#9

Most Common Belly Dance Questions

Q. What is the difference in the costs of belly dance videos/DVDs.
Example: a $19.95 tape or disc versus a $50.00 one.

A. Value, and / or maybe time length

There are basically two kinds of belly dance instructional videos/DVDs on the market, those aimed at the mass market and those targeted to special interests. And then there are videos from foreign countries.

General Public, Mass Market Videos

Usually, these are the videos or DVDs selling for $19.95 or less. They are priced to take advantage of large-volume marketing. They may be Hollywood slick, but they often lack depth, character, and imagination. They tend to offer nothing that strikes the dancer personally and they rarely foster a continued connection to the dance. They are usually marketed through avenues (example, late night TV infomercials) which are strongly connected to commerce not to the subject being exploited. There will be no one with any knowledge of the subject at the other end of the phone if you have any questions when ordering.

Most often, the artist has little editorial authority over the products and is not the primary beneficiary of the profits. (Unless maybe they have the stature of someone like Richard Simmons, but even so, his money is made on high volume sales and product endorsements.) The typical artist does not make much from these highly commercialized ventures.

Because they are designed for the masses, these videos must have a mainstream appeal and be easily understood by people with perhaps a minimal interest or commitment. In order to quickly get the attention of a high volume, impulse-driven purchaser, these programs tend to be high on sexy images and often watered down on content. True students of belly dance tend to be disappointed by these mass market videos. They may feel pandered by these approaches and may resent the esthetics and the sexist innuendo of some of these videos.

The cheaply priced video or DVD is generally shorter in length, often poorly dubbed and comes in a cardboard wrapper. Some have even been found to be recorded at slow speeds to save tape stock! The "teachers" may be inexperienced dancers who are really just models acting out a script with not much more experience in the dance than you started with in your living room.

There may be some gems in the mass market video haystack which make the low price a true bargain — but be cautious before shelling out even $19.95 if you have an earnest interest in belly dance.

Special Interest video/DVD

These are generally programs the corporate distribution network would deem not susceptible to mass appeal. Most likely, these programs were not produced until the 1980s when video technology become affordable for artists of all kinds who began producing their own tapes on topics such as yoga, cooking, dance, aerobics, drumming, and belly dance. More artists gained the opportunity to reach much wider audiences without sacrificing the integrity of their art and their productions to mass-appeal industry standards.

These video programs are made by people who are deeply invested in the subject. This is especially true of belly dance programs. And there are literally hundreds of instructional programs which you can study with to increase your enjoyment and experience of the art of belly dance. This expansion of programming has contributed to the rapid development of the art form. The artists have paid their dues in the field and their teaching reflects a wealth of real expertise and actual experiences.

Sometimes these programs are excellent, interesting, and informative, and sometimes they are a bit crude or eccentric. Not all of the artists are able to employ the special editing effects that big corporate money can provide, but many of them are especially creative, enjoyable and irreplaceable. Independently produced videos provide the unique opportunity to become acquainted with prominent personalities in real belly dance world. The belly dance student can learn techniques from the most highly skilled dancers, and explore the vast treasure of various and diverse interpretations of the dance.

Special interest videos/DVDs usually cost about $39 to $69 for 60 to120 or more minutes. Compensation for performing artists of all kinds is generally very low, yet artists, too, have bills to pay. Belly dancers define a relatively small (but growing) market. Your video instructors must charge enough for their products to counter the low sales volume that comes with catering to a smaller market (what they have to offer is especially designed for your special interest).

You can find independently produced programs from such a wide variety of talented dancers and skilled instructors such as Dahlia Carella, Delilah, Mezmera, Z Helene, Suhaila, Fat Chance Bellydance, Habiru, Suzanna Delvecchio, Dunya, Eva Cernik and countless others. For an extensive listing, see Donna Calton's “The Middle Eastern Dance Video Source” book, which is published every April by International Dance Discovery, Donna Carlton, Editor, at 108 1/2 E. Kirkwood Ave. #5, Bloomington, IN 47408. Though you pay more for the special interest tapes, you generally get more value from them. And while you are enjoying them you can feel good about supporting the artists who produced them. By doing so, you are helping to keep the belly dance industry alive and growing for yourself and the rest of us.

