Background Information:

Origins of belly dance - Even though no one knows for sure where it originated exactly, one thing is for sure: it came from the Middle East.
Some people argue that it came from India, others say it's from Egypt, or Turkey or even from Iraq. Also there are arguments of how it
originated: was it a dance in the harems, danced by enslaved women for their sultan? Was it a temple dance in India? Or was it a fertility
dance, celebrating the joys of motherhood, giving birth and life? One hint: it was definitely not a harem-dance, as historically women never
belly danced for men (if they did, it wasn't voluntary), they only danced among themselves).

Dance styles: You have probably heard of several styles: Egyptian, American, Turkish, Tribal, even Lebanese. You may even have heard of
Gypsy. Belly dance is belly dance, there are not a lot of differences in between the styles (especially not important ones for someone just
starting to learn it) but there are some in the execution of the moves, choice of music and costuming.

Egyptian: the true belly dance, in Arabic called Raqs Sharqi (pronounced: Raks Sharki - simple, right?) It means the dance of the East. The
movements are usually smaller, arm and hand movement are not quite as expressive as we have been doing in class - they certainly don't do
much of the wrist circles, and snake arms. Egyptian dancers usually hold their arms in different angles to accentuate and emphasize their
moves. While it sounds simple, it still takes a while to learn it and feel confident about it.
The dancer usually dances introverted. What I mean by that is that she doesn't focus that much on the audience, her main focus is not
entertaining. She listens to the complicated, delicate music and attempts to give it back with her movements. This is very beautiful, but usually
don't see much of this in this country - if you go to a restaurant to see a dancer, you don't only want to see good dancing, but also be
entertained and have fun. Egyptian style doesn't use floor work, or veil but they use cane - probably not truly appreciated by the Western
audience.   You - as a beginner student -  would probably find this very authentic style boring.  This is not to say that this style is boring - it is
beautiful and capable to convey the most complex feelings. The technique itself is difficult to truly master, there are lot of subtle movements
that are especially hard for beginners. Unfortunately all of this is usually lost on the Western audience, they don't fully appreciate it.

Turkish: there are not a lot of differences. The hip lift or up/down shimmy is still the same in Turkish style. What makes it different is the choice
of music - Turkish, with different rhythms, the dancer usually adds some Turkish folk movements - they also have very specific hand gestures
(with meanings) and intricate foot patterns, hops and skips. The dance style is more earthy, and in my opinion more fun. Turkish style also
includes veil and floor work. Unfortunately people are aware of the misconceptions that Turkish style dancers wear very skimpy costumes with
showing a lot of their bodies. This is true in some parts of Turkey. But just because you hear someone is Turkish style, don't assume that she
lowers herself to that level.

Lebanese:  Again, moves are moves, not much difference. In Lebanese style, dancers use a lot more up movements (instead of hip drops,
they do hip lifts) with a lot of twisting of their hips. They also move around more, and definitely add more turns and spins. They do use veil,
cane and floor work. They are into entertaining, so if you were to watch all different performances, you'd probably like this most. One distinct
feature: they all wear high heels. It originated with a famous Lebanese dancer saying she doesn't want to look like she can't even afford
shows, so she started wearing high heels (very high) The heels do alter the moves: some of them are easier and some look different.

American: This style is not authentic because belly dance didn't originate in the US. Nevertheless you are most likely to see this style anywhere
around here. The American style dancer incorporates the Egyptian style: beautiful shimmies, flutters, and isolations, with gymnastic - like
floorwork borrowed from Turkish, a lot of spins and turns from the Lebanese. They also added other elements such as candle tray or sword
balancing (definitely an American feature), veil (an extensive use of veil is very American). So the American style performance has 5-7 parts:
1. entrance song, usually upbeat. 2. veil song, slow and mystical. 3. another fast song  4.  prop, such cane, or candle tray or sword (not all the
dancers use candles/sword, it's pretty heard, it's more like a specialty), they might use floor work. 5. drumsolo   6. another fast song to finish it
and 7. maybe to get the audience involved, trying to get one or more persons to dance.
Although this is very interesting (and definitely not boring), a lot of people argue that this way the dance looses its meaning and authenticity. It
is true in some form.  This is why you have to know the styles and know which type of audience would prefer it. In a restaurant the owner will
probably request the American style (the audience is more likely Western) with veil, a second prop, and audience participation. At a party, with
Middle Eastern guests I might do sword, but I limit my use of veil, and floor work. In parties like that I can dance more of an Egyptian style also
using cane.

