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Kiki does both Gypsy and Oriental styles

While in the town of Narita, Zina dared Ranya to eat a teriyaki grasshopper.

Did she eat it?
Yes she did!

Author stands with Amira-Patricia

Dancers from Karima's studio riding in the Tokyo subway.
"Madame" Hiroko on left

Gilded Serpent presents...
Belly Dance in Japan
Reaches New Heights of Popularity
by Ranya Renée Fleysher

Between 2003 and 2006, I took five teaching trips to Japan. It was a wonderful experience to immerse myself in the culture for longer periods of time than I usually do when I’m touring, and I have to thank my first sponsor there, Karima, for opening that door for me. Each of those trips, I spent between one and two months in that fascinating country, teaching Egyptian-style dance and performance skills, practicing my Japanese and traveling. I’m pleased to report that the bellydance phenomenon in Japan has continued to widen since then. This article details my reflections and those of the dancers I interviewed on what could be called the cusp of the mainstream explosion of the dance in Japan.

On my last trip to Japan in the fall of 2006, the Japanese dancer Safi, of Chiba, about an hour from Tokyo, handed me a professionally produced DVD with the Japanese-style English title “Belly Dance Super Live.” Safi, a sultry performer known for her gurama (glamour—in Japanese English), appears in the video, along with several other well-known Tokyo-area dancers, performing Arabic, Turkish, Tribal, and fusion pieces backed up by a full orchestra, in an impressive large-scale production. Featured is the irrepressible male percussion ensemble Tabla Kwaiesa, which has been steadily working to increase the popularity of Arabic drumming in Japan. The videotaped production is an indication of how far the belly dance and music scene has come in the country, especially in the last few years. In watching this video, I felt the spark of raw energy in the joining of live music and dance. It would seem that the Japanese belly dance scene has indeed arrived, in Tokyo and increasingly across the country, and it is not only the female dancers but also male and female musicians that are pushing it forward. Well beyond the capital’s Kanto region and across the country, interest in belly dance has shown no sign of slowing, as hip drops and undulations, dum-teks and taqasim gradually find their way to the far reaches of the islands, from Hokkaido in the north to the southwestern isle of Okinawa.

It may surprise some to learn that Arabic-style bellydance has already been around for a quarter century in Japan. Dancer Miyoko Ebihara studied the art in California, and opened her studio in 1984 after returning to Japan. Fellow pioneers in the field include the Egyptian-dance-focused Karima (Kaoru Komatsu, known as Komatsu sensei, using the term of respect for teachers), and Ainy (Inako sensei), both of whom received early training in New York from the late Lebanese-American master Ibrahim “Bobby” Farrah and opened their respective studios in Tokyo in 1993. What has changed in the past few years is that belly dancing has gained a foothold in the Japanese popular consciousness, and the proliferation of classes and shows, dancers and musicians, as well as media coverage, has increased dramatically.

I remember how Bobby in his last seminars in New York would praise Ainy and the other Japanese dancers in attendance, saying that the idea that Asian students can’t or won’t show feeling was disproved by the graceful exponents in his classes. He’d be impressed at how interest in the dance in Japan has taken off since then.

Yoko's photo by Nam

When she started dancing around ten years ago, Chiba native Yoko Furusawa remembers many people even then asking her, “What is belly dance?” Now, she notes, performances can be seen in Tokyo every night of the week, in venues ranging from the typical Egyptian, Turkish and Indian restaurants to bars, clubs, and “live houses” (something of a cross between a club and a small theater space), as well as larger halls for full stage shows. More and more restaurants are hiring dancers to perform, and dancers are also taking the initiative to organize their own events. Lale Sayoko, a Japanese dancer who now lives in New York, says that she was surprised at how much dance activity has increased in Tokyo in the last three years.

Now, she notes, there are big shows scheduled in Tokyo every weekend. “It’s getting more difficult for dancers organizing a show to find a time that doesn’t conflict with another show—you have to save the date more than three months ahead.”

