Thursday, December 30, 2010


January 1, 2011
Alright, so.... I was really trying to avoid making resolutions this year because, let's face it... I'm still waiting on me to work on things I promised myself from 1995 but considering the fact that the Mayan calendar predicts 2011 to be our last non-apocalyptic year, perhaps I ought to start making up the for the last 16 years. Here are my top five for 2011:

Number 5: Spend less time behind a computer screen.

The amount of hours I spend looking at a computer on a daily basis is absurd. I use one at work for eight hours and then come home and try to convince myself that I will merely "check my email". In this era of social networking, e-commerce and online audiences of people who broadcast how cute their puppy looks while sleeping via Youtube really makes it difficult to leave the couch and be more productive. Well, NO MORE! I'm going to work on that this year... starting right after I finish typing this blog... ;)

Number 4: Get more sleep.

For some reason, I found it extremely difficult to sleep at a decent hour last year. I blame it on the computer and the awesome re-runs of Criminal Minds that I've become addicted to lately. I used to go to bed at a reasonable hour - 10 PM, no later than 11. Now, I drag myself to bed around the 1 or 2 AM hour. Last year alone, I lost approximately 730 hours of sleep, or roughly 30 days. 30 days!! I'll never get that time back. This MUST change.

Number 3: Travel more.

There is so much world out there for me to experience and this year, I want to see more of it! I want to visit three countries I've never been to, surround myself with new culture and try new food. Well... I take the food part back. I am the pickiest eater and won't eat something simply based on how it looks when it's alive so... maybe I'll just stick with surrounding myself with new culture. :)

Number 2: Finally get rid of Joey!

Some will know what I mean, some won't, and I'm ok with that. :)

And my number 1 resolution for 2011... drumroll please... Maintain a positive state of mind.

I'll admit, I have not been the most positive person in the world. In my mind, the glass is usually half empty. What a sorry way to live, lol. I have an uncle, well, he's my mom's uncle. I'm not sure what our relation would be labeled as on the family tree but let's just call him my uncle. The man is in his 70s but you would never know it. He has looked the exact same since I was a little girl. He hasn't a care in the world and for that reason, he hasn't a wrinkle on his face. I always joke with my mom and ask her where the fountain of youth is that he drinks from or when his next Botox appointment is because there is no way he can look so youthful and vivacious at his age! He always has a smile on his face. I have never once seen him get angry - it's so amazing. I want to be just like him when I grow up, starting today. I will try my best not to honk and flip off people who turn into the lane I'm coming down, only to then drive 10 MPH in front of me.... I will try my best not to be so self-critical whether it be my hair, weight, my choreographies or what have you.... I will try my best to maintain a positive outlook on life in general and remind myself that there are so many people in the world who would kill to have my "problems" because for them, it'd at least mean three meals a day, clean water and a roof over their heads. I am truly blessed to live the life I do and I will remember that daily.

I realize that around January 30th some will have gotten wasted every weekend, smoked 60 packs of cigarettes, or decided to see for themselves whether or not Morgan Spurlock was really on to something in "Supersize Me". Whether you've vowed to stop drinking, quit smoking, lose weight, etc., I wish you an amazing 2011; or perhaps you've decided to start this year off resolution-free. Simply remember that our lives are a result of our states of mind... and in the words of Drake, my current love, "...everybody dies but not everybody lives." It's 2011. Live, my friends, LIVE! LoL. HNY!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010: A Year in Review

Well, here we are again; another end to another year, and what a year it has been! I moved back to South Florida, lost friends, made friends, went green and recycled dates one too many times with the wrong man-friends, got a new "day job", bought way too many pairs of shoes, moved into a new place, fell in love with Drake.... so much has gone on but the one thing that stays consistent in my life, like man's best friend, is belly dance. I didn't think it was possible to fall any deeper in love but by the looks of my waving white flag, I've surrendered. It's a sick love affair. Belly dance has been there for me in the morning, late at night when I close my eyes, hoping to reach REM before the alarm sounds, and all the hours in between. I dance while showering. Who does that?! -Sidebar, if you do that please email me so I can feel less strange. End Sidebar-