Tribal: Although it is increasing in popularity, most dancers agree that Tribal style is not Middle Eastern in origin. The tribal style you see done
in this country (or in Europe, as a matter of fact) is not connected to the tribes in Africa or the Middle East. This dance style is solely based on
American style , it is also called ATS (American Tribal Style).  The music is usually fusion - sometimes Middle Eastern, but most of the times
remixes, New Age music, etc. You will probably never hear the Egyptian classics that are such an important part of belly dance. Costuming is
normally excessive - lot of skirts, cholis, pants, turbans - the colors are normally black and dark, with a splash of bright colors. The dancers
often wear tattoos (permanent or temporary)   It is never danced solo - it's always a group performing with a strong emphasis on
choreography. It relies on a lot of rehearsing, usually (but not always) has one troupe leader and the other follow her cues. Although - like I
said- this style is not the true authentic belly dance (only danced in groups, choreographed, choice of music and costuming) it is gaining
popularity: a lot of dancers like to cover up, and not show their bodies, they also feel more comfortable dancing in a group, instead of solo,
they like the fact that they know exactly what to do. They also enjoy the sisterhood that comes with this - long, frequent rehearsals and the
trust that you must rely on each other.

Gypsy:  there is really no Gypsy style belly dancing. First of all the name Gypsy is degrading, these people prefer to be called Rom or Roma.
The Roma has travelled everywhere starting from India throughout Europe. A certain percentage has stayed behind and has been living in
those countries: Greece, The former Russia, Romania, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Spain, etc. They have adapted to the countries
customs somewhat. They are wonderful artists, mostly musicians. Their music therefore includes elements of their home country. Since I am
Hungarian I can tell you a little more about the Hungarian Roma music: it sounds a lot like Hungarian folk: with all the traditional instruments, a
lot of violin is used. The Hungarian Roma have mastered this instrument and have become world famous. It is said the no one can play the
violin as a Hungarian Gypsy. It is true. The lyrics are interesting. The songs are either very happy or very sad. If they are happy, the songs are
very upbeat and fun. The lyrics are hilarious: they usually reflect on the village life and the daily activities of the Roma. It often talks about
being drunk, love, committing crimes and going to jail, chasing after the girls, makes jokes about mother-in-laws, etc. These lyrics are very
funny,  but they would be hard to translate . If the lyrics are sad, they are really, really sad. It would be about lost or unreturned love,  the hard
life of the Roma, being persecuted and hated in their country, not having a real home. Some of the songs actually make me cry. All of this has
a lot to do with the Hungarian folk music.

Russian Roma music will sound like Russian, Turkish will have Turkish influences, etc. Spanish Roma is basically Flamenco.
But this has nothing to do with belly dance. The Roma of course knows how to party, and they dance at family gatherings but they have never
belly danced - This is just a fantasy - idea. Their dancing involves a lot of footwork, hopping on feet, and snapping of the fingers; they don't
use their hips or torso as we do in belly dance.

Also a lot of people don't realize that all dance forms are connected somewhat through the movements. There is only so many
ways your body can move and so many movements you can do with your hips, your torso, etc. You will find that the omi - which is a vertical hip
circle is present in Middle Eastern dance, in Polynesian dance, and you can also see it in hip hop, in clubs and on MTV.
However they are executed differently. In Middle Eastern dance it is done in an elegant way, legs close, feet next to each other, the movement
is usually slow and very controlled. In Polynesian dance it is always done very fast, sort of like an omi shimmy, but the outfit enhances the
movement so it looks totally different. In hip hop, or especially what you see in MTV videos this movement is done with the legs open, the body
language and facial expressions definitely make it anything but elegant and classy. Also it's much more loose, as opposed to controlled. So
just because you see this movement in other dance forms it doesn't mean they are belly dancing.

In Latin dances they use the hips, of course, but differently, and they use the legs a lot more. Actually the emphasis is on footwork while in
belly dance it's always n the hips. But you'll see some moves in belly dance that might remind you of some things from merengue or other
dances. Again, this is because there are only so many ways for you to move your body.

So overall the specific dance forms is composed of the actual moves performed, body language, position of the arms, attitude of the dance,
costume, music and cultural relation. That's why it's so important to learn everything about the dance form you choose so you can perform it in
it's true form. Just taking belly dance classes for 2 months will not make a belly dancer - it usually takes at least a year to grasp the foundation
and overall feeling, and is a continuous journey that should never end.

Music: You will usually hear Arabic music with belly dance. As of right now you can probably distinguish between 2 groups: traditional Arabic
music and Arabic Pop music.

