Mashaal: A Dancer’s Choreography Journey

Once upon a time, a young dancer came to a Suhaila Format Level 3 weeklong.

Back then, the Level 3 workshops were legendary, maybe notorious, for being more technically, emotionally, and mentally challenging than any other belly dance workshop available.

For homework, she created a combination to a non-belly dance song. The combo began with chasses and turns in a large circle. An opening promenade. Suhaila saw through the music and recognized the composition for what it was: an entrance.

She said to the dancer, “This is belly dance music?” (Yeah, Secret Chiefs 3 isn’t really belly dance music.) “Set this combination to belly dance music. To an entrance piece. And do it again tomorrow to the belly dance music, with a veil.”

So, the dancer dug into her belly dance music collection and chose one of her favorite belly dance entrance pieces: “Mashaal,” from Jalilah’s Raks Sharki Vol. 1.

Belly Dance Choreography Journey

The dancer set her existing combination to the malfuf rhythm opening of Mashaal, complete with veil. After creating a short combo to the beginning of “Mashaal” as a homework assignment, Suhaila told the dancer, “You need to finish this. Choreograph the whole thing.”

But, the dancer had such a difficult time choreographing anything. She couldn’t remember her own work, and it gave her immense anxiety.

The dancer didn’t feel ready to set a 9-minute piece, so she waited.

And waited.

And waited.

But as she waited, she honed her technique, creativity, and composition skills.

Mashaal: Seven Years Later

Seven years later, the dancer had since moved to the SF Bay Area, and taken thousands of hours of classes at the Salimpour School. She learned how to set and create combinations for teaching. She choreographed shorter works for herself.

She returned to graduate school, earning an MA in Dance Studies, building her knowledge of choreography, composition, and dance-making.

She also earned the official teaching certification in both Salimpour School formats.

Finally, her schedule allowed her to finally attend a Choreography Development 5-day workshop at the Salimpour School. And when she did, she made a promise to herself:

If I can choreograph “Mashaal,” I can pretty much choreograph anything.

It was time.

So, she did. And with Suhaila’s guidance, she polished the dance, made it stronger, more dynamic, and way more fun.

You Can Overcome Choreography Anxiety

If you haven’t guessed already, that dancer is me. I used to have major choreography anxiety. I had a hard time setting anything and committing it to mental and muscle memory, including simple combinations.

When I started teaching weekly classes at the Salimpour School in 2014, I had to create at least one combination every week. By starting there, I was able to train my body and brain to remember short phrases. I let the music drive me, whether it was a combo for Level 1 or Level 3.

What’s the secret? The same secret as always: Doing the work.

Just as with any art, in order to get good at it, you have to be consistent. You have to make lots of art. If you’re a dancer, you have to make lots of dances. If you’re a painter, you need to cover a lot of canvasses. If you’re a musician, you need to compose a lot of songs.

A Sneak Preview

Here’s a little peek at the choreography, which will be available for you all to learn soon on the Salimpour School Online website. Big thanks to Parya and Patti for dancing it with me!

I hope that this story inspires you and helps you be a little kinder to yourself if you’re feeling any kind of creative block, or feeling overwhelmed by creative work. You can get through it, and sometimes it just takes time.


Don’t Go to a Belly Dance Festival or Workshop Without These Essentials

I write a lot about essential knowledge for belly dancers, but what about the practical items? All the book smarts about belly dance history aren’t going to save you from injuring yourself during a long weekend or week of dancing.

After attending many festivals and intense workshops for over 17 years, here are the essential items I think every dancer shouldn’t be without.

Belly Dance Festival Essentials

(This post contains affiliate links.)

1. A versatile water bottle.

If you’re not hydrating enough, you’ll make yourself more prone to injury, illness, and burn-out. Always have your own water bottle with you, and keep it full. It’s better to drink more water before you realize you’re thirsty. If you’re thirsty, it’s too late!

Personally, I really love insulated, stainless steel bottles. They’re durable, won’t break, and suitable for drinks of all temperatures. Klean Kanteen’s 16-ounce insulated bottle holds just enough coffee for starting off the morning right. And Hydro Flask’s 18-ounce wide-mouth cap is easy to carry or strap to your dance bag. And while we’re talking about hydration, don’t forget that you’re going to get hungry, too. Bring your favorite snacks to keep your brain and body going during those full days.

2. High fidelity earplugs.

A lot of us still kicking around the belly dance scene are getting older, and that means protecting our hearing. Even Dance Magazine recently published an article about how dancers often neglect their hearing, and yet find themselves in pretty loud situations.

Essential for dancers: ear plugs

Protect your ears before it’s too late.

Any earplug made for musicians or concerts will help protect your ears without sacrificing being able to hear the music or the instructor. I suggest that you get a pair that has a cord, so that you can keep them around your neck and so they’re easier to find in your dance bag, purse, or finger cymbal pouch. I’ve lost so many earplugs, but my corded ones are still hanging around (pun alert!).

These earplugs by Reverbs have two different filters depending on your ear sensitivity. LiveMusic sells these in large and regular (regular is fine for my small ears) as well as two different filters.

3. Proper dance shoes.

I’ve attended and taught at festivals that have had less-than-ideal surfaces for hours and hours of dancing. Many festivals are still held in hotel ballrooms, which have the worst possible combination for dancing joints: industrial carpet over concrete.

Investing in a pair of shoes will save you from questionable dance surfaces. Some people love jazz sneakers, while I prefer jazz shoes with plastic on the ball of the foot. This will help protect your knees from turns, still allow you to feel the floor, and the plastic is far more sturdy than suede-soled ballet shoes on those rough carpets. I love the Bloch Flow slip-on jazz shoe, and they really do stand the test of time. I also add in a foam insole for extra cushion.

Come prepared with a variety of shoes, from ball-of-foot covers to jazz sneakers, just in case!

4. A great notebook.

I’m not a huge fan of taking notes during workshops (it feels like different headspace for me), but I always have a notebook. Even if it’s a tiny, purse-sized one, like these softcover Moleskine notebooks. Not only will a notebook come in handy to jot down new tips and tricks you’ve learned throughout the event, but it’s also fantastic for collecting names of new contacts… the old-fashioned way. And don’t forget a pen!

And, as an instructor, I would like to ask that you not take notes on your phone. First of all, handwriting will commit the information to memory better, but it also looks like you’re not paying attention if you’re on your phone.