Shortly after being exposed to belly dance a few years ago, I felt confined. I felt as though I'd hit a ceiling and could not advance to where I wanted to be for multiple reasons that I won't divulge here. I did not wish to color within the lines or be a cookie-cutter dancer, bringing one's opinion of what a dancer should look like or dance like to life. I'm not a puppet. I've always been a "think outside the box" kind'a gal. I just want to be me. This year, after my move back home, I felt a surge of growth. Whether belly dance, ballet, hip-hop or any other genre out there, dance is all about growing; learning from others to become a better and stronger dancer and this year, I got the growth I've been seeking and can't wait to continue. I actually place my head and back against my living room wall and, using a ruler and marker, I note my belly dance growth. If you didn't think my dancing in the shower was weird, this'll do it. ;)

In 2010, I stood out and was "recognized" by big-named talent on three occasions while participating in various workshops. Yes, I counted because it meant so much to me. Leave me alone! They were such humbling experiences and lit a fire under my butt to grow even more and continue to be me. Who knows, maybe I'll enter competitions next year. I'm a Libra, which means I don't handle rejection well so I'd have to be emotionally prepared to face the consequences of losing if that happens, ha!

In 2010, I was fortunate enough to be invited by Nathalie Zarate, owner of Dreams Bellydance Academy and founder of the Miami Bellydance Convention, to teach at her studio. No matter what kind of day I had from 9 AM- 6 PM, the minute 8:45 PM rolled around I was the happiest and luckiest person because I got to escape and share my interpretation of music and movement with a wonderful group of women. Teaching has always been an awesome feeling.

In 2010, WBDA was born! Momma Jenny [no relation to the pizzeria] and momma Nara got together and hatched a beautiful baby and I am so excited to be a part of it. I guess I'd be a second cousin to this baby but no matter the relation, I love it unconditionally. It was an honor to team up with WBDA to throw the April 2010 hafla and I cannot wait to work with them on future projects. Love you, ladies! Let me also shout out daddy Lee and the wonderful work he does as well!

When I sit and reflect, as I so often do, 2010 was a pretty good year but I am sooooo psyched for what is in store for 2011. January is already looking fabulous and there is so much more in the works. I can't wait to share my experiences with you as they happen. I can't give it all away now! Who wants to see a movie after being told what happens? Not me! So, you'll have to stay tuned. ;)

Happy New Year, everyone! Until next year. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rakstar 2010

This past weekend, I attended Virginia's 10th anniversary celebration - Rakstar 2010. The 4-day event took place in Miami Beach, FL and dancers from all over, including dance friends Faaridah and Hadil of Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance, flew into South Florida to take part in this memorable event. Several workshops were offered, taught by masters of our craft: Asmahan, Yousry Sharif, Amir Thaleb, Jillina and Virginia herself. In addition, the weekend was full of fabulous shows (with guest performer Karim Nagi) and a competition so there was a little something for everyone!

I participated in two workshops and was a guest of the Friday night theater show, so aptly titled "ONE". There was such a wonderful, eclectic mixture of art within the production. To sum up, one's eye was dazzled with sand, instruments I've never seen/heard before, chairs, modern dance and even aerial silks! Beautiful performances were executed by Virginia, Wa Nour al Ayun and Fuzion Dance Artists. There was a mixture of Oriental, folklore as well as world dance fusion numbers. I particularly loved Act 2, which included Indian, Spanish, Asian, African and Brazilian fusion. I loves the Samba. Yes, I said "loves".

One of the highlights for me was Karim Nagi. This was my first time seeing him live and it was just absolute, unequivocal FUN. I officially love him. His performance, his expressions and little nuances... his ability to engage a crowd and generate this dynamic energy are all admirable qualities. Good, Pure, Fun. Asmahan performed two numbers as well and it was impossible for me to take my eyes off of her. She entered the stage "Asmahan style" - love her entrances - and put on a fabulous show. I've only ever seen her dance on YouTube, which, damn! If you haven't seen her, YouTube her... so, watching her move in person was wonderful!

