Although it would’ve made more sense to start with Secrets of the Stage: Vol 1, I found  Secrets of the Stage Volume 3: A Performance Course for Belly Dancers by Michelle Joyce on the Bhuz Swap. The deal was good and it helped a lady out.

The Secrets of the Stage series is produced by Michelle Joyce, a dancer in the Bay-area. She has a very good company, dedicated to making quality DVDs for primarily Middle Eastern Dance. They’re a steal at about $20/DVD. She produced last week’s video, Fabulous 4 Yard Veils.

Secrets of the Stage is different from other DVDs or even classes, because the DVD is dedicated to performance, not dance technique. If you are a student of Middle Eastern dance and want to go professional, classes may not offer all the behind the scenes information it takes to be a professional dancer. Michelle uses real working dancers to help present topics that working dancers should know about. Most of the DVD is like watching a movie with the commentary turn on; there’s video in the background but a voiceover, discussing a topic. The topics for Vol 3 are “Dancing to Live Music,” “Inspiration and Creativity”, “Your Professional Image”, and an extra section on some Arabic that’s useful to know. Rather than discuss the DVD in bulk, I thought I’d go section by section.

  • Dancing to Live Music. Like many dancers, I haven’t had the opportunity to work with live musicians. The dancers and the musician in this section gave hints and overall, encouragement, in dancing to live music. They all made very good points about how handle the situation so that everyone (musician, dancer, and audience) is happy. The only thing that would’ve made this section better is if the comments were more about what was going on on screen, rather than simply general comments about working with live music.
  • Inspiration and Creativity. I liked this section a lot, since this is one of the many places I get stuck. I thought the tips were excellent, some new, some not new. Again, I would’ve really liked more comments on the actual performances of the dancers, rather than just general tips. I was hoping this would be more “Behind the Dance” type thing, where each dancer would explain her specific motivations and inspirations. I think my favorite part was when someone (I forget who) said that it’s important to create, even if it isn’t perfect. Being the kind of person who wants something perfect, I appreciate reminders that I should create, rather than wait and worry to make something perfect.
  • Your Professional Image. This section contained info on makeup and photo shoots. The dancers narrated how she applies her stage makeup. The makeup section I thought I would be more helpful if they were more broad tips, like the difference between stage makeup and more up close work, like restaurants or how lights can affect how your makeup looks. The photo shoot advice was helpful for someone like me, who has never had a photo shoot. Michael Baxter (a photographer) provided information how to get the most out of your photo shoot, from setting the background to creating good poses. My only other comment on this section is I wish there had been more about creating a professional image. I thought the start was strong, but I would have liked to have seen some information on other professional aspects, like websites, business cards, ads, etc. Perhaps another DVD?
  • Survival Arabic. Leyla Lanty is too cute! The survival Arabic is just a small taste of Arabic, to help dancers know a few words. I like languages and I like knowing what the lyrics are, so I wish that this section had been longer. Evidently, Leyla Lany teaches a longer survival Arabic workshop for dancers, so if you’re like me, strapped for cash and time, that may be a good supplement to this section. I found the section a little helpful; I know a few Arabic words, from teachers giving me a little crash course in words that frequently appear in lyrics. I didn’t know, however, the word structures or about the lyrics in general. Leyla Lanty seems to know a lot about it.

This DVD offers quite a bit. If you have no one around to help you with your budding professional career as a dancer, there is a great deal of information that is important and helpful. If you are more like me and have spent ample time on the Internet and learning these things via class and workshops, I don’t think it is as necessary but still has information to offer. I found the DVD very enjoyable to watch and liked hearing different dancers’ takes on their topics.