5. Foam roller.

Essential: Foam Roller

Vibrating. Foam. Roller.

Using a foam roller essential for any dancer who’s working intensely at a festival or workshop. I love the TP Therapy roller: it’s durable, textured, and hollow, which means that it’s great for travel. I can stuff it full of clothes, and it doesn’t take up a lot of room in my luggage.

If you really want to treat yourself (and you’re driving to a workshop instead of flying), check out this bad boy: The Hyperice Vyper. It vibrates. With three settings and a rechargeable battery, your muscles will have no choice but to be relaxed. TP Therapy has a more reasonably-priced vibrating roller, and it weighs just a little over 2 pounds.

6. Kinesiology tape.

The scientific verdict is still out on whether the stretchy therapeutic tape actually helps, but I’m a big believer. And a recent study suggested that application of the stretchy adhesive tape increased reaction time in non-dominant hands.

There are many brands of tape, but I’ve found KT Tape—available at most drug stores—to work just fine. KT Tape makes two kinds: cotton and nylon. The nylon tends to stay on longer, and yes, you can wear either one in the shower. Other dancers and athletes like Rock Tape or Kinesiotex. If you have sensitive skin, you might need to try to a few different brands to see what works for you.

Learn how to use and apply the tape before trying to stick it to yourself. KT Tape has lots of very helpful videos online, but consult with a physical therapist if you have a specific injury you’re trying to protect.

7. A small first aid kit.

You can make your own, but having a small supply of adhesive bandages, alcohol wipes, tweezers, pain killers, and other items can make or break your festival or workshop experience.

This little first aid kit has every thing you need for minor injuries. As a former (and current) Girl Scout, I always make sure to have these items on hand, because you never know when you’re going to need them or help out a fellow dancer.

8. Baby wipes.

So, maybe the dance floor wasn’t so terrible, and you danced barefoot… but now your feet are filthy! Be prepared with a pack of baby wipes, so you don’t put your dirty feet into your clean socks or shoes.

Plus, if you get sweaty, baby wipes are a great way to refresh if you don’t have time for a shower. These travel-size packs by Babyganics will fit right into your dance bag.

What essentials do you bring to every festival or workshop? Share in the comments!


Your Belly Dance Style Doesn’t Matter Without a Strong Foundation

If you’ve been belly dancing for a while, someone has probably asked you: What style do you do? We’re so tempted and even pressured into choosing a style that sometimes we focus so much on the trappings of the dance and not the fundamental technique and history of it.

And if that’s the case, then your belly dance style doesn’t matter. Not without a strong foundation.

Belly dance style and building a strong foundation

Some of you know that I am an architect’s daughter. I grew up visiting building sites, walking through the frames of homes that my dad drafted out with T-squares and french curves, all by hand. The smell of fresh-cut wood and drying exterior paint reminds me of spending time with my dad, watching him do his craft.

My dad was not only a designer of homes, but a builder of them. As a licensed contractor, he built the two-story addition to the home in which I grew up. He was always fixing things, improving them, and repairing the house. He’d spread out building plans on the kitchen counter, and I was fascinated by how he was able to create a building on paper that stood up against earthquakes, storms, and the test of time.

Growing up around buildings in progress has shaped how I view learning and teaching dance. I use architecture analogies a lot in my teaching, because dancers have to start their training with a strong foundation, just like a house.

A Foundation Keeps You Standing

To be a strong dancer, you need a strong technique foundation

A foundation is a foundation. What style will this house be? Who cares if it doesn’t stand up against the elements.

And what does a foundation do? It keeps a building, or your body, standing.

Houses, as far as we know, have no sense of their place in space. Dancers, however, absolutely must!

For your body, that means dynamic alignment, awareness of your body line, the relationship between your core and distal ends (fancy term for the ends of your hands and feet) and of the connection between your head and tail, just to name a few basic elements.

As belly dancers, we are so tempted to learn a style before we build a strong body and kinesthetic awareness on which to set a stylization. We’re attracted to the look or vibe of a particular kind of belly dance before we even have the skills to integrate that style into our movement repertoire.

But we must learn first how to walk, how to use our feet, how to place our arms, how to move our pelvis in the ways this dance requires so we have all of those movements available to us when we do learn or perform any belly dance style. We must practice these techniques until they become effortless, habitual, and part of ourselves.

From there, we must learn the theoretical and historical foundations of belly dance. We need to learn basic history, understanding how this dance has changed through the decades. We must also start building (pun alert!) our embodied knowledge of temporal (say, Golden Era Egyptian) and regional styles. Then we must also familiarize ourselves with the political and social aspects of this dance, such as questions of embodied Orientalism and gender essentialism.

When we begin with a strong foundations, we can then layer any style on top.

Looking Beneath and Beyond Style

Well, every well-built house has a strong foundation. And when you take away the style of the home, whether it be a Ranch, Rambler, Eichler, Craftsman, or Painted Lady, a foundation anchors the home to the earth.

Strong foundations for belly dance stylization

A Craftsman-style home in California

Our dance technique also grounds us, and gives us refined and habitual tools from which to pull. When we attend a workshop or a class that does focus on a particular stylization, we can better absorb the essence and nuances of that instructor or style without having to ask basic questions like, “How do I do an undulation?”

If you have a strong base in alignment, technique, and basic understanding of the different regional belly dance styles, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll get out of the one-off workshops that you take with various instructors.

Be Versed in Many Stylizations

Even an elaborate Victorian has the same basic walls, plumbing, and electrical as the Craftsman above. Just as extra decoration doesn’t negate the fact that this is still a house, a different costume doesn’t make the style of dance change either.

When my dad was in architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania, he had to not only learn how to design buildings that would be practical, but also artful. He told me that he was required to design homes in various historical styles. Because of this rigorous education, he was able to design the addition to our home in the 1980s, blending it seamlessly with the older building from the 1920s.

Indeed, as belly dancers, a comprehensive education includes learning how to dance in different historical and regional styles… from the sweeping figure-8s of the Golden Era, to the fiery turns of 1970s Turkish Oryantal, to the lyrical and still grounded shimmies of contemporary Egyptian Oriental.

When we integrate these different movement qualities into our bodies, we are doing ourselves a great service. By learning the different stylizations of belly dance, we are embodying the history, regional preferences, and legacy of the dancers who have come before us… and in the process, we create our own personal style that reflects all of our influences.

