Modern Oriental and Baladi with Ranya Renée – DVD Reviews
I always enjoy getting the latest belly dance related DVDs and the most recent I have bought are 2 different instructional DVDs, both about Egyptian style belly dance and both with Ranya Renée. If, like me, you cannot yet spend a long time (or any time at all) training in Egypt, then these types of DVDs can be a great way self-train yourself at home. The content of these DVDs, seems pretty close to the style currently danced in Egypt hence, they are a good choice if you like this dance style and cannot easily access a teacher who can train you in Egyptian belly dance.
I also own some of Raqia Hassan’s instructional DVDs, which are perfect for learning the roots of Egyptian style. However, the quality of those DVD is not great and the instructions are not always very clear. On the other hand, Ranya’s DVDs production is very professional and her style of teaching extremely clear. Ranya, who is based in New York City, has 30 years experience as a professional performer and a background in acting and linguistics. She is also a choreographer and a coach for dancers and actors.
Modern Oriental Bellydance Egyptian Style
This DVD gives an introduction to modern oriental Egyptian dance and teaches a choreography and some techniques, as well as giving tips on music interpretation. In my practice I have already found it very useful, in order to get ideas for new combinations that I then re-adapted and used in my own choreographies. It is also useful in that the choreography contains many movements that are often commonly used in modern Egyptian oriental. Hence, you do not only learn a choreography but a big range of different movements that you can use in your own combinations. What I like is the knowledge that Ranya has of this dance form and the fact that she explains everything about the music, the different instruments that are used and how to reflect their sounds in the dance.
Movements are explained clearly and every section of the choreography is broken down thoroughly. There is also a section with drills that helps you memorise the movements in your body, so they become natural to perform. I like the fact that there is a warm up section and that Ranya explains where in the body each movement originates from, so you understand the technique at a deeper level. Sometimes though I think that she dwells too much in explaining the mechanics of a movement and at times I got a bit impatient. However, it is better to over explain things rather than rush through a movement.
- The first section is an introduction to modern oriental dance, in which Ranya explains what its characteristics are and how it differs from classical oriental in the music, the use of instruments and how the dance movements nowadays reflect these changes.
- The second section is about posture and alignment, in which Ranya explains the basics of what gives Egyptian style its unique flavour in terms of body positioning.
- She then moves on to a warm up section, with more tips on technique.
- Before starting to explain the choreography, Ranya gives some tips on how to remember steps and combinations. This can be a useful bonus for some.
- Ranya starts by teaching a version of the finale for the choreography, which is simplified for less experienced dancers. There is a demonstration of this part of the choreography broken down into 7 sections, so you can easily go to whichever part you want to view, and then detailed explanations of each section.
- 9 drills for beginners, based on different sections of the beginner’s part of the choreography.
- Break down of the full choreography for a more advanced level, starting from the beginning. This has 14 sections which are each demonstrated and then explained.
- Advanced finale, broken down in 7 sections demonstrated and explained. This is the same finale that Ranya explained at the beginning, but with more advanced layering and a bit more intricate.
- Veil entrance, where Ranya explains how you can add a veil to the entrance part of the choreography.
- 6 sections of advanced drills based on the choreography.
- Performance on stage of the choreography taught in the DVD.
This DVD has something to offer for beginners (as long as they know some basic movements), as well as for more intermediate/ advanced dancers who can find some useful ideas and inspirations.
The Baladi: Bellydance Egyptian Style
This is a set of 2 instructional DVDs, which is great value for money for all the information that you get. Baladi is a more traditional style of Egyptian dance, which is improvised rather than choreographed. As such, Ranya gives very useful information on cultural background and music and, rather than teaching a choreography, she teaches individual steps and guides you in order to develop you own improvisations. She also gives you guidance and tips on how to interpret baladi.
I particularly like the way she explains movements and interpretation, by using different devices. For example, she encourages students not only to listen to the music and follow instructions, but also to visualise and to draw patterns on a piece of paper to help them better visualise the music. Thus she encourages the use of all senses. Overall this is a great DVD and one I definitely recommend.
Content of DVD 1
- Introduction to the DVD and to baladi style.
- Explanation of baladi from the cultural point of view and of the ‘feeling’ of baladi.
- Musicians explain the role of different instruments in baladi.
- Explanation of baladi progression for women dance (awadi) and of the style danced by men (tet).
- Explanation of baladi rhythms, demonstrated by musicians.
- Demonstration of awadi baladi progression.
- Demonstration of tet baladi.
- Demonstration of a mix of different popular baladi songs.
- Posture and alignment (in every DVD with Ranya there is a section on posture, as she is a keen promoter of the importance of good posture for a correct representation of dance).
- Technique. This is a good and extensive section in which Ranya explains: terminology of movements; framing and transitions; fluid movements such as different types of hip circles, figures of 8, undulations, chest movements; accents, such as hip locks; shimmies and shimmies plus accents; maqsoum moves, which include a great variety of movements, many of which Egyptian belly dancers often use and Ranya explains the technique behind them; ingerara moves. This sections takes a long time to go through if you want to perfect your movements and there is really a lot to sink your teeth into.
Content of DVD 2
- Advice on building an improvisational practice.
- Guide on interpreting taqsim.
- Improvisational drills. These include 3 different baladi tracks (two awadi and on one tet), for which Ranya gives demonstrations and drills. However, the viewer is supposed to improvise on her own rather than follow Ranya. The more you practise, the more you will develop your own style and movement repertoire.
- Arm path drills. Arms can often be a sticky point for dancers and it may be hard to know sometimes what to do with them, if you have not practised enough. This arms path drills can be useful to help you develop confidence in moving our arms.
- Cool down routine and stretching.
Just like the DVD on modern oriental, this DVD can be used both by beginners, who need an introduction to baladi, and by more intermediate dancers who would like new ideas or a clear definition of what baladi is.
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Valeria is a dance researcher completing a PhD in dance and heritage. Valeria also teaches and performs as a belly dance but also enjoys learning ballet, jazz dance and other dance genres.