Najia Marlyz

The Gilded Serpent presents...

Najia Marlyz

Najia Marlyz, a native Californian, began an unexpected but serendipitous career in dance and physical fitness after receiving her Masters of Library Science from the University of California at Berkeley, 1967. She began as a substitute instructor for a class called “Dancercise” taught at the YMCA in Berkeley. Shortly thereafter, she created also a program there that she dubbed “The Body Shop” and one called “Creative Movement for Children”. However, her women’s Dancercise classes grew quickly in popularity, and soon Najia was teaching 12 lessons per week in Berkeley, Kensington, El Cerrito, Albany, Orinda, and other neighboring communities.

Contributor to the Belly Dance Reader Volumn 1

The dancing component of her women’s exercise classes eventually drew her into Belly dance, which had begun to spread into all types of women’s groups during the “flower child” era of the late ‘60s. It was then that she met Bert Balladine who became her dance mentor, dance partner, and long-time friend. From 1973 until 1981, Najia owned a dance studio in Albany, California, where she, Bert Balladine, and other dancers and musicians taught also. Najia danced professionally in many San Francisco Bay Area venues and was coached in stagecraft by performance artist, Beatrice Meyers (“Beatrice and Her Enchanted Violin”).

Over the years, Najia has taught thousands of dance students of all ages and backgrounds, coaxing them to a greater understanding and appreciation of music and creative movement both in ethnic and general dance. Bert continued to mentor her, and for a few years, she traveled and taught master classes at his behest in Cologne (Koln) and Berlin, Germany.

Najia’s mission with dance began, and still remains, artistic creative movement keyed closely to musical analysis for the purpose of theatrical entertainment.

For over a decade, Najia traveled to the Middle East, mainly Egypt, and concentrated on reproducing an authentic Egyptian style. However, feeling overly confined by the Egyptian style, she made an artistic and personal decision to change perspective once again and move back into her roots in creative dance concepts. Additionally, as part of her over-all dance career, Najia has maintained an interest in journalism pertaining to dance and related subjects, and has a large body of dance articles to her credit. Today, she continues to coach professional dancers and other performers by appointment in her home studio in Bay Point, California.

Articles on Gilded Serpent by Najia Marlyz

Opinion and Advice, Dance and Teaching Techniques, Memoirs and History, Costuming and Textiles, Reviews, Miscellany

list last updated: June 2012- 80+ articles!

Most Recent

  • Retirement, Is There Life After Dance?
    Perhaps this was my mistake; I had a plan for my dance career, and I was not shy to tell it to everyone who would listen.
  • Beata Zadou in 1988, Winter Visit to Berlin's Snow Princess
    It is rare that reality matches one’s fantasy, but in this case, in 1988, my expectations were surpassed by the reality of wish-fulfillment.
  • O Aitos Berkeley in the '70s
    Truthfully, I had never laid eyes on an authentic belly dancer, live or on film at that point, so I hardly knew what to expect.
  • "Der Schnerkle" Its Proper Uses and Functions
    Therefore, I reasoned, the use of ones extremities for dancing (beyond transporting one across the stage or making a movement appear finished) was to gather and distribute performance energy from the stage rather than simply wave arms about in the air with artistry and grace.
  • Costuming Trends of 1987, At the Rakkasah Festival
    Although the trend at Rakkasah ‘87 was definitely toward better dancing than we have seen in the past; the costuming I saw would be high on anyone’s list of worn-out ideas.  Nowadays, we have more and more of almost everything; it is immediately apparent that there is more material in the skirts—such as double skirts, ruffles, tatters, tiers, beads, and even elaborate sequined patterns, and embroidery.
  • Tale of the Rat, Beginning to Teach, Part One
    He warned me! My German speaking mentor and dance partner, Bert Balladine, told me one day that teaching would change my dance—not necessarily for the better.
  • The One-of-a-kind Costume Still Fascinates:Re-envision, Recycle, Renew, and Remember
    Sometimes, perhaps more often than not, those people whom we love, and those things that we enjoy doing, introduce new facets into our lives that change our perspective of what becomes important to us in the long run.
  • Cairo Revisited: Dancing into the ‘90s
    Originally written for Caravan Magazine 1992- The one thing on which you depend about dance in Egypt from year to year is that everything slowly changes. I’ve returned to Cairo each year now for nine consecutive years, and last year my visit was just before the short war we had with Iraq in which Egypt was our US ally. Cairenes seemed sad last year, because Cairo had lost most of its income from tourism, and many Egyptian nationals were returning from Iraq and Kuwait, where they no longer had employment. I did not know what to expect this year, except the inevitable fact of surprising, yet subtle, change.
  • Sharpening Your Dancer’s Edge: Performing Without Choreography
    The idea of dance governed by choreography is more a western notion that was not inherent originally a part of the Middle Eastern dance solo
  • Dancer Cancer, Part Two: Who? Me?
    Still, the human heart is woven with threads of hope, and mine did not doubt that if I could make it through the onslaught of doctors, surgeries, pain, and gymnastic therapy, I would, someday dance again.
  • Dancer Cancer, Part One: Hopping on One Foot
    Still, I was confident that there would be no further problem and that I was letting my vanity get the best of me. By wanting to look good, I had caused all my own discomfort, I reassured myself. He said I would have the biopsy report in a few days and to call my referral doctor to hear what the UC San Francisco laboratory report said.

