleya. 3-minutes. Music is a drum solo. Aleya knows her music well, and uses nuances such as hair tosses with Khaleegy rhythm which show her experience with Middle Eastern dance. I like the fact that her body type is quite different from Paulina's, showing how great this art form can look on a variety of people.

The DVD edition also has three slides shows as "Special Features." The "Dance Tips" choice leads to a series of 11 slides with advice on warming up, where/how to practice, how to express the music, etc. The "About IAMED" choice leads to a series of 15 slides with background information about its founder Suzy Evans and the organization. The "About Belly Dance" choice leads to a series of 12 slides that provide a bit of historical information about belly dance, including its rise in the U.S. in the 20th century and its place in America today.

The overall production quality of the video is excellent. There is plenty of lighting to see what the instructor, workout leaders, and performers are doing, and the sound is always perfectly synchronized with the on-screen activity. Spoken instruction can easily be heard over background music at all times. The DVD authoring includes chapter breaks everywhere I want them, and the menu system is easy to use.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You have never previously taken a belly dance class.
  • You have never studied any type of dance at all before.
  • You like videos that repeat the move enough times that you don't need to rewind or pause very much.
  • You like instruction that provides a detailed explanation of exactly how to produce each move.
  • You like to take things slow and easy, completely mastering one skill before moving on to the next.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You tend to become impatient with detailed explanations and drills.
  • You expect workout leaders to be role models for correct technique.
  • You don't appreciate it when workouts have midstream interruptions to teach moves.
  • You prefer faster-paced videos that teach a large number of moves with minimal time spent on each.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The moves Paulina teaches are appropriate to intended user level.
  • Paulina is a skilled instructor.
  • Paulina and Jindra have pleasant on-screen personalities.
  • There is plenty of explanation.
  • Paulina shows moves from both front and side.
  • The workout provides a structure for rehearsing the moves taught.
  • The production quality is excellent.

What I Didn't Like

  • I don't care for a couple of the moves taught.
  • The workout leaders don't always demonstrate ideal technique.
  • The workout keeps being interrupted by reteaching moves taught elsewhere on the video.

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Movements Included

  • Hip Articulations: 3 moves (hip drop, hip drop with release/kick, hip twist shimmy in place)
  • Hip Fluid Moves: 4 moves (horizontal figure 8 (infinity loop) from back to front, horizontal figure 8 (infinity loop) from front to back, hip circle, hip slide)
  • Traveling Steps: 1 move (hip twist shimmy walk)
  • Rib Cage Articulations: 1 move (rib cage slide)
  • Rib Cage Fluid Moves: 1 move (rib cage circle)
  • Hands, Arms, & Shoulders: 1 move (hand ripple)

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Reviews of Other Videos by this Artist/Instructor

If you'd like to read my reviews of other videos featuring Paulina, choose from the list below:

Reviews of other videos produced by IAMED with other instructors and performers include the list below.


Performance compilations:

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In Conclusion

The instructional section with Paulina is best suited to people who have never had any previous belly dance instruction, and like to have detailed explanations of exactly how to do each move. The workout is fine for reviewing the moves taught and providing guidance in putting them together into a dance, but I don't see it as a strong contender in the belly dance exercise video market.

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:I have never had any contact with Paulina or Jindra. I have reviewed other videos produced by IAMED, and I received a complimentary copy of from IAMED of the one used for this review.

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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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