April 2007/Volume II

Bellydance Facts....or Fiction?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I remember when I first began attending bellydance classes and holding images of women dancing with multiple veils and bejeweled navels in large colorful tents. Their audience? The "Sheik" of course... What I learned in class was that bellydance was predicated on natural childbirth. I learned that the women back then didn't have easy access to doctors so they were taught bellydance movements which were modeled after the natural uterine contractions associated with labor pains and designed to make for an easier birthing process...Wow!

That was many years ago and since then I've heard a multitude of other stories as to the origins and reasons behind the dance. The truth? It's hard to say with exact accuracy as no one who was really there is still alive to say. There are a few common bellydance myths out there that are a bit easier to explain and I thought I'd list some of them so as to clear up some of the mystery:

* Jewel in the Navel: Wearing a jewel in the navel was a Hollywood invention to cope with censorship issues in movies during a time in which showing the bare navel was considered too risque. In fact, if you watch any of the old “I Dream of Jeannie
programs, Barbara Eden’s costume covers her navel at all times!

* Dance of the Seven Veils: This idea was popularized by an 1896 French play written by Oscar Wilde. "Salome", the title of the play, was based on a biblical story in which the step-daughter of Herod, danced before Herod and her mother Herodias on Herod's birthday, and by doing so caused the death of John the Baptist. The Bible story doesn’t actually describe the dance but the play characterized it as the "Dance of the Seven Veils".

* Dancing with a Veil: According to Morocco, the well-known Middle Eastern dance historian, veil dancing similar to what we see today did not make its way into the formal Oriental dance theaters until the 1940's. King Farouk of Egypt hired a famous Russian ballerina, Ivanova, to teach his daughters to dance. During entrances and to improve arm carriage,Ivanova began teaching her students how to carry a veil. One student, Samia Gamal, subsequently brought veil dancing to the United States in the movie "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" which was then exported to other countries. This became popular and was incorporated by other Oriental dancers in their repertoires.

* Dancing for the Sheik in Harems: It is unlikely that women danced for anyone but themselves while whiling away long days in the harem. Even today, women in the Middle East often dance for each other. Usually men were kept segregated from the women and if a girl was looking to win the attention of the Sheik, it would more likely have been by dancing to please his mother or first wife who would have had the most influence in deciding who to introduce him to.

* Bellydance as Preparation for Childbirth: Research has found that the movements used in bellydance have their origin in birthing rituals. During these rituals, at which men were prohibited, the women would dance around the mother-to-be during labor in an effort to hypnotize her into copying their own undulating movements and aid her in coping with the painful contractions of birth.

* The term “Bellydance
: "Bellydance" was a term introduced to the United States at the World’s Fair back in 1896 by Sol Bloom. Sol Bloom was a San Francisco businessman who, upon seeing a Middle Eastern dance show at a Paris Exposition, decided to bring it to the United States. The term used to describe their dance in France was "danse du ventre". "When the public found out that the literal translation was "belly dance", they delightedly concluded that it must be salacious and immoral. The crowds poured in. As it became debased and vulgarized it began to acquire the reputation that survives today-the reputation of a crude, suggestive dance known as the 'Hootchy-Kootchy.'" (Autobiography of Sol Bloom)

The Two-Piece Beaded Costume (bedlah): This costume originated in Egypt in the 1930s in Badia Mansabny’s nightclub. Mansabny was a dancer as well as a singer, actress, and businesswomen who was very much influenced by Hollywood films and European cabarets when she introduced the bedlah. Many of her clientele at that time were European men who found the original dance costume (which was either a long dress with a sash tied around the hips, or a long shirt with a long blouse, vest and sash worn over it) not revealing enough.

Hopefully the above information helps to shed some light on the background of this dance form. Historical mysteries have always fascinated me so this is one area which I have really enjoyed researching. If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend the writings of "Morocco" at www.casbahdance.org and the wealth of information found at www.shira.net.

