Welcome to our Blog! Here we share the newest trends of the world Belly Dance! Enjoy!
Today I would like to share with you my favorite books that have fueled my inspiration and knowledge in belly dance. I believe education never stops, no matter at what level you are as a dancer (teacher, performer) and by all means it extends far beyond classroom (stage). Middle East is a cradle of civilization and has incredibly rich and fascinating history. Although Raqs Sharqi (literally “Oriental Dance”) developed during the first half of the 20th century, knowing some cultural aspects of sophisticated East can do evolve and enrich your dance style to an extend you never thought of.
Some of the books on this list are very easy to read, others are heavy due to abundance of historical facts and take more focus, patience and time. I live by the rule “small things you do everyday are more important than a big thing you do once a year ”. Even if it’s just ten pages a day - by the end of the week you nearly finished a book!
Here is the list:
1. A Trade Like Any Other. Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt. Written by Karin Van Nieuwkerk, published in 1995.
2. Before They Were Belly Dancers. European Accounts of Female Entertainers in Egypt, 1760-1870. Written by Kathleen W. Fraser, published in 2015.
3. Bellydance: A Guide to Middle Eastern Dance, Its Music, Its Culture and Costume. Written by Keti Sharif, published in 2005
4. Cleopatra. Written by Jacob Abbott (Initially published as “History of Cleopatra, queen of Egypt” in 1851). The current edition is published by Enhanced Media, 2017.
5. Egyptian Belly Dance in Transition. The Raqs Sharqi Revolution, 1890-1930. Written by Heather D. Ward, published in 2018.
6. Grandmother's Secrets: The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dancing. Written by Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi, translated by Monique Arav, published in 2000.
7. Midnight at The Crossroads. Has Belly Dance Sold its Soul? Written by Alisa Thabit, published in 2017.
8. The Secrets of Egypt – Dance, Life & Beyond. Written by Joana Saahirah, published in 2015-2016.
9. The Voice of Egypt. Umm Kulthum, Arabic Song, and Egyptian Society in The Twentieth Century. Written by Virginia Danielson, published in 1997.
10. Trance Dancing With The Jinn. Written by Yasmin Henkesh, published in 2016.
Please note, this list has been put in alphabetical order and all the reads are equally enjoyable and important! This list is not final and continuously expands. It’s exciting how much information gets revealed nowadays. Some books/documentaries are harder to access, however we have wealth of information available to us instantly!
I hope this list will serve you and inspire you the way it inspired me, or more!
Feel free to share some of your favorite reads with us, so we could learn all together!
Today I am excited to share with you my two favorite belly dance podcasts I enjoy listening and get tonnes of information from. Continuous education on such a specific topic as Oriental dance/Folklore dance is incredibly important, especially, if you perform or teach it. The best way to keep up is to learn from the source, which means you have to travel to Egypt or take classes from master-teachers who lived and worked in Egypt for extended period of time. Since the essence of this dance style originates from this country, visiting it and getting in touch with the culture will transform your dance forever. But what if you don’t have the ability to travel or attend workshops often (Living in Australia is a serious geographical reason!). I have found a solution for myself, which by all means can not replace face-to-face training, however definitely broadens the spectrum of information about Middle Eastern dance, culture, lifestyle and more.
So here are two invaluable sources I get my information and inspiration from. These incredible ladies Iana Komarnytska (Toronto, Canada) and Nadira Jamal (Boston, USA) are contributing their time to create amazing and informative podcasts! Regularly, the most sought-after, experienced dancers from all over the world appear there to share their insights and experiences. In some instances you can even be on a call, ask questions and get answers right off a star! Most of us don’t realise that behind the glamorous and sparkly costumes, pretty dancing and smiley faces we see on social media accounts of super-stars, there are some bitter experiences and struggles going on, so it’s very enlightening! The topics are so different that it doesn't matter whether you are looking to improve your cultutal knowledge, start a business, promote yourself outside of your local community or get a glimpse into Cairo's night life you will find aspects that are relevant to you.
1. Belly dance life podcast is produced by Iana Komarnytska can be found here:
Amongst the guest stars you can hear Sadie Marquardt talking about her educational programs; the incredibly talented Marta Korzun and Julia Farid sharing their dance journeys from the very beginning; The instagram superstar Cassandra Fox about staying true to yourself; Luna of Cairo about the current dance scene in Egypt, Ozgen about Turkish Roman dance and others!
