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:
- 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 ...