Regrettably, photography was prohibited so I don't have photos to share but I gather that professional photos will be available for viewing at some point.

On to the workshops...

My first workshop was an Oriental number taught by one of Egypt's star dancers, Asmahan. The room was packed with eager students who wished to study with her. The choreography was stunning. STUNNING. Asmahan has such a commanding presence and one just can't help but to stare. I learned a lot from her workshop and can't wait to add some spice to my own creations.
My next workshop was with Jillina. What can I say about Jillina? She is amazing. I wish tiny, real-life pocket-sized Jillinas were available for purchase in stores so that I could carry her around with me where ever I went. Her personality is ridiculous (a good ridiculous). I had the time of my life in her workshop - and not just because it was a drum solo (anyone who knows me knows drum solos are my "ish") but because people just want to be around Jillina. She has such a pleasant and inviting, silly, girl next door personality... add in her kick-ass choreography and dance ability and you've got a belly dance girl crush. I loved every moment of her workshop.

BIG thanks to Virginia for hosting such a fabulous weekend of dance and to everyone who assisted in putting the event together. I was very happy to be exposed to the work of belly dance powerhouses in living color. Workshops make us better dancers and I can't wait for the next.

Happy 10 years, Virginia!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nawar joins Dreams Bellydance Academy!

I can remember the first time that I saw Nathalie. It was about the time that I discovered belly dance and started taking classes back in 2006. After gaining some experience, I combed YouTube, viewed several dancers whom I am still in awe of and admire today, and this is when I found Nathalie. The first video I watched of her took my breath away. I was a level one student and it was my very first time viewing dancer and drummer together on stage. I remember telling myself that I wanted to move my hips just like her one day! I also remember posting that particular video on my Myspace page - back then, Myspace was still cool. So it is funny that after all of these years, I came back to South Florida and Nathalie had opened up her own dance studio. A week after my move, I was taking classes at Dreams Bellydance Academy.

When I first saw Nathalie I was shocked! I did not expect her to be so compact but looks are deceiving because this tiny dancer is a powerhouse and packs a booming and commanding voice. If you do not know who Nathalie is, please take the time to read her bio on her website. She has accomplished so much and stories such as hers are so inspiring to dancers who wish to reach for the stars. I am totally inspired by her. I had the opportunity to perform at Nathalie's one-year anniversary party two weekends ago and it was such an honor to see firsthand just how dedicated she is not only to her dance but moreso to her students. Nathalie is so passionate about each and every toddler, teen or woman who walks through her doors and the quality of dance that students gain is undeniable. It is truly amazing to see how her dancers blossom.

I am quite excited and humbled to be part of the Dreams Bellydance Academy as an intermediate/advanced-level instructor. I felt welcomed after the anniversary party performance. I received lots of wonderful feedback, including that of someone who walked up to me and, with gumption, told me that when I first walked out she didn't think I'd be anything special but by the end of my performance, she could barely keep her mouth closed - she was speechless and told me that she would be honored to take classes with me. That made my evening. That is why I dance.

My first class will be a HOT (and challenging) 8-week drum solo choreography course beginning Monday, November 8th at 8:45 PM with a teaser class on Thursday, November 4th at 8:45 PM. The teaser class is free so that students can see if my class is right for them. It will be a blast!!! Students can register on Dreams Bellydance Academy's website. I cannot wait to share my passion with students this November. Go to the website and register now! And Nathalie, if you are reading, a BIG thank you for welcoming me into your studio.


First YouTube video I saw of Nathalie:

Dreams Bellydance Academy website:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Night in the Zulu Lounge

Where can you check out cabaret, tribal fusion and ATS belly dance as well as flamenco, hula and fire-dancing? Well, if you’re in the LA area, you can catch it all at The Zulu Lounge.

Produced by Zulu Tattoo and the Medianoche Dance Co. (Mrs. Zula’s dance troupe), The Zulu Lounge takes place every quarter at Boardner’s in Hollywood, CA. Here you’ll find music and dance artists from all over the country gathering together and strutting their stuff all in the name of fun, creative expression, and most importantly, CHARITY!