2. Belly dance geek podcast is produced by Nadira Jamal can be found here:
Amongst the guest stars you can hear the legendary dance ethnologist and dancer Sahra Saeeda sharing her precious knowledge of Egyptian dance culture; the beautiful Shahrzad, who currently lives in Egypt shares the insight into her performing life; the incredible Alia Thabit (who’s book “Midnight at the crossroads. Has belly dance sold its soul?” transformed my dance and surely, dance of others) and many more!
You can subscribe to both podcasts as well as join newsletters and blogs to stay in touch with latest updates. I wish you a great time exploring it! Let’s all stay educated and keep dancing!
Today I am happy to share with you my recent dance experience at Raks By The Sea Festival which took place in Bali, Indonesia, 27-29 April 2018. The event was organised by the beautiful dancers Christine Yaven (Indonesia), Darren Ho (Singapore), Brancy Teo and Sherlyn Koh-Shum (Malaysia). The invited international guest teacher was Yasmina Of Cairo, the dancer with over 25 years experience in teaching and performing belly dance in Egypt and abroad.
The three-day festival had a regular structure: dance workshops by regional and international teachers, bazaar, competition and gala show. However the vibe of the event was special! Everyone was friendly, easy-going and relaxed, and there was no tension between participants whatsoever!
Yasmina’s workshops and performance were the highlight of the festival. I have learned a lot, but probably not in terms of technique and choreography. She’s got that perfect balance of being grounded and light at the same time along with very powerful feminine energy. Yasmina generously shared her signature combinations, breaking down the moves till everyone got it right. Her presence and connection to the audience is very strong and nourishing. Her inner stillness and calmness were mesmerising. I couldn’t take my eyes of her during her 2 sets at the gala show, and they were around 15 min each!
I have participated and won in the solo professional category of the competition. I normally don’t like the idea of comparing myself to other dancers, as I feel it limits my self-expression. Our personalities and bodies are different as well as our vision of the dance. We are all unique and come in one sample therefore can’t possibly be compared. Yet, competition is a great motivation to pull your energy together and practice to feel comfortable on the stage in front of the dance community. Another important bonus is you get to ask the judges feedback about your performance, how you can improve as a dancer whether there were any mistakes in terms of cultural presentation and so on. Nowadays, competition industry is huge all over the world and there is tremendous amount of pressure on dancers to be better than others. Sometimes in order to stand out dancers really push boundaries and there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretation in the Middle Eastern dance, especially when it comes to folklore. Having your own style is important, however it’s essential to have respect to the culture you represent when you perform belly dance.
Anyway, this trip was very special to me due to I got to share the stage with my mother! She has been dancing for over 45 years, yet, was performing at a belly dance competition for the very first time in her life! We have composed a duo choreography and it was incredible experience for both of us! Since we live on a different continents we used Skype and other technologies to rehearse our performance. We arrived to Bali 3 days in advance and spend 3 hours a day practicing. They say happiness is the journey not the destination. I agree with it 100%! We had so much fun preparing our costumes and the number that when we met everything came together harmoniously and joyfully
Photo Credi: Idol Hunter, Malaysia
In the end I would like to thank the organisers for putting together such a wonderful event where everyone was able to learn and perform in a friendly environment, rejuvenate in local SPAs, soak in the beautiful Balinese Sun! Please note, Raks By The Sea 2019 is bringing in a very special guest Jillina Carlano from Bellydance Evolution (https://bellydanceevolution.com) and we can’t wait to join them!
Join their Fb group to stay in touch:
Are you a dance teacher or just love practicing belly dancing on your own? I am writing this article to share myway of getting myself pumped during the practice. For me the most important bit is the music! Music plays enormous role in the practice (especially if you need to do it every day!). It sets the mood and energy, it inspires, it shapes the whole class. Whether I practice at home or with my students I always thoroughly pick songs for my playlist.