Student Spotlight...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


Crisp isolations, sharp technique and an incredible head for choreography are just a few ways to describe Jennifer, this month's featured dancer. Born and raised in San Francisco, Jen was bit by the bellydancing bug when she wandered into a local hookah joint called Kan Zaman. She was immediately taken by the sinuous and sultry movements presented by the dancer that evening and resolved to try it out herself. A few years later and a relocation to San Diego found Jennifer enrolling in classes with the recently retired Bahira. She quckly entered into the performing circuit at Zorba's Greek Buffet Restaurant where she continues to perfrom regularly.

A big fan of choreography, Jennifer found herself craving more technique and movements for her dance repertoire. She was blown away upon witnessing the crisp isolations displayed by Rachel George of Portland, Oregon (who lived/taught briefly here in San Diego) and began taking private lessons each week. Rachel, an avid student of Suhaila Salimpour, introduced Jennifer to a more structured and controlled format of dance movement. When Rachel returned to Oregon, Jennifer began studying with Vilia who's teachings are also based on the Suhaila format. She is inspired by the strong technique exhibited by Aziza of Montreal, Suhaila Salimpour and Rachel George.

A member of the HipSlinger dance company, Jennifer has a love affair with choreography and a true gift for picking up moves and dance combinations quickly. Currently Jennifer performs weekly at several locales throughout San Diego including Zorba's, BirdHouse Grill, Marrakesh and Greek Town. She is also in frequent demand for private events such as weddings and birthday parties. As if that isn't enough, Jennifer also moonlights as a "Fly Girl" backup dancer once a month at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach with Atomic Groove! Don't miss her upcoming performance at Claire de Lune in North Park featuring the live music of Middle Earth...and if you'd like to catch her "fly girl" act, she'll be performing at the Belly Up on Friday, April 13th at 5:30PM ($5 Cover - 21 and up).

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

**Christine's Debut!**

If you didn't make it to Christine's dance debut last month at Kolbeh Persian Restaurant, you missed a great show. Christine performed beautifully in a costume of her own design and handled her performance like a true professional. I actually got tears in my eyes watching how all of her hard work, time and dedication has paid in off in such relatively little time! I know Christine must have been a nervous wreck as she prepared to dance to a full house of restaurant patrons as well as a huge table full of friends and colleagues. Not to mention the fact that her boyfriend...visiting for two weeks from Germany...had no idea that she was going to be dancing! What an amazing look of pleasure and surprise when he heard Christine's name announced over the PA System as the next dancer.

Christine's demeanor was one of confidence and excitement as she easily maneuvered her way through the restaurant tables to her opening piece of music...an upbeat dance song by Setrak Sarkissian. She followed up with a beautiful veil piece from Middle Earth's latest album, Lavendar. Performing effortless turns using a multi-colored china silk veil she dyed herself! The exciting drum solo followed allowing her to display her hard earned isolations and body rolls. Her finale had her playfully dancing through the audience leaving her virtually covered with dollar bills. The look on her face was priceless and the reaction from the audience was one of pure enjoyment. The joy in Christine's dance was certainly infectious.

Don't miss Christine's next performance on April 22nd at Turquoise Cafe' Europa in Pacific Beach. Christine and I will be performing solo to the wonderful music of Middle Earth and the fantastic drumming of San Diego's own, Frank Lazzaro.

Upcoming Events...


By popular demand, I will be starting a new Intermediate/Advanced level bellydance class for those wishing to push themselves to a higher level of technique and performance. This class will include stretching and conditioning exercises building stamina and strength, advanced combinations, drills and focussed instruction on the use of props such as finger cymbals, veil and candle tray. There will also be a focus on performance preparation in which Middle Eastern rhythms, stage presence and improvisation will be explored. For those wishing to, or already performing professionally, this is the class for you. Performance opportunities will be available. Class time is Saturday from 1:30 to 3PM starting this weekend (4/7) at Stage 7 in North Park. Click HERE for the complete address, directions and tuition information.


