The folks at Hollywood Music Center deserve a vote of thanks for providing these entertaining belly dance performance DVDs. Anybody who enjoys belly dance will find something to like in Shake It UP! - and probably something to dislike as well. Like other HMC productions, this one offers a selection of styles, some traditional and some - a bit edgy. In my opinion, it is, on balance, fine entertainment and well worth buying.
Make no mistake, there are some fine performances by solid performers. Highlights for me: the always exquisite Ava Fleming, a lively Viktoriya, Ansuya, Virginia, Sadie, and an almost painfully beautiful performance by Jamileh. One much appreciated favor: the Badawiyya'a Teasing dance by Saidie with those incomprehensible abdominal movements. These are just too seldom seen in belly dance performances for my taste. One or two will appear, a belly roll here, a flutter there, and that's it. Saidie's are mesmerizing in themselves but are also seamlessly woven into the dance. For me, this complex and fascinating performance is probably the high point of this DVD.
My personal inclination is toward the traditional and I don't much care for most fusion dances, which seem to me something like those insipid fruity drinks stirred up for people who want to drink but don't like the taste of liquor. For those like me who don't seek the odd or edgy in belly dance, DVDs have menus that let us page to what we do want, those complex, layered performances that this DVD does offer.
Criticisms of this DVD are mostly nit-picky. I agree, I would lose the pasha. I like to watch belly dance - I don't like to watch other men watching belly dance. I don't care if they are in the audience - I just don't want to look at them. Other criticisms I would take with a grain of salt. Critics (mostly female) of belly dance can be cruel and downright strange. Dancers are criticized for showing too much skin and for having too much fabric in their costumes, for wearing too much makeup or not enough. Some HMC performances have been criticized for being lifeless and unengaged, but if the dancers smile and project, they're accused of displaying objectionable facial expressions. I once read a critique of one dancer's performance in which it was objected that she had fat thighs. Whatever the merits of this woman's dance, in no imaginable universe could her beautiful thighs be considered fat.
I would point out though that some of the performances on this DVD are a bit sexed up. In my view this is not a good tendency. Belly dance that takes on gestures and poutiness more often seen in stripping runs the risk of ending up with a performance that is neither fish nor fowl. People who like stripping won't like it because the woman isn't naked enough, and people who like belly dance (many of whom are women) won't like it because it's sexed up and tawdry.
The long and short of it though: if you appreciate those hypnotizing belly dance moments and the relief they offer from this nasty world we live in, ignore the nit-picky and get this DVD. It has more than enough good dancing to make up for any small deficiencies.