The proceeds for this session of The Zulu Lounge benefited Erase the Past - a free gang tattoo removal clinic that helps young adults and teens break ties with their gang by removing visible tattoos.

After entertaining performances including those with fire-swinging balls with spikes and the complete ingestion of fire, world famous DJ Cheb i Sabbah kept the party going on the ones and twos.

I had an amazing time at my first session of The Zulu Lounge and can’t wait for the next! Can we say….performance?!! I’ll keep you posted! :)


Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Letter

Dear Stage Fright,

Why do you exist? I almost drove my best friend mad last night in preparation for a performance because of you. I danced in front of Bozenka last night (hence my nervousness) and prior to my arrival, there was mild hyperventilation, a slight feeling of faintness and nausea as well as a shaky leg here and there. Then when I got up to perform, all fears were gone in an instant! So, again, I ask...why must you even exist? I despise you. That is all.



Monday, September 6, 2010

"Going Back to the Golden Age" with Tamalyn Dallal

The 2010 Miami Belly Dance Convention has come to an end and piggy-backing off of my previous blog, I had to decide what workshops and shows were feasible for me to attend. I limited myself to the Saturday night gala and one workshop. Regrettably, duty called and I was unable to attend the show, which was also streamed live for viewers who wanted to enjoy the performances from the comfort of their homes, however, I decided to take Tamalyn Dallal's "Going Back to the Golden Age" workshop this morning.

When one thinks of Middle Eastern dance in Miami, Tamalyn's name will surface. For those who do not know of Tamalyn Dallal, she is an internationally-acclaimed teacher, performer, author, producer and public speaker. She is the founder of the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange, which she directed for 16 years. Thousands of dancers have studied under Tamalyn. She is highly spoken of, well-respected, and after meeting her today, I'll add in generous, humble and incredibly inspiring.

I chose this workshop because I adore the classic music from the times of Samia Gamal, Nagwa Fouad, Tahiya Karioca and other influential dancers of that era, and wanted to soak in the movement. I also selected this workshop because I did not have the opportunity to study with Tamalyn Dallal. During the time that she directed the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange I had no idea what belly dance was!! Little did I know that I'd receive so much more.

The workshop began with a warm-up followed by a history lesson. I'm a geek so I loved every second of the discussion. There is such intricate history behind the dance that I'm simply fascinated by. Attendees were briefed on influential singers and dancers of the Golden Age [1930s - 1970s]. As we sat, Tamalyn invited us to close our eyes and listen to the sounds of the Oud and Kanun - to visualize movement. Once we were up on our feet, we were challenged to release ourselves; we were instructed not to dance from the mind but rather from the heart. We were not to hit every tick or every tock like so many of us try to do. My old choreographies were so full of dance - I never took a moment to stop and let the audience just look at me and wonder what I'd do next... or feel what I was feeling. At the workshop, we were simply in the moment, going whichever way our bodies decided - not our minds. It's no easy task! When trying to reach my weekly quota of YouTube stalks - I watch dancers who emote even with their toes and I always aspire to emotionally connect with music in that way. I feel that my connection with music, or lack thereof, has been one of my challenges.

We danced to the most beautiful piece of music that took me on a journey. I literally felt like I was there.... I felt like I was in Afrita Hanem dancing for Farid El Atrache instead of Samia Gamal. After dancing with us a few times, Tamalyn watched us interpret her choreography. I was floored when, after we performed the piece as a group, she asked me my name and commented on how she liked my expression. "I'm sorry, what?" (That's what I said in my head.) At first I was confused because I didn't realize that I had hit the "on" button. My facial muscles hadn't felt pulled in any direction so I wasn't certain that she was talking about me. It turned out that she was and at that moment, my spirits were lifted. From that point on, all inhibitions were out the window and I emoted like my life depended on it. As the saying goes, I danced like no one was watching.

Towards the end of the workshop, we freestyled, which is always a liberating experience. There is no right or wrong move with freestyle. It's one's own interpretation and it was great watching a dancer feel something a little different from the previous one.

