Totally Turkish DVD Review

Monday, August 02, 2010

Totally Turkish - Belly Dance

(Disclaimer: I received a free advance copy of this DVD as part of a give-away by the producer)

I'm a big fan of improvisational dance: I'd rather do it, and I'd rather watch it. But even though I rarely perform choreography, learning it is great way to fill the creative well. A good choreography can help you learn new moves, ideas or aesthetics, or help you wrap your brain around a new style or skill. Totally Turkish does it all.


- A technique break-down of some of the moves, steps, and spins used in this program.

- A three and a half-minute choreography to the song "Benefese"

- Finger cymbal patterns for the entire choreography

- A short tutorial on dancing to slow, Romani-style 9/8 music


1) The choreography is attractive and fun, and fits the Turkish aesthetic well.

2) The song used is in 4/4 time: virtually all the Turkish-style DVDs out there focus on dancing to music in 9/8 time, so this fills a major gap in the DVD market.

3) The choreography is full of fun and novel moves, steps, and combinations. These are very adaptable, so you're not just learning one set choreography; you're adding a lot of new material to your repertoire.

4) Ruby is friendly and confident on camera, a lovely dancer, and she knows what she's talking about.

5) She includes detailed instruction on which muscles should be working, using their anatomical names and pointing to them.

6) The production values are strong. The video is filmed behind the instructor, facing into the mirror, which usually isn't my favorite perspective, but it's framed and angled carefully, so you can see everything you need to.


1) Not everyone will be able to do all of these movements safely

As the DVD disclaimer warns: this program is for fit individuals, and experienced dancers. If you have injuries or limited strength/mobility in your knees, back, feet, or neck, you will have to adapt or omit some of this material.

Ruby does include important safety tips for many of these movements, mostly by reminding you to engage your abdominal muscles for support. (The pilates workout on her Flawless Floorwork DVD can help you connect with and strengthen these muscles.)

However, these safetly tips often came after she demonstrates the move (sometimes several times). This is a perfectly appropriate place to give these tips, but since some of the moves are particularly demanding on your neck, back, or knees, you should be careful not to follow along with her demonstrations. Wait, watch, and listen before you try it. Better yet, watch the entire DVD first.

I would also have liked to hear some safety tips for:

- protecting your neck during hair tosses and sways.
Those can be dangerous without the proper technique, especially without warming up your neck. (There was no warm-up on this DVD.)

- protecting your ankles and knees
Turns and pivots can put a lot of stress on your ankles and knees, especially if you are practicing on carpet. This is something dancers always need to be aware of, but it's especially important to remember during this program: this choreography uses a LOT of turns and has you perform them VERY quickly.

If you are not healthy and strong, you should take the turns, hair tosses, sways, and backbends VERY carefully, and at your own pace. You may need to get input from a live teacher.

2) The pace of instruction is brisk.

The choreography is taught in fairly long "chunks". Since the combos move quickly, and most are fairly complex, I would have found it easier to learn in shorter chunks. Viewers who don't have strong choreography "uptake" will need to rewind and repeat the instructional sections.

3) Some of the step patterns weren't described

Ruby demonstrated some of the step patterns without describing what she was doing in words. She did demonstrate them slowly, but said "step, step" or "1,2". I would have preferred to hear more description, such as: "step front, pivot to the right", etc. I'm pretty comfortable with the "follow the bouncing butt" method, but since these combos involved a lot of quick directional changes, more verbal description would have been helpful.

4) The zils section felt rushed

I was very pleased that Ruby included zils on the DVD, and the visual format was innovative and effective. You watch Ruby's hands playing the patterns, while she simultaneously performs the choreography in split-screen in the lower-left. The pattern is written at the top in number format. (i.e.., 1-3-3-3-7)

However, the demonstration was done at full speed, and Ruby played the whole choreography straight-through, instead of breaking it down by section. Plus, she didn't describe the zil patterns in words, so if you're not familiar with the number notation she used, you'd have to pick up the patterns entirely by ear. The audio of the zils wasn't great, which made that difficult. (It's *extremely* hard to get good audio of zils, so this is perfectly understandable, but it added some frustration.)

It's doable, but you're definitely swimming in the deep end of the pool.

5) The Romani section didn't really fit

I felt that the Romani section didn't really belong on this DVD. It was authentic and fun, but the rhythm instruction was weak, and it didn't have much bearing on the rest of the program. (As Ruby pointed out, Turkish Romani dance is the root of Turkish orientale, but the demo didn't illuminate or add to this.) I would have preferred that Ruby spend that time on breaking down the zils, and save the Romani material for its own DVD.


This DVD is a must-have for strong intermediate through professional dancers in good physical shape (feet, back, neck, knees), with good choreography "uptake" (or just some patience). You will learn a ton of great material, and get a good feel for the Turkish orientale aesthetic.

While this program is a fantastic resource for those who are ready for it, it may not be a good choice for you if you:

- are a beginner or advanced beginner

Your body is probably not ready to do some of these movements safely. And unless you have a lot of experience in another dance form, your probably haven't yet developed the body awareness to know which movements are safe to try.

That said, you can pick up some great new material. Just stick to the traveling patterns and turns, and ask your teacher for help before you try any of the head tosses, torso flips, or back-bending.

- have injuries or physical limitations

As I mentioned earlier, if you don't have strong and healthy feet, lower back, neck, and knees, some of these moves will not be safe for you. You will still learn a lot of useful material, but be careful as you follow along, and expect to adapt the choreography.

- are easily frustrated

This choreography includes complex combinations with lots of directional changes. If you have slow choreography "uptake", or if you have weak spatial awareness, this program may move too quickly for you.

That said, if you can summon the patience to keep pausing, rewinding, and practicing, you'll be very glad you did.

You can pre-order from Amazon

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