Traditional Arabic music may be a little unusual to your ears, but it will grow on you and you will appreciate it. It involves a lot of instruments
(often an orchestra consists of 30-50 musicians), these instruments include a table (Middle Eastern drum), kanoun, lute, nay, even violin, and
many others. The lyrics are usually written by poets. They have very deep meaning, and rich, exhuberant expressions. The Arabic language is
a very rich, complex language, which cannot be compared to English. Because of these properties and the talented poets, the songs are able
to express a very deep, strong feeling of love, sorrow, hardship or happiness. Some of the very famous Egyptian singers were Um Kalthoum,
Abdel Halim, Farid Al Atrache, and Abdel Wahab. You should definitely know these names. You should also check the links on the Links page
and read upon them - you'll read their impressive life stories and hear their songs. Some other important names were Feirouz (she's
Lebanese, you usually wouldn't actually dance to her songs) and Warda. These songs were made back in the 40s - the 70s. They were
actually 45- 60 minutes long. The music we are actually dancing to are extractions of the beautiful melody, and having it played in a slightly
different style. There are no singing in this music, that would be actually disrespectful to the singer.

Pop music on the other hand is not so impressive. Sure, it is very easy to listen to and enjoy, but lot of the traditional instruments re replaced
with a single keyboard. Of course they keep the tabla (drum) which still gives it its beautiful, complicated patterned rhythms. The lyrics are also
not so impressive - they are often about love, in a simplified version. No deep feelings, longing for the others are mentioned. Some of the
popular musicians are Amr Diab, Ragheb Alama, Hakim, Ehab Touwfic, etc. On the Links page you can also find sites that will let you listen to /
download Arabic Pop music.
It is said that one can learn a handful of useful words by listening to a few pop songs - later on you will keep hearing these words.
For example: you probably heard -
Habibi. That means my darling, my sweethart, my baby, etc. This is in ALL the songs.
Omri my life
Hobbi    my love
Hayati   my life
Albi  my heart
Ayni   this literally means "my eye" or ayouni means eyes. It is used in the same context as my "sweetheart" meaning that the eyes are very
important to everyone and that's how dear and important the person is he's talking to / about.
Inti  You, (female only) you can probably hear the word combined with the above ones a lot, as the singer always sings "you are my life"
heart....   my baby.
Inta - you (male only) - interestingly in Arabic songs, this is the form used, even if the male singer is singing about a lady, he'll use Inta.
Ana - I.
Jamila -
Hilwa - sweet, nice
Bahibbak    I love you
Wahashni / Wahashtini     I miss you. The first is a man saying it to a woman, the second one a women saying it to a man.
La   - No
Aywa - yes (only in Egyptian songs, but you're probably hear it in Lebanese songs as well)
Layla, Layali, Laylet - night, nights (2 different forms, Layali is more specific to Egyptian Arabic)
Amar - Moon (other than Egyptian it is pronounced as Qamar). The moon is often used as relating to someone's eyes, and eyes are usually
referring to how beautiful someone is - see above. For example there's a famous song by Amr Diab, Amarain, which means "two moons"
referring to the girls eyes (since she has two of them :)

The Arab World consists of 21 Arab speaking countries. As you can see this will cover a very large geographical area, so it is very obvious
that there are cultural differences based on the area, climate, location, etc.  This will have a big difference on the music coming from these
areas. I will gradually add more and more information regarding this.

Middle Eastern Body Language / Expressions:

Middle Eastern Hand Gestures / Facial Expressions:  This page offers a very good list of facial expressions / hand gestures / body language
used by people of Middle Eastern origin. It is very interesting, although I would STRONGLY DISCOURAGE you to try any of them out in front of
people. First of all, the gestures will look forced and unnatural, second of all, context is everything, so there's a big chance you would use them
in a wrong situation use them the wrong way, and you can really offend someone and/or make yourself look really bad.
If you watch videos of Middle Eastern dancers, you can try if you can recognize any of these gestures, as they are quite present during those

Stage names for belly dancers  
A lot of (although not all) belly dancers take on stage names for several reasons:
1. to feel safer, as their real identity is not exposed
2. they feel that they can connect easier with their dance-persona if the have an exotic name
3. they feel that their name may be too plain or too western sounding, or they just really like other names

