Review: Michelle Joyce's Drills! Drills! Drills!

First things first. Drills! Drills! Drills! is not a DVD for people who have not learned the basic posture, movements and isolations of bellydance. If this describes you, go directly to a beginner's video, do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

The drills Michelle offers here are, for the most part, not strenuous, but you do need to have ingrained at least some basic bellydance movements to the point where you can do them without thinking: shimmies and hip bumps should be second nature.

The second key point is that the movements are, in general, geared towards helping you define your isolations, layer movements, and even use different parts of your body at different rhythms. Michelle points out several times that you may not like the moves you're drilling, and you may not want to use them in a choreography, but that they're helping you build dance skills.

That said, if you *do* have bellydance experience, and you're looking for a video which will help you train for bellydance (or get some light exercise) in a "dancey" way, this is it. The video begins with a few strengthening exercises for the quads and abs, and then moves on to a seemingly endless series of varied drills. There are drills which will have you practicing your isolations with different foot and arm positions, drills done while dancing a grapevine, drills where you do a zig zag shape with your hips, pelvis and chest.

I loved the variety. The drills are well-thought out and clearly organized, but they don't follow the same pattern. This required me to use both my body and my mind in different ways, and kept the movements from being dull. I loved the fact that Michelle puts in little reminders about proper form as you're doing it. There isn't a lot of arm work, but there's definitely greater use of the lower abdominals than I've seen in other videos.

If you're like me, you will find that some things come easily to you, some take a while to click, and some things seem impossibly hard at the first go. This is absolutely a DVD to grow into. At nearly two hours of running time, there's a wealth of material, and you can always do only one part of a layering drill if you're not at Michelle's level yet. After the section on finger cymbals, the drills are also done with zill accompaniment -- this was impossible for me, but it was a great chance to repeat the drill I had just done.

Most importantly, the program was fun, despite its slightly military name! The section on 3/4 shimmies is a lot looser than the early drill sections, and I found myself improvising to the beat. In other words, the drills started to become dance. My advice to dancers using this program is add your own warm-up and cool-down, but also to put on a song or two of music you really like after you're done drilling and just let go. You may just find your body reacting to the music much more readily than before, and with a greater variety of movements.

(Full disclosure: I received the DVD through one of Michelle's generous giveaways on the bellydancevideos yahoo group.)

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