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Absolute bellydance precision with double instruction
on November 11, 2008
I don't suppose anyone in the world can dance quite like Sadie and Kaya do - but if you want even some of their skills, here they are, up for grabs on their workshop-on-a-disk, Pops Locks and Shimmies. In this power-packed instructional DVD, one of a series of two, I believe, they pretty much give away all their secrets. They take up the most controlled and precise movements that embellish belly dancing and they teach them to you with incredible clarity. They also get you to practice them, with well-conceptualized drills.
The content is all unique and you won't find it elsewhere, except perhaps for some similar content in smaller chunks on Sadie's drum solo videos. But what is most unique and impressive of all on this video is the instructional format. The two dancers don't just stand there doing exactly the same thing (I've always found that phenomenally dumb). Instead, they use each other's presence to explain and demonstrate better, from every angle, from different aspects. This is so amazingly seamless and smoothly done that it seems like a choreography in itself! Sadie and Kaya do is to switch roles and positions constantly across the entire video so that one leads the section, while the other demonstrates. They don't just use a I-say-you-do format. You'll find Sadie showing you the range of motion while Kaya shows you the sharp, locked or popped move, Kaya showing you the front view and Sadie the back view. Or, Kaya executes the move while Sadie points and explains the precise muscle work going into the move - along with the safety tips. There isn't a moment of hesitation or confusion as they switch from one role or position to another almost every minute. Not a moment of "uh oh, you were to show this part" or " oh, okay why don't I show this move". I cannot say enough about how much this maximizes the instruction quality you get with what is a very difficult subject. There's bantering, no informality, no wasting time. Every moment is focused. If you ask me, the instruction aspect is definitely award worthy.
But on to the content now. The menu is yummy. There are three pages of delicious stuff to click into. Broadly, the content is divided into upper body isolations, pelvic isolations, horizontal hip isolations, vertical hip isolations, and more vertical hip isolations. Each of these categories has instruction on the range of motion of the move, then pops, locks and shimmies with up to 3 drills.
There's no warm up on this video, though you're advised to do one, specially as you'll be working with sharp moves. Let me describe one section, to give an idea of the feel of the instruction. Kaya leads the first section to show you the range of motion with the upper body isolations; shoulders, rib cage slides, lifts and drops. This is the firs time I've heard Kaya say anything and I must say, I do like her. She's just fine. Even at this stage, explanations are deep and thorough. At the same time they're not all talk but include getting you to try it along. She tells you where to feel the move in your body and how to make sure the technique is strong. Now that you have hopefully practiced the move and know the muscles and can be somewhat autopilot about it, Sadie comes in next to tell you how to add a lock to the move. She gets you to execute the locks through the upper body moves. Again, she keeps telling you what to look out for and what to feel. This is where they begin to show you different views, different aspects, and demonstrate the move in many ways. When they're done, we get to the first drill. Sadie takes up different upper body moves in a sequence. It includes movements along all planes and you begin with a smooth range of motion and go on to add locks. Of course, you then go double time. And then you add simple footwork. The footwork is simple only in the sense of not being all over the place and not being the focus. The not so simple is the fact that you're layering complex upper body moves on the footwork. For example, it's right-left-up, left-right forward on top of a marching footstep. Kaya comes in with a drill that notches up the difficulty level. Starting with the range of motion, again, you add locks in a combination on top of footwork - in this case, flat-ball-ball-ball. Not easy. But then, you also add arms. Kaya continues into the next section with pops, which she first explains thoroughly. You go through the technique and on to a drill in the same format - combination with footwork. This hardwires layering. Layering is taken up further in the final part of this section. This is where Sadie does things like shoulder shimmies with snake arms. I tried it out for a bit - it can happen.
Sadie and Kaya follow this format through the whole video. Some of the specifi things you'll see on this video is the pelvic shimmy (which I hate), shimmy with twist, (swiveling shimmy), focus on glutes, focus on obliques, (sometimes together), ¾ ups, ¾ downs and with variations. Nothing here is done plain vanilla. Every move is layered.
Sadie and Kaya finish up with a drum solo performance in their signature style - seen on Belly Dance Live. But this time they're in leathery costumes that have upset many people. While it looks a little bit startling on the cover of the DVD, it isn't that bad inside. The performance is full of pops, locks and shimmies, of course, cascading and rippling all over the place.
Tough question to answer: what level is this? In a sense, it's truly all levels. But whoever takes it up, has to be the serious-about-belly dancing type. All drilling, and specially of precise sharp movements, is going to need work. It can be intimidating for a beginner and altogether too much for someone who wants to dance casually. But given that you're willing to work at it, I would say that all levels will benefit. A beginner who's been at the basic isolations for a while could take these drills and work at the first level of difficulty. For example, you can being down the level of difficulty by ignoring the layering on footwork. Notch up to that more slowly. This is what gives this video a long "shelf life". You can use parts of it anytime in your dance journey.
Interestingly, the content here does not overlap with Thrillin Drillin. The focus is different in any case, but so are all the drills. On Thrillin Drillin, layering itself is the target. Here, control over precise movements is what is aimed at and layering is brought in because it's very much part of this dance form and because it's the style of these two dancers. Learning these skills doesn't mean you have to take up the Sadie-Kaya dancing style - it just means you can bring in more controlled moves into your own dancing.
This video is about two and a half hours long. Both this one and Thrillin Drillin are your hard wiring. Both are hard work as well. I'm sure they were quite tough to conceptualize. I spoke with someone who has attended the Pops Locks workshop and she felt the video probably gives a lot more. It's more focused and doesn't have to be changed around depending on who's attending the class or how many people there are, it's easier to see because you can look close up, and it's got two teachers weaving the instruction between them for maximum benefit.