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Videos on Review
Readers check out Pilates, belly dancing and qigong

IN THEIR LATEST round of guest reviews, readers apparently found that Pilates can be effective if not fun, belly dancing can be fun if not effective, and qigong might be best learned live, from a teacher.

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"Pilates for Dummies" (40 minutes, $9.95; 800-433-6769; Reviewed by Michele Murnane, 51, of Lynnwood.

"This is a no-frills video that lays down the basic exercises of Pilates," says Murnane. She thought solo instructor Michelle Dozois' demonstrations were easy to follow, though often she needed to pause the tape to get into the proper position from one exercise to the next. "Overall, I found most of these exercises challenging. A few were quite easy, and at least three were extremely difficult. To use this tape effectively, you need to come to it in a moderate to very good state of conditioning." Murnane thought some of the equipment she's seen used in Pilates classes — hoops, tubes, towels, ropes — might have helped. "The video was interesting but I would not use the word 'fun' to describe this workout. I am sure results will come to those who diligently follow along. However, I may not be one of those people!

"Breakthru Core-Conditioning Pilates" (45 minutes, $9.99; 800-433-6769; Reviewed by Susan Versteege, 48, of Seattle.

Versteege also called her Pilates video "no-frills": "The focus is on strength, flexibility and balance, primarily working the abs, back and gluts," she says. "I also found it required arm and shoulder strength to complete all the exercises." She liked Tracy York and Michelle Dozois' quick pace, which still emphasized quality of movement over quantity of repetitions, yet, like Murnane above, needed the pause button on her VCR. "I'd recommend this video to the motivated, self-disciplined person who has a fitness goal or wants to supplement their aerobic workout."

"Bellydance Slim Down" (30 minutes, $14.95; 800-433-6769; Reviewed by Rosanne Nicholson, 45, of Olympia.

Led by identical twin sisters Veena and Neena Bidasha, this tape features about 20 minutes of dancing to Middle Eastern music, with a short warm-up and cool-down. "Exercise progresses in intensity," Nicholson says, "however I would not say this is a strenuous tape." She would say, though, that "this tape just made me laugh! The names of the moves were just plain funny — the Genie Hop, the Full Shimmee, etc." However, "unless I was really interested in belly dancing I would not choose it, even though it was fun to do."

"The Sensual Art of Bellydance" (three videos, 120 minutes, $41.95; 800-433-6769; Reviewed by Suzanne Tomlinson, 54, of Aberdeen.

Only those who'd gotten the knack of the Bidasha twins' beginning movements should move on to this set, Tomlinson says. "Beginning students will be left behind." Each of the three videos — Basic Dance, Beyond Basic Dance and Mystic Dance (using a veil)) — "taught a complete dance and challenged me to master it," though as a dance program and not fitness workout. Tomlinson said the music, sets and costumes fit the movements and helped transport her into their world. "I did not find myself bored and looked forward to watching the videos again." She did think the dance sequences were too short, with too many moves, and would have appreciated more fundamentals. "I would love to take classes from these two lovely ladies."

"Bodymind Healing Qigong" (60 minutes, $24.95; 510-849-2878; Reviewed by Barbara DeCoster, 69, of Kenmore.

Michael Mayer is a psychologist and teacher of qigong, a movement system that works with one's "life energy." He has devised 10 sets of movements using classic Chinese exercises from qigong, animal movements and tai chi. The final set is the first 16 forms of the traditional long form of Yang-style tai chi, and while not the classic style, "the form is adequate," says DeCoster, who has studied tai chi and qigong for several years and is married to a Chinese tai chi master. "However, it is difficult for beginners to learn any tai chi form from a video," she says. She recommends studying with a fully-qualified master and using this video as a complement to such classes.

Molly Martin is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine.

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