And just as some architects end up specializing in certain kinds of buildings, we dancers can specialize in the stylizations in which we are the most versed. It should be an organic process of exploration and discovery, not a decision made when you have just started dancing.

So, when we ask our fellow dancers, “what style do you do?” it shouldn’t matter. We should all start with strong foundations. And that means knowing your body, and how to use it efficiently and effortlessly.

I teach foundational technique and several stylizations. Check out my upcoming workshops or schedule a Skype private to become a stronger, more versatile dancer in less time.





The Salimpour School: It’s Not What You Think

The Salimpour School has been around a long time. Since 1949, in fact. And in that time we’ve created a lot of history, trained a lot of dancers, and… and inspired a lot of rumors, half-truths, and genuine misconceptions.

Indeed there are a lot of, um, interesting perspectives out there about the Salimpour School: who we are, what we do, and what we teach. I’ve been studying here for over 10 years, and I wouldn’t spend thousands of hours and dollars on a program I didn’t believe in, with a mentor who didn’t believe in me, and who didn’t have a lifetime of experience and knowledge.

And thanks to a cognitive phenomenon called “anchoring,” it’s difficult to change your first impression of anything: a person, a place, an institution. Our brains actually hang on to the first thing we hear, regardless of whether or not we hear more reliable or truthful information to the contrary later.

So, if you’re not a part of the school, or maybe you’re just starting your certification journey, here are the top 5 things about the school I (and we) would love for you to know. Anchoring bias or not.

What You Don't Know About the Salimpour School

1) We’re actually quite nice.

Any institution that encourages hard work, virtuosity, and excellence is at risk of being labelled “snobby,” “elitist,” and “arrogant.” Just look at how many people regard Ivy League universities or professors in their so-called “ivory towers.” And thanks to something called “negativity bias,” you’re far more likely to remember and believe the bad things you hear about an organization, institution, or person, than the good things. Thanks, brain.

And yet, for the last three years when we’ve held our summer intensives, the love in the room is palpable. The dancers, regardless of certification level, have been supportive, generous, and humble. I have not heard one insult, nasty comment, or put-down. When dancers come back to the “Mothership” to train, they aren’t just working on their dance, they’re helping to build a worldwide community.

Personally, as an instructor, I always make a concerted effort—even with all of my awkwardness, social missteps, and general tendency to be an “absent-minded professor”—to make everyone feel welcome, regardless of skill or experience. I know that my fellow staff instructor, Parya, does the same. And Suhaila created her school to be a safe place for dancers to learn, grow, and train.

The dance studio should always be a place where students can experiment, make mistakes, and be vulnerable. In fact, vulnerability is a key element of what we learn in Suhaila Format Level 3. If we can’t be open and trust our bodies, how can we let the music drive us or inspire us?

2) We’re not a tribal style school.

Over and over again on Facebook groups and beyond I hear people who have never stepped foot in our studio talk about how the Salimpour School is all about tribal. Spoiler Alert: It’s not.

Yes, it is true that tribal style belly dance as we know it today would not have existed without Jamila Salimpour’s Bal Anat. But Jamila did not seek to create a new genre or style of belly dance. The dancers who performed at the Renaissance Faire in the late 1960s and early 1970s were the same dancers who performed in the Middle Eastern nightclubs in San Francisco. The costuming, venue, and presentation in Bal Anat was different, but it wasn’t a different “style.” And while she appreciates innovation, Jamila herself has said that she believes that if a dancer isn’t performing to Middle Eastern music then it isn’t belly dance.

Currently, there are many dancers in the tribal fusion genre who are using the Salimpour name in their class and workshop descriptions, acknowledging the impact that both Jamila and Suhaila’s methods have had on their dancing. Perhaps this is where the misconception started that the Salimpour School itself is tribal. Non-tribal dancers see the name and just assume that we, the school itself, are promoting “tribal style.” But what people don’t know is that many of those dancers haven’t studied with us directly in quite some time.

I’d like to set the record straight: We train dancers to be able to perform in as many styles as they prefer, with an emphasis on interpretation of and dancing to Arabic music.

3) We honor legacy, but we also change with the times.

When your school is one of the oldest belly dance schools in the US (in the world?), rolling with the punches and adapting to change is in your blood. Our curriculum is constantly changing to address current theoretical discourse and kinesiological concerns.

As the core instructor at the “Mothership” in California, I work very closely with Suhaila on integrating new approaches to teaching, current conversations in academia, and recent sports medicine research into our warm-up and class material. Nothing is static. As Suhaila herself has said, if you don’t move forward, you’re going to be left behind.

But, of course, we honor the contributions that Jamila made to belly dance in the United States. By naming steps and categorizing them, we can contextualize them, get a sense of where they are from, and embody them with a deeper understanding that goes beyond rote imitation.

Our curriculum is constantly developing according to student needs, current research, and program goals.

4) Our students are not clones.

Another concern I hear from dancers who are curious about the Salimpour but are, for lack of a better word, afraid of even coming to a class series (wah? why?), is that when dancers go through the program, they lose their individuality.

When I look back at my own performances before entering the higher levels of the Salimpour program, I see a lot of imitation. I imitated Artemis, Aziza, Dina, Mona El Said, Dalia Carella, Rachel Brice, and many other dancers who have inspired me. But now, when I watch myself dance, I see me.

Of course, my technique is very clearly Salimpour, but my movement is far more personally distinct than it was 10 years ago. Indeed, I have created my own style, crafted and sculpted through years of training not only at the Salimpour School, but with countless other instructors.

And then there are our Level 5 dancers who are authorized to teach Salimpour Format. Not one of us dances like the other. My style is very different from that of Sabriye Tekbilek, Rachel George, Angelique Hanesworth, Stacey Lizette, or Gina Bruno. When dancers go through our program, they are learning to find their own voice within the music to which they are dancing. None of us is here to dance like Suhaila. Only Suhaila can dance like Suhaila.

And only you can dance like you!

Which brings me to my final point.

5) Arabic music and culture are at the heart of our work.

And inherent in that, understanding the sentiment of classic Arabic songs, the complexity of the poetry, and the history of belly dance and related forms is essential for any dancer higher than Level 1 in our programs. Even in Jamila Format Level 1 we contextualize the steps with their origins and character. The Basic Egyptian family comes from the Golden Era dancers of the Egyptian silver screen; the Arabic family embodies the more reserved movements you’d see at a family party.

