Raq’n Workouts

Belly dance workout DVDs have often been some of my favorite programs to work with throughout the years I’ve been studying dance. They are an introduction to the art for many people, as it’s very easy to stumble across one in the yoga section of a sporting goods store, or the exercise section of any big box store. bd2

My first belly dance workout DVD was the Love Potion program from World Dance New York. It’s a bit much for a total novice, but it’s one I still enjoy from time to time. Luscious, the other program in the series is the better choice for beginner level dancers, in my opinion. Luscious moves at a somewhat slower pace and has simpler combinations separated by move type, i.e. circles, figure eights, undulations, etc.

While fitness and weight loss are current goals of mine, dance workout programs serve other purposes as well. As I mostly work with prerecorded teaching programs, workout DVDs become great for drilling purposes. Movement is constant. It is presented within a dance context, while still providing the repetition of drilling. If I can’t decide on what I want to practice on any given day, I’ll just pop in a workout and do some drilling.

I have  a number of different workout programs, some I’ve worked with a lot. Some I haven’t gotten to, but all have merit. Most of what I’ve got came from World Dance New York. They have a number of excellent workout programs in different styles.

bd1The program I’ve been working with this week is Jillina’s Shape Up n’ Hip Out. It has a warm up and a cool down sequence and three different routines of varying intensity, which you can do all of, or just one depending on one’s time and energy that day. The three sections are Slow & Smooth, Rhythm Hips, and Turbo Hips. I believe this one is a great option for beginners and for dancers looking to drill foundational dance vocabulary. The combos are simple, and Jillina breaks them down before kicking it up to full tempo. The footwork isn’t overly complex and it’s just a great overview of the basic building blocks of belly dance. I highly recommend it.

There are a number of belly dance workouts you can find for free on YouTube, as well. Tiazza of FreeBellyDanceClasses.com has a number of dance workouts on YouTube and most of them also have companion videos that breakdown the combos she uses. Leilah Isaac also has a number of dance workouts on YouTube, although I have not, as of yet, tried any of her routines.

There are a lot of options for dance workouts out there. It’s my favorite way to exercise and it’s a fantastic way to brush up on your dance moves, or discover belly dance if you’ve never done it before. Or if you’re just looking for a fun way to exercise that is easy on the joints, belly dance workouts are the way to go.

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Annoying the Entire Household: Learning Finger Cymbals

PicsArt_05-01-08.39.27Although I have been dancing for several years, I’ve never really picked up many props. Well, I’ve purchased a few, but I never really managed to acquire the skill. I purchased a veil and a set of finger cymbals (sagat, zills) at the same time, and never really managed to learn either one of them. My first real prop was the assaya, which I debuted last month. Now my newest project is figuring out the sagat.

My first set of sagat came in the form of the Moorish brass set from Saroyan. They were reasonably priced and the description said they were good for beginners. Lies! Lies, I tell you!

Okay, maybe not lies, just not really good for me. I always found the little things hard to handle, and because of that, I never really got around to mastering them. It wasn’t until the last couple of months, that I began to consider that maybe they were just too small for me. In the first zill DVD I purchased featuring Elsa Leandros, Elsa uses these great big zills. I also noticed Karim Nagi prefers larger cymbals as well. His mastery of that instrument is fascinating and super entertaining to watch, both live and recorded.

I asked around in the online community about whether larger would be easier to learn, and the general consensus was start small, but that still didn’t feel right to me. Small wasn’t working. Fortunately, while on a lunch break at the recent Nada el Masriya workshops last month, I mentioned the issue and another dancer pulled out one of her many sets and let me feel them out.

They felt good in my hands. A nice size, a nice weight. Not large, per se, but about a .25 inches (.64 cm) larger than my Moorish set. A week or two ago, I ended up ordering those same sagat, the Turkish Delight Professional brass set from Saroyan. I also learned the nifty trick of using tiny safety pins to secure the elastics instead of employing my sub par sewing skills and screwing it up. They are much easier to adjust, even if it’s not the way you’re supposed to do it.

I have always had trouble with the numbering system for learning sagat as well. It’s the most common method. At least three of my DVDs that involve cymbal patterns use it. However, I don’t count when I dance, so numbers just kind of break my brain. I much prefer using the dum-tak-tik-tok method as the sounds translate much more easily to me than the numbers.

After studying with Karim last year, I really enjoyed his method and his performance. I love learning the proper Arabic terms for the music and rhythms. I love how he approaches it from a musician’s perspective and not only from a dance perspective. So this week, I grabbed his finger cymbals DVD, because, I don’t just want to learn to dance with the sagat. I want to learn to actually play them like an instrument.

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We’ll see how well I do. I’m definitely going to spend a lot more time on these before I try to perform with them than I did with the assaya. Wish me luck! And pray for the poor ears of my cats.