Oriental Dance is also commonly known as "bellydance", which is a misnomer because it implies that we dance only with our bellies (And just ask Aunt Rocky about its orientalist implications!). The field of Middle Eastern Dance is so rich with regional styles, and in modern times has become an excellent way for women to get together and celebrate the benefits of dance as workout, art form,and community event.
I began to study it in 1993 with Chicago's Jasmin Jahal, andsince then went on to Brazil, where I took between 2-3 classes a week for about four years before setting out into the world and studying with various teachers like Morocco, Tamalyn Dallal, Suhaila Salimpour, Sandra from Tunisia, Khaled,T ito Seif, Khazafy, Aida Nour, and many others.
The most important breakthrough in my study of Oriental Dancecame from Keti Sharif, whose A-Z system articulates groups of compatible movements and provides dancers with excellent embodied knowledge of Cabaret, Folkloric,T aqsim, and Theatrical styles. Not only this, but practicing a well-articulated format gives the dancer an excellent platform for improvisation, which is the soul of this dance form.
Through Keti, I've been brought to Egypt many times to offer classes and workshops and participate in instructional video filming. Her own great mentors, Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy, have become my greatest teachers in the art of Oriental Dance. Their passion for Egyptian folklore led them to archive the regional dances of their country in the 50's and establish the world-famous Reda Troupe, which is still the hallmark of Middle Eastern Dance today.
The Reda Troupe is a prototype for showcasing folkloric dances onstage, since it recognizes the need for theatricalization of the steps and the addition of modern and classical vocabulary in order to render it for stage presentation. I have followed Mahmoud Reda's example in the creation of my own choreographies based on the folklore of my homeland and of the Middle East.
Thus inspired, my Oriental choreographies and workshops always feature a touch of theater. I found that the language of Isadora Duncan is also highly compatible with this approach to Oriental, especially Cabaret and Theatrical, where gesture and feeling can be intensified through the addition of her expressive technique.
As a certified Master Instructor of Keti's A-Z Bellydance system, I teach worldwide workshops in the pure format, but I also offer my own theatrical touch to its core routines. Below is an example of a Lyrical, Theatrical approach to Oriental Dance, in which I selected core routines from the A to Z and added sprightly movement from Isadora Duncan.