Monday, March 10, 2014

Belly Dance: Opulent Motion with Sarah Skinner DVD Review

A couple years ago, I started getting into belly dance. I thought it looked wonderfully sensual and sexy and figured it would be a great fitness activity as well as a good service for a future master. I waffled a bit on style but eventually found a sensual version of the classic/cabaret styles to be to my liking, mostly inspired by Blanca from World Dance New York.

Last week, I bought Opulent Motion: The Artistry of Slow Moves with Sarah Skinner. I’ve wanted it for a while, but I finally bought it.

After watching the whole thing, I find this DVD to be wonderful. It’s packed full of material, with a Tutorial section which teaches the foundation moves in the DVD, sections discussing different slow rhythms and movements that go with them, a section devoted to movement sequences followed by a practice flow, and then over 30 minutes of improvisational dances complete with commentary about musicality and expression. What I like most is that the DVD is geared more toward teaching technique and style rather than mostly about teaching you a specific choreography.

Now, normally, I tend to skip the move tutorial at the beginning of my DVDs unless I’ve never encountered the move before, because I’m far enough along in my studies to find having learned moves explained to me to be boring, but for the purposes of review I watched that section on this DVD. I think that Sarah explains the moves well, and I like how she puts emotion into the explanations and gives you familiar actions and feelings to relate them to while performing them.

The next few sections discuss how to produce organic movement and the different slow rhythms and of belly dance and patterns of movement that work well with them: chiftetelli, slow maqsoun, masmoudi, and slow 9/8 (not in that order). I really like this because I don’t see a lot of the DVD’s I’ve found explain the different rhythms. Before this DVD, I’d only heard the term chiftetelli and had no idea what that actually meant.

The move sequences are fairly easy to follow, although there are a few things I can’t do, or can’t do well. I have problems with stomach undulations, reverse undulations, and deep knee bends.  My biggest nitpick on the DVD is that the practice flow is relatively short. After doing a 40 minute practice flow on Blanca’s Sensual Bellydance DVD, the one on Opulent Motion feels disappointingly brief. However, this can be made up for in the musicality section.

Here we have probably 38 minutes of improvised dances, both with and without props to different rhythms and styles of music. You can watch them with Sarah’s commentary where she describes her movement choices, the emotions behind them, and how you can use them in your own performances. You also have the option of turning off the commentary and watching them as performances with the music only. It’s a great feature, because you can sort of continue the practice flow into the improvs by improvising right along with her, trying out what you’ve learned, or following along with her.

At the end of most belly dance instruction DVDs is a performance. The performance on this DVD feels kind of out of place. It’s a veil performance, and I feel that it doesn’t relate to the material at all and should have been on a different DVD, because she does do a veil DVD. But, the previous section with the music off more than makes up for this awkwardly placed performance.

Overall, I think this a great buy. The price is phenomenal, only $14.98 for over 2 hours of material and it typically ships really fast. I like the class-like feel of it where I feel like I’m learning style and not a choreography I’ll probably never perform. I like Sarah’s teaching style and her way of explaining things. It would be a great addition to anyone’s dance library, especially if you’re interested in adding more sensuality to your dance. I really wish she had more like it.

You can find this DVD on both the World Dance New York website under “The Most Sensual Belly Dance” and on Sarah’s website Shakemyday, both of which are listed on the Belly Dance Resources page of this blog. 

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