Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Revisiting: "Serious Bellydance with Tamalyn Dallal"

It seems like every day there is a new belly dancing DVD released, and like many of you, I collect as many of them as I can. But in the rush to collect all of the "new" stuff, we sometimes forget the oldies but goodies still sitting on our DVD shelf. I'm super excited to share with you reviews of some of my favorite "forgotten" DVDs.

So let's take another look at an older DVD that might already be in your library:
"Serious Bellydance with Tamalyn Dallal" from 2000.

This DVD is targeted to intermediate to advanced dancers, and I'd say that's about right. Although Tamalyn does give a short breakdown on some movements, it's assumed that you are familiar with the basic movement vocabulary and basic cymbal playing. The content of the DVD is drills, combinations drilling abdominal work, and later those combinations with cymbals added, so it's good for dancers who want to polish their movement technique and really work on generating movements from the abdominals. Also, if you're ready to move beyond walking with the "triple/gallop/longa" with your cymbals, you'll find the more exciting cymbal patterns added to the combinations to be a unique challenge.

With a camera at the front of the room, it's as if the cameraman was filming Tamalyn leading an actual class in her studio. No mirrors. Filming is always from the front of the room, so you have to mirror what Tamalyn does. For most of the DVD, she has a group of her students taking the class with you. For the cymbal section, it's just her.

The DVD is chaptered so you can skip directly to the combinations or the cymbals if you like. If there were individual sub-chapters, they didn't work on my computer.

It's produced on a DVD-R (with the purple back) and in my experience these are known for skipping and pixelating in my DVD player, so the first thing I did was make a back-up copy to practice from. Alternately I would recommend you rip it to your computer as a Quicktime video or something you can play on your computer or iPod. I've lost way too many DVDs over the years to faulty media, and this is one I did not want to lose!

Let me begin by saying the camerawork and sound is less that stellar. It looks as if someone was just walking back and forth with a hand-held camera, and the sound is picked up through the camera's microphone. While this is really annoying when you're just sitting down and watching the DVD, if you're up practicing with it you don't notice. This was filmed back in the era before there were a lot of professionally produced DVD, and when "homemade" wasn't such a bad thing if you received good content.

The music used is a live musician playing oud (Doublecheck this) and what sounds like a generic rhythm CD. It's okay music, and she probably did this to avoid licensing fees, but I have to admit I actually prefer to take the drills and combinations and practice them to my favorite Hakim or Saad music. So if you can't stand the music, take notes and just practice what she teaches to other music.

After a gentle warmup, she moves into a short series of arm path drills which I think could be a separate practice session all on its own. As she demonstrates the movements, she gives imagery and technique tips.

A brief breakdown of the belly roll follows, which begins a series of basic movement drills layered with or combined with a belly roll. This was the hardest part of the dvd for me (since I'm not much of a belly roller.) Tamalyn's belly rolls are gentle and elegant and don't have the appearance of "alien preparing to burst out of stomach" as I've seen on some dancers. Even though I consider myself basically an Egyptian-style dancer, I wouldn't hesitate to work with these drills on a regular basis, to add that skill to my repertoire. It's so pretty!

The drills go from upper body movements to undulations into internal hip work, all with the extra addition of a belly roll. She focuses on very internal movements, exploring the difference between simply doing the movement and then doing the movement with a more internal focus.

(I would say the drills in this section are comparable to, but a little harder than, those in Ava Fleming's "Sizzlin' Hips" DVD.)

Next comes a series of 4 (and a shorter 5th) short combinations -- none too difficult, so you really have a chance to work on technique here. Again the focus is on keeping the movements internal, and going over and over the material to plant it solidly in your muscle memory. She teaches a combination, practices it for a while, and then moves on the next combination.

Then all the combinations are strung together in a longer series, and you practice that for a while. The music is the generic beledi drum beat, so students will probably want to take these combinations and practice them to music of their choice.

Finally, there is an extended section on playing cymbals. Although this begins with a short basic tutorial on playing 3s/longa/gallop/triples, (whatever you call them) it quickly moves beyond that and into variations of common patterns to malfouf and beledi. Lastly, cymbals are added to the combinations previously taught, and you drill those for a while before moving into a gentle stretch and cooldown.

Bonus material is short clips from performances and some adorable Greyhounds dressed in their Sunday best. (A portion of the proceeds of this DVD goes to Greyhound rescue efforts.) There is NOT a full-length performance by Tamalyn on this DVD, which is disappointing, but the focus is supposed to be on the class itself.

Get over the fact that it's a homemade production, and you have a great series of drills that really work on generating movements from the abdominals, as well as actually dancing and playing with cymbals, beyond the step-hip with triples. I'm especially fond of the drills which focus on abdominal rolls with other abdominal and torso movements. This is a great DVD for intermediates to work up to, and for advanced dancers to use as a practice companion, or as a substitute for a weekly class. It's all drills and drilling combos, so there isn't really any wasted time in about 2 hours of practicing.

Total running time: 116 minutes
Price: $30

Available from major belly dance retailers and directly from Tamalyn Dallal:

1 comment:

Naima said...

Great review, thanks!