At the end of the workshop, I spoke with Tamalyn and she gave me one of the greatest compliments ever! It was already a humbling experience for me to be noticed during class but then to receive amazing feedback afterwards from someone who is a belly dance POWERHOUSE was...inspiring, to say the least. Just as in our day-to-day lives, sometimes we don't feel as though what we are doing is good enough or up to a certain standard. We might feel nervous or like we aren't up to par. Positive reinforcement is always such a wonderful tool to let someone know, "Hey, you're doing OK!"

I'll admit that following our post-workshop talk [after I did some shopping, of course], I left the building, sat in my car, smiled and then cried [I'm such a geek, ha!]. The entire morning that I spent within the walls of that room with Tamalyn and the other dancers was so memorable and so emotional [to me]; it left me... happy. I can't find a better word so a simple "happy" will suffice.

I am so humbled to have had the opportunity to learn from Tamalyn Dallal, even if only for a few short hours. Regrettably, she no longer resides in South Florida but I look forward to her next workshop this January. I am eternally grateful to Tamalyn for not only providing me a history lesson, beautiful movement and music but also for breaking my emotional silence. A big "thank you" is also in order to Nathalie for hosting such a fabulous event. I'm already looking forward to MBC 2011.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Decisions, Decisions...

Sigh - so much to do and so little money! Yes, "Elizabeth" moved back to Miami and found a wonderful job where she doesn't have to choose between feeding herself or feeding her dog but "Nawar" wants to spend all of "Elizabeth's" money and there's a rift growing between the two personalities. Do I prefer to eat daily, purchase gasoline to take me to and from work so I can make a living and ensure that I have utilities and a roof over my head or do I want to buy costumes that make me drool, jet set to far-off lands to engross myself in culture and take workshops from every dancer whom I aspire to be like? Decisions!! Sadly, my lucky numbers have been no luck at all since as I Iook around, I'm not swimming in a pile of money so I GUESS Nawar will have to make a few sacrifices and cut Elizabeth some slack.

Remember being a child at the grocery store with your mom or your dad, putting any and everything within arm's reach into the shopping cart? After getting scolded, mom or dad felt an ounce of pity and told you that you could have just one item of your choice. Damn! Bubblicious or Dunk-a-roos? This exact emotion has plagued me for the past few weeks because workshop after workshop taught by dancers I admire are surfacing like there's no tomorrow and logically, I can't attend them all... but I want to....

To give you an idea of what I am currently facing:

Tamalyn Dallal
Nourhan Sharif
Karim Nagi
Amar Gamal

This is just September and October and the list goes on! Add to that various performance and fashion shows, costumes, eye lashes, photo shoots, air tickets and regular weekly classes and you're living the American Dream.... living "the life" on the surface but racking up crazy debt and crying on the inside every time the credit card bill arrives. Sidebar - I don't own any credit cards. If I don't have the money for something, I don't need it! End Sidebar.

Photo courtesy of

Workshops are important tools for any dancer, from beginner to career professional. I have danced since I was a child; I've been a member of all sorts groups, troupes and entities that seemed more cult-like than anything, and I have also been a leader. I've never seen or felt the sense of community, respect and appreciation for a dance form as I've seen for belly dance and Middle Eastern dance forms in general. I currently study with someone whom, after a few classes, I am in complete and utter awe of. The other night she began teaching a form of dance that I'd never heard of [but am unequivocally in love with because hot damn, it's beautiful!] and in an instant, at another dancer's request, she spit out its history. Like other instructors, she encourages growth through learning from others. She said something to me the other day on the phone and she's right; when you walk out of a workshop you have a dance growth spurt. Learning from masters seems to automatically make you a better dancer, spiritually and technically. I'm fortunate to get to learn from someone who travels the world and has such a broad dance vocabulary so every class feels like a workshop! The feeling that I get when entering and leaving her class is the sense that takes over me when I see that someone I've belly stalked (I'll be the first to admit that I do this - no shame) will be teaching a workshop in a city near me. It's immeasurable. I turn into a kid all over again but this time, mom and dad aren't around to tell me I can only select one item so I put everything within arm's reach into the shopping cart and for a few months, Marshmallow and I live on breadless PB&J sandwiches and Goldfish crackers. How can I possibly be expected to choose?