Class offerings have also increased, in dance studios, culture centers, and more recently, gyms. Karima’s Egyptian dance school now boasts some five hundred students between her longtime Tokyo studio and her new Yokohama location—with an increase of about two hundred students in the last two years. When dancer Yukari Minowa, who teaches at Karima’s Tokyo and Yokohama studios, was looking to begin belly dance classes in 1999, she found only two studios advertised in a hobby magazine she consulted—Karima’s was one of them. Now, Yukari notes, “It’s much more popular,” she says, “especially these past few years. And classes were mainly in Tokyo before, but nowadays the popularity spreads out to other districts in Japan, such as Kansai, Kyushu, Nagoya, Hokuriku and Hokkaido.” Some professional students of the veteran Japanese teachers in Tokyo, or others who have discovered the dance overseas, have moved to back to their hometowns or to other cities to set up shop, far from the busy Tokyo scene. The market for dance merchandise is booming throughout the country: Japanese dancers want to look the part, and even student recitals glitter with elaborate costumes in current styles. The women are active shoppers during the foreign dance festivals, buying up the variety of folkloric gear and bedlat available.

Mher Panossian, who runs the Glendale, California-based Hollywood Music Center, says that CD and DVD orders from Japan have increased significantly in recent years, now outpacing his company’s combined sales in France and Germany, two long-established markets.

Audiences around Japan have been catching on over the past few years, growing more familiar with the idea of belly dance. Mari, owner of Ya Salam Belly Dance Studio in Nagoya (Japan’s third largest city), took classes while living in New York, later returning to her hometown and introducing the dance there. “When I first started performing in Nagoya about seven years ago,” she says, “people didn’t really know how to take belly dance, since it can be quite sensual. Recently with the increase in information, I have noticed that my audiences have really warmed up to the dance.” American dancer Amira-Patricia, who lived in the Osaka area for 12 years, concurs. Audiences would be surprised at first by the unfamiliar music, movements and costuming, she says, but within a few minutes they would get the hang of it. “It’s not uncommon for your entire audience to clap along with you for long periods of time and/or to dance with you at the end of your set,” she says of her experiences performing there.

“Japanese audiences are extremely receptive, supportive and interested in this form of entertainment.” Conservative elder Japanese may still disapprove of the sensual aspect of belly dance, but among the younger generation it is seen as cool and trendy.

One Osaka hobbyist believes that belly dance is generally accepted as an art in Japan among those who are familiar with it, but she still wouldn’t feel comfortable with her male co-workers knowing about her dance studies: “My office is just across the street from the studio, so I do not want them to see me dancing with my belly showing.”

Why Japanese Women Dance
For a variety of reasons, more and more Japanese women are signing up for belly dance classes. “To be more beautiful!” Yukari cites as one, adding, “Maybe for her boyfriend or husband, for health, for the exotic atmosphere…” She notes that in recent years all kinds of dance forms—hip-hop, flamenco, ballet, and others—have become more popular as forms of exercise. Perhaps taking a cue from Shakira, popular Japanese female singers have adopted elements of belly dance in their performances as well. Osaka teacher Tania Luiz believes that Shakira’s popularity led some Japanese women to seek out her classes, similar to the “Shakira effect” in North and South America’s recent belly dance boom. Belly dance is being touted in the Japanese media for its “diet” properties and fitness benefits: “Lately many magazines feature belly dance as a way to be in shape, and then girls are interested in it,” observes Nahoko Sugiyama, a Tokyo dancer now living in New York. Many of the Japanese women involved with belly dance as a serious hobby or profession are unmarried women in their twenties and thirties who hold daytime office jobs. Other hobbyists include freelance workers, university students, artists, professional workers such as doctors, nurses or architects, and housewives. Mari reports students at her studio ranging in age from 15 to 75. Men are unlikely to be seen in most classes, but one year in Nagoya my workshops had a drag queen in attendance, and also a Japanese man simply nostalgic for the time when he had lived in Egypt.
Mari sees the belly dance movement as evidence of a redefinition of women’s self-image in contemporary Japan. “Up until recently the concept of being cute was more important than that of femininity or sensuality;

Japanese culture was obsessed with the idea that a woman should be childlike and innocent,” she observes. “I think that with the growing popularity of belly dance and other factors, women are beginning to embrace their femininity.”

