Combination Nation 3

February 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

I just watched my Combination Nation 3 DVD from Cheeky Girls. Like all the DVDs I’ve bought from them, I love it! Cheeky Girls always chooses very high quality instructors. Combination Nation 3 is the first of the Combination Nations I have purchased.

I read in Aleksie’s review of Combination Nation Volume 1 that the same music is repeated a lot, so while it is interesting to see how different people interpret the same music, it gets a little old by the end.  Since I haven’t seen the first I can’t compare the two,  but I think this volume uses a good variety of music with a great variety of dance styles to go with it.  There is some Modern Egyptian, Turkish Oriental with zill option, Classical Egyptian, Jazz-inspired Modern Belly Dance, Flamenco, Indian, and Samba-flavored pieces. There’s every thing from fast to slow, lyrical to rhythmic, old school to modern.  This DVD is very well-rounded.  Several combinations are quite challenging (ahem, Ruby–whom I love!) and I will have to go back to them before I can really get them down, but to me that is a sign of money well spent.  If I can already do everything on a DVD, it was a waste of money.  I want to learn new things!  I also really enjoy compilation DVDs like these that involve several dancers because you get introduced to people you may not have seen before (and their websites!) and if they have other instructional DVDs, it’s like a little preview.  You can get an idea of their teaching style and whether or not it’s what you’re looking for before you commit to buying their DVD.

This DVD starts out, for the most part, with faster, more upbeat combinations and winds down to slower, simpler ones. This makes sense to me because if you choose to go through the whole thing in one practice session, you will probably be exhausted by the end. It’s also conveniently organized into chapters by instructor, breakdown and practice session, so if you choose to do it in bits and pieces, or integrate just parts into your regular practice, it’s easy to do. There are three performances at the end, which I enjoy watching while I cool down and stretch.

I highly recommend this DVD, especially for intermediate to advanced dancers.  I think anyone can take away something from every combination, whether you dance in the instructor’s particular style or not.  It is full of great ideas that can be adapted and personalized for your own dance.

As always, great job Cheeky Girls!

Merry Christmas to Me!

December 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

I just ordered these DVDs with a Christmas gift card and I’m so excited about it, I can’t stop watching the trailers! USPS, please deliver faster!

I already have Michelle Joyce’s “Pops, Locks, and Shimmies” and “The Heartbeat of Bellydance” with Jenna, both for drum solo technique, and love them!  So I figured these would be great choices.

You have to be incredibly picky with DVD selection these days.  The first time I ordered belly dance DVDs, I ordered them based on whether or not I liked the performer featured in the video, and did not do enough research about content.  I was very disappointed.  I don’t really use any of those DVDs from that first batch.  I think it can be hard to find quality DVDs geared toward a more advanced level of dancing.  There is a ton of fluffy DVDs out there geared toward beginners and/or DVDs that don’t have great content, but are banking on a well-known dancer’s name to sell.  Now when I buy instructional DVDs, I look at subject matter and decide if it’s something I really want to work on, read reviews, and watch previews.  No preview, no sale.  So far, I have been very satisfied with my DVDs from both Cheeky Girls Productions and World Dance New York.

American Tribal Style!

January 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have been watching the Fat Chance Belly Dance DVDs. There are still a couple I don’t have access to (I am borrowing the ones I have right now) but plan on buying those soon. As I watch these, a couple thoughts come to mind.

First of all, my ATS training was far more accurate to the Fat Chance Style than I ever realized. I’m not really sure why I thought it wasn’t. I guess it was because I hadn’t watched the DVDs myself and as my class learned more, my teacher had us add in details.  It seemed like we were modifying things when we were usually just refining them.

Second, it’s interesting to me that I have been able to witness some of the more recent evolutions of the dance language. There are moves that were not in the Fat Chance language that I learned or saw from other troupes that have now made their way onto the most recent DVD, Tribal Basics, Vol. 7: Creative Steps & Combinations.

At Tribal Fest 3, my dance troupe learned a new move using a turning double hip bump that hit all four corners of a personal box. I believe the troupe we learned it from called it “The Spider.” The way they presented it, the arms were positioned out to the side when facing the front, and over head when facing the back. We adopted this move into our local ATS language. Several years later, I got a hold of Creative Steps and Combinations and discovered that a variation had found its way into the official dance language, but with different arms and the name “Chico Four Corners.” I really like the new arm positioning and now perform and teach it that way.

Another example is the Double Back. I had seen many other troupes perform versions of this move over the years, but had never done it myself until I watched Creative Steps and Combinations. Now it is one of my favorite moves.

The next thing I noticed when watching the DVDs is that the intention of how the dance information be used seems to have changed over time. On the revised Tribal Basics, Vol. 1, Dance Fundamentals, Fat Chance Belly Dance founder and director, Carolena Nericcio, says the moves included on the DVD are the “Tribal Basics according to Fat Chance Belly Dance.” I generally didn’t notice any implication that using different basic moves or variations of the basic moves would be considered incorrect or would not be true American Tribal Style. Perhaps this is a relatively new idea.

On Tribal Basics, Vol.6: Improvisational Choreography, Carolena talks about ATS.

“The concept of American Tribal Style Belly Dance is interpreted differently all over the world, but the idea that seems to repeat itself over and over is that of dancers enjoying each other, celebrating their bodies, and honoring the music with movement.”

Carolena used to annually teach workshops and guest star in a big show with my old troupe. It was in one of these workshops, around 2003, that I first heard her say that she thought the ATS language should be formalized. She said she thinks it should be like ballet and everyone should have the same form as her, but since it wasn’t that way, it was important that everyone in a single troupe at least use the same form as each other. Perhaps in the beginning, Carolena was not particularly direct about this because she could not have foreseen the explosion of variations her dance form would spawn.

This explosion has also led to the dance form having to be referred to more formally as “American Tribal Style” or “ATS” since the simple term “Tribal” has become all-encompassing to include any variations that have some similarities in stylization, costuming, or the feel or intention of ATS.

Watching these DVDs has been a very good experience for me. It has been a refresher on some of the finer details and I have learned a couple things I either didn’t know before or have forgotten from lack of use (such as a trio having the option of dancing in a diagonal line; I only recall regularly using a triangle).

Also, I can now tell my students what exactly is a classical ATS move and/or cue and what is an addition so they will know what to expect when they venture outside our local ATS community.  Dance is a universal language, and American Tribal Style is a fun conversation.

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