Review: Asharah's Modern Tribal Dance

I need to say to begin with that I'm really not fond of the dancing on Asharah's Modern Tribal Bellydance. I'm not that crazy about tribal fusion anyway, but I've definitely seen tribal fusion I've liked a lot more than this.

So, weirdly, as much as I don't like the dancing here, I think the video itself is pretty well done, and can actually foresee myself using it. The main reason for this is that its "Warmup & Conditioning" section is actually a 45 minute exercise and stretching video for dancers, and it's pretty much the answer to my dreams. Seriously, I've imagined what I'd like in a program (often because of exercises I've had in live classes), and this is it.

This section alone could stand alone as a full-priced DVD, and would be worth the money. It's a combination of movements from three groups: yoga, ballet (i.e., the kind of stretches you have at the start of a ballet/ballet- inspired class), and Suhaila-type seated abdominal and chest work. Nothing terribly new, but having them all together in one place is incredibly cool. There's deep plie work, thorough leg stretches in every possible direction, the shoulders and neck are not ignored, and neither is the back. Asharah also gives frequent knee placement reminders, so although the practice is challenging, it won't kill your back or knees.
The next section is a Technique & Isolations section of 55 minutes. In this section, Asharah goes over pretty basic movements in bd/tribal fusion vocabulary, but explains them in detail with the appropriate muscle contractions. She's very Suhaila-based (and, in fact, thanks Suhaila in the credits). Here she covers:

- Shoulders and arms
- Chest squares
- Chest circles
- Glute contactions
- Glute contactions - up
- Glute contactions - down
- Vertical hip 8s down-to-up
- Vertical hip 8s up-to-down
- 3/4 shimmy up
- 3/4 shimmy down
- interior hip squares
- interior hip circles

These are pretty basic moves (I know the last one as an "omi"), but it's good to have the breakdown and practice, especially for those of us who are far from being experts anyway.

Next comes the "Modern Tribal Movement" section (30 min), in which Asharah teaches how to break down a single movement into three or four smaller segments, so as to achieve a strobing or robotic effect. She does this with: shoulders & arms, chest slides, chest locks, undulations, and vertical hip 8s up-to-down. I haven't watched this section all the way through, and like I said, I don't really like how the result looks in dance, but it did strike me that some of the exercises were similar in concept to those on Aziza's Pratice Companion. So, weirdly, although I don't want to dance like Asharah, I can imagine using this section as a drill and exercise tool.

Finally, there is Combination instruction of 30 min, which you can also play with practice music. And an 8 min yoga-based cool-down. And performances.

I suppose it figures that if you put three freakin' hours of material onto one DVD (runtime is 180 minutes, no joke), you're going to please a lot of people. Asharah is relaxed and straightforward on the video, and there is really just so much material to work with, at such different levels, that it's an incredible value. I think people who are actually *into* tribal fusion will probably adore this video, although they might find the isolations section a little basic. However, even people who are not can use this DVD as a dance training video, rather than a dance instruction video. The actual dance section makes up 30 minutes out of 3 hours -- the rest is really a conditioning program for dancers.

(Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this video from WDNY.)

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