Today’s blog post is going to be something a bit different to what I usually do, instead of talking about myself and what I’ve been up to, I just want to share with you a review I wrote about Datura Online.
If you are an avid Internet user, and browse sites like YouTube, Facebook or Twitter, you’ll have heard of Datura Online. If not, I’ll tell you a bit about it. Datura Online is a website that offers online belly dance classes, yoga and pilates conditioning and covers anything from drills to choreographies. The site and studio is run by Rachel Brice and Sol Crawford. You can see the short promotional video for it below:
I do want to be completely honest with you and tell you that I was approached to write this review, and was given a month’s subscription and full access to the site in order to write a comprehensive review. I was told that if I decided not to write the review, I was welcome to just enjoy the month’s subscription and I was under no obligation to write anything. Of course, I’m incredibly keen to write a review, because I think more people should know about Datura Online and they should be aware of what options they have available to them.
In this review I will discuss my first impressions, the site usability, payment options, content, site features and my overall star rating.
The very first thing I thought when I logged onto the site was; “wow! What a lot of content!” There are so many things to choose from, and I didn’t know where to begin. My advice would be to go onto the site with an idea of a class or subject you would like to learn about and take it from there.
I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to websites. If I can’t find a website easily, and can’t find what I’m looking for easily, I don’t want to be a client or create traffic for that website. It’s the 21st century and websites have now taken the place of that all important first meeting. Websites ARE your first impression. I also studied graphic design and if a website has bad design, I run far away. I am pleased to tell you that Datura Online didn’t bother me at all. The site was user-friendly, designed beautifully with ease of access in mind and you won’t spend ages on it trying to figure out where to click.
I did mention under “first impressions” that the site was beautifully designed and easy to use. I asked my mom to access the site and see what she thought about the layout and how easy it was to use. She was happy to see lots of information in the “about” tab, because she’s the kind of woman who loves to read the manual before operating the machine. She said that it was easy to use and it had an intuitive layout that even she could use.
There are 6 different tabs at the top of the site that allow you to choose what kind of class you would like to take. You have teachers, style, level, topics, duration and class type. This helps narrow down your search for the perfect video MUCH easier. Only have 15minutes? No problem, just hover over duration and choose the 11-15min option. I find this especially helpful because we all know that a lot of dancers work 9-5, have kids and a husband/wife, attend classes, make costumes, etc. The list just goes on. It’s a really helpful feature to have when you’re pressed for time but still want to get a little something in.
Something that I quite liked was that when you hover your mouse over a video of a class, it came up with a description for that class. This means that you actually don’t waste time when searching for a class, it’s all right there.
The site was well thought out and beautifully made to make it easy to use.
My subscription was activated for me, so I didn’t actually purchase anything, but I can tell you how it works. You can either pay $35 per month for unlimited access to the site for 30 days, which means if you wanted to watch the same drill video every day for those 30 days, you could. You could even watch a new video every day for 30 days for $35. $35 translates into ±R300. Class fees in South Africa are around R250 – R350 a month (from what I’ve seen) and R300 a month for classes when you want them is a really reasonable amount to ask. If you aren’t interested in paying R300 a month, but would rather pay for the classes you take, there is of course an option to do that. You can rent one video at a time, and it is available for a subscription period. (Click here to subscribe)
Payment can be done through PayPal, and between you and me, I think Rachel Brice is trustworthy, so don’t hesitate to do classes, even if you’re scared of paying for stuff online.
I was also told that in 2013, Datura Online would be introducing new ways to pay and enjoy classes. They will be offering limited subscriptions for a lower price. (Seriously, this is sounding like a bargain!)
So.Much.Content! And they just keep adding more. Datura Online offers several teachers, which I found great because even through a video, you have to connect to your teacher. I did one or two lessons with Ashley Lopez, and although I think her dancing is to die for, I didn’t like the way she taught – it just didn’t “speak” to me. I far preferred the classes from Rachel Brice, but I’m glad that she isn’t doing all the classes, because I know quite a few people who don’t like her style of dance or teaching. You get a chance to learn from some of the best teachers on offer and it’s great that you can pick and choose who you can do classes with.
