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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women
The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women
Tango // Unrated // March 26, 2002
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted August 1, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

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 my head?

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 DVD

Video

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.

Audio

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 soundtrack.

Extras

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 from her.

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.

Final thoughts

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 or Bellydance Fitness for Weight Loss instead of this rather half-baked program.

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