Today I would like to share with you the structure of my regular class along with the music choices. I love Arabic music and always stay tuned for new pop Middle Eastern songs. The music library on my smartphone has hundreds of songs of various genres from the legendary Oum Kalthoum, Al-Ahram Orchestra to contemporary masters Mario Kirlis Orchestra, Tony Mouzayek and pop stars Nancy Ajram, Wael Kfoury, Nagwa, Mahmoud El Lithy, Khalid Zaky, Mahmoud El Esseily, Hanine El Alam and many more! I like to regularly refresh my playlist as music gets me excited and keeps me going big time even if initially I wasn’t feeling like dancing.
So, let me break the lesson structure and the music queue down for you
The initial warm up song, in my opinion, serves to help us to connect to our bodies, to become aware of the blockages and release it through breathing and gentle whole body stretch. I like to also give exercises to increase energy flow in the body so for the beginning I prefer something slow, soft yet powerful. For the last few lessons I was using Evgenya Sotnikova "Uletay" and everyone loved it!
After we get into the right mindset for practice we thoroughly warm up our arms (from shoulder blades to fingertips) normally to some soulful pop. This song is now very popular in Cairo and is played at all the clubs around the city: 3 Daqat - Abu Ft. Yousra ثلاث دقات - أبو و يسرا, or Mahmoud El Esseily - Bea'dty We Maba'dtish.
I like to go down the body and always dedicate the time to core work including chest and belly. For this I like to use energizing Arabic shaabi style songs such as Hegazy Metkal - Bos Ala Al Halawa or similar.
Hips always get a great attention at my classes. Over the last few weeks have been doing dynamic hip stretching to Nancy Ajram’s - Eini Alik followed by the various shimmy drills to Artem Uzunov’s percussion from “Let’s do it” album.
Diagonals / circle walks
To bring the energy even higher we do various layered walks on tippy toes (combined with hip drops, chest pops, belly flatters and more) where each student has a chance to show off the skills and just have fun while exercising. We pick the fun Carole Samaha - Esma'ny for this month!
That would be the song we are working at the moment which is the romanic Talla Ta Feati By Wael Kfoury. But obviously it changes nearly every month.
We always take 5 minutes at the end of the class to stretch, to do arm improvisation dance and a small energy exercise to give back to our bodies. I like to use River Flows In You by Yiruma (Vocal Ruvin)
Please feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions you have. It's much appreciated!
What kind of student are you? Are you a fast learner or it takes some time for the information to sink in? If you do a class, do you go over the things learned afterwards? Do you like to perform choreographies taught you with military precision or you stylize it your way? Do you prefer online classes over face-to-face sessions? Do you learn the most during group or private training? Do you like to be challenged or prefer to stay within the comfort zone? Today I am sharing my take on dance education (which is applicable to any other kind of education) as well as a couple of great online resources to brush up your dancing.
How exciting is to live in the time of limitless educational opportunities, when the whole world is at your fingertips. Nowadays, you can learn anything online and very often the resources are free. This is incredible how fast the world changes. When I started my career as a fitness instructor in 2002 back in Russia I had only two professional audio CDs. I was using them so often they were skipping and all my clients knew the lyrics! Now if I like some songs and I want to use it at my class, I create a playlist on Spotify in 5 minutes.
When it comes to belly dance - I am a complete self starter. I took to belly dancing in 2010 when I worked at my mother’s dance studio in Thailand. There were no belly dance classes or festivals around so Youtube was the only way to learn as I couldn’t afford overseas travels,competitions and expensive costumes. I was researching all the possible information online and creating my own choreographies, recording myself instantly (which is an amazing way to learn and see your progress). Soon we started teaching belly dance classes, our students were the best motivation! At about same time we started getting invitations to perform at private functions and charity balls. We had to quickly sew our costumes and started performing. Now my mum’s International Dance Company in Thailand has 4-5 group belly dance classes a week plus multiple private sessions and I teach multiple classes across Melbourne and give minimum 4 shows per week.
Personally, I like online classes as much as face-to-face training. The most valuable for me, however, are private sessions with teachers that inspire me, that I feel connected to, I learn the most from them. As many other dancers I seek rather inspiration from classes. If I learn a new choreography from someone, I always stylize it my way. I would never be able to copy it 100%, simply because my body is different, and I will dance the choreography in the unique way. I might use some certain moves I liked from the class, but mostly in context of my own routine.