Something I LOVED – and just want to stress so much – is that there are classes from several different teachers in DIFFERENT STYLES! You might be inclined to think that just because it is run by Rachel Brice, it’s all Tribal Fusion. But it’s definitely not. Datura Online boasts (and they’re allowed to boast!) classes in American Cabaret, Tribal Fusion, ITS, American Tribal Style®,Classical Egyptian and more.
They also have guest teachers, like Amy Sigil from Unmata and are slowly adding more teachers that we can learn from.
Overall opinion & my experience:
Reading this review, I know it seems like I’m just gushing about the website, and don’t have a single negative thing to say. There are reasons for this. The first one is plain and simple: I am very impressed with this website. It’s something that I think the dance community has needed for a long time and I do want to encourage others to use it.
I haven’t taken as many classes as I would’ve liked, which really sucks, but we’ve hit summer very suddenly and it’s almost too hot to move, never mind do anything else. I did try and take classes that I wouldn’t normally take, as well as some classes that did interest me. A word of warning though: to those thinking that a 30min class can’t get THAT tough – you’re wrong. Very wrong! I specifically chose my first warm up to be a short one – only 11 minutes. I was definitely warmed up after that! These classes aren’t designed to be easy or to make you feel bored. They’re relatively easy to keep up with but a little bit challenging too.
I do have grievances with the site, the first one being that I do wish that during the warm ups, the teacher would do a demonstration first, then go into the move. Sometimes you’re lying on the ground, or have your head facing down or away from the computer/tv screen and it’s very difficult to see from that position. It would make it just a little bit easier to follow.
My big problem with the site was also the video player. It automatically selects a video quality that matches your internet speed and doesn’t seem to “load” like a YouTube video. So even if I paused the video and went away for an hour, it would still only load as it plays. This is a problem for me because I live in South Africa and my internet connection is a bit slow. I don’t have unlimited data or a super fast connection and I prefer a super high quality video, even if I have to wait for it. The fact that I couldn’t find an option to select the quality was a low point in my experience.
I also had an issue with the video player with one of my classes where it got stuck and had to load in the middle of the class about 10 times. It made it very frustrating and difficult to keep up with the class that kept being interrupted.
What I would like to see from Datura Online:
Growth is the biggest thing I want to see from Datura, and they can only do that if we take classes. I would like to see even more content added to the ever-growing library of classes they currently have going.
Something I’d really like to see in the library are more lecture videos. Something I always enjoy when I purchase a DVD is the little bit of extra info they sometimes put in it, like a quick music theory lesson, a lesson in anatomy or something about the history of belly dance. I think that there are loads of people with so much information to share and it would be incredibly valuable to be able to learn a bit more from them.
I would personally love something along the lines of music theory, because I can dance to belly dance music and Arabic rhythms, but I can’t explain it to anybody else because I have no theory to explain it.
Another thing that might be useful to have would be costuming tips. There are lots of things out there on the web (as you saw from my costuming post a while back) but I’m sure there is so much more to learn. Some people might not want videos like that, but I think it’s valuable to have information out there online that we can potentially send students to look at and learn from.
So, the (very long) review is at an end. I would just like to thank Sol for giving me the opportunity to write this and be honest in my review. I think that this is wonderful website and the entire world is very lucky to be given an opportunity to be able to learn from the very best in our industry.
To my readers: this will make an excellent study buddy. I DON’T think it should replace your actual classes (because nothing can replace learning from a teacher in real-time) but this would be great for that week when you can’t get to class or during the long summer holidays when most dance studios are closed.
This would also make an amazing present, and Datura has made it possible for you to gift a subscription for somebody else. Presents are great for any time of the year – even if there isn’t a birthday, Christmas, Hanukah or any other gift-giving celebration.
I hope you found this review helpful, if you have any questions about it, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.
Have a blessed and safe holiday season!