Photo courtesy of

For the workshops that will be taking place within the next two months, I may try a series of ideas: flipping a coin, picking names from a hat, waiting until the last minute and attending those that haven't sold out.... I guess I don't have to attend all three shows at the Miami Belly Dance Convention... Sigh, life isn't fair.

*Animal Rights activists and dog lovers, Marshmallow does not go hungry! :)


Morocco: We call her "Aunt Rocky"

As we prepare to welcome the legendary Morocco to Atlanta for the first time in twenty years, I began thinking about why it is important to bring her here. Why, out all of the talented and beautiful artists, would we partner with Morocco?

Aside from being a leading authority in her field, one of the most well-respected performers in Oriental style dance, a recipient of many prestigious awards, a successful teacher and choreographer, and an artist renowned for her research and assistance in preserving traditional dance forms, I personally find her to be so much more.

How is that possible???

There's another side of Morocco never featured in all the marketing and promotional materials. You really only know this if you've had the opportunity to meet her or learn from her. I had the privilege of attending some of her workshops in April of last year and it was an amazing experience. It wasn't just the idea that I was learning from a living legend, but the fact that she's extremely humble, able to relate to all of the students in the room, and imminently APPROACHABLE.

I wasn't sure what to expect and may have been a bit intimidated because I was told she was a purist and did not approve of any deviation from traditional dance forms. I have read about her myself and I know she's credited with helping maintain the integrity and traditions of these beautiful dances, so I wasn't sure what her view would be on the newer adaptations I respect and enjoy.

After meeting her, I found her to be completely accepting of all styles of dance, not just those adhering strictly to tradition. She simply encourages dancers to become fully educated in the styles they practice. Many of you have probably heard her remark that she has no problem with fusion, but the dancers need to know what they are fusing. Otherwise, it’s just "con-fusion". These are powerful words and I don't think many of us would disagree with that statement and that’s part of the reason I wanted to take a moment to dispel some of the myths surrounding Morocco. I'm by no means an expert on this remarkable woman, but I think it's important to shed some light on the person behind the legend.

What prompted me to write this was the fact I was receiving questions from performers who practice both the traditional styles of Oriental dance and the newer fusion styles – all of whom were planning to attend our upcoming event in September. Some of them were concerned about offending Morocco and had heard she doesn't like anything outside of the true traditional art forms. This isn't true. Morocco has always exhibited a deep appreciation for the roots of our dance and the cultures from which these dances developed, but that doesn't mean she's not accepting of the newer forms of expression.

She simply wants dancers to take the time to study and understand the art they are performing. To put it simply, “One must know the rules before one breaks the rules.”

I don't find this unreasonable. So often we get caught up in technique, which is important, but not if it prevents us from taking the time to study the cultural and historical aspect of these beautiful dances and where they really come from.

Morocco was part of a discussion panel held during the NYC Theatrical Belly Dance Conference in July. It was something special to hear her contributions to the discussion of fusion versus traditional styles. The panel was comprised of dancers from various backgrounds with some known specifically for their "fusion" styles, but they all shared common ground - they were all well-educated in their studies and knew what they were talking about inside and out. And it was obvious. You could see each participant respected the other artists on the panel.

The other reason for writing this: I remember being a new student and hearing “this person is someone you want to study with”, or “that person is someone you need to take a classes from”. So often, it’s more like reading a long resume of achievements. It's hard to know who the experts are because, quite frankly, no one writes a resume or biography that doesn’t outline the achievements and accomplishments that make him or her credible. That's the purpose of a resume, and as promoters of these events, we often use those achievements to help illustrate why one should train with a particular person. It's all valid and well deserved, but I know in Morocco’s case, she brings so much more to the party than just credentials.