Usually these names are Arabic or Turkish, but thy also use names from other languages and there are a lot of fantasy names.
Taking a stage name is not required, it is totally up to the individual, but if you are considering "renaming" yourself, I would suggest a few
1. pick a name you are completely happy with, because you do not want to change your name a few years later
2. it is better to choose a name earlier, when you are not well known, this way everyone gets to know you by your dance name
3. whatever name you choose, make sure you check it in a dictionary of several languages. (at least Turkish, Arabic, Greek, Persian, etc). A
beautiful sounding name could mean something pleasant in one language and something horrible in another.
4. don't just take native speaker's advice, double check!
5. however you should ask native speakers opinions, because some names may be suitable, but are rarely used, or may be associated with
certain religious figures, etc.
6. make sure you don't take a name that is already taken by a well known belly dancer, especially in your area. (for example there are very well
known Aziza, Suhaila, Jamila, Soraya (Persian name), etc).
7. do not only concentrate on the sound, the meaning is very important. For example don't take a name such as "Samra" if you're blonde or
red - haired (the name means dark-haired), etc.
8. you do not need to pick an Arabic name! Especially - in my opinion - if you do not even resemble a Middle Eastern lady, you do not want to
have a very obvious Arabic name (for example, I do not look Arabic, why would I try to have a name like that?)
9. Fantasy names are great! You can make your name slightly different by adding an extra vowel, or pronouncing it in a different way. You will
identify with it easier, but you will still have your "alter-ego". For example: Amy - Amaya, Katherine - Katarina, Natalie - Natalia, etc.
10. some dancers add a last name, but it's not important/required. (if you add a last name, you should go through steps 1 - 7)
11. consider how it is spelled and pronounced. As all Arabic names are spelled phonetically, it almost does not matter how you spell them as
long as they are pronounced right. Choose a name that is not a tongue - twister (Khayriyyah for example seems fancy, but could everyone
pronounce it right?) Also don't spell a name in a fancy way just because it looks pretty.

Here are a couple of websites with lists of Arabic names:
Female Arabic names1
Female Arabic names 2
Female Turkish names    be careful with the Turkish names, because they can be difficult to pronounce. Spelling is important as they use the
same alphabet as we do. The accents on the letters, are important, but how would someone know how to pronounce them?
Persian Names  - most of them have the meanings listed

Costuming:  On the Links page I have listed several websites that sell belly dance costumes, ranging from very low budget, beginner
costumes (under $100) to professional and high end costumes (up to $1200).
I also make professional quality costumes - I take no more than 3-4 weeks to complete it, make it exactly for you, based on your ideas /
requests. Check out the Special Order page for more information.

Make up:    I love natural beauty products. In my country (Hungary) growing up we always used natural food items on our body (hair, face,
skin). I truly believe that anything you eat you can use on your skin and it will benefit in some way. However every plant has a different
purpose, and this needs to be considered when choosing what to use.

Hair: for nourishment, you can use the following items as a hair therapy once / week.  Before washing your apply the following choose one
from the list, or you can combine a couple) completely cover your hair, massage your scalp; put on a plastic cap, and towel and leave it on for
at least 10-15 minutes.
- olive oil     (you may combine olive oil with any of the following)
- egg yolk   (mayonnaise is pretty much egg yolks and olive oil, but the store brought item has so many other unnesessary preservatives and
other things you don't need)
-  tomato sauce  (this is great!  Once my hair turned completely green from the jacuzzi and several hourly treatments I got my original color
back. It also improved my texture and made my hair very soft.)

As a rinse
- chamomile tea (put chamomile tea bags in boiling water, steep for 10 minutes. Wait until it cools down or add some cold water to make sure
it's only warm)
- beer -  Yes, beer! It's full of vitamin B, and your hair will not smell like beer afterwards!
- you can put honey in your conditioner. Or simply put honey on the ends of your hair, it's really effective for split ends. Honey is water based,
so it will easily wash out.

Nutrition for your skin (to moiusterize / tighten / nourish)
-  honey (it's very sticky and feel weird, but it's nice for your skin, Make sure you add moisterizer afterwards!)
-  egg yolk
-  oats  - you can put oats in boiling water so they soften up. You can mix with honey
-  sour cream. It's good for all skin type, and very nice for a SLIGHT burn after tanning.
-  apricot - make it into a puree, you can mix it with baby powder for thickness. It will probably drip off your face, so I recommend placing a towel
on you bed, lay dawn and relax.
-   avocado
-   banana
-   tomatoes
-   cucumber - it has a slight lightening effect, perfect for under eye bags, but also good for the whole face
-   potatoes
-   egg whites - for toning and tightening. Let it dry then wash off
-  yeast.  Yes, this is one of the best!  In my country we could buy fresh yeast, in blocks, and it had the consistency of soft feta cheese (it had
no smell, no taste). Here, you can buy the powdered yeast, boil a few teaspoons of water and then mix a little in. Make sure you make very
little, because you do not need a lot, and it must be used right away.  Work it into a paste. Put it on your face, let it dry. It will feel weird, but it's
so good for your face, it's full of vitamin B and others minerals. You can mix it with olive oil, this way it will be also a moisterizing mask. Don't mix
it with honey, it will become watery and unusable. This is good for all kinds of blemishes, including acne. You should use it regularly, at least
once a week (or more), the effect are gradual and usually take about a week.