The specific audience for these programs is comprised of every day women as well as actual performing belly dancers. These women really want to learn and refine the dance, to express and enrich themselves through the dance. They are not the women the mass marketers may defined as women who have a passing fantasy about the dance as a way to sexually appease men. In the artist-produced programs, men and women are invited to enjoy serious belly dance as they would figure skating or ballet but they are not supported in viewing it as a form of foreplay or porn substitute.

Special interest video artists have more freedom of creativity, expression and speech. They can say what they want because their program is aimed at a smaller more specific audience. They can make their programs longer and can take the time to share insights about the real challenges of the dance. This has fueled advancement in the caliber of the evolving professional dancers and the increasing fusion of belly dance in the United States and abroad.

The new media innovations of DVD and the Internet have increased the reach of information in even more exciting ways for artists since the arrival of video.One example of this expansion is demonstrated by Delilah's new programs (available from Visionary Belly Dancing) where she offers added value through the feature of password accessible connections to additional web pages that furthur expand the subject covered in the program. Example: She is dancing to a famous middle eastern song called "Lilit Hob", on her program called Absolute Beginning Belly Dance with Delilah. On a set of companion web pages she goes into more information about the music and the composer for all those who have purchased her program. It is accessed by a password\ Delilah dubs these value-adding pages “Web Clubs.” In this way she is expanding the long distant remote student to teacher relationship as well as the value of her program.

IMPORTANT NOTE:

The bottom line . . . When your money goes directly to artists, instead of to big corporations and marketing machinery, you are directly supporting arts in our culture. It is unconscionable to make copies of artists work. You must pay for the programs as you would for a new purse, or as if you had taken the course in a classroom. You wouldn't sneak a friend into your dance class instead of paying for her to attend. Would you? Similarly, making unauthorized copies of someone's work is stealing. Many people have a hard time understanding this. You have the opportunity to help more people wake up to this shameful reality every time you politely say why you won't accept a "free copy" of an artist's video or other product. If the artists are robbed in this manner they may not be able to produce that next video you would have so enjoyed.

Just as not all mass market videos are bad (some make for a nice afternoon's workout, even if they are simple and watered down), not all special interest videos are good. In fact some are really bad, but usually they don't stay on the market very long because special interest products are more susceptible to market opinions than are the mass market tapes. So, do some research. Look for reviews on Web sites. Ask around. And don't let a low price alone deter you. Sometimes a special interest video originator may lack the confidence to charge what a program deserves or she may be battling prices set by special interest video marketeers.

Mass market and special interest alike, the belly dance industry wants all the programs that are great, informative, interesting and fun. Because if you like one, you'll get another one, and we all learn more and more! Everyone will be belly dancing!

What about Foreign Videos?

Most of the video and DVD productions from the Eastern world are performance oriented. There are hundreds of Egyptian, Turkish and Indian belly dance videos and combination song and belly dance videos. Many are black-marketed and viewing quality can be bad because they are copies of copies of copies. International Television Stations broadcast many programs which are then copied and sold on the black market. You can watch many of the Indian Hollywood song and dance movies TV or at local Indian restaurants

Many artists from other countries have started producing special interest instructional videos, including those in Germany, Brazil, England, and Australia. More and more are joining in everyday, but we don't see many of these products in the United States because not all countries have the same formats for video and DVD. For example, the U.S. and Canada run NTSC while Germany, England Australia, Italy, and Sweden are PAL, and France, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, and Greece are SECAM and PAL . . .


Notes:
Interview with Steven Flynn, Visionary Belly Dancing
Donna Carlton's Middle Eastern Dance Video Source Book
Mike Copner, Videosonic Productions
Misc. Internet Resources