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Lauds and Laurels

Review by Jenee in "Wiggle Hips", July/August 1995
     In my Editorial in the last issue I briefly commented on Aziza!'s new video and now I would like to take a little more time to tell you about it. I have recommended this video to many beginning and relatively inexperienced sewers. The reason being it is a step-by-step how to do it video. She does not talk over the head of a beginner. She walks you through every step. ?Including what is available such as fringes, jewels, coins, trims, etc. and how you might use these different materials. Then she takes you through the actual construction from pattern design of a basic belt or girdle to the best type of bra and why.
     The basic covered, she actually demonstrates each step with the camera looking over her shoulder. This is pure genius in my opinion. It is hard enough to do something for the first time, but to try and figure it out head on like in a classroom makes it even tougher. Personally I learned nothing in Home Economics classes, I learned all my sewing looking over the shoulder of my mother and Granny. So the novice can watch the tape while they are doing the same thing and hit pause and what is in front of them will be the same as on their TV. You have to see it to realize how easy this makes it.
     Now don't you advanced sewers and costume makers believe for a second that you can't learn a thing from such a practical video. I have been making my own clothes since I was in High School (and that has been many moons, let me tell you) and I learned a few new tricks. In fact I just finished a new belt and bra using Aziza!'s methods and it went together easier and maybe even a little quicker. I am very glad to have this video as part of my library and I think you will be glad when you buy it too.
     One last thing, the best part of all is Aziza! Her personality shines through. She is real, no facade, and always herself. And this makes for very easy watching, even with repeated viewing as you work on that new belt and bra. You can do it yourself and make your costume really yours.

Review by Jeanna Driver in "Eye to Eye", February 2000
     For those of you who are making your first dance costume, or if you've already made one, but would like to improve on what you've already learned, I only have two words for A Practical guide to Making a Belly Dance Bra & Belt:GET IT! This is not advice I readily hand out; it takes a lot to impress me, and my regular readers know I don't pull punches - I either like something and will recommend it, or I'll be honest and say not to bother. The video even taught this "old dog" some new tricks! "A Practical Guide" has impressed me enough to utter those boldly printed words!
     Aziza!, the producer of this video, began performing professionally in 1966 at the Baghdad Cabaret, in San Francisco, CA, appearing there, as well as other venues, for 30+ years. During this time she traveled with Middle Eastern bands and their singers in both the US and Canada. She taught dancing for 9 years, forming her own troop, and also performed with the Bal-Anat troupe. Aziza! made her own costumes because, she says, "...there were no belly dance shops or vendors 30 years ago!"
     As you watch "A Practical Guide" you will hear Aziza! use the term "girdle" instead of "belt". Don't laugh; that is the historically accurate word for a garment that wraps around the waist or hips. However, most of us simply call it a belt and Aziza! uses the two terms interchangeably.
     Even if you don't sew, Aziza!'s video is full of useful costuming wisdom, which can be used even if you are getting a custom-made costume. Without giving too much away, a good example is her advice not to use extra long fringe on the bra as it doesn't really cover all that much (if you are trying to disguise your middle) and the fringe will only get caught in the belt, causing potential damage.
     Aziza! discusses matching types of dance with the appropriate type of costume, as well as offering tips on the care and storage of these beautiful and often expensive works of art. She talks about fabrics (tissue lamé, brocade, etc.), types of beads (pay attention to what she says about the size of the different beads), appliques, trim, coins and jewelry. She mentions the more elaborate beaded flat work, used to cover the entire bra and belt, displaying a set with the technique applied. Unfortunately, it's difficult to see the detail, due to the lighting used. Aziza! doesn't actually demonstrate the technique, and only mentions the difficulty of creating one of the flat work styles. It's very time consuming effect, but I believe it is good that she mentions it.
     Aziza! demonstrates different ways to get the belt to fit as well as explaining what type of bra to buy and how to dismantle it. She works on a bra and belt, detailing cutting the fabric while explaining how many layers and what type of materials go into their construction, including types of thread. At first I felt she could have used the time-lapse technique and skipped actually filming the cutting process, but, as she did that later, I decided showing it once was a good idea for those who are making their first costume. However, even if you know how to cut out fabric, do not fast forward. You might miss something important she says!
     Straps are explained and more information on decorating is offered after detailing covering the bra, bra straps, and belt, including using appliques alone or layered, and how to combine using the expensive pre-beaded fringe with one's own beaded fringe. Aziza! also discusses making coin sets and the techniques used for making them.
     The quality of this tape is excellent. The camera work could have been a little tighter, but there are good, clear cuts, with good editing, other than one small glitch near the end (ignore it). The sound also could of been a little clearer, but there are no echoes and no fading in and out. Only occasionally is the voice-over uneven, but that can be attributed to the difference in the use of a microphone or an over-lay soundtrack. Aziza!'s delivery is very natural and, as the program progresses, she becomes more relaxed, laughing along with us and telling stories - which is my favorite part! In fact, I would've liked more "historical" footage, but that's just the historian in me. I also would have liked a few more examples of finished costumes, but what is there is already helpful. Generally, I think A Practical guide to Making a Belly Dance Bra and Belt is not for the non-seamstress. I believe one needs basic sewing skills to get the most use of this video, but even the least skilled home sewer can create beautiful, professional looking costumes. As I said before, there's a lot of knowledge here, and a lot of good, solid information to be found in this instructional video, whether you are making your own costume or getting one custom made.

For more information or to place an order, call or write Aziza! at:
PO Box 664, Diamond Springs CA 95619
(530) 622-7566

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