To exfoliate:
this will sound unusual but it's great:  
- coffee grounds. You can use the left over coffee grounds after you made your coffee. Use that not only on your face, but also on your body
as an exfoliator. The coffe still has natural oils left over, so your skin will feel soft afterwards. The downside is that you will have a big mess in
your shower. Make sure you do use soap, etc afterwards.
-  sugar / or salt. It's best to use it with some oil, (see below instructions with coconut oil) but it's also great just by itself.

Remember that in order for these masks to work you must
1. clean and exfoliate your skin
2. allow 10-15 minutes for them to work, and you should lay down and relax. Some of them may be dripping off your face anyways so you
should put a towel on your bed, put on some relaxing music and lay down.
3. After you wash it off, you can use another treatment, but you should stick with no more than 2 at the same time.
4. After you are done, apply light moisterizer.

Coconut oil! I have been using it for almost a year, it is so good for so many things.
You can buy it in a jar for a few dollars in an ethnic store or at farmers markets, or maybe some grocery stores carry it. From the look of my jar,
it will last a very very long time. Even though it's an oil, it will have the consistency of lotion. Store it in a dry, cool place. Do not put it in the
refiregerator, it will harden and will be hard to use. In warmer temperature it will melt into oil.

- I use it as a moisterizer. It is not greasy, and is completely odorless. I use it for my face and body, if you use it generously it will give you a
nice glow (such as arm, leg, etc) However on my face a use less, but either way it's quickly absorbed in to the skin, making it soft without shine,
grease, etc.
- I often use it to remove make up, it does not irritate my eye.
- I use it for my hair, the same way I wold use olive oil. However I do not need to wash this out, as it does not smell, and absorbed easier than
olive oil. Olive oil will leave your hair oily, so must use it as a treatment and wash it out.
- As an exfoliator:  apply a generous amount of coconut oil on your face. Put a dab of salt or sugar (either one will be good) and start
scrubbing your face. After you wash it off, your face will feel soft, smooth and glowing form the coonut oil.
- I also use it on my hands and feet.
I love it, it's awesome!

If you left your jar out and it melted, you can use a cotton ball to apply it to your face.

Home made perfume:
I love to have my unique scent that is mine only and chances are no one else is wearing it.
My favourite store bought perfume is actually discontinued, it is French, (called Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant.) I can still buy it here and there but I
know I won't find it much longer. It's sweet, balmy, spicy, just in the right combination. So I had to come up with something that's just mine. I
actually made several ones.
You need:
- a spray bottle (I use trial size spray bottles, $.99 at any drugstore
- vodka
- water
- essential oil, whatever fragrance you like. There's a very nice selection at Henry's market place, but there's probably even more at ethnic
stores, new age stores, spas, etc.

You mix vodka with just a teaspoon with water in the bottle. You add very little essential oil, a few drops. Mix it up. Try it out. You can add more
if you'd like, but remember a little goes a long way. You can mix essential oils (you can find "recipes" on the internet) but first just experiment
with single scents.

Did you know vodka is an excellent deodorizer / air freshener / fabric freshener?

Mix half water / half vodka in a spray bottle and spray it on fabric that has cigarette or other smells. It really works. I also use it as an air
freshener, after cooking, my whole house smells like food, and after a few spritzes it's gone. It's also environment friendly and really cheap.

Helpful hints: Learning is not easy. You will face many challenges, difficulties, obstacles, but you will experience even more benefits:
accomplishment, achievement, great posture, grace, pride. You will get in touch with your feminine side even more and  your creativity will
emerge: don't be surprised if you will soon wanting to create things: paint, draw, play music, sing, sew, do ceramics, etc. or take other dance

What do you need to give your learning process all the chances it needs?