Let’s put aside my earlier statements that Morocco was not only humble, able to relate to her students, and approachable. She also brings a sense of humor to her work that is uncommon to say the least. She was able to engage all of the workshop attendees. She had funny references and was willing to share her personal experiences. You can't help loving the fact that this is a woman who speaks her mind and does not suffer fools lightly. She also took the time to answer the students' questions and never came across as standoffish, which is all too common. I've worked with plenty of artists who believe they have “arrived” and act as such, so it was incredibly refreshing to see this living legend so willing to be there genuinely for those students who spent their hard-earned money for the opportunity to learn from her.

Last, but not least, her teaching style is fantastic. There were several dancers in attendance who were still in the early stages of their studies, but I could see they were enjoying themselves. I think newer students sometimes believe these workshops are for intermediate and advanced dancers, but that's not the case. The workshops are tailored to all proficiency levels - you just need to be willing to learn. Regardless of your experience, you will walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the dance you have embraced.

Did I mention she creates some kick-ass choreographies and she's got crazy mad zill skills!?

As you can see, there are numerous reasons why we chose to partner with Morocco. She's not only a legend, but an inspirational and beautiful person who has so much to share from her many experiences. I am honored to have studied with her and look forward to working with Nara and Samora to bring her to Atlanta so we can continue to promote education and integrity throughout our community.

With love,
Jenny (Noureen)
"Uniting the dance community one shimmy at a time!"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Belly Motions Summer Showcase 2010

Tonight, I attended my first belly dance theater production since moving back to sunny South Florida. Belly Motions put on its 2010 Summer Showcase at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center at Florida International University's south campus. Located in Coral Gables, Florida, Belly Motions, co-founded by Portia, is one of the largest academies for belly dance in the States. This evening's show featured nearly 100 dancers, student and professional, in 17 numbers. I was amazed that 17 performances fit into just under two hours!

I first learned about Portia and Belly Motions upon my move. I was searching for a studio where I could continue my belly dance education and Belly Motions surfaced. Regrettably, the studio is at too great a driving distance for me but I was definitely interested in checking out the show so I marked my calendar.

Everything was visually stimulating. I am a sucker for belly dance fashion and the costumes were gorgeous! There was just enough shine and shimmer to reach the eyes of the audience members seated in the nose bleed section on the upper level. The lighting suited each performance and a wide variety of props were used. The biggest attention-grabber, for me, were the adorable tiny dancers. They put the biggest smile on my face! When moms put their daughters in dance at a young age they typically start them off as ballerinas or tappers. Even I started out that way! So it was wonderfully refreshing to see baby belly dancers. They are tomorrow's stars!

Portia opened the show with a fabulous wings/veil number. Additional choreographies included Raks al Assaya, fan veil fusion, veil/sword fusion, classical Oriental, wings, a performance by Andrus, male belly dancer, and cleverly-choreographed drum solos. I have only ever seen Belly Motions dancers Portia, Xiomara and Roshana (love her) on YouTube so I was excited to be able to see them perform live. My only wish is that I could have seen the professionals dance longer but that being said, the show was well put together, began and ended on time and was danced effortlessly and beautifully!

For more on Belly Motions, visit

Additional photos from the show may be viewed here:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

NYC Theatrical Belly Dance Conference - Life Changing

I just got back from an incredible weekend at the NYC Theatrical Belly Dance Conference hosted by the amazing Anasma and Ranya Renee. Based on the scheduled line up of instructors (I wish I could have taken workshops with all of them!), I knew it was going to be great, but I had NO idea it would be an experience that would affect me so deeply. Two fellow dancers, my friends from TN, Mary and Wendellyn, roomed with me, so I knew it was going to be a fun experience regardless.

I had no idea I would walk away with a new perspective on dance and life in general. Unlike so many of the classes and seminars I have attended before, these workshops didn't really focus on dance technique, but more on dancing with authentic emotion and feeling. The first class with Anasma was entitled "Presence, Intention and Emotions From Inside Out". It wasn't quite what I was expecting, which is silly considering the name of the workshop! It required us to dig deep within ourselves and to express movement with authentic emotion. We were literally rolling around on the floor expressing our feelings vocally, at one point shouting our feelings while moving. This was tough for me because it was hard for me to just let go. But, once I allowed myself to be in the moment, I began to understand - really understand - what Anasma was conveying to the students. She dances with such beauty and emotion and wanted us to do so, as well. The classes throughout the day built on the previous classes.