A most wonderful opportunity! Meleah of San Diego will be hosting the legendary Suhaila Salimpour in a two day workshop (May 26/27th). Price is only $150...a steal given that Suhaila, the one responsible for creating the format which I base my own teaching, is also the daughter of the legendary Jamila Salimpour. Jamila, a pioneer in the Middle Eastern dance world, is responsible for much of the movements and terminology used in Middle Eastern dance throughout the United States. Jamila is considered to be the "Mother-Ship" when it comes to bellydance lineage and her daughter Suhaila has carried on the tradition of excellence and innovation in Middle Eastern dance. Please don't miss this chance to study with one of the best. A show featuring Suhaila, her amazing assistant Tiffany, her beautiful daughter Isabella, and top talent from San Diego including myself and my dance company, The HipSlingers, will take place on Saturday evening, May 26th at Greek Palace in Kearny Mesa. Cost is just $25 for the show and complete buffet. If you can't make the class, you MUST see the show. Suhaila is phenomenal and you will not be disappointed!
Click HERE to view a flyer with more detailed information.


The Spring beginning bellydance session at UCSD starts this Saturday (4/7) from 11:30 to 1PM at RIMAC - UCSD's Recreation Center. This is an excellent class for those just getting started in bellydance or for those wishing to brush up on the basics. Proper dance posture and technique will be the focus along with a fun choreography. $58 for the entire session makes this class a great deal! You don't have to be a UCSD student and parking is free! Be sure and sign up quickly as this class is always packed!

********** SHOWS! **********

Friday, April 6th, 20th & May 4th, 18th - Vilia will be performing at the Marrakesh Restaurant in La Jolla. Enjoy an exotic Moroccan dining experience featuring two dance shows (7:30PM/9PM). Reservations recommended.

Thursday, April 19 - Jennifer will perform to live music by Middle Earth at Claire de Lune Coffee House in Hillcrest. Show starts at 8:30PM. $5/Cover.

Saturday, April 21st - Jennifer performs at The Birdhouse Grill in Encinitas. Show starts at 7:30PM. 250 North Highway 101, Encinitas, 760-944-2882

Sunday, April 22nd - Christine and Vilia perform at the Turquoise Cafe' Bar Europa in Pacific Beach. Show starts at 8PM - 873 Turquoise Street featuring live music by Middle Earth and drumming by Frank Lazzaro.(21 and up)

Saturday, April 28th - Jennifer performs at Zorba's Greek Buffet in Chula Vista. Seating begins at 8PM. $10 Minimum.

Saturday, May 19th - Vilia to perform at Night of Divine Dance in Tijuana. (More info to come.)

Saturday, May 26th (7PM)- Vilia and The HipSlingers perform with Suhaila Salimpour at the Greek Palace. (8878 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.) Buffet and show - $25.00. Contact Meleah (619)280-8424 for tickets.

Tuesdays - Jennifer performs at Marrakesh in La Jolla. First show starts around 7:30PM. Reservations recommended.

** See the "Relevant Links" column to the right for restaurant websites and location information. **


For Detailed Class Descriptions
Click Here!

Beginning/Intermediate Technique
Wed 7:30-9PM
La Jolla YMCA Firehouse
7877 Herschel Ave.
La Jolla, CA 92037

Middle Eastern Dance Basics
Sat 11:30-1PM
UCSD Rec Center
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 534-3772
Registration Form (pdf)

Intermediate/Advanced Performance & Technique
SAT 1:30-3PM
Stage 7
3980 30th Street
San Diego, CA 92104

Private Coaching by Appointment


** Existing Students ** Bring a friend to class and receive your class FREE!

** All Students ** Purchase a 6-class card and receive a FREE half-hour private coaching session valid for six months.

Relevant Links...