1. You need a teacher you can trust. That means you should find out about her qualifications, performing and/teaching experience. You really
need to accept her as the authority in this field - often you will experience thing that will be unusual. If you second-guess your teacher, you will
not be as open to learning from her.  If you are unsure, have questions, ask!  If you really feel that in spite of doing all of the above, you still
feel that you question your teacher's knowledge, experience or advice... it may be time to find a new one.
I have taken classes from a lot of teachers, and there was one that I didn't quite feel comfortable with. I loved the way she danced, her
teaching skills were superb, she was a nice person and very knowledgeable. Yet some of the movements she taught felt awkward for me and
went against how I was taught this dance. Instead of fighting against it, feeling awkward and always silently second guessing her, I stopped
attending. This doesn't mean that I don't acknowledge her as a great dancer / teacher. She just wasn't the right teacher for me.

2. You need a good attitude. You must arrive to class on time, in proper attire and ready to learn. It's best to leave your problems at the door.
However, just because you might have personal problems, it doesn't mean do not come to class. I have hardly ever missed a class - there
were times when I had a hard day at work, I was tired or wasn't feeling good - I showed up to class, forgot about everything for the hour and on
my way home I felt happy, content and calm. Exercising and fun is often the best answer to stress.

3. You should practice a few times a week. Even with a hectic schedule, try to make time at least once a week for 30-45 minutes. If you can do
twice a week for 30 minutes, that's even better. Just put on some music, and try to go over our warm up routine. Try out those pretty arm and
hand movements. Go over the moves we just learned in class. If you have difficulties, it helps to write it down and ask me during class. What's
even better if you email me with your question - I can spend more time in my response during the week then during / before / after class.  

Practicing at home:

It is important that you practice at home at least once / week. It doesn't have to be 1 full hour, 30 minutes will be enough. If you can manage
twice/week, you would see a big difference.
My suggestion:  after our classes, when you go home, try to go over the new moves we just learned in class. Even if you just try them out
again, make notes on a piece of paper and practice them for 15 minutes you will more likely to remember them. Then sometime during the
week you should practice for about 3o minutes.
Start out by warming up - take deep breaths, start moving your hands, arms and torso. Start out slowly by moving your hips up / down and
then go into a full up/down shimmy to completely warm up.
Go over the moves we learned so far. Start with the most recent one. Remember to do the moves n both sides - left and right. Add them in a

Then just dance. Enjoy it, think about how the song sounds and what moves you think would look good.

After you're done, stretch. (I will post stretching exercises later).
The most important thing is to do static and not balletic stretches.
Balletic stretches are the ones where you bounce back and forth. This was popular in the 60's - 70's but later it was found to be dangerous -
you can very easily get hurt. Static stretches are better for you: you hold the position for 6-20 seconds. For example, from a standing position
you bend over and reach whatever you can. You thighs, your knees, ankles, toes, or the floor. Whatever this point is for you is what you need
to work with. You stay in that position for about 15 seconds. During this time your muscles with lengthen and you will be able to stretch a little
forward.  So reach forward and now hold that position for about 15 seconds.
Remember: stretches (especially deep stretches) could feel a little uncomfortable but they should never hurt!

Staying healthy
There are two components of a healthy lifestyle. Physical and psychological (emotional)

Physical: To be healthy, you need to take care of your body.
1. Healthy diet: it consists of whole grain carbohydrates, lean protein, low animal fat, fruits and vegetables. Sweets, fast food and junk food
should be cut down to minimum, or possibly eliminated. Your body needs to be hydrated at all times, because 60% of it is water. You can do so
by drinking 8 oz glasses of water 8 times/day. This sounds like a lot, and I know I cannot drink this much water every day but at least I try. You
can also drink juices, but keep soda and other sugar drinks to a minimum.  Also remember to take you multivitamin once a day. (I know I don't
remember every day, but at least I try :) All of your vitamins should come from the food you at, but that's not always possible. Especially if you
are dieting. That doesn't mean your nutritional intake should suffer. By taking 1 multivitamin / day you ensure that you have all vitamins and
mineral that are needed for a healthy body.