Aepril Schaile helped us identify and dance specific archetypes in her dynamic "Embodying Mythical Archetypes" workshop. Her moving meditation technique, a technique I’ll definitely continue to use in my studies, was incredible. We then worked with the beautiful Blanca in her “Sensual Belly Dance” workshop. She reiterated a point I’ve also shared with the students that being sensual is not the same as being sexual. Sensuality has to more to do with dancing with our senses, all of our senses. She engages all of her senses when she dances. Her movements were fluid, beautiful, sensual. Next, Samara challenged us to focus on "Theatrical Energy Through Space Design, Focus and Projection". This was my first experience with Samara (or space design for that matter) and I learned so much. She carries herself with grace and has such an incredible stage presence. I saw this first hand during her performance at the DNA Theater. Sarah Locke offered insight on how understanding the human anatomy and its functions can improve technique in her "Embodied Dance" workshop. In one section, she discussed how when we dance with someone, whether it's a partner or troupe, our bodies are communicating at a different level, through cellular communication. Fascinating! I'm also a nerd about such things!

Aszmara is just a dynamo! Her passion for dance and teaching really shines through. Her workshop focused on "Dynamic Staging to Enhance Stage Presence". She encouraged us to feel the music, then stopped us and said, "No, REALLY, feel the music." Her point, we weren't listening, we were just moving and throwing every technique we knew into our dance. And that was just the first 60 seconds of the song! She challenged us to slow down and feel the music and its changes. I learned so much and had a great time. She's got this raspy voice and huge personality on such a tiny frame. She's also a freakin’ incredible performer. Her zill technique is absolutely ridiculous! I personally gained so much from Jeniviva's "How to Give Great Face While Bellydancing". WOW! Also totally lovin' the name of her workshop! For several years I had the security of dancing with a troupe, but now that I'm on my own, I'm doing more solos. This has been a major transition for me and the method Jeniviva uses to prepare her choreographies has proven invaluable.

Lastly, Kaeshi Chai's "Body Love" had such a genuinely beautiful and honest message that I wish every person in the world could experience it. Kierra and Dixie of PURE joined her and presented during the workshop, as well. All of the exercises were focused on self love and acceptance. Too often we allow those things we don't like about ourselves to determine our self worth. Kaeshi, Dixie, and Kierra were promoting the message of loving yourself as you are in this current state. This is a great point because we're always saying, "When I lose 10 lbs, when my skin clears up, when I get my teeth fixed”… For some, the list NEVER ends. This workshop really resonated with me because World Belly Dance Alliance was started as a means to promote self love, sisterhood, and freedom to create without limits. I was moved to see how many dancers they touched during the workshop and I hope every person who attended their workshop always keep those positive thoughts with them rather than listening to the "noise" that often prohibits us from being free and confident.

I personally found the workshops to be more challenging than many of the other technique-focused workshops I've attended in the past. Make no mistake, I love the technique driven classes, but the workshops in NY forced me to allow myself to be vulnerable with a room full of women I hardly knew. It's not easy for me to share this kind of emotion; however, once I allowed myself to be in the moment, I learned so much that I'll apply to my dance studies as well as my life in general. The performances were nothing short of incredible. The dancers really shared themselves with us and we, the audience, felt their energy and passion. I met beautiful, gifted dancers from all over the world. It was truly a life changing experience and I thank all of those people in my life who have supported my artistic endeavors. I hope to one day give you all as much as you have shared with me. This includes my family, friends (both dancers and non-dancers), teachers, students, and even those strangers with whom I've had the privilege of sharing a smile or conversation for inspiring me.

I also thank Anasma and Ranya for organizing this event. They, along with so many others, worked tirelessly to bring their vision to the community.

With love,
Jenny “Noureen”