We explore this work the most in our two core workshops: The Choreography Development 5-day, and our Live Music and Improvisation 4-day. In these workshops, the music drives our interpretation, expression, and movement choices. And we’re only using Arabic music in these workshops (surprise!), so we must stay true to the original sentiment and context from which these songs were written. We also work on how to work with and interact with Arab musicians, including vocabulary, understanding maqam, and etiquette.

Many belly dancers don’t know that Suhaila worked a professional dancer in nightclubs not only in the United States, but also in the Arab world for 10 years. In that time, she performed with some of the top Arab singers in the Middle East, including Ahmad Adawiya, Amr Diab, and many others. Before that, she had traveled throughout the Arab world, researching the dance and integrating the steps she observed into her mother’s format until 1978. And it’s not like this is secret information. It’s been out there for at least 15 years.

Many dancers are seeking out training with dancers who have immersive “over there” experience, and yet our program is perceived to be too “Western” or “fusion.” But dancing to and interpreting Arabic music (and other music from the Middle East, of course) is at the heart of the Salimpour program.

Come see for yourself.

If you’re curious, come take a class or a workshop with us. We welcome all dancers, no matter what your shape, age, gender, or background. You’ll get stronger, meet some incredible people, and join a global community of deep-thinking and curious practitioners.

The Salimpour School offers workshops all around the globe.

Don’t see one near you? I offer authorized Salimpour Format workshops. Send me an email! akeyesdance@gmail.com


Why I’m Glad Belly Dance in the US Is Declining

What a headline, right?

Class numbers are dwindling. Festivals are disappearing. Bellydance Superstars is long gone. And who even watches an actual instructional DVD anymore?

Well, that’s right. I’m glad that belly dance in the US is on the out and out.

But, wait, you say! How can someone who has invested some serious time and resources into being a belly dancer, and who earns a substantial part of her income from teaching belly dance, say such a thing? Why would I celebrate what Laura Tempest Zakroff calls “The Toilet”?

Hear me out…

Abigail Keyes: Why I'm Glad Belly Dance in the US is Declining

We’re Doing Some Much-Needed Soul Searching

Of the dancers I have contact with, both in and out of the Salimpour School, there is a sense that it’s long overdue that non-Middle Eastern dancers own up to the fact that the popularity of belly dance was built on the exploitation, stereotypes, and fantasy of an exotic Orient.

For decades belly dance has been the locus of an e(x/r)oticized, feminized fantasy, where (mostly white) women have sought sisterhood and a refuge from the toxic masculinity that many of us deal with day in and day out.

But many dancers are realizing that using belly dance as an escape from the troubles and toils of daily life is just not appropriate, and is, for lack of a better word, appropriation.

Owning Up to Orientalism

And while I still believe that the term “cultural appropriation” doesn’t really address what it’s really about (that is, cultural imperialism, the systemic imbalance of social and political power, and outright racism), related discourse in mainstream media outlets has forced belly dancers to take a good hard look in the mirror and decide whether or not we still want to practice this dance form. I might not agree with Randa Jarrar that white women need to stop dancing, but her article stirred up some much-needed discussion in a dance form rife with white-dominated Orientalist fantasy.

Those of us who are sticking around—and who aren’t from the culture or origin—have to do the difficult work of owning up to wrongs we might have committed, and that kind of work isn’t for the casual hobbyist who just wants to shake it with her “sisters.” (Also, gender isn’t a binary. Using belly dance as an “all women” space is inherently exclusionary and historically inaccurate. But that’s a post for a different day, and oh, hey, Kamrah already wrote it.)

Finding Other Movement Arts

Many former belly dancers are realizing that doing this professionally takes a lot of effort, time, and unpaid labor to practice responsibly. Some of us are sticking around, and others are deciding it’s not for them.

I’ve noticed that quite a few dancers who started belly dance in the early 2000s have moved on to other alternative movement forms, such as aerial arts, hooping, flow arts, burlesque, and niche fitness practices. That’s awesome! Many of these movement forms don’t carry with them the same cultural legacy and responsibility that belly dance does. (Of course, movement arts such as poi and fire staff DO have cultural histories in the dances of Polynesian peoples, but I leave that to practitioners of those forms to discuss those connections.)

Figuring Out Why We’re Belly Dancing

As a traveling dance instructor, I have the opportunity to talk to many practitioners in diverse communities throughout the world. My most recent trips and interactions have revealed a sense of “Why are we doing this?” and dancers asking the question, “Why do I care?”

When we ask ourselves these questions, not just about dance, but about any activity in which we are involved—be it a hobby, a job, or a relationship—this introspection can reveal much about ourselves. It can also give us clues on what to do next. Do we keep dancing? If so, why?

Dancers are reevaluating what they really want to get out of belly dance. For some, it might just be a once-a-week class, and for others they have made it a career. Either way, many dancers I’ve talked to lately seem to be reflecting on their desires and goals for being involved in belly dance.

Some people have figured out that belly dance isn’t for them. And, yes, means fewer people at festivals, workshops, and classes, which also means less money circulating throughout the industry and community. But it can also means that those who are continuing their involvement are very invested in it.

We’re More Invested in Learning

With the (temporary) fading of belly dance from the public eye, that means fewer students who are looking to feed their egos by teaching and performing well before they are ready.

From my view, the dancers that I’m teaching on a weekly basis are more invested in learning than performing. They want to know more about their bodies, technique, and, of course, cultural context. They’re not taking class to look cute in a sparkly costume. In fact, it’s almost difficult to get people excited about performing.

The dancers that we’re attracting at the Salimpour School are more mature, either in actual age or in attitude towards their dance practice. They are more humble with regard to whether they want to take the stage. They carry far less drama and ego with them into the studio classroom than students who are eager to perform, which is a relief and a joy.

Fewer Performances, Smaller Egos

Now many restaurants have closed altogether, and there are fewer restaurants featuring dancers, attracting smaller audiences, and the pay sucks. While this is shitty for the professionals (especially the pay part), it’s also less attractive to the 6-week wonders who would promote themselves as professional and undercut the rest of us.

And, at least where I am, there are fewer opportunities to perform. That might just be a Bay Area thing. But compared to Washington DC in the mid-2000s, when DCTribal was hosting events, and DC Tribal Cafe happened every month, and there were several Middle Eastern restaurants that featured performers, we were awash in performance opportunities. And audiences packed into those shows.

It seems like it has become far less likely for a young person to take up belly dance to become a “star.” Thank goodness.

Preparing for the Next Generations

This current downturn seems to be much like the one we’ve already seen in the 80s. At that time, dancers who stuck around were more likely to invest time and money into digging deeper into the history and culture of belly dance than the ones who started dancing in the 1970s to get in touch with their sexuality and to shock their “Leave It to Beaver” parents.

Belly dance will, I’m sure, see another resurgence, but it might be in another 30 years. In the meantime, I believe that in the diaspora, the dance will be in good hands.

Passing the Torch to the Millennial and Homeland Generations

Millennials (a label I am loathe to use but it’s what we’ve got) have far less time and disposable income than younger Generation X dancers like myself, or the Generation X and Baby Boomer-generation dancers who taught me. They’re far less likely to take a dance class just because it looks fun or different. They want to put their money where their values are.

Of the Millennial dancers that I see involved in belly dance today, they are far more aware of the social justice issues inherent in a contemporary belly dance practice. They want to talk about issues of cultural appropriation. They want to know how they can be more responsible when they dance. They actually come to lectures about history and culture. Those who pass as white are less afraid to check their privilege and give space to dancers from the culture of origin.

The even-younger Homeland Generation will be even better equipped to discuss and embody these complex topics, as they have grown up with social media that brings these issues directly to their personal profiles every day.

So just as fads come and go, so does belly dance. But before it returns to the popular spotlight, those of us who are still dancing must create the resources and foundations to empower the next generation.

Isn’t that a wonderful reason to stick around?

Want more about the heyday of belly dance in the 2000s?
Read my eBook – Bellydance Paladin: 9 Years of Dance Blogging




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7 Ways to Eat a Healthful Plant-Based Diet While Traveling on a Budget

Studies have shown that eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet can reduce your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, type-2 diabetes. It can also lower bad cholesterol levels and help you keep off excess weight.

But anyone who follows this diet knows that it can sometimes be a challenge to stick with it while traveling.

As a world-traveling dance instructor, I’m on the road a lot. And in addition to eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet, I’m also allergic to wheat. No wheat, no meat, no dairy. Impossible, right? Not at all!

So, how does a wheat-free vegan dancer eat when on the road without breaking the bank?

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Plant-Based Diet While Traveling on a Budget Post by Abigail Keyes

1) Plan Ahead

Because my diet is so restrictive (actually, it’s not, because there is so much to eat out there that doesn’t come from animals), I have to check out where I’m going to eat before I get to my destination.

Before you go, look up where you’re staying in relation to grocery stores, corner markets, any scheduled farmer’s markets, and, of course, inexpensive restaurants. I like to mark these places with a star in Google Maps, which syncs with my mobile phone so I can access them anywhere.

2) Bring Your Own Food

When I travel, I know that breakfast is going to be difficult and expensive. So I bring my own. Instant oatmeal is my breakfast (and snack) of choice because I can make it anywhere as long as I have hot water, a paper cup, and a spoon. I also love individual packets of nut butter, dried fruit, almonds, and rice crackers.

And don’t underestimate the power of a good nutrition bar. I just discovered GoMacro bars, and they’re are gluten-free, organic, and soy-free. Perfect for when I need a little extra pick-me-up while playing tourist or during long days of teaching dance.

But if you’re traveling to a foreign country, make sure you read up on what you can and can’t bring with you. Some customs regulations are quite strict about specific food items like dried fruit and seeds.

3) Get Thee to a Grocery Store

If you’re going to be in a place for more than three days, it’s worth going to a local grocery store to pick up some essentials. And it doesn’t have to be the leading natural foods chain grocer; even conventional groceries are carrying more healthful items.

If you’re lucky to be staying in a place with a kitchen (see #4), then get yourself some salad greens, hummus, tinned beans and/or lentils, non-dairy milk of your choice, and some fresh fruits and vegetables.

Even if you don’t have access to a kitchen, you can get breakfast cereals, fresh and dried fruits, rice cakes, and nut butter. No fancy health food store required.

4) Stay in a Place with a Kitchen

While having access to a kitchen isn’t always possible, it’s certainly ideal. An apartment-style hotel might have less amenities than the Sheraton, but it will have the essentials: refrigerator, microwave, kettle, flatware, dishware, cooking utensils, and more.

Being able to make my own breakfast, save and heat up leftovers, and brewing tea in the evening is also easier on my budget than going out for every meal.

Even modest hotel chains can have microwaves and refrigerators in the rooms. If there isn’t a microwave in the hotel room itself, check downstairs in the lobby.

5) Get in Hot Water

Even if you’re not staying in a place with a kitchen, most hotel rooms will at least have a way to make hot water, whether it be a coffee maker or a hot water kettle. Hotels with a restaurant will gladly give you hot water, or will fill your insulated water bottle.

With just hot water you can make instant oatmeal, soups, teas, noodles, rice, quinoa, and more.  Check out this ingenious post on how to prepare creative meals in your hotel room.

6) Be Demanding (But be nice about it!)

Don’t be afraid to ask about what’s in a certain dish or insist that you and your travel-mates go to restaurants and cafes that have more than one plant-based meal on offer. Hopefully, if you’ve planned ahead (see #1), arguments over where to eat dinner won’t be an issue. But if they are, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your health.

That said, even the big box chain restaurants will have items that are vegan and gluten-free. Don’t underestimate the side dish menu, where you’ll find vegetables and baked potatoes. Plant-based dietician Julieanna Hever has even more great restaurant survival tips.

7) Be Adventurous

When traveling, whether it be in the United States or overseas, your best and cheapest options for meals are likely in “ethnic” restaurants. I’ve had amazing Colombian plantains in the suburbs of Atlanta, Cuban black beans and rice in tiny cities in Florida, and South Indian idli with coconut chutney in the outskirts of Paris.

And if you’re not sure about what’s in something, just ask.

When traveling in a country where English is not the dominant language, learn the words for “meat,” “fish,” “dairy,” “milk,” and other foods you wish to avoid. You can even print out a little card of terms in the local language to keep in your wallet or day pack to hand to the server to tell them what you can’t eat. If you’re polite, they’ll be happy to oblige.

What are your favorite ways to eat well while away from home?

Share with us in the comments!




How to Learn Choreography Like a Pro

Many of you have asked, “How can I learn choreography faster?”

Believe me, I’ve had my own struggles with learning sequencing, movement details, and full choreographies.

I have always been a musically-driven performer, whether it be in ice dance, in competitive figure skating, and now, in belly dance. But that really became clear to me when I was earning my MA and taking several modern dance classes a week. In those classes, the music often just acted as a backbeat, a time keeper, and didn’t inspire the movement. No, the live musician would watch the dancers and riff off of them, rather than the other way around.

In those classes, I had a harder time remembering combinations because I had no music to guide me. I had to find the movement in accompaniment, even if it was a struggle.

Thankfully, my main dance genre is intimately tied to music, and chances are that yours is too.

So, what’s the one thing I would tell someone who asks me how to learn choreography faster?

How to Learn Choreography Like a Pro

Learn. The. Music.

Of all the dance forms in the world, belly dance is one of the most intimately tied to melody and percussion. Our job as dancers is to interpret and transmit the music to the audience through our movements, expression, and sentiment. This requires refined technique, yes, but it also requires a sharp and perceptive ear.

Of course, learning the feet first will help you, but if the instructor is connecting the footwork of a dance to the music, then you must also be familiar with the music.

A recent study showed that people who were perceived to be “better dancers” were better able to predict where a rhythm or melody would fall. That is, they had a better musical sense. So, it follows that if you know your music, that is, you can predict what sections are next, then you will be better able to dance, and execute set choreography… and improvise. (Unfortunately, that study also revealed that some people are “beat deaf,” and unable to stay within the auditory rhythmic groove of a song.)

Following Along Isn’t Enough

Sometimes it’s easy to let the energy of the room and the other dancers sweep you away that you aren’t truly internalizing the movements and the music. We look at our colleagues and follow them, letting our mirror neurons do the work that our ears could be doing. Instead of listening to the music and letting that guide our movements, we rely on our fellow dancers.

And while we must be able to flock and follow, without intimate understanding of the songs to which we perform, we’re literally lost.

If you’re not inherently musical, this just means that you’ll need to listen to the music more often, without dancing to it. The more you know a song, can hum the melody or beat, or playback the song in your head, the better you’re going to remember a choreography to that song.

Let’s Map Out a Song

Often music is described as having sections to which we assign a letter. Section A, B, C, and so on. Whether we’re learning someone else’s choreography or creating our own, we must know the underlying architecture of the song to which we’re dancing.

We can easily hear the different sections of a familiar pop song. Let’s look at “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga.

  1. We have an intro of 5 counts of 8. 5 is actually an unusual number of 8 counts to introduce a song, so that adds some interest.
  2. Then we have the first section, which we’ll call Verse A, which lasts for 4 counts of 8.
  3. Then we have a pre-chorus, section B, for 4 counts of 8.
  4. After that, it’s the actual chorus—”just dance”—section C, for 4 counts of 8.
  5. A little 4-for-nothing follows before we revisit A again, but this time with different lyrics.
  6. We get another pre-chorus B, and then the chorus again.
  7. Then the song changes it up with a new section, which is the guest singer, Colby O’Donis, with his rapid-fire rap-like singing for 4 counts of 8.
  8. O’Donis sings a melodic variation of part B for 4 counts of 8, so I call this B var.
  9. Then we get a stripped down version of the chorus, C, for 2 counts of 8 (C var.), then the chorus resumes as per usual for the next four counts of 8.
  10. Instrumental time! 2 counts of 8.
  11. New section: E, which acts as a bridge, for 4 counts of 8.
  12. And another section, F, another kind of bridge, for 4 counts of 8.
  13. We return to C var., then the chorus, as in number 8, above.
  14. The song gives us the satisfaction of hearing the chorus C one more time for 2 more counts of 8, before ending on count 1.

Even a “simple” pop song like “Just Dance” makes more sense when we break it down. But now, if we were to learn a choreography to it, we have a skeleton and framework with which to work. These chunks will help us remember the dance, because now we have a better understanding of the musical structure.

A song might have lots of different melodic and rhythmic sections.  The original cinematic version of the Abdel Halim Hafez song “Gana El Hawa” has many different sections, with only one repeat of the chorus at the very end.

And note that you don’t have to read music, understand notation, chords, or any additional music theory to get started… although I recommend that you have at least a basic understanding of rhythmic notation if you’re considering yourself intermediate-level or above.

Great Choreography Will Echo the Musical Structure

Even the most complex choreography can be learned in small chunks. In fact, cognitive psychologist Gary Marcus, author of Guitar Zero, found that adult brains need new information to be presented in smaller chunks than children do. Adults have less time and less brain “real estate” to assimilate new information. (The good news is that there’s no “magic window” during which we have to learn new skills; we can learn at any age.)

When we approach choreography as smaller sections, we do our brains a favor and making the learning process easier.

A great choreography, in belly dance at least, follows the structure of the song to which it is set. This doesn’t mean always repeating the exact same movement every time a melodic phrase repeats, but it does mean that the movement isn’t random.

Let’s look at Suhaila Salimpour’s “Yanna Yanna.” The same melody repeats quite frequently, but the movement phrases themselves don’t always repeat. The orchestration changes, with different instruments taking the lead and being highlighted as the song progresses. But then, at the end, the dancers return to the counterclockwise turns with rib cage circles that they did at the very beginning of the piece. This section acts as a book end and reflects the arrangement of the song.

Choreography: Now In Extra Chunky

The next time you are learning a new choreography, don’t look at the dance as a whole. Look at it as little bits that make a whole. Map out the music yourself in sections, as I did with “Just Dance.” Listen to the music at home, in the car, or at work, so you can have a deeper understanding of its sequencing.

Even if you’re learning a short combination, approach it in parts. Chances are that the instructor will teach it to you in sections, so use those sections to your advantage. As you’re learning the dance, give each section a name. I like to think of each section by the step by which it starts, such as “Rib slides, rib circle” or “Circle-2-3-4.”

Map it out, work it out, and you’ll nail that new choreography in no time!

What tips and tricks do you have for learning choreography or dissecting a new piece of music? How do you like to organize your creative process into a dance?

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13 Dance Class Etiquette Tips You Should Know

Today’s post is brought to you by Angelique Hanesworth, dance instructor and photographer based in New York State. Originally posted to her Facebook page, I thought it could use a little extra visibility and love. 


Following proper dance class etiquette is essential for dance students at all levels. Some of you might know these tips, but we can always use a little reminder.

General rule of thumb: Be aware, be respectful, be kind (to others as well as yourself) and have fun!

13 Dance Class Etiquette Tips guest post by Angelique Hanesworth

Essential Dance Class Etiquette

1. Arrive on time. Arriving late to class is disruptive to the other students, the teacher, and can set up the potential for injury if you do not have enough time to properly warm up. If for some reason you must be late, contact the instructor beforehand to get approval.

Most dance classes, regardless of where they are or what style of dance they teach won’t allow you into class if you’re more than 10 minutes late.

2. Have a good attitude. Energy begets energy, and for a lot of students, this is their one hour a week that they get to leave the house and do something fun for themselves. It can be frustrating when we don’t get something on which we’ve been working, but remember, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
We all have our own challenges—every last one of us—and learning how to manage them properly will help you on the dance floor, as well as in life.

3. Turn off your cell phones. ‘Nuff said.

4. Try not to leave the dance floor for the duration of class. If an emergency arises, leave discretely.

5. Do not talk when the teacher is speaking. You might think you are being quiet, but if you’re talking, you’re likely not as quiet as you think you are. If you have a question for the teacher, wait for the right moment, and raise your hand. Make sure it is a question that you cannot figure out on your own.

6. Do not correct other students. That is the teacher’s responsibility.

7. Do not correct the teacher. If the teacher has made a mistake (which is bound to happen) and it is causing confusion in the class, it is fine to politely ask for clarification. If you have a difference of opinion or philosophical perspective, it is best to save it for after class. Give the teacher the courtesy of judging for themselves whether it is something that should be shared with everyone else.

8. Take correction well. If a teacher corrects you, congratulations! That means they are invested in your development. Perfection is a myth, so don’t let your ego get in the way of your progress. If you hear a correction being given to another student, pay attention! There is a good chance it applies to you as well!

9. Practice. You go to dance class to learn, but you’ll make your progress when you practice outside of class. Make sure to do all homework, and work on any combinations/choreography, so that upon returning to class, you can spend the majority of your time learning new material instead of spending that time on review.

10. Wear appropriate attire and mind your hygiene. Proper attire will vary from class to class, but as a general rule, you are training, not performing. Wear something you can get sweaty in and move comfortably in. Keep your jewelry to a minimum; it can be noisy and catch on clothing. Please wear deodorant to class. And many people are sensitive to scents, so please avoid perfume.

11. Keep it clean! No food or gum on the dance floor. A water bottle is fine. As a general rule, if you brought it in, take it out.

12. Use common sense. There is no way I can list every etiquette rule for every situation. Being respectful of the other students, the teacher, and being a hard worker will cover many of the bases.

13. Have FUN! Ultimately, this is YOUR class too, and you should be having a good time. Every teacher feels good when their students leave the room happy, so enjoy the process. Dance is an enriching experience, so be proud of your hard work, celebrate your accomplishments, and keep your eye on the continuing journey ahead.

Dance teachers: What etiquette tips would you like new students to know? What would you like to remind your current students? Share yours in the comments!


Angelique HanesworthAbout the Author

Angelique Hanesworth began belly dancing in 1997, training with top talent from all over the world. Specializing in a Salimpour interpretation of Modern Oriental dance, she holds her Level 5 certification in the Suhaila Salimpour Format and Level 4 in the Jamila Salimpour Format. She is a highly sought after performer, with experience in theater productions, festivals, weddings, restaurants, and more. Between regular classes and workshops, she has taught hundreds of students and is known for her clear direction and creative insight. Angelique can also be seen on her acclaimed instructional DVD, Advanced Layering Drills. Angelique holds a degree in Computer Science, and black belts in Wing-Chun Kung Fu and Ishin-Ryu Karate. She is an accomplished portrait photographer, as well as Mom to two feisty and wonderful girls. Visit her website at angeliquebellydance.com





Why You Should Foster a Mindful Dance Practice

What does it mean to foster a mindful dance practice?

Fostering a mindful dance practice blog post by Abigail Keyes

Mindfulness Is Good For You

Being mindful, according to experts in the field, is the act of noticing your feelings, environment, and physical sensations without judgement. It is the opposite of what we might call “checking out” or being on “auto-pilot.” Being mindful means ignoring our Ego and our “Monkey Mind.” And even though it has roots in Buddhist meditation and philosophy, it can be quite secular.

Some of the most powerful business leaders are investing millions of dollars on mindfulness workshops and retreats for their employees. Marc Benioff of the San Francisco-based company Salesforce famously consulted with Vietnamese Zen monks to improve employee well-being, and Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” program has a 6-month long wait list.

A number of scientific studies have shown that people who practice mindfulness meditation are less likely to have a wide range of illnesses, from heart disease to depression. Those who exhibit trait mindfulness—that is, those who make mindfulness an inherent habit rather than just a deliberate practice—are even healthier.

Mindfulness also has a profound positive impact on our interpersonal relations, allowing us to observe our emotions and the emotions of others before reacting. It can even reduce implicit age and race bias. Whoa.

Dancers Are Already Mindful…

Dancers by nature practice a kind of mindfulness when we go to class. When we integrate new movements into our bodies, we must be aware of the present, listening to our bodies, observing our instructor… hopefully without judgement.

When a class is just challenging enough, we are forced to be present if we want to physicalize what is expected of us. Maybe it means remembering a full combination or doing a difficult technical element. We can’t mentally check-out if we are to integrate these movements into our bodies.

When it comes to mindfulness, dancers have a leg up. (Pun alert.) Afterall, dance technique is really just fancy habits, and habits are what we do without thinking.

…But Sometimes Not Enough

But what about those movements that we know? What about that repetitive drill that we’ve done a bazillion times or that choreography we’ve been running for five years? You know… those exercises that when your teacher asks you to do them, you might go, “But I know this already!”

It’s super easy to go through the motions and take a mindless approach to these elements of our dance practice, letting our bodies take the lead.

We dancers often rely heavily on “muscle memory” to get us through a rehearsal or performance. It can be easy to let our body do the work, and it should. There is a certain amount of automaticity that must happen in our bodies for us to do our job. But sometimes that doesn’t always mean transcendent mind-body connection. A recent study compared practitioners of Vipassana meditation with a sample of dancers, and found the meditators had a greater integration of mind and body.

I’m sure you’ve noticed when a dancer is not being mindful in class or rehearsal. Maybe there’s that one who doesn’t know how long their arms are and keeps running into you. Or maybe there’s a fellow company member who keeps making the same mistake over and over again. Or that one who just doesn’t integrate a doable correction, no matter how many times the instructor or director reminds them.

These dancers could benefit from taking a moment to reflect and observe their bodies.

Chances are that if you noticed these mistakes, you made a judgement call on them. Maybe a little mindfulness could help you, too!

Dance is Always New, Even When It Feels Old

Every day we step into the studio or on the stage, we must take a moment to take account of our bodies. Every day is different. Weather, hormones, a bad day at work, a fight with our significant other can all affect our movements.

When we give ourselves a moment to acknowledge those changes, and, most importantly, accept them, our time in class and rehearsal can be more productive and more positive.

A mindful dance practice also allows us to find the newness in material that might no longer interest us or challenge us. Every dance form has those movements and techniques that we must do over and over again, whether it be a part of our warm-ups or performance. But as performers, we cannot afford to get bored, because our audiences will feel that lack of engagement. They’ll know that we’ve checked out and let rote muscle memory do the heavy lifting.

And as a dance teacher, I can tell when my students are checking out. And I can tell you that it sometimes gives the impression that they don’t care about the work. Ouch.

Small Ways to Be More Mindful While Dancing

Many dance classes have repetitive warm ups, or at least movements that repeat every time. Instead of just going through the motions, observe yourself as you do these exercises. Are you putting your full attention into them, or is your mind wandering? If it wanders, breathe, and focus on the intent of the exercise.

Personally, I like to focus on different body connections as I dance. What is the relationship between my fingers and my toes? The crown of my head and my sacrum? My right and left halves? What about your facing in the room? Taking account of how these shift as I move gives my Monkey Mind more than enough to chew on, allowing my more active thinking to focus on the task at hand.

The next time you learn a combination or new dance, how can you best be mindful not only of your own body but the space around you? Maybe you are that dancer with the long arms who runs into fellow students. Notice when this happens, and observe how much space you need without popping someone else’s space bubble.

At the end of class or rehearsal, take note of how you feel. Were you happy with yourself or frustrated? Did the teacher give you feedback? Did a fellow student’s behavior affect you? How did it make you feel? Do you think you did well? Reflect, but don’t judge.

I feel that I’m just beginning to integrate mindfulness into my dance and teaching practice. Is this something you do, either as a teacher or student? Tell us in the comments!





Why Don’t Belly Dancers Warm Up Before a Performance?

Greetings, dear readers! Please enjoy this GUEST POST by Parya, fellow instructor at the Salimpour School of Dance and member of the Suhaila Dance Company.


Ballet and modern dancers do it. Athletes do it. Actors do it. But why don’t belly dancers warm up before a performance?

Parya Guest Post: Why Don't Belly Dancers Warm Up Before Performance

A Proper Warm Up Is Essential

This is a bit of a generalization, of course, as I’m sure there are some belly dancers who do stretch and warm up before a performance. However, in my years of performing belly dance in festivals, fundraisers, restaurants, and other gigs, I’ve seldom seen a belly dancer warm up.

I often feel alone in the middle of the changing room or the hallway of the gig, inhaling and exhaling before a show as I lunge from side to side, roll my shoulders, loosen and tense glutes and hamstrings, and sometimes start with jumping jacks or a brief high-kneed jog.

For me, warming up is a vital part of a performance. In order for me to be able to physically express my emotional state and physicalize the music, I need not to be concerned about my muscles functioning properly. Warming up before a performance is not only about my body, it also prepares my mind.

The warmup is like a meditation to center myself and calm my nerves, to think about the story I’m about to tell, and why anyone should care. It’s a time for me to reflect on the state of my body and wake up the muscles I’ll need in my performance.

A proper warmup helps me to increase the elasticity of my muscles, improve efficiency of the signals along my nervous system, enhance my range of motion, and minimize the chance of any potential injuries (knock on wood).

Creating Your Own Warm-up

It can be difficult to know what to do when you’re warming up before a performance. I’ve had dancers ask me about the movements I do or even follow me in a group warm-up prior to a performance. Having to figure something out right before a performance can be frustrating, distracting, and time-consuming.

So I highly recommend having an active routine that engages all major muscles and even minor muscles that you may be calling on during a specific performance. By active, I mean warm-ups that include movement and that contract and release the muscles sequentially as opposed to a static hold. Essentially, you want to elevate your heart rate by moving your body through a range of motions.

Different performances might need slightly different warm ups. For example, if you’ll be performing a khaliji piece with a lot of hair tosses and head rolls, activate and warm up your smaller neck muscles before you go on stage.

My Basic Pre-Performance Warm-up

It’s evident that no amount of warming up will ever take the place of years of technique and drilling; however, it will help to maximize your capacity when you set foot on the stage.

Give yourself a minimum of 10-15 minutes before each performance to warm up. Begin with 5 minutes of aerobic movements to increase your body temperature, such as jumping jacks, marching in place, or skipping (Abigail and I run back and forth in the hallway and high-five each other before an Enta Omri performance). Then, add movements such as side to side lunges, alternating runner’s lunges, and arm swings along the various planes of the body. After that, warm up your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves with quick tendus, dégagés, and battements to the front, side, and back, or calf raises. Follow these movements with head, shoulder, ribcage, pelvis, ankle and wrist circles (especially if you’re playing finger cymbals).

Finally, round off the circuit with some deep breathing to focus on your kick-ass performance.

I hope this routine helps you stay healthy and give your all every time you take the stage. Break an eyelash!

How do you warm up before a show? Share in the comments!


Parya Saberi: Why Don't Belly Dancers Warm Up Before PerformanceAbout the Author

Parya has a Doctorate in Clinical Pharmacy with a specialty in HIV care and a Masters in Clinical Research. She is an Assistant Professor at a top ranking Bay Area university where she conducts clinical and behavioral research. Parya began her love affair with dance at the age of 7 studying Persian dance and later trained in New York Style Salsa and belly dance. She is currently an instructor at the Salimpour School of Dance and has been a member of the Suhaila Dance Company (SDC) since 2014. She is currently Suhaila and Jamila Level 3 certified and is working toward her Suhaila Level 4 certification in July 2017. Read more at www.parya.dance.

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