Being a dance instructor, performer and entrepreneur I see non-stop learning as the only way to be successful and realise your full potential. I feel it’s an absolute must to invest time and funds in education on all levels (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual).The online resources have helped me tremendously along my dance journey and I would like to share some of them with you:
“Powhow is the leading global platform for live webcam classes. Powhow's vStudio™ Platform enables fitness, dance, music, and arts professionals to connect with their students in multiple ways. Instructors can train and interact directly with students via webcam, broadcast and stream their in-studio classes live to a global audience, or upload recorded videos for their students to train on their own time.”
It was my absolute happiness when Sadie Marquardt started teaching classes there. I learned a lot from her in a matter of months. However, as we know, she doesn't teach there any more as she set out to create her own online platform where she will continue to share her knowledge. But powhaw has hundreds of beautiful teahcers to offer!
Is everything you wanted from belly dance training online. Hundreds of educational videos featuring variety of styles plus belly dance library available to you 24/7. So no excuses!
“Datura Online was born out of a radical idea: to make dance classes accessible anywhere while supporting a global dance culture that nurtures inclusivity, sustainability, and excellence. We are a group of self-determining dancers, with no investors or advertisers, who are pioneering the website that we want to use. Datura Online was founded in 2011. In a small café in the heart of Portland, OR, Sol Crawford and Rachel Brice set about to create a website that would provide dance classes to those who didn't have local access to teachers and for those who wanted a focused practice at home.”
- We can’t underestimate the value of ree social media platforms such as www.youtube.com, www.facebook.com, www.vk.com (Russian network) that have enormous variety of free resources, articles, movies on the subject, live streams and so much more!
However if someone is just at the beginning of their belly dancing journey and has no dance background, I would absolutely suggest to take face-to-face classes first or at least live online classes where your instructor can give a feedback. Learning any discipline is a lifelong process that never stops. It’s also very important to understand what your final goals are. If you want to become a professional then energy/time input will be completely different as if you would just do it as a hobby. Research shows that if you want to master a skill on a professional level you should be willing to put 10000 hours during 10 years (it’s quite an intense learning). The rule the more you give - the more you get is applicable everywhere. The more time and effort you invest in your education the faster you’ll flourish!
Belly dance festivals & competitions nowadays is a huge industry that thrives all over the world (Especially USA, Latin America, most of European & Asian countries and, of course, Egypt). Festivals are a great opportunity to fully plunge into belly dance education with world renowned dance teachers. Enormous amount of workshops to choose from, spectacular gala shows, intense competitions, splendid after parties, new connections, new ideas, inspiration and knowledge are far not all the benefits you get to experience if you decide to attend a belly dance festival!
If you want to grow quickly as a dancer participating in such events could be a great investment, although is costly sometimes. The best way to go about it is to buy all-inclusive packages which allow you to attend all workshops, gala shows and include a competition participation fee in all categories. Depending on a size of a festival and a country the festival is held in the fee could be anywhere between AUD $500 to AUD $4000, obviously exclusive of accommodation, transport and meals, but it is so worth it!
For me personally takeouts of each festival I attended were incredible! It was not about how many choreographies you learn, not about whether you win a competition, it was about making new connections, about learning from and performing in front of experienced dance professionals. The most important is to be fully present in the moment, be open and grateful for the constructive feedback you get regarding your performance. When I was at The Summer Bellydance Festival in The Netherlands I was chasing Mercedes Nieto, Esmeralda Colabone and Anusch Alawerdian to get their opinion about the areas I needed to improve in my dance. It was huge for me and I was amazed when Mercedes had given me an overview of my comp number ”Remember that part of your drum solo when you face backstage and do shimmies with “X” step, I think it would be great if you gain more control of your shimmy so you are able to change shimmy speed faster and clearer”. The judges had watched over 40 dancers performing that night and she remembered my piece in details!
