I've always wanted to Moonwalk. Specifically, I want to master it and then wait for someone to ask me to go get something, whereupon I will say "Sure, you got it!" and will then proceed to Moonwalk for the next 15 minutes.
Other than that, though, I've never really had a hip-hop sort of persona. And I still don't. So when WDNY announced Anasma's Hip-hop Belly Dance fusion DVD, I was mostly ho-hum about it. Curious at best. I love belly dance pretty much as it is, and don't feel an overwhelming need to fuse it with anything. But Anasma, well, she's an amazing fusion herself - half Tunisian and Vietnamese, brought up in Paris, living in New York - and isn't shy of fusing whatever dance form catches her fancy.
When I began to watch her 2-disk DVD, I was very quickly amazed. Not only has Anasma been put together without bones, she's incredibly creative in the way she puts together elements of her dancing. The result is very compelling and now I find I really would love to learn all that's on her program. Though I'm probably well past the age for it, I've ignored that thought and started working with the two DVDs. I'm still not into hip-hop, I'm still not into theatrical dance, which is Anasma's forte, and I'm not into funky modern expression. All the same, I'd love to learn all the waving and gliding and floating that she's taught here.
Watch a bit of Anasma "Aggressively Slow" before we get into what's on the DVDs:
The instructional program begins with a 30-minute warm up and conditioning. It's the same difficulty level as a Suhaila style workout. Yoga and intense stretches. Very solid workout indeed.
So, the two DVD set is absolutely filled with content. Never-before content, at that. Logically but ingenuously, the first DVD focuses on belly dance and the second on hip-hop. But, neither of the two disks is "pure" one form or the other. Bellydancers who want nothing whatsoever to do with hip-hop will not find "regular" bellydance instruction on the first DVD. Anasma briefly describes a basic isolation or move and then goes into a drill with hip-hop stylization. For instance, you could be doing shoulder rolls and the drill would have you doing scoops with level changes and a shoulder see-saw. On the hip-hop DVD, you could be doing a Moonwalk, and the drill will have you layering a maya on that. The fusion is evident throughout the instructional program and is totally seamless.
As an instructor-on-video, Anasma comes across as very likeable and engaging. She's also exceedingly cool. She's encouraging, humorous, un-self-conscious. The instruction is clear though a little brief in places. She's full of analogies and explains concepts in more than one way, giving you the choice of picking a method that works best for you. She relates very well to the learner and in many places looks like she's in the middle of a conversation with you, almost stopping to get a response.
On the belly dance DVD, Anasma describes movements in terms of lines, circles, figure-8s and shimmies, making the path very clear. She goes through all the basic belly dance isolations briefly introducing each for review and a check on how she herself will use them before going on to the stylization. Movements for hips, chest, shoulders, head are all taken up. Also elbows because this is particularly important for arm waves. There are 9 short drills on disk 1 and you can make a longer drill section by accessing them in their own section.
The hip-hop DVD is when things get really interesting. You go through standing hip-hop moves of waving, liquid, popping, dimestepping and strobing, mannequin, tutting, glides and floating, and side floats. My favorites are the waving and liquid and the glides and floats and include the Moonwalk. The ones I don't like are the more robotic mime-like moves. That's the funky, theatrical side that I'm not into. Anasma aims this at belly dancers, so she explains it from concept upward. The drills on this disk draw in some of what was learnt on disk 1. The drills are all combos rather than a single repeated movement. These are used in the choreography. In fact, the 11 drills here are much much longer than on disk 1 because they start building up for the choreography.
It's the tribal fusion side of me that loves this second whole part of the program. It's really quite challenging: you need to know your isolations and layering basics and be quite ready to put all that together with hip-hop.
Moving on to the choreography section, Anasma first tells you the story of the piece she's teaching. She also tells you the emotions and facial expressions that go with the choreography. I'm afraid I tend to gloss over this. There are separate choreography drills or practice sessions here; 9 of them. And a demonstration, of course. And finally, two breathtaking performances. One that use the movements taught: New Seed and a structured improvisation, Placebo, set to music by Pete List and Rob Mestrianni. I mean it when I say these performances are breathtaking - particularly the theatrical story-telling one: Placebo.
Anasma is completely boneless, that's for sure.