2. Exercise: Every one needs to be active to stay healthy. An active life style will include a minimum of 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise
/ day. This can include a brisk walk, light jugging, but also heavy house work, yard work etc. Exercise is cumulative, so you can get 10 minutes
of walking here and there. For example:
- You may choose to park your car in a far end of a parking lot at work, at school at the mall, etc.
- Instead of taking the elevator, take the stairs
However you should incorporate something regular and planned. Everyone body is different and everyone likes to do different things. You may
love to run, ride the bicycle, swim or play sports. Obviously you like to dance, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this :)  Dancing is a very good
way to stay fit. You don't realize but you do tone your body by stretching and contracting your muscles. However dancing is not always high
impact.  The dancing we do in class alone is not enough to burn fat. We usually don't get our heart rate up, because most importantly I need to
instruct you in how to do those moves and then we don't stand around for 15 minutes to shimmy. This is where you come in: when you are at
home, put on some music and go over the moves we did in class. Start shimmying, first slow, then gradually speed it up. If it feels like you can't
keep up, slow down (don't stop) then speed up again. When you break a sweat that means you are now burning calories  and fat. Try to do it
at least for 10 minutes. This is also good for your heart and lungs. You will be in better shape, and you will be able to sustain your shimmies in
class without difficulties. You will be able to stay on beat. So by doing this at home, you will not only be healthier but you will also be a better
So remember: of you are expecting belly dance take off a few pounds or inches, it will only happen if you practice it at home 2-3 times/week for
30 minutes or more, and you break a sweat. Then you body will be toned, with a slim waistline, beautiful, round hips and strong arms.

3. Sleep and rest.
I believe this contributes to physical and mental well being.
Sleep is also cumulative, so if you only had 6 hours of sleep a night, you can take a nap for a couple of hours and it will add up. Everyone
should have 8 hours of sleep. I believe taking a nap (even if it's a power nap of 15 minutes is very beneficial, as it is done is most
Mediterranean countries) I know it's not doable for everyone.

You should also have quality sleep. Instead of staying up late finishing up on work, school, cleaning, it's much better for your help to go to
sleep early, wake up early and then finish those things. It may feel bothersome that you have went to sleep with things undone, but at the
morning, after you finished everything you will not only feel good mentally and emotionally but also physically.

Rest is also important, lay down, read a book, listen to music. If you like doing arts and craft, painting, drawing, this counts as rest - in my
opinion - because it's a great stress release. For me sewing is a stress release, that why I have so many costumes :)

Our Classes  at Sunset Cliff Pilates Studio  - Wednesdays  7:00 - 8:00 pm

Important information regarding classes

Dress Code:
You must have proper attire to be able dance safely and comfortably.
Yoga pants, shorts, sweatpants/exercise pants as long as the waist is rolled down to your hips
Anything form fitting for your torso is good, T-shirts, tank tops, etc.
My recommendation is to get a leotard – It's comfortable, will not rise up, you don't need to keep adjusting it during class.
You may wear socks if that makes you more comfortable (just make sure you don’t slip) you may also wear any type of dance shows, ballet
slippers, etc. You may dance barefoot.
I need to see your body: your torso, hips, legs, even your feet, therefore skirts are not a good choice, neither are baggy sweat shirts or
sweaters. Please do not wear jeans – they are not comfortable to exercise in, especially stretching and doing sit ups.

You do need a hip scarf or at last something to tie around your hips – the coined hip scarves are the best, because the sound of the moving
coins will definitely help you with most of the moves.

Class Etiquette:
Warm up:  It is important to arrive on time. We normally spend 6-10 minutes on warm up, in which you are warming up your muscles and
increasing your heart rate to get you ready to work. We do certain moves that we don’t necessarily cover in class: wrist circles, snake arms
and other beautiful hand movements (which you may use later during improvisation) and we also often go over material we covered in the
previous classes. Warm up is also a good way to refresh your memory for example, how to do those hips lifts, and what are the important
elements of proper posture. By arriving late, you will miss all of these, and you won’t be properly warmed up.

During class: Please feel free to ask questions – as long as they pertain to the class material. If you don’t understand exactly how to execute
that move we are learning, ask! Some of your classmates may be wondering about the same thing. I do go around and correct everyone but
unfortunately I can’t spend as much time with each one of you as I would like.  But please direct your questions to me, and not to your
classmates. Chances are I would have a better answer.

Please keep talking to a minimum. Whatever you need to tell your friend, please tell her before or after class – this is very disruptive to your
classmates, to me, and you cannot possibly be paying attention if you are talking to someone.

