It’s Halloween and I’m gig-free and feeling a little under the weather. What a perfect night to get caught up with some belly dance DVD’s! The first one in my pile is Flawless Floorwork the newest release from Michelle Joyce’s production company CheekyGirls. This DVD doesn’t officially launch until Monday (11/2/09), but Michelle was sweet enough to send me a freebie copy before the release date.

Flawless Floorwork addresses one of the most athletic parts of a classic American Cabaret belly dance routine, the floorwork segment. As Egyptian style belly dance grew in popularity, floorwork became a dying art. However, anybody who spends time on Bhuz will attest to the recent surge in threads on “vintage” costuming and dance. Flawless was created with this current vintage revival in mind.

Flawless Floorwork is a great primer on floorwork. Nearly 2 hours long, this DVD touches not only on the movements themselves, but on warming up, building strength, body alignment concepts, and even how to prevent and troubleshoot wardrobe malfunctions! Long story short, I thoroughly enjoyed this DVD.

What I Loved:

  • The Teacher: Ruby was awesome. I related well to her low-key yet pleasant onscreen presence and found lightbulbs triggering off in my mind quite frequently, thanks to several clever visuals and clear, concise pointers. (Properly engaging your abdominals really does feel like wearing a corset!) Not to mention, her dance style is exquisite. I really hope we see a lot more DVD’s from Ruby.
  • The Approach: I loved the Pilates warm-up and the ongoing emphasis on biomechanics. Some floorwork DVD’s gloss over conditioning (or don’t address it at all). For a floorwork noob, or for somebody like myself who appreciates a refresher once in awhile, Ruby’s thorough conditioning section is a wonderful way to ease back into tip-top shape for safe floorwork. As a baby-dancer, I injured my lower back from doing floorwork the wrong way – I wish this DVD was around when I first got started.
  • Descents: I thought Ruby offered some cool and different ways to get down to the floor, and her options vary in complexity. While she doesn’t cover the dangerous Turkish Drop (smart move!), she shows a couple of different “power” drops. I may actually use one of them for an upcoming music video shoot!
  • Extras: There were two extremely clever little “bonus” sections. One was a backstage warmup designed to be performed in typical less-than-ideal pre-show accomodations. (You could actually do it in your costume, in a bathroom, without getting on the floor. That is both practical and cool. Practi-cool, even!) I also loved the costume troubleshooting section. Lord knows, too many beautiful floorwork performances have been marred by nip slips, wayward skirts and other mishaps – although I can’t believe Ruby forgot to warn against the dangers of raqs beaver!
  • Production: As with all CheekyGirls videos, this one was beautiful. Great lighting and sound. Clean, uncluttered set. And most importantly, STEADY CAMERA ANGLES! You can tell that this DVD was produced by a dancer who understands just how much we hate instructional videos with wacky sets and MTV camera angles. A+.

What I Didn’t Love:

  • A Few Missing Pieces: Though I know enough about the subject, I feel that beginner students might benefit from a quickie briefing on the history and the cultural spread of floorwork. Indeed, there is a time and a place for floorwork – modern Egyptian style is definitely not an appropriate place to try floorwork, and it’s important that students understand why! Plus, it would have been nice to hear a little bit more about performance context. In other words, you might not want to try floorwork if you’re dancing on the same level as your audience, or on a dirty floor….et cetera. A little bit more “big picture” focus would have been appreciated.
  • Not Enough Quad Strengthening: I found that there was a great deal of emphasis on the upper body and abs, but I would have like to see more exercises to build strength in the quads. This is important for drops and kneeling backbends.

Buy This DVD if…

  • You’re new to floorwork, looking for a refresher course, or interested in learning a couple of different spins on your favorite moves.
  • You’d like to try floorwork, but you’re not sure where to start or how to build up strength.
  • You’re a fan of American Cabaret belly dance or you’re looking to add some vintage flair to your existing repetoire

Skip This DVD if…

  • Your floorwork skills are at an advanced level. (This DVD is most suitable for intermediate level dancers).
  • You do predominantly modern Egyptian style and don’t do floorwork.
  • You have a pre-existing knee or lower back injury. If this is the case, I strongly recommend that you check with your doctor and your instructor before you dabble in floorwork.

Summary: I’d give this DVD 4.5 out of 5 stars. As an advanced dancer who’s just getting back into floorwork, I found it incredibly helpful for my own purposes. A beautifully produced overview on a lost art, taught by a highly likeable and talented dancer. I am looking forward to working with this DVD on a regular basis!

To find out more about CheekyGirls Productions and to see more of their offerings, check out http://www.cheekygirlsproductions.com.

What Do You Think About All This?