American dancer Adarah (Kristen Reimer), a New Jerseyite who lived and taught in Tokyo for two years, mentions a sense of freedom that the dance brings to Japanese women. “I found the Japanese culture to be peppered with so much formality,” she recalls. “I would watch with joy as, for one hour in my class, the conservative role would melt away…. Belly dance enabled the women to be who they really wanted to be.” Zina, a Japanese visual artist and dancer-drummer from Tokyo-based Maha’s Al-Camarani company, confirms this. Behind the reserved role they are expected to play in Japanese society, she says, “Women have a secret longing to dance.” This “secret longing” is gradually coming to light in mainstream Japanese culture.

On the big screen, 2006 saw the release of Tannka, a sensual feature film whose heroine, a writer involved in two love affairs, also belly dances. The film’s director is herself a belly dancer.

Japanese women’s attraction to belly dance as a vehicle for personal liberation and freedom from social mores is not unlike the role the dance plays in many Western women’s lives. A developing awareness of the therapeutic benefits of belly dance seems to be in its early stages in Japan, encouraged in part by holistic-minded Western-born instructors and the spread of other forms such as yoga. Mishaal, an Ohio native and Tokyo resident of more than fifteen years, mentions working with her dancers to “push through personal boundaries” and tap deeper into their emotional worlds. Adarah reflects that her students, through belly dancing, “found a way to express themselves that was safe and enjoyable, and deep bonds were created” between them. Recalling my own experiences in Japan of teaching my performance-oriented breathwork method, I noticed the dancers’ initial reserve about freeing their breath, but their familiarity with the Asian energy concept of “chi”—ki in Japanese—helped make sense of it for them. They were surprised to hear mention of ki in the context of Middle Eastern dance; as a Westerner, it was interesting to observe Asian dancers finding new resonance with the Eastern philosophy that has influenced my work.

Foreign Exchange
In the mix of performers and teachers now residing in Japan are increasing numbers of foreigners, including dancers from around the globe. In addition, visiting instructors, largely from Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, the U.S., France and Germany, are sponsored by larger Japanese studios eager for both knowledge and a competitive edge.

Thirsty for more education, Japanese dancers also head to the dance festivals in Egypt and Turkey in droves and are regularly represented at master workshops in other countries.

Momoi of Fukuoka and Ranya

Egyptian raqs sharqi still seems to be the most commonly practiced style in Japan; many of the original Tokyo belly dance instructors work primarily or exclusively with masters from Egypt or with other Arab or Arabic-style teachers from Western countries. At many such schools, students and teachers learn the dances of international masters such as Mahmoud Reda, Raqia Hassan, Yousry Sharif, Sahra Saeeda, Beata and Horacio Cifuentes, and others. Egyptian sensation Tito arrives in Japan soon to teach, and not long ago Asmahan from Cairo and Amani from Lebanon were in Japan during the same week. Studio teachers take copious notes at workshops in Japan and overseas, and then pass on the masters’ choreographies to their own students. This can be observed through the generations, increasingly: At my sponsor Momoi’s show in Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu, it was touching to witness her student ensemble performing a Bobby Farrah choreography that she had passed on to them—Momoi’s teacher Ainy had taught it to her when she was a member of Ainy’s Tokyo company.