Competitions are the most intense part of a festival. Especially at large festivals with over 100 participants things can get delayed. There are occasions when competitions go on till 3 am (that’s in Russia where contests are very popular due to the mentality). If you are attending a large festival and compete you must be ready to wait, sometime for half a day till your number is called out. Normally you are allowed to see the contest, which means you need to be relaxed and confident enough to see your opponents doing their best to win. It was not easy when I had to wait for 6 hours for my entry at the World Bellydance Competition in Singapore in 2015. I watched every single performance before mine. There were mainly Chinese contestants there, who are very technical, disciplined and humble. To top that off it was my first ever belly dance competition and I performed in a pro category. I was totally terrified when it was my turn to perform, but I just surrendered to the stage, as I had done everything possible including months of practice and research. Afterwards, when Khaleed Mahmud was presenting me “The Best Choreography” award I told him it was my first competition. “Well I hope it’s not the last” he replied. I doubted that I am ever to do it again. I was wrong!
The most important, once again, is to keep your mind open, be ready to get out of your comfort zone, enjoy, celebrate and soak as much information as you can!
Here’s the list of largest upcoming BellyDance Festivals and competitions around the world
Cairo Mirage, Moscow hosted by Katya Eshta, 12-19 March 2018 www.cairomirage.com
NYCairo Raks, hosted by Mohamed Shahin, 19-22 April 2018 http://www.nycairo.com
Raqs Of Course, hosted by Randa Kamel and Mohamed Shahin in Egypt 25 June - 2 July 2018 http://www.raqsofcourse.com/new-page.html
Ahlan Wa Salan, hosted by madam Raqia Hassan in Egypt in July 2018 http://www.raqiahassan.net
Miami Bellydance Convention, hosted by Nathalie Zarate in USA, August 2018 http://www.miamibellydanceconvention.net
Cairo Festival Budapest, hosted by Mercedes Nieto in Hungary, 3-6 May 2018, http://cairofestival.com/
Bellydance Weekend, hosted by Martín Salvatierra and Pablo Salvatierra in Argentina, 10-13 May 2018 http://www.bellydanceweekend.com.ar
Love practicing to darbuka anytime, anywhere?
Today I am sharing with you the exciting invention of the world-famous drummer Artem Uzunov!
Artem is one of the most innovative Middle Eastern drummers today. The winner of the International Olympiad of arts, unique percussionist who perfectly masters game on ethnic drums. His music album "Let's Do It" is beloved and danced to by belly dancers from all over the world!
Teaching and performing for many years Artem was passionate about sharing his knowledge of rhytmhs with dancers and other percussionists around the Globe. This is how Darbuka Rhythms App was created! The very unique application you can access on your smartphone to play all Middle Eastern rhythms, to test your knowledge, and even create your own drum solos!
Here's a small demo of how it works:
The app is available in App Store and GooglePlay!
Not only Artem is a first class percussionist, he also creates amazing clay darbukas!
To find out more about Artem's art visit www.artemuzunov.com.
Enjoy dancing to darbuka anytime, anywhere!
Your in dance,
I have a question for you today! .
What do you like more: to improvise or to perform a well-prepared choreography?
Surely, there are many factors that may affect the preference: the occasion, the audience, the venue dancing to live music or recorded audio and many more. I personally prefer to perform choreography that I am confident at least I need to know the music. Especially, if it’s a large stage with professional lighting, large audience and I am wearing that new 3 kg costume. To top that off dancers also have a privilege to connect the audience to the music.
Being a professional belly dance performing artist implies you are good at both improvising and performing choreography. Today I would like to share with you some quick tips that work best for me when I improvise.
I find that focusing on breath during dance is one of the most helpful techniques for a successful performance, whether it’s a choreographed piece or improvisation. Not only it grounds you but it keeps you going for longer, even if it’s a high energy tabla solo.
I use a simple breath technique learned from my dance mentor Irina Daliya (Russia) where we take a breath before we make a move. We inhale through the nose and exhale through the slightly open mouth, by keeping the corners of the lips slightly lifted in a “mysterious smile” while exhaling ( Please, make sure you practice it in front of the mirror first if you like to use it. We want to look natural, relaxed and seductive).
It might sound trivial but connection is our everything, whether it’s connection with the music, the live band or the audience. The most powerful points of connection are your eyes and your chest (That’s why it’s so important to keep your chest open and have a strong posture alignment, but it’s a separate blog post). You need to stay present throughout the whole performance. If you are present you can consciously choose whether to make an eye-contact with the audience/band/drummer, or to take a moment to go inwards and sort of let the audience into your world. The balance of these two definitely enriches your performance.
