Friday, December 5, 2014

Show checklist and Makeup ideas

 Performance checklist!

As you're planning your costuming, don't forget jewelry and makeup.  Bigger is always better ;)

Some of my favorite places to go for makeup inspiration

Lauren Luke - has her own makeup line but does awesome celebrity inspired makeup

Arabic Eyes Tutorial is here, here, and here - all different variations of the smokey look

And for the ultra dramatic looks - check out Doe Deere's blog

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Final video of habibi ya Elmo

Friday, November 7, 2014

Videos at last!!

Ramsey Beginners
Video with cues and music

Video with walkthrough (I apologized, I had to film in my foyer!!)

Ramsey Intermediates
We will clean up the end next week, just want you to be able to visualize the formation changes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rasjanthani Reflections

This weekend workshops and show with the Rajanthani Gypsy Caravan were amazing.  Not because I learned some fabulous steps I will add to my next choreography, since honestly I don't feel I know enough about Indian dance to teach or perform it.  It was more the experience as a whole.  There were 20+ dancers in the room.  Only one of the members of the gypsy caravan spoke decent English, the others spoke little.  But despite this, they were able to teach us about the instruments and how to dance.  Jill Parker calls this teaching organic and it is how she leads her workshops.  Very little talking or explaining, just watch and do.  It can be frustrating, but at the same time, the class flows - even without the use of words.  Suva Devi was able to not only instruct us, but correct and praise us.  This style of teaching was also more interactive, since much of the class was done in a circle.  We danced towards Suva and each other and in the process got to know some new people.

Although this lead and follow method isn't traditional in western dance forms, it is the way folk dance is taught.  You learn from watching your elders dance at parties and celebrations and somewhere along the way, it seeps into your bones.  It doesn't create a technically stronger dancer, but it does make you a more intuitive dancer, especially when you have live music.  The heartbeat of the music is the drum, it keeps you on track.  Middle eastern dance is at it's heart a folk dance that we dressed up and put on a stage.  How does this apply to those of us learning these dances forms? Good technique is important but equally important is feeling the music in your core.

History of the Rajasthani people and their link to the Romany culture

Some videos about what I saw this weekend
 Bhavi (Pot Balancing) - unfortunately the video doesn't include her balancing on glasses or knives

Tera Tali - a seated dance where the dancer plays cymbals both on her hands and by striking one or more of the 13 cymbals fastened to her body

Kalebai - performed by members of the snake charmer tribes.  Look at the flute on the far right - it is a pongi, traditional played by snake charmers

Suva Devi's dance scene from Latcho Drom (her dancing and spinning starts at about 6:30)

And a closer view of the musicians, the guy on the right is playing a mouth harp.  The one in back is playing kartals - flat pieces of wood that are tapped together like castanets.  However, they are not attached to his hands!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Videos, more videos, and an official show date!!

It's official!!!  Show is Wednesday, December 10th at 7:30pm at the 40 Watt Club!!!

Beginner dance

Intermediate dance

Music and practice files for the drum solo

Friday, September 26, 2014

First round of practice videos and some beautiful dancers!

For Ramsey Beginners

Music can be found at

For Ramsey Intermediates