Friday, February 3, 2012

How do you solve a problem like Dolphina?

VIDEO: "Goddess Workout: Introduction to Bellydance" (GoddessLife, 1998)
STYLE: Belly dance
STRUCTURE: Warm-up, 8 min.; heads, hands and arms, 5 min.; hips, 7 min.; shoulders and chest, 6 min.; hip circles, 5 min.; undulations and snakes, 4 min.; shimmies, 3 min.; routine, 4 min.; cool-down, 3 min.
GIST: A hot mess of bad camera work, mediocre instruction, titty fixation and half-baked Eastern religion -- but with killer outfits and a presenter who means well.

You know what Southern women would say about Dolphina? They'd say, "Bless her heart," and it'd be just as simultaneously backhanded and sympathetic as it sounds.

You see, Dolphina -- can you guess what her spirit animal* is?? -- wants to help you unleash your goddess within; but she and the creepers behind this video are too enraptured with the goddess on screen to really help the budding belly dancer at home. Whether intentional or not, it's all about her -- her truly marvelous body, her devilish grins, her fantastic costumes, her affectations of worldly mystique and sexual power, her exotic sets. Choreography, instruction and viewer comprehension come second -- not always, but far too often.

Add this to the ever-expanding Laws of Fitness Presenters (and life?): It's hard to be too beautiful or too fit, but it's easy to seem too into yourself. Really, the issue comes down to what makes it on camera. In your own mind, you can think the tides move with the slope of your torso, but you can't let that show in your work. That's just common sense. You're there to instruct, inspire and entertain all the poor suffering blobs at home. Not eyefuck yourself through the camera.

And sweet Jesus, does Dolphina love eyefuckin'. Observe:

I ain't hatin'. She's a beautiful woman, with great legs and a smooth belly and long golden hair that rests in gentle curls on her bountiful bosoms. But combine all that with the eyefucking and a weird sex kitten-ish voice, in which all her Rs are purred and "branches" is pronounced "brrronches," not to mention a steady drip of dippy talk about chakras and the kundalini and it's like COME ON, LADY, I JUST WANNA LEARN SOME STUFF AND BURN SOME CALORIES.

That's only marginally possible with how the video was shot and edited. More screen time is given to slobbery closeups of Dolphina's tits, midriff and come-hither gaze than it is to full-frame, instructional shots of her executing the moves. She'll introduce a move, and then the camera will pan her junk, and then by the time it gets back to a full shot she'll be moving on to something else. (This is the chief complaint among the Amazon reviews I perused.)

Also, she straight-up botches her instruction of certain moves: For "snake arms," she has the viewer lift the shoulders up in an "I dunno" shrug instead grounding the movement, firmly and more subtly, in the muscles around the shoulder blades. Which makes it look like this:

Which is not what you're going for.

In another segment, she describes a hip lift as coming from the balls of your feet, which is just wrong. Nothing in belly dance starts in the feet. It all comes from the...belly (or pelvic floor or back, but you get me).

Ok so I'm being kinda harsh with dear Dolphina, but the thing is, I still like her? Despite all the drawbacks to this video, I kept it in semi-regular rotation when I was first taking belly dance classes, to supplement my real-life instruction. She's trying to have a friendly-but-sexy rapport, she means well with the Eastern mysticism sprinkles, her outfits are srsly bangin', the music's nice and if you already know how to do basic belly dance moves you can fare pretty well through the muddy instruction.

*Also, the name? Dolphina? She adopted it after she nearly died in a shipwreck and was rescued by dolphins. It says so on her website! She had a goddamn spiritual experience with dolphins and she was like, THIS IS WHO I AM NOW. I respect that. Even if it's made-up!

Alas, I don't think I'll be buying any more of her videos (though I'd be happy to accept some freebies for review!). Bless your heart, Dolphina. 


  1. I followed you over here from The Hairpin and I LOVE what you're doing! I'm a BIG fan of workout DVDs (oh man, going all the way back to old school VHS copies of Callanetics ( and Sweatin' to the Oldies.

    My first brush with bellydance came from 4 VHS tapes I ordered from a catalog (FROM A CATALOG!) starring bellydancing twins Veena & Neena. They were pretty decent workouts and they didn't make me feel uncomfortable while watching, like Miss Dolphina up there.

  2. Oh wow oh wow - just looked at a clip of Callanetics and I am totally intrigued. Thanks for the suggestions!