With the increased appearance
of exercise programs on DVD, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise to see a
niche program like The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women being
released on DVD. The title is certainly catchy; the question is, if you're a
woman and you're looking for a new and creative way to express yourself and get
some exercise, is this DVD for you? Probably not.
Now, I'm thoroughly in
agreement with the program's participants when they say how important and
liberating it is to feel comfortable with one's body. Learning to dance strikes
me as an excellent way to redefine one's self-image in a more positive manner
by becoming comfortable and confident with how one's own body feels and move,
as well as a great way to actually improve one's own physical condition by
aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening, and stretching. Individual dancing also
offers participants the opportunity to explore their creative selves, by
choosing their own moves and their own interpretations. All good so far... so
why does The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women leave me shaking
First of all, the "exotic
dancing" of the title is... euphemistic. We're not talking about dancing
from non-Western cultures, which might credibly be called exotic (and which
would be a lot more interesting); we're talking about plain old "strip
tease" style dancing, with a focus on emphasizing sex, sex, and more sex.
I'll agree that in the abstract this kind of "dance" has the
potential to be as emotionally liberating as any other; I do admit, however, to
some cognitive dissonance. These women talk about rediscovering their own
bodies and gaining self-assurance and confidence, while learning to walk,
wiggle, and gyrate in a dance style that is designed to titillate male viewers?
Not only that, they're wearing high heels, a fashion that serves to emphasize
the wearer's legs and rear end to the male viewer, but that's also physically
damaging to the wearer. During the strip tease portion of the program, the
instructor encourages viewers to use their clothing to hide "problem
areas" of their bodies while doing the strip tease. Yeah, reminding
viewers of the "problem areas" of their bodies is a great way to make
them feel confident! Call me crazy, but all this doesn't strike me as the most
liberating stuff I've ever seen.
In all fairness, though,
there's one part of The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women that I
did honestly find both encouraging and hopefully liberating for viewers: the
"everyday women" part of the title is really true. Laura, the
instructor, is a fit woman who appears to be in her 40s; she's confident in her
dance moves, but not intimidating as a more stunning, "model-like"
instructor would be. The students in the dance class are in fact actual past students,
and these women are, like Laura, perfectly normal and approachable women. The
women whom we meet range in age from their 30s to their late 50s, and while,
like Laura, they're all in reasonably good physical condition, they're clearly
not models; they're people whom the viewer can identify with, as being like
herself or her next-door neighbor.
The program itself runs a bit
over one hour. After opening with an introduction to Laura and several of the
participants, stressing the motivational and self-discovery aspects of the
program, The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women moves to the
actual instructional portion of the program.
The program begins with a
section on walking and arm movements while walking, stressing the
"sexy" theme of the walk and the ability for each dancer to
individualize the moves. The next section focuses on hip rolls, and Laura
demonstrates how to do four different types, each slightly more complicated:
stationary, revolving, squatting, and kneeling hip rolls. The third section of
the program is "floor work," and involves various leg and arm
movements done while seated or lying on the floor. The final part of the
instructional program is fairly short, and focuses on putting together the
different moves into a full "strip tease," using a large shirt as a
prop. The program concludes with "final words" from the participants,
and a look at them as they dress up for a performance.
The opening segment of the DVD
has a voiceover that says that this is not an exercise program, it's a dance
program. I will certainly agree that this is not an exercise program, unless
some simple stretching and simple movement is considered exercise; the
movements shown here could have some benefits in terms of flexibility, but they
won't improve cardiovascular fitness or muscle tone in the least.
As a dance instructional
program, though, The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women is also
lacking. Laura explains the individual moves clearly enough, but the choppy
camera work and pacing of the program are not conducive to helping the viewer
work through those moves. In fact, it's a tip-off that something isn't right
when, at several points, the voiceover reminds the viewer to follow along with
the moves on the screen. In truth, the program isn't conducive to jumping in
and getting involved. Finally, the concluding "strip tease" is rushed
and has the feel of a hasty wrap-up; we don't really get to see how the
different moves that have been presented are actually used.
The Art of Exotic Dancing for
Everyday Women appears in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Image quality
really isn't paramount in a release like this, and overall the transfer is more
than adequate. Colors are bright, and the picture is clean and free of flaws
and artifacts. Some shots are fairly blurry, especially longer shots of the
dancers in the studio, but on the whole the image is clear and watchable.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is
satisfactory. The voices of the instructor and the students are clear and
natural-sounding, as is the voiceover of the unidentified narrator. The music
is also clear and well balanced with the instructional portion of the
The DVD comes with a
substantial selection of special features. In the "behind the scenes"
section, we get five different featurettes: "Music Video" offers
backstage and rehearsal shots with a music soundtrack; "The Circle"
shows us how Laurie and her students connected on an emotional level and
explored their motivation and responses to learning exotic dance; "The
Journey" introduces us to the co-producers of the DVD, who explain how the
program came to be a reality; "Casting/Profiles" offers a short
biography of each of the participants, along with a commentary segment from the
producers about the casting process; and finally "Video Story"
provides more background information on the production of the program.
We also get a "music"
section that allows the viewer to select any of twelve music-only tracks that
were featured in the instructional part of the program; two trailers for the
DVD; and a three-minute demo clip of Laurie's dancing, with optional commentary
The menus are very attractive
and easy to use, and the scene selection page shows that the program has been
logically divided into chapters, so viewers can select a particular move that
they're interested in viewing again.
The Art of Exotic Dancing
for Everyday Women is a DVD that's suffering from a bit of an identity
crisis. Is this an instructional film, an inspirational one, or a documentary
on "everyday women who learned exotic dancing"? The DVD ends up being
neither fish nor fowl, as it turns out. I would recommend that viewers who are
looking for a low-impact, introductory dance/exercise program, one that will
allow them to become confident about their bodies, should look into a DVD like Yoga for Urban Living
Fitness for Weight Loss instead of this rather half-baked program.