Stretching and cool down:  This is a very important part of the class (in fact they all are). Stretching your muscles after exercises is
important to make sure your will not pull anything, and by certain balancing exercises and stretches you will leave class in a better physical

Planned curriculum:

In the Beginner classes we usually learn one movement / class, including it's variations, such as positions, arms, travelling, etc, and
combinations. Some movements will take more than one class because they may be more complicated to grasp at first or there are a lot of
variations. Of course this does not mean that you have mastered that movement - you must practice that at home, we come back to it in class
and relearn it from time to time as we always have new students in class.
Of course we revisit these movements from time to time as we always have new students, but also it is done to make sure you do have the
proper technique.
Usually in each class we will also learn combinations of moves - you should practice these at home, and you are encouraged to come up with
your own, and show it to us in class. We will name that combo after you!  (we already have a "Liz"  and a "Heather"   :))   )

Review of some the movements we learn in class:

Hip lift:
Remember, these are very important for this move:
- your feet need to be turned out
- both your knees bent, more than usual
- keep the knees bent, if you straighten them, you will keep going up and down - you want to stay at the same level, so keep your knees
the same
- you continuously transfer your weight from left leg to right and so on; you need to do this smoothly.
- the actual hip lift is really a small, sharp movement, thrusting one side of your hip upwards to the beat
- it's not to the front, nor the side, it's more like on the diagonal
- your thrust your hip then you shift your weight to that foot and repeat on the other side (if you are walking)
- you thrust your hip, then you put your foot back in neutral position, and repeat on the other side (if you are staying in place)
- only add the arms after you are comfortable with the legs and hips.

Practice this walking forward, backwards, in place and turning in place. Practice adding the arms. The more you practice the more natural it will
look / feel. There are quite a few variations to this move, by making your hip movement smaller, bigger, or actually altering them, doubling,
tripling the hip thrusts, changing the arms / hands that accompany the hips, but you need to be comfortable with its basic form first.

Important points:
- stand in your neutral position, slightly bending your knees.
- this is an upper body movement, so your lower body will not be used (unless we use it to travel), but you need to make sure your lower body
will not move
- start by practicing chest lifts and drops: see how low you can drop/  how high you can lift it.
- then: 1. drop   2.push forward  3. lift  4. bring back = you are drwaing a square.
- keep doing this, (each movement to 1 beat of the music) and then you can smooth it out, forming a circle.
- do these as big as you can, later on we will make the circles smaller.

This is the basic movement, will vary this by walking forward, backwards, side way, also on toes, turning, changing levels, etc. But as you have
seen in class, it's most important to be able to execute this movement in it's basic form.

Twist shimmy
Probably the easiest shimmy of it all - the best to start with.
Important points:
- stand with your feet close together, knees straight - do not bend them!
- it will be easier if you sqeeze everything below your waist
- start by twisting your hips left to right, - do not bend your knees at all!
- start reducing the range of motion, so your twists become smaller, and at the same time increase the speed
- to achieve a full shimmy your twists should be very small and very fast.

In class, we shifted our weight from one leg to the other and moved around, as well as started walking forward and backward. If you were there,
make sure you keep up the practice, if not, we will go over it again!

Hip Circle
This movement is beautiful and is often over looked - undervalued :)
- your knees need to be soft (meaning not bent, not looked, softly straight :). You won't use your knees, so keep them the same
- it's best to start with a front half hip circle: shift your hips to the right, evenly,it's more like a slide.
- then bring it to the front. This might feel unusual. If you look down, you shouldn't be able to see your feet. Make sure you keep your upper
body lifted so you won't put pressure on your lower back
- shift your hip to the left.
This is 1/2 circle, you would continue right to left, then left to right and so on.
Try making it bigger and smaller. To make it smaller you will need to bring your feet closer to each other.
Try walking forward, backward, sideways. There are so many variations of the front / half hip circle, as well as different combinations.
Then there are the full hip circles, again, with lots of different ways / looks to execute it. We will explore more and more in class, these are just
quick reminders.

If you don't have any Arabic music at home, you can practice to the music on this page. It's a mix of 3 very popular and famous songs, perfect
for dancing!   Try to do some of the combinations we did in class as well as come up with some of your own.
background information
costuming and make up
helpful hints
overview of our class
origins of belly dance
(more info with links coming soon)
(more info coming soon)
about learning and dancing
info about our classes: class
etiquette, dress code
updated: May 26th
dance styles: Egyptian, Turkish,
Lebanese, American Cabaret,
(Tribal, Gypsy)
natural make up: for hair, face -
moisterizor and exfoliater, how to
make home made perfum
updated: May 26th
practicing at home
movement overview: hip lift,
twist shimmy
updated: June 5th
Music: traditional Arabic music,
Arabic Pop music
stage make up / make up for
performances: coming soon
staying healthy
Middle Eastern Body language
Stage names - tips, links for sites
with names
Students' Page
Table of Contents
You are listening to:
Bahlam Beek - Asmarani - Ghana Al Hawa
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