General impression – The performances in this belly dance DVD are very well choreographed and Serena Ramzy is a very good and graceful dancer and Hossam’s music is lovely. Also, viewers can get good ideas from the combinations that Serena uses and some useful inspiration, as from watching Serena, you can get an understanding of how the movements and the music fit together. However, the breakdowns of the dance routines are not particularly easy to follow, thus this DVD is better suited for advanced belly dance students.
This is because, rather than Serena explaining sections of the choreography one at a time with the explanation of each section followed by practice, the instructions are just written on their own, separately. So, for each song, there is a menu with the choice of: ‘Breakdown Info’, ‘Front Angle’, ‘Left Angle’ and ‘Right Angle’. The breakdown info is just written text and then you have to watch the dance performed separately (although you can choose from three different angles), and on the screen it just tells you as a subtitle for a few seconds which section of the dance you are watching. This makes it extremely difficult to follow the instructions and learn the choreography, as you cannot read the description and watch the dance at the same time. So, if you expect a step by step guided tutorial of the choreography (as it would happen in a real life class), this DVD will not meet your expectations. If instead all you need is some ideas and inspiration (or you are very familiar with raqs sharqi movements, so much so that you do not need a break down of individual movements), then you can get a lot of ideas from this video. This is why it is more suited for intermediate to advanced level dancers as an instructional DVD. Its entertainment value though, is good for anyone if you just want to enjoy watching Serena’s dance routines.
Content – This belly dance instructional DVD is divided into two parts: the entertainment part, with three belly dance choreographies performed with three different songs, and the educational part, where these choreographies are explained. The educational part of each choreography has its own menu with four sections: breakdown info (written instructions of the moves performed in each part of the song) and the dance watched from three different angles (front angle, right angle and left angle). Serena does not perform in a studio with mirrors, but this is not a problem since you can watch the dance from three different angles.
The breakdown info leads to a section where there is a written explanation for each part of the song, for example the introduction, first verse etc. Every part of the written instructions links to a section of the choreography, so if you click on the title, for example of ‘first verse’, this will lead you to a part of the video with that section of the dance performed by Serena. However, the video will not stop at the end of that part. You have to go back to that section’s menu again if you wish to see that section again.
The title, Visual Melodies, refers to the way in which the dancer portrays the music visually and the three Hossam Ramzy songs that provide the music for these three choreographies by Serena are: ‘Sanatein’, ‘We Maly Bass’ and ‘Bey-Olouly Tooby’. In terms of style, they are all Egyptian oriental pieces; very beautiful music performed by an orchestra with a variety of instruments.
Advised level – If used as an instructional DVD, this is definitely mostly suited to advanced belly dancers. However, every belly dancer, no matter what level of experience, can enjoy watching this DVD for its entertainment value. Watching Serena’s graceful moves provides a lot of inspiration to belly dancers, who can also get out of the DVD many ideas for their own choreographies.
For more information on Hossam and Serena Ramzy and their teaching style, you may also find useful to read the page about the workshops I attended with Hossam and Serena.
Article written by Valeria Lo Iacono