Opinion and Advice

  • Bully for You! The Science of Dance
    I have observed a cycle in which, periodically, emerging dancers who have obtained slightly more prominence in the craft begin to make recycled attempts to regulate it through instructional devices in order to control it to their own personal ends.
  • Letting Go of the Towline, Surviving Dance Conflict!
    Still, even though our dance puts us into contact with beloved friends and creative people who bring us continual joy and renewal, Belly dance is also a powerful magnet for some people with serious mental and emotional problems beyond the scope of dance
  • Fusion: How much is too much?
    In America, and evidently elsewhere, we dancers seem to have a voracious appetite for new steps and movements, so like hungry chipmunks, we have grabbed all we could stuff into our cheeks of Turkish and Arabic steps and gestures, resorting to incorporating and mixing of Saidi, Kaleedgi, Blue Guedra, Ghawazi, etc. We've chewed all of them up together and spit them out and found that they have not sufficiently nourished us.
  • Arab Defamation in the Media: Do Unwary Dancers Add Harm to the Mix?
    My frustration rose when the television news commentators expressed their puzzlement over the significance of the “shoe slapping antics” as they attempted to interpret them for western viewers. If they had had any inkling of the enormity of the hatred the insult indicated, they would not have made the silly comments that they made that day!
  • Life as a Bellydancer: A Dancer's Dilema
    Next came my surprising reality check. It stung me pitifully when I was introduced at my family reunion as "Evelyn’s daughter, the Kootch dancer"! I still thought of myself as a graduate student, learning fascinating things about ethnic studies and folklore.
  • Recieving Filthy Lucre: Justifying Payment for Your Art
    Belly dance can be a respectable art and teaching it should be a respected employment. Often it isn’t, and that is why you have to set your career goals—and don’t forget to consider the money!
  • Thorn of the Rose: Making Friends with Criticism
    Thorns make the rose ever more precious; though one’s ego rarely treasures moments of having felt the sharp thorn of stinging criticism. If the dancer is open to criticism—valid or invalid—it can open the door to the process of re-evaluation that otherwise might never happen.
  • This is Not a Review: Bellydance Superstars
    Herein lies one major flaw concerning the concept of superstardom in Bellydance: choreography. While choreography is a form of quality assurance, it is also assurance that the quality attained will be less than stellar in Bellydance!
  • Who Died and Made You Queen of Dance?
    This lack of background basic performing experience would be unheard of and un-tolerated in any other dance form.
  • Advice from a Temporal Dance Oracle
    --Dance related disputes
  • Searching for Your New Dance Teacher, The First Interview
  • The New Age Adage for Performing Dancers
    If you have nothing to say through your dance, do not dance.
  • The Critic; Real Critics Don’t Mince Words
    Either we are a sisterhood of ego therapists and our instructors are politically correct in all they say and do—or we are tough artists in search of ways to improve our art form by ruthlessly weeding out the lame from our herd.
  • Certifying the Certifiers, The Chicken or the Egg? Part Two
    ...artists and stars are born, not schooled. You’ve either “got it, or you don’t”
  • Certifying the Certifiers
    ...this has occurred because of the current need to be correct, and within certain predictable standards of competence rather than special, unique, outstanding, unusual, memorable, or even (gasp!) emotion producing...
  • What do You Owe Your Dance Teacher, besides a Christmas Fruitcake?
    Teaching involves a selflessness that often does not often jibe with the egotism it takes to be an outstanding performer.
  • Why Take Private Lessons and Coaching?
    You will enhance your presentation beyond your wildest dreams!
  • Dancing to the Houri's Siren
    She was always there dancing at my shoulder and up-staging me in my own mind...
  • Entertainment or Art?
    It is possible to be an artiste in a non-art form in the sense that one may be skilled, professional and artistic at the business of entertainment.
  • Welcome to Bellydance
    ..Do not allow anyone to limit your possibilities.
    A Case against Standardization in Nomenclature for Belly Dance Instruction
  • Najia introduces her new column
  • Rakkasah West 2002 Looms Ahead
    Although Rakkasah still is an attempt to give all dance performers an equal opportunity, results of the phone-in to book a dance time is often very chancy because of high demand.

Contact Najia about improving your dance!Dance and Teaching Techniques

Memoirs and History

Najia on stage

Costuming and Textiles

Poetry and Allegories about Dance


Contact Najia for private coaching!Reviews


Publicity Photos
Small images are linked to larger ones: ~5 x 8 inches at 150 DPI
All of these shots were photographed by Jules Kliot of Berkeley, and they are all circa 1974-78.  
I designed, sewed, and beaded all of the costumes by hand myself--some from scratch and some from found objects like the lace and the crochet pieces.
I don't mind these photos being used; however I would like my name attached and the photographer credited.

Najia Marlyz
Najia Marlyz
Najia Marlyz
Najia Marlyz
Najia Marlyz