Belly dancing is about sensuality and power, about embracing one’s body and being open to life. It would be unreasonable to expect to encapsulate all this in a workout video, and Step-by-Step Belly Dance with Leilainia doesn’t really try. Rather, it offers the curious woman who wants to tone key muscles and have fun doing it a nice introduction to some of the moves associated with belly dance.
The best aspect of Step-by-Step Belly Dance, and the reason to consider this over other belly dance workout videos, is the tutorial aspect of it. The DVD offers a wonderful, if short, tutorial segment that is separate from the workout combinations. In this tutorial, which I highly recommend, Leilainia breaks down the moves she will use throughout the video, namely hip lifts, hips side-to-side, shimmies, hip ups, snake arms, and the grapevine; the last of which I don’t really think necessitates a tutorial, but it is there. In these tutorials, she not only explains how to do the moves, but what posture you should have and what muscles you should be working while doing them.
This tutorial is wonderful for beginners, and in fact the “step-by-step” concept continues throughout the DVD. At the beginning of the workout combinations, Leilainia again reminds the viewer of correct posture, and gives detailed explanations of the moves throughout the routines. If you want to learn some basic belly dancing moves, but think you might mess up even simple steps, then head straight for this workout, because Leilainia will not consider letting you do the moves incorrectly.
The down-side to all of this detail is that you learn about five moves very well. There are three 15-minute long dance segments, but each one only covers a few moves that you repeat over and over again, and those always include the shimmy and some form of hip lift.
For example, in the first segment, High Energy Basics, Leilainia does the hips side-to-side move for about five minutes, then hip lifts for a few minutes, then back to hips side-to-side, and then, what do you know, back to hip lifts, and then throws in a whole lot of shimmying. And that is it. I imagine this is a good approach for getting these moves in your muscle memory and really working particular muscle groups, but I would have liked to see more diversity in each segment. Although perhaps lots of shimmying is important, as it is good for the lymphatic system, according to Leilainia.
The second section, Toning Angels, is so named because Leilainia introduces the “Charlie’s Angels” combo. The only thing is, she does not get to the combo until the end, and it is pretty basic. First, she covers the components of the combo ad nauseum. Again, one does lots of hip lifts and shimmies, with the incorporation of new chest lifts and Egyptian arms, which do work your arms and back. The combo is really fun, but I would have liked more combos or choreographed work, and less preparation. But as I said, this is part of the step-by-step aspect, and will be very appealing to some.
The third segment, Grapevine, is the one that strays the most from traditional belly dance. As you might have guessed by this point, in includes lots of grapevining back and forth, with variations such as leg lifts and hip pushes. And of course, shimmying. Then, Leilainia teaches the “cheerleading combo.” Somehow, the concept of cheerleading belly dancers seemed a little strange to me, but basically it is just hip and elbow pushes. In fact, the combo was pretty fun, but again, too simple and too short for my personal preferences.
The DVD also includes a seven minute Warm-up and a five minute Cool Down. In my opinion, the Warm-up was more of a cool down, as it was only stretching, nothing to get your heart going. In fact, stretching before a workout has been shown to actually weaken your muscles. But the Cool Down was top notch, one of my favorites on any workout DVD. Like most everything about this workout, it was simple and basic, but Leilainia, unlike most video workout instructors, actually lets you stretch in each position for some length of time, and it truly felt as though my muscles were getting stretched out and the cool down was not just thrown in as filler.
There are several special features on this DVD, including a short workout from two other Acadia videos, Bollywood Dance Blast and Brazilian Body. There is also a performance feature, in which Leilainia performs a dance routine that I wish she would have taught in the workout section of the DVD. She clearly knows more than five belly dance moves, and I would have liked to learn them from her.
Overall, I would say that the strengths and weaknesses of Step-by-Step Belly Dance are similar to those of the other Acacia workout videos I have tried. They are lots of fun, led by great instructors, and provide a good workout (although this one is much less high-impact than the cardio workout videos—it did not really get my heart pounding at any point; rather, it is more about toning), but will not teach you how to actually dance. But if you are just looking for a fun workout then it doesn’t matter, and you will still get a taste of Middle Eastern culture. The accompanying Arabic music in particular is fantastic.
Step-by-Step Belly Dance with Leilainia is a great place to begin if you are just starting to get interested in belly dancing, or if you really just want a good glute workout. Those who really want to belly dance would benefit from the mechanics explained in this workout, but would not want to stop here in learning lots of moves that could be combined into a dance. For additional belly dancing moves, such as traditional undulations and hip circles, I like Dolphina’s Goddess Workout series.
Belly dancing is wonderfully empowering and fun, and I recommend Step-by-Step Belly Dance with Leilainia as a good introduction for those who feel a bit timid when approaching this ancient art.