The Temple of Jehan teaches some pretty nifty bellydance moves, but Appellate Judge Amanda DeWees is still a votary of the Temple of Pasta Alfredo.
"The mystical vocabulary of bellydance can…give you confidence, greater sensuality, and a sense of emotional and spiritual well-being."—Jehan
Temple of Jehan: Ultimate Bellydance Fitness Workout is a program for those who want a workout that uses bellydance moves to rev up their heart rate and add some exotic flavor to their exercise regimens. It's divided into seven segments:
• Warmup (9:05)
These segments gradually increase in intensity level, until the cooldown brings the heart rate back down and provides some stretches. The lead dancers rotate, so that different segments are influenced by the individual styles of the different dancers, each of whom is accompanied by two "backup" dancers. Cueing in all segments takes the form of voiceover instruction from Jehan, which is one of the weak areas of the program: Her instructions are often incomplete and tardy, so that there is usually no warning as to what move is coming up next, and one must simply watch the dancers very carefully and be prepared to follow them instead of expecting vocal directions. After a few viewings this will probably be much less of a problem, but for the first-time user it is very frustrating indeed. For example, when a warmup stretch requires us to be flopped over at the waist so that we can't see the television screen, Jehan really ought to tell us when we should be changing the direction of the stretch and preparing to come out of it.
The dancers are all experts, and their costumes are colorful and varied, from traditional-looking bellydance garb in some sequences and jeans in others. The music, which is all composed by Jehan herself, adds to the appeal of the workout. It incorporates some new age and dance-pop sounds into the more exotic, Middle Eastern orchestration, and the overall effect is quite beguiling. There are few vocals in the music, and although these sometimes get rather mystical ("feel Goddess"), which may be off-putting to some viewers, these vanish almost entirely after the first workout segment. The cooldown music does feature wordless vocals, which are nonintrusive and exotic.
The choreography is fun and attractive, and except that the poor cueing makes it difficult to keep up with on first viewing, it seems pretty accessible. It does become more strenuous and challenging over the course of the workout, as the pace picks up and the choreography begins to incorporate lots of shimmying hip movements. Previous experience with bellydance moves is advisable, since none of the moves are broken down or taught here; this workout assumes that the viewer either has basic knowledge of bellydance or is prepared to watch carefully and concentrate hard on learning as she goes. Certainly, the attentive and patient viewer can approximate the moves by careful observation, but since Jehan doesn't focus a great deal on form, viewers without previous bellydance experience will be unaware of how (and which) muscles should be working, and consequently they will probably not get the full benefit of the workout. Done properly, these moves are surprisingly intensive—much more than they look at first—and really work a lot of muscles. If you choose to perform the workout in bare feet as do the dancers, the moves become even more challenging and intense.
Visually, the program is inviting, but there are some practical drawbacks. Video sometimes leans too much toward artiness and doesn't present a good enough view of the moves. When a new step sequence begins, it's annoying to find the camera lingering on a dancer's abdomen instead of showing her feet. Also, the ever-present "ultimate" logo that extends downward at the left of the screen through every routine is an unnecessary distraction. Sound is largely clear, with very few pops; the music sounds full and attractive, with effective bass and crisp highs, although the volume drops every time Jehan speaks. Other technical considerations are likewise mixed. Navigating the menus is a little more difficult than it needs to be, since items that appear side by side on the menu actually behave as if they belong to a single column, but that's a quirk that one adjust to quickly. Slightly more annoying for those who may wish to back up to see part of the routine again is the fact that each segment is self-contained, so that one cannot navigate backward from one segment to the previous one without returning to the menu.
The extras vary widely in quality. The fitness tips from certified strength and conditioning specialist Andy Troy are good, solid, all-purpose advice regarding cardiovascular activity and aerobic workouts; viewers who are just starting a fitness regime, or who have not been very active, should definitely check out Troy's sensible pointers on judging their level of exertion before beginning an aerobic exercise regimen. The welcome from Jehan is a page of text that describes the workout and gets you jazzed about bellydance; it also recommends Jehan's instructional program Sacred Bellydance for those who need to learn the moves that will be used in this workout. The "Ultimate Cast" extra is nothing but a two-minute clip sequence showing the dancers getting ready to film the workout—sheer fluff. Likewise, the "Body Prayer" is a dance sequence by the entire cast that lasts less than one minute and is partially obscured by the giant workout logo, which is present the entire time.
Overall, this is a fun and challenging workout—more challenging than it needs to be, thanks to the minimalist cueing, but still a colorful, exotic, and sexy way to get your blood moving and your muscles working. If you're new to bellydance, I strongly advise you to start with a beginner-level workout or a bellydance instructional program before taking this one on. I can't make a judgment on whether this is in fact the "ultimate" bellydance workout, but it is an enjoyably varied and exciting mixture of different bellydance styles and routines and certainly won't become boring after just a few repetitions, like many workout videos.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: WorldDance New York
• Fitness Tips from Andy Troy
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