Healing Dance (DVD Edition), by Tahya

A Video Review By Shira

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Summary

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

Tahya offers elementary belly dance instruction with a focus on the role the dance can play in helping students heal from surgery, illness, or stress. Particular attention is paid to the experience of breast cancer patients, with the issues of body image and femininity experienced after surgery and the need for movement to regain range of motion in the arms. The style of instruction focuses on affirmation and encouragement. This review is for the DVD edition, which was released in 2005.

This review focuses on the video's merits as a tool for people recovering from illness or surgery to explore how the dance might help with the healing process, both physical and psychological.

Tahya originally released The Healing Dance on VHS tape in 2002. When she created the DVD edition of The Healing Dance in 2005, she didn't just copy the original material from the VHS tape to DVD, but rather introduced an additional 60 minutes of instruction. This review refers to the new, updated, expanded DVD edition. The original VHS tape edition has been discontinued, but the review for the VHS tape remains online as a reference tool for people who are considering purchasing a used copy.

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What Shira.net 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 shira.net think of it.

 
1) How would you rate the DVD edition of The Healing Dance, by Tahya?
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 May 17, 2005.

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The Chart

Recommended Level Total Novice
Formats Available NTSC
Overall Rating
Production Quality
Content Value
Packaging
Total Video Length 1 hour, 48:01 minutes
Performance Time 10:13 minutes (10%)
Teaching Time 1 hour, 21:50 minutes (76%)
Interviews Time  8:55 minutes (8%)
Amount Of "Other" 7:03 minutes (6%)
Choreography Yes
Cultural Information No
Music Education Yes
Health Issues Yes
Number Of Models 3
List Price $24.95
Cost Per Minute Of Teaching & Performing Time 25 cents
Cost For "Other" $1.63

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Description

This review is for the DVD edition of Tahya's video Healing Dance, which was released in 2005. It incorporates the full 35-minute program from the VHS tape edition that was released in 2002, plus adds 66 minutes of new material. The original VHS tape edition is now out of print.

This video is somewhat different from the typical belly dance basic instruction, because it offers extra attention to the needs of people who are recovering from surgery, illness, and stress. The overall focus is on offering encouragement and affirmation rather than disciplined dance technique. Interviews with four different people explore how dance has played a role in their healing processes.

The video opens with material from the original VHS tape edition, which focused particularly on the needs of women recovering from breast cancer surgery. It consists of:

  • Dance Performance. 3 ½ minutes long. Music is a song called "Desert Breeze" from Desert Wind's World Dance CD. It includes some opening comments done as voiceover. The performance is extremely difficult to see because of the mood lighting. It begins with veil work, then moves on to other moves. I particularly appreciate Tahya's graceful hands.
  • Opening Comments. 3 ½ minutes. Tahya describes what the video will be about. She provides advisory comments on gradually extending the range of arm movement for people who are still healing from breast surgery.
  • Conversation between two of Tahya's students, Jean Clay and Monica McAghon. 7 minutes. This is my favorite section of the video. Both are breast cancer survivors. They discuss what prompted them to try Oriental dance, and talk about how it helped them in their recovery, particularly from an emotional perspective. Both women are wearing belly dance costumes that are suitable for their post-surgery figures. This section may be inspirational for breast cancer patients who are interested in belly dance but either feel intimidated by the costuming question or would first like to hear about the experiences others have had with it.
  • Instruction. 23 minutes. It begins with visualization, then proceeds to some yoga and belly dance moves chosen to help patients recovering from cancer surgery to work on regaining range of motion in the arms. Throughout, Tahya demonstrates a warm, caring attitude and encourages the viewer to take the movements at her own pace.

At this stage, Tahya moves on to a section that contains new material created especially for the DVD edition. This includes:

  • Rhythm. 3 minutes. Tahya introduces the baladi rhythm, which is commonly used in Egyptian music and will be used for some of the dance instruction to follow. Michael MacCubbin (Tahya's son) plays the rhythm on tabla (hourglass-shaped drum sometimes called a doumbec), Tahya plays it on a def (frame drum), and two of her students on screen with her play it on finger cymbals.
  • Performance by Tahya. 3 ½ minutes. This performance is a demonstration of the choreography that she teaches later on this video. Because it is intended for beginner use, it is simple with enough repetition to make it easier to learn. For music, she uses a medley called "Celebration Dance" by the band Desert Wind which includes the songs "Linda Linda" and "Ya Mustafa".
  • Instructional Segment. 51 minutes. This segment opens with a warmup that consists of mostly belly dance moves that will later be used in the choreography. Next Tahya teaches a series of elementary belly dance moves such as hip lifts and drop, some simple traveling moves, etc. The order in which she teaches them is the same as the order in which they appear in the preceding performance, and is also the order in which they appear in the choreography. This consistency from one section to the next should make it easier for users of this video to learn and drill the moves. Two of Tahya's students, Lisa Bonner and Jan Marsh, assist her in the first part of this instruction. Both of them have been dancing for about 9 months.
  • Cooldown. 7 minutes. Tahya leads a series of stretches which are appropriate choices for stretching the muscles that were just used in the instruction. Although the stretches are mostly based on yoga poses such as downward dog, cat/cow stretch, etc., she doesn't use the yoga names.
  • Interview with Lisa Bonner and Jan Marsh. They talk about how the dance has helped them experience physical and psychological healing. Lisa speaks of scoliosis and how the dance helps her escape from her busy life. Jan discusses how the dance helps with her fibromyalgia and serves the purpose of bringing fun into her life.