When you connect to the music that contains melody put on a rhythm (ex. Baladi progression after a taxim part when the drum rhythm kicks in) you have two choices: to follow the melody or the drum rhythm. The best way is to alternate. By doing this you demonstrate your musical literacy, that you know where is the melody and where is the rhythm.
Be captivating from the beginning to the end
The vital role in keeping your crowd engaged is your 100% presence wrapped in your dance skills. Your energy has to flow over the top and your dance moves have to be practiced to the automatic level (like walking) so when you improvise your body politely gives you the right move in the right time. As the saying goes “the best improvisation is a well-prepared improvisation” meaning that it takes a lot of work to build up your improvisational skills and the only way to do it is to turn your favorite music on and improvise! And of course, it’s great if you have a dance mentor, who can give you constructive feedback so you could grow faster.
There are many different ways to enrich your improvisation, it’s good to play with it to find out what suits you more:
- 1. Speed. This is about how you deal with the 4/4 rhythm, the basic rhythm you find in most Arabic music. You can break it down to 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. By counting out the “&” you effectively create double-time, which you can switch to for a while then back to the slower 4/4. Varying speed is another way to add texture.
2. Big vs small moves (ex large hip circles vs pelvic circles). When it comes to a size of the move fast moves are best small and neat, slower flowing moves are opposite, we normally take our time and show off the amplitude (especially if it’s a deep hip circle).
3. Rule of 3 & pause (3/1). We would commonly apply this rule on to 4/4 beat (3 and pause is a breakdown of the 4/4 rhythm) when we repeat a move three times and pause instead of making it the fourth time.
3. Levels. Depending on what music calls you to do, you might want to be lifted on your toes or opposite, go into a floor work.
4. Travel steps. You can use all different shapes for your travel steps such as circle, square, diamond and more. Professionals suggest to keep you travel symmetric (if you go left, balance it out with going right afterwards). With the travel pattern we keep in mind the whole variety of travel steps we can utilise: camel with flat-toe-toe-toe step, small hip circles, flat-toe steps with layered hip moves (classical or reversal maya, up/ down hip accents), jewels, 3-point turns etc.
5. Change of directions. It’s great to show the audience all your profiles, as well as work facing backstage. By the way, hip drops/pops look more amplitudinous and overall winning when you right/left profile to the audience.
6. Arm work. Is always twice slower than your hip work. If you speed up your hips (ex shimmy) your arms don’t follow, they slow down. Our emotions in dance are mainly expressed through the arms. Arms can beautifully frame the body work, but can also be the main tool (ex: during taxim, accompanied by a ney or a violin)
7. Shimmies. There is a huge choice of shimmi techniques you can use depending on the music (vibrations, ¾, large shimmies, choo choo shimmies with or without layering). The more of it your body feels conformable with the better for you!
Needless to say that the subject of improvisation in belly dance is way broader and includes many different aspects. But these small on-the-go tips have helped me to build up my improvisation and, the most important, get more connected to my audience and other industry professionals I work with day by day in Australia and abroad!
Please comment below if you have any suggestions, if there is any topics you would like to discuss. We dearly appreciate your feedback!
- Martin and Lubna
- On 29/04/2017
Thank you for your great performance, it was a fantastic show and was even better when our guests joined ...
- Lynne C
- On 12/03/2017
I first met Alisa through a short workshop in 2015 and enjoyed learning the basics of bellydance so much ...
- On 09/10/2016
Alisa is an amazing performer and teacher. I've been dancing with her for just under a year, but have ...
- Natalie Volyanska
- On 09/10/2016
the best bellydancer and teacher in Australia! love being your student, learnt a lot and keep learning ...
- Tatiana Nikitina
- On 09/10/2016
Thank you, Alisa Bellydancer for unforgettable performances in Thailand and really professional workshops ...
- Ingrid de Bree
- On 04/10/2016
I absolutely love the energy and passion of your classes! A fantastic work out that challenges the brain ...
- Sarah Benn
- On 27/09/2016
Thank you for lighting up our night with your stunning performance! Even our 70-year old parents weren't ...