Some in the younger generation of teachers are delving into other styles as well, and foreign resident dancers have brought more options to the market. Turkish/Rom, Tribal and fusion forms are gaining ground alongside Arabic dance. The recent growth of Turkish-style dance in Japan seems attributable in part to the efforts of Ohio native and 15-year Tokyo resident Mishaal, who spent time studying in Turkey, and to Osaka dancer Tania Luiz, who is Portuguese. Both of these women teach other styles as well, but focus more on Turkish dance than many Japanese teachers do, and sponsor internatonal Turkish dance proponents such as Sema Yildiz, Tayyar Akdeniz, and Washington, D.C.-based Artemis Mourat for workshops. Among younger and especially urban dancers, American Tribal Style is generating some interest—in significant part, Mishaal says, due to Rachel Brice’s renown—although many cities do not have Tribal teachers yet. Many of the subculture of Tokyo dancers involved in Tribal style lead what might be termed “alternative lifestyles,” including wearing tattoos, which is still a taboo in traditional Japanese society because of the lingering stereotypical association with yakuza gangster culture. Lale Sayoko, who had studied under Mishaal, traveled to San Francisco in 2003 to study both Tribal and Oriental styles. She was surprised to witness a separation between Oriental and Tribal dancers there. “I saw only Oriental dancers in Oriental classes and Tribal dancers in Tribal classes,” she says.

In contrast, she says, there are a substantial number of dancers in Japan who study and perform both Tribal and Oriental styles.

Local audiences are receptive to both Japanese and foreign performers, maintains American dancer Amira-Patricia. However, some evidence suggests that talent agencies and casting directors may still prefer foreign performers who seem more authentic to them. When Tokyo Disneyland was looking for dancers for its Arabian-themed show, dancers from the U.S. and Australia with more of a “Middle Eastern look” were contracted. Tokyo’s Mishaal laments the indirect effect that this kind of ethnic prejudice could be having on Japanese dancers: “I noticed that many dancers here, even exceptionally talented ones, never really considered the possibilities of dancing internationally, meaning, not only participating at festivals, but as world-class professionals.” New York-based dancer-instructor Kaeshi Chai, who is Chinese by heritage, believes that Mishaal sponsored her to teach in Japan in part “to help dispel some of these myths about what Asian bellydancers can or cannot do.” Mishaal, who is not ethnically Asian, confirms that one of her students many years ago complained that she couldn’t achieve a particular move because she was Japanese. “She just hadn’t practiced,” says Mishaal, “But I realized it would be nice for dancers here to have a role model that they could visually identify with.” As some Japanese professionals start to work internationally, that prospect is becoming more real: Dancer Nourah from Mishaal’s group has toured Europe with Istanbul band Baba Zula; Barbee Mako and Masumi were invited to a Korean festival to teach; and Tribal-style dancers E-Chan and Milla were invited to teach at Spirit of the Tribes in Florida. Japanese dancers have placed high in some international bellydance competitions as well.

Foreign instructors in Japan speak of the dedication their students bring to class.

Amira-Patricia says her experiences teaching in the Osaka area and around Japan were rewarding. “The students really want to learn—they are respectful and serious about it,” she says. “Some of the students from the start want to become pro dancers. Most of them practice hard and really work to perfect their technique,” and absorb choreography quickly, she adds. Adarah found the same thing when she taught in Japan. “They have this inherent ability to ‘see and do’ the movements,” she says, “often with amazing precision.” Compared with many Western students, Japanese dancers do learn steps with surprising speed, and seem more receptive to what is being taught, a product of their culture’s respect for teachers in general. Many Japanese students value the air of authenticity brought by foreign teachers, which they hope will help them in developing a culturally accurate portrayal in their own dancing. Adarah observed her students wishing to learn all they could, including language and music. “They have a strong desire to represent these cultures faithfully,” she says. Ironically, Japanese dancers’ striving for perfection may sometimes fall short in terms of achieving the ineffable, imperfect feeling of traditional dance. One Egyptian embassy official in Tokyo complained that only a minority of Japanese professional dancers he had seen were able to capture that feeling in their performances

Many young dancers put together shows for restaurant performances comprised entirely of learned masters’ choreographies, without engaging in traditional improvisation.

As such dances were generally conceived for the stage, they can appear stilted when performed in a small, informal restaurant setting. One informant reports having seen the same choreography performed by four Tokyo dancers in different solo restaurant shows, none of them adapting the dance for audience interaction. Mishaal hypothesizes, “There is safety in memorizing steps and learning choreography; as long as you can memorize the choreo, you don’t take much of a risk in terms of being vulnerable in front of your audience.” She asserts that most Japanese dance students have not had improvisation presented to them as a valid form of artistic expression in this dance. That said, improvisation has been on the rise in Japan, as performers gain in experience and in exposure to live music.

A cultural sense of humility or shyness may have preempted many Japanese dancers from feeling comfortable with creating something interpretive on their own, but as a younger generation comes out of its shell through this art form, they may be more open to developing their dance further by learning improvisational skills. Foreign-born teachers who have experience with improvisation seem to have led the way on training Japanese dancers in this. Amira-Patricia, who began her own studies with the Egyptian dancer Nashwa Monir Cahill, says that when she would ask her students to improvise, “They were shy about it at first, but would enjoy it if presented step-by-step in a fun and stress-free, safe, relaxed environment.” Tania introduces beginners to improvisation after six months of lessons with what she calls “party time”—students going one by one into the center of the group to dance. Beyond the classroom, opportunities to dance to traditional live music allow Japanese performers to hone their sense of musicality and consequently their improvisational skills. Nahoko agrees that working with live bands in New York and witnessing different dancers performing with live music, a chance she didn’t have in Japan, has enabled her to grow as an artist. Nicole from Karima’s Tokyo studio, a regular dancer with Tabla Kwaiesa, is one Japanese-born teacher who encourages her students to practice improvising; she makes a point of letting her students know that she herself improvises in her solo shows. As more live music performance opportunities become available in Japan, it seems likely that improvisation will become more common among dancers.

click for a larger photo
Musicians names needed!
Violin- Keiko Oikawa
Darbuka- Yoichi 'Petashi' Hirai
Dancers- in blue is Noel, in red is Kiki

Live Music on the Rise
Most of the belly dance shows in Japan are still performed with recorded music, but an increasing number of Japanese musicians are playing Middle Eastern and Gypsy-style music for dance shows. Many solo dancers as well as groups, including those of Ainy, Mishaal, and the Al-Camarani company, use live music accompaniment for at least part of their shows. Interested dancers themselves have been learning how to drum, and some have encouraged their boyfriends or husbands to get involved in drumming or instrumental accompaniment as well. Nicole’s husband, Hide, for example, drums with Tabla Kwaiesa. When I first began teaching in Japan, dancers lamented that there were only a few drummers, with little training. Over the past several years, that has changed, as musicians apply the same dedication to perfecting their craft that the dancers do for theirs. The drumming by Tabla Kwaiesa members on the “Belly Dance Super Live” DVD testifies to a maturing of the players’ technique, which appears to be the result of intensive study in Egypt. They have also incorporated men’s Saidi dances into their repertoire, along with plenty of lively humor: In the live show on the DVD, the sagat player cheerfully bounds off the stage and into the audience to work for tips. The sense of fun is reminiscent of dancer-percussionist Adel Youssef of Cairo’s Tannoura ensemble, a master showman who has given lessons to several of the Japanese percussionists.

The emerging Middle Eastern music scene is a natural development of the spreading interest in the dance, but it goes deeper than that. It’s also a product of the growing availability of, and appetite for, world music in contemporary Japan.

Seeking new inspiration, and perhaps also craving a sense of differentiation from Japan’s cultural homogeneity, musicians are drawn to Middle Eastern music; afterwards they may find their way to working with the belly dance community, an appreciative market for their work, eager for collaboration.

Another prominent Tokyo ensemble, Alladeen, features seven musicians on acoustic instruments, including oud, saz, guitar, violin, flute, accordion, upright bass, and percussion. Alladeen leader Ken Matsuo’s onstage look, reminiscent of Slash from the band Guns N’ Roses, belies his sensitive oud playing. A serious musician and guitarist for 20 years, Ken saw Moroccan percussionist Mohamet Domnati at a 1999 performance in Japan and began to study darbukka with him. A trip to Cairo in 2005 for further training with famed drummer Khamis Henkish and with members of the Tannoura Ensemble inspired Ken to find himself an oud teacher there as well. After 3 ½ months of study, Ken returned to Tokyo and began forming Alladeen, joined by some musicians who were already playing Oriental music and others whom he trained himself. Having also studied darbukka and saz in Istanbul, Ken now counts in his repertoire music and songs from the Arab world, Turkey, and the Balkans. Japanese musicians who play Middle Eastern music are rare, he says, mentioning oud player Yuji Tsunemi and his ensemble as a main exception, although Tsunemi’s group is not so actively involved with the belly dance scene. Alladeen’s monthly shows with dancers always sell out, Ken reports, adding,

“There are many great belly dancers in Japan, but unfortunately most of them have no chance to make a show with Arabic musicians. That is one of the reasons I formed my band, to make such shows.”

The interest in live music is spreading as the dance becomes more established in other cities. Mari of Ya Salam notes that enthusiasts in Nagoya, where the scene is much younger than Tokyo’s, have been getting into Middle Eastern drumming in recent years. In several Japanese cities, musicians are learning Arabic, Turkish, and Gypsy music, both from native musicians residing in Japan and in trips overseas. Tania works regularly with her Kadife trio, which includes two Turkish musicians, on saz and percussion. She says that a true live music scene in Osaka has been slow to come together, though there are more musicians in the Kansai region working on Oriental music. The momentum for live music accompaniment for dancers is gradually building, and it’s not too far a stretch to envision a future scene across Japan similar to the one in Western countries where the dance and music have taken hold, with native and non-native musicians and dancers working together in increasing numbers.

As the Japanese dance scene has matured, its presence is being felt on a worldwide scale. Japan as a nation benefits greatly from its own home grown Middle Eastern music and dance artists, who represent a leading front there for international cultural exchange, something the island nation in the past has been slow to embrace. They are crossing borders in a way that brings the values of their culture to the task of embracing another. Average Japanese citizens generally know very little about the arts, culture, and people of the Middle East; now they have a better chance to learn more. It’s worthwhile for us in the West also to ask what we can learn from the Japanese, who have learned so much from us. The expression that sticks in my mind the most from my time in Japan is Itadakimasu, “I will receive,” which is what Japanese people say when accepting food at the beginning a meal.

Receiving, more than taking, is an integral value in Japanese culture, and it is surely the receptiveness, humility, and disciplined dedication of Japanese dancers and musicians that enables them to progress so quickly in a learning environment.

In the West, it seems that we are often so busy trying to get something, or get something done, that we miss its deeper benefit. If we allow more room in ourselves to truly appreciate what we have in front of us, we can more honestly take it in and embody it. To the dance teachers and musicians of Japan, “Otsukaresama desu,” and “Ganbatte kudasai”—In short, keep up the good work. We are looking forward to learning more from you, too.

Who are these ladies?
Dancers from the Ya Salam Studio in Nagoya.
Mari, owner of the studio, is on the bottom right with the red flower.
back row: 1, 2, Ranya, 3, 4, 5,

click for enlargement

Students from Ranya's 2006 workshop in Nagoya

Who are these ladies?
The Osaka dancers chilling out at "Chillout" studio.
Back row: 1, 2, Emi, Akiko
Front row: 1, Ranya, Tamami (who now lives in San Diego)

Yoko's class in Chiba.

Ken's Alladeen plays for Noel
click image for enlargerment

Ken's Alladeen

Lale Sayoko

Nahoko Sugiyama

Ranya's workshop in Nagoya in 2006

Nagoya dancers learn how to make quote marks with their fingers

Dancers at Karima's Tokyo studio.
Back row: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Front row: 1, Ranya, 3, 4

Ranya's workshop in Fukuoaka
back row
middle row
front row: 1, Momoi, 2, Ranya, 4, ...


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Ready for more?
4-23-08 to ? From Toronto, Ontario, Canada The International Bellydance Conference of Canada
Video reports by Gilded Serpent Staff Reports are presented in video format inbedded all on the same page.
4-23-08 Day 1 Wednesday Evening Show- remix from last year's stars
-Sofia, Serena, Rhythm Of The Nile, Anita of Dance Poi, pregnant Mayada, Shades Of Araby- Valizan and Sofia, Rayna, Rahma, troupe in shinny black straight skirts? Masouma Rose getting Mayyadah and Amir's reaction to the show. Clip intro reporting by Shira.
4-26-08 Day 2 Thursday Evening Show-Roula Said's Roulettes M2,
Jaida of New York, Ozgen of Turkey and the UK, Ivanka of Panama, The amazing Asha of Atlanta and the troupe, Goddess Bellydance of Korea.

4-29-08 Day 3 Friday Daytime Activities -Reporting today are Roula Said, Mark Balahadia, and Ranya Renee.
Video glimpses included: Tito, Bozenka, Ferda, Lynette Harper, Ranya Renee, Mark Balahadia, Roula Said, Stavros, The "Man Panel," plus more

4-29-08 Day 3 Friday Evening Show -This video clip is a collage from the Main Stage show on Friday night.
Performers included: Banat el Sharq, Ishra (we missed her- sorry!), Suha, Mark Balahadia, Nouvel Expose', Mariyah, Dominique, edVenture Arts, Dr Sawa, Danielle, Maqamaikaze, Jim Boz, Leah & Lynette Harper, Sefirah, and Arabian Allspice

4-30-08 Day 4 Saturday Daytime Activities-Reporting today are Andrea Deagon and Rahma Haddad
Glimpses include: Bozenka's class, Aida Nour's class, Amy Sigil's Class, Panel on Teaching Standards, and Aisha Ali's lecture
coming soon!- The Gala Show

11-15-02 Dancing again in Afghanistan By Qan-Tuppim
As I had suspected, Afghan women belly dance.

3-27-03 Belly Dance in Brazil by Thania
...they are trying to organize a Code of Ethics

7-3-08 Belly Dancing in Estonia by Ines Karu
As in the rest of the world, the Egyptian style of belly dance is the most popular one in Estonia. Most of the instructors and dancers are specialized in that style. The American Tribal Style Belly Dance is also becoming more known each day. The general impression of belly dance in Estonia is glamorous, feminine, luxurious, modern and elegant. It’s a time where Estonian dancers can truly say that they can be proud to be a Middle Eastern dance artist in Estonia.

5-27-06 Bellydance in Iceland by Sabah
Recently, I was able to witness first hand how truly global the world of bellydance has become. Dances of the Middle East and North Africa are no longer a mystery and unknown “exotic”style of dance.

5-4-04 Belly Dance in Israel by Orit Maftsir
Belly dancers are the hottest trend at the moment, unlike the totally frozen attitudes towards the Arab culture in Israel.

6-6-06 The Bellydance Scene in Taiwan Toss Hair Dance by Eugenia
The women were much more skillful than I expected: just 3 years ago, nobody in Taiwan really knew anything about Bellydance.

9-15-08 My First Experience in Egypt by Nadira
I have always felt a pull to visit Egypt to experience the history and culture of this dance I love so much. The chance came about just recently and it was so worth the wait.

9-13-08 Folk Tours 6th Annual Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp Report and Photos by Nina Amaya
held at Camp Greenlane in Pennsylvania, May 2008. The authenticity of the camp is amazing. I love Rakkasah and Tribal weekends as much as anyone else, but watching and listening to Arab musicians play Arab music and Turkish musicians play Turkish music, well, that adds a little something! After the nightly shows, the musicians keep playing to the wee hours and the camp dances in the big dining hall until we drop.

9-11-08 Spirit of the Tribes 2008 photos by Denise Marino
April, 24-27 2008, War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Produced by Maja

9-10-08 Festival Fantasia: A New Direction by Josephine Wise
I had a vision of the whole dance scene becoming one and being aware of one another.

9-9-08 Bert & Me: Vignettes From Our Partnership by Najia Marlyz
Though Bert might like to think of himself as a simple man, in fact, he is a very complex and private person whose lifetime is filled with famous and colorful characters and experiences.

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