At this point, the program returns to material from Tahya's original VHS tape edition. It shows a 3-minute veil work performance by Jean Clay. The camera focuses mostly on Jean's face and doesn't show much of her actual dancing. At age 60, Jean provides an encouraging role model for other older women recovering from cancer by showing that it is possible to remain feminine and graceful even after surgery. Jean wears an attractive costume proving that you don't need to display cleavage to be credible as a belly dancer. Jean's skill level is not that of a professional belly dancer, but her sincerity and joy in the dancing make her appealing to watch nonetheless. While she dances, Tahya recites affirmations. It is interesting that she chooses veil work for this performance, because veil work demands strength and range of motion in the arms. Some cancer survivors are likely to view her as an inspiration and a role model.

The scene then switches to show Tahya softly playing a frame drum while Monica McAghon narrates a poem about dance written by Rumi while doing a low-key dance. Monica's dance does not come across as a "performance"; rather, as an interpretation of the poem. This section is about 2 minutes long.

Tahya's warm on-screen personality and nurturing affirmations make this video feel welcoming for people who are in either physical or emotional pain. She teaches simple moves at a thoughtful pace designed to be comfortable for newcomers to the dance. As an instructor, she explains movement very well, often using visualizations to help understand what to do. For example, in teaching a movement of the hands and arms, she invites you to imagine you are holding a lemon.

Tahya herself is a graceful dancer, and would serve as an attractive role model for full-figured dancers who would like a teacher with a body type that they could relate to. The students who assist her in demonstrating the moves have body types different from hers, allowing viewers to see how the same move looks different on different bodies. The fact that these students are still very much beginners themselves leads to some on-screen bloopers in which they are not synchronized with each other or with Tahya, which can be distracting at times.

The production quality has room for improvement. I'm disappointed that Tahya has chosen to wear dark clothing against a dark-colored background for filming the new material for this video. She made this same error on her VHS tape release, as well. All too often, the black-clad lower half of her body seems to disappear into the wall behind her. It is difficult to see the outline of her body, and therefore difficult to discern some of the movement. On a more positive note, the set is beautifully decorated with pillows and candles, setting a mood of tranquility. In the instructional part, the camera work shows what it needs to, but it could have used some improvement on the performance segments, particularly the one featuring Jean Clay. Although the point of Jean's dance is to show what the dance means to her, rather than to display a professional Oriental performance, it still would have been preferable to spend more time with the camera pulled back to show more of her body.

Most of the music on this video has a New Age quality about it, which suits the mood that Tahya seeks to convey throughout. Some of it comes from the band Desert Wind, some from two meditative CD's that Tahya herself has produced with music by Pete Barnhart and Paulo Mattioli.

You Will Probably Like This Video If

  • You have no previous belly dance experience.
  • You have recently had breast cancer surgery and you are looking for some dance and yoga movements that will help regain range of motion in your arms.
  • You're recovering from a catastrophic illness and now you're looking for a source of encouragement and affirmation to help your morale.
  • You would find it uplifting to hear people who have battled serious illness talk about the role this dance has played in their psychological recovery.
  • You'd like to see a couple of examples of attractive covered-look costumes worn by belly dancers who are also breast cancer survivors.
  • You would like to see a performance by a mature woman.
  • You are plus-sized and would appreciate an instructor who can help you imagine how the moves should look on your own body.

You Probably Won't Care for This Video If

  • You're seeking serious, disciplined instruction in dance technique.
  • You're looking for instruction in a particular style of belly dance (Egyptian, Tribal, etc.)
  • You'd be uncomfortable with a tape that contains a significant amount of New Age affirmations and visualizations.

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked

  • The moves Tahya chooses to teach are appropriate to her intended audience of people with no previous dance experience.
  • Tahya provides clear descriptions of the moves.
  • The instruction includes a simple choreography to drill the moves taught.
  • A performance segment shows what this choreography looks like to music.
  • The instructor's warm, encouraging personality suits the "healing" focus of the video.
  • Tahya uses an appropriate warmup and cooldown.
  • The credits identify Tahya's assistants and music used.
  • The set is attractive.
  • Tahya teaches one of the drum rhythms commonly used in belly dance.

What I Didn't Like

  • Tahya wears dark clothes against a dark background, making it hard to see what her body is doing.

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Movements Included

  • Hip Articulations: 2 moves (hip lift, hip drop)
  • Traveling Steps: 4 moves (step-point with hip lift [what Jamila Salimpour called Basic Egyptian], pivot step, sideways travel with hip lift [what Jamila Salimpour called choochoo], three-step turn with hip lift)
  • Rib Cage Fluid Moves: 3 moves (slide forward/back, rib cage slide side to side, rib cage circle forward-up-back-down)
  • Arms & Shoulders: 4 moves (shoulder roll, hold a lemon, snake arms, sweep up & float down)

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Reviews of Other Videos by this Artist/Instructor

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

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In Conclusion

This video emphasizes using dance as healing therapy, rather than emphasizing dance technique. It is best suited for beginning belly dance students who would feel most satisfied with a video that offers encouragement and affirmation. For such students, Healing Dance offers an opportunity to explore graceful movement within the boundaries of what their medical condition may allow.

People who have had recent breast cancer surgery, or dance teachers who instruct students who have had such surgery, may find it helpful to work with the first section of this video, in which Tahya teaches a number of arm moves and yoga poses designed to help regain range of motion in the arms.

This video probably isn't the right fit for people who are seeking serious, disciplined study in dance technique, or those who have an extensive dance background.

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Disclosures

The only correspondence I've had with Tahya has been regarding the reviews I have performed of her products. I have not had the opportunity to meet her in person. She sent me a complimentary copy of the DVD used for this review.

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Contacting The Producer & Ordering The Video

Contact Tahya as follows:

Tahya
P.O. Box 56
Coplay, PA 18037-0056
U.S.A.

Phone: (+1) (610) 776-7045
Web Site: http://www.tahya.com/
E-Mail: tahya@tahya.com

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