Disclaimer: I received this DVD as part of a give-away on Bhuz from Michelle Joyce, the producer.

I was excited to receive Icing on the Drum Solo for free and early, because I am a huge fan of Lotus Niraja (and we’re both from the same area). This DVD offers much more than drum solo information. Lotus Niraja is very charming and fun throughout the DVD’s narration. She is also very clear on her explanations, even including a section of the DVD devoted to some of her terminology. This dance form has no universal codification, so this section was helpful to learn what she meant

The DVD is aimed at intermediate dancers, I believe. Some of its strengths are:

  • The gestures section was well-done. It included explanations of how the gestures can communicate to others. I think that they apply not only to drum solos but really performance in general.
  • The choreography is fun and challenging. I had to rewind a part or two, but that is the beauty of a DVD.
  • Lotus showed several ways that choreography could be performed. It was shown as a solo, duet, and troupe performance.
  • There was an emphasis on really making the choreography your own. Although I don’t plan on performing this choreography, I think that it’s a good reminder that you are not obligated to do everything exactly how she does that. It is a subtle point, but I feel like that gives more value to this choreography, because some people are not comfortable performing a DVD choreography in public.
  • As always, Cheeky Girls Productions hits it out of the park with its high quality production. The audio is clear, the video is shot in a way that is easy to use.

Some of the weakness of the DVD are:

  • Not all topics on the DVD fit within the concept of a drum solo DVD. There were special sections about dancing in heels, Lebanese cane, and performance information. The latter two could have easily been on separate DVDs. I think even the gestures sections, though relevant to the DVD, could have been its own topic. Perhaps they were testing the waters with those sections?
  • Inclusion of other drum solo information. This is really a part b to the first point in this section. Stuff like working with a live drummer would’ve been interesting and relevant.

This DVD will be revisted by me this winter. I definitely recommend this one.

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I realized yesterday that we have roughly a month until the performance for Meiver’s recital. While I have enjoyed the training and think it was good to be taken out of my comfort zone, learning 4 choreographies for her and 2 for Bharatanatyam has left little time for my own personal things. I’ll still need to work on the two choreographies, but going from 6 to 2 is going to be a huge break. When I have my “down time”, I plan on working on the followings:

  • Zills. Zills are far from my comfort zone, but I’d like to get better at them.
  • Working with DVDs. I have stack of DVDs I have not gotten the full use out of.
  • Ballet. I’ve been meaning to attend ballet again, but with attending dance class and/or practicing 4-5 times a week, it doesn’t allow for me to attend ballet. I feel that it will be so helpful with footwork. I’m not sure why Middle Eastern dance footwork trips me up but not Bharatanatyam; I suspect it has something to do with not having an emphasis on footwork in most of my earlier classes.

And I’m quite tired. I didn’t party hard or do anything miraculous; I just did an overnight medical study yesterday (I arrived on Wednesday and got out on Thursday during the evening). I like doing these things for two reasons: one, I make money, and two, I learn something. One of my educational- regrets, perhaps, is that I never took other science courses. Seeing how other fields run experiments and the issues that they encounter is very interesting. I’m not sure if everyone asks questions about the research/research process, since some of the folks working it are initially taken aback, but they all answer my questions and don’t seem to mind. While I didn’t do anything in the hospital but work on things on my computer (yay for free wifi), they did take about 2-3 12-mL syringes (the same ones I used in my research) four times yesterday.

When I came home, I watched part of the Ranya Renee Baladi DVD. I was anticipating making a post about it, with a review, but I fell asleep earlier than anticipated yesterday. It isn’t a comment on Ranya, though; I ended up staying up an extra hour than I really should have because of the DVD. The short, Twitter-esque review? Get it! Ranya is very charming on the DVD from what I’ve seen. She gives a lot of information about beledi music and has live musicians demonstrate what she is discussing. I managed to get through her whole discussion of posture (it’s very funny and helpful) before I called it quits.

This DVD is an excellent value, considering it’s 2-discs. I look forward to writing a better review of this, but for now, I strongly advocate those who are interested in learning about this part of Egyptian dance to go buy it.

Ironically after I wrote my review yesterday, I read an article in the Gilded Serpent about whether reviews on instructional DVDs are important anymore. The writer’s stance is that they aren’t so much anymore, because there are notable companies who routinely produce high quality DVDs for dancers. I disagree with that. Obviously, the writer is correct that the reviews are someone’s biased take, but I tend to use reviews on instructional DVDs the way that a friend of mine uses movie reviews: find the reviewers whose opinions seem to align well with yours and you lower the odds of being led down the wrong path.

I like DVD reviews, because I’m not rich. I can’t buy everything, and even if they are reasonably priced, I don’t want to waste money.  If it weren’t for the glowing testimonials of DVDs produced by Cheeky Girl Productions, I wouldn’t have purchased so many of their DVDs. Like anything, you have early adopters who are fine with possibly making a poor purchase, but quite a few people choose to see if the marketing hype is true. This is why reviews are important. How would I know Akai Silks, L. Rose Designs, etc. are any good if people weren’t willing to review the products?

The reviews have also been useful, because I get a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from someone less biased the marketing. I totally agree that certain companies almost always knock it out of the park; however, sometimes they don’t or whatever they made isn’t suitable for me. A good review should include some factual information that may not be obvious from the promo material.

Reviews are a tool, like anything else. Don’t take them as the gospel, but I think can be used effectively to help you make shrewd purchases.

Bringing back weekly (or semi-weekly) reviews. During one of my bouts with cold/flu, I watched Combination Nation Vol 1: Belly Dance Instruction with America’s Hottest Performers. What is it? A DVD of combinations from dancers that are on the By Dancers, For Dancers series that Michelle Joyce puts out through Cheeky Girl Productions. The series doesn’t necessarily have the “big” names, but the quality is there.

The DVD featured several instructors teaching combinations. I liked the sampling of instructors picked a lot. Each person really did have a unique style, but they were able to all articulate what they meant well. The only little picking point I can think of is that it’s clear that Middle Eastern dancers have no standard verbal vocab. There were a few I believe I hadn’t heard myself or had to think about. Not a big deal, but I’m also proponent of a standard verbal vocab.

What was both good and bad about the DVD is that the same clip of the music was used often. The good about the same clip of music is that you can see how differently people interpret the music (the music is pretty, also). I love that you can gather several dancers in a room, and each will likely have a unique take on the music. The bad? You are listening to the same clip over and over again. That can be obnoxious.

While you are given time to practice the combos, you definitely need to push repeat. Michelle Joyce appears to have chosen putting more people on the DVD rather than giving long, guided practices. I favor that, since it is a DVD and very easy to repeat.

My primary use to this DVD will be to push myself out of my comfort zone and gather new ideas. I use DVDs for ideas vs. tangible material; although I did love many of the combinations (Lotus Niraja, Aradia, and Princess Farhana stick out at the moment), I prefer my work to original and don’t want someone in an audience to recall that I used a certain combo. I definitely see myself coming back to this one often. 5 of 5 stars.

Carrara Nour decided yesterday that we (or at least she)  begins her 90-day practice challenge. She started it off with a doozy- 4 hour practice. Not to be expected to be completed at once. I decided to see if I could fit in two 2-hour practices today.

First practice, consisting of drills and zills, is finished. Tiring but finished (and left me with a huge appetite). Probably the hardest thing was to think of how to fill 2 hours of practice.

Tonight’s should be easier: Combination Nation. I’ve watched it once while I was sick but now I’ll attempt it.

Anyone else partaking in this challenge?

I spent yesterday sick. Coincidentally, right as I began administering the exam for my students, my nose began dripping like crazy. I came home yesterday and slept like crazy. Dance class (I was going to try drop in ballet tonight) is not in my best interest right now.

However, I do plan on starting back with practice. I know how drill, even if my notes and DVDs are still in Chicago. I can with that and should I get exhausted, break. I do plan on looking at new DVDs. I don’t want to do a drill DVD necessarily; I think I’ve more or less have a good background on drilling practice from class or other DVDs. I’m looking more at technique right now. Something to sharpen mine and create new ideas for me when I start choreographing again. Any amazing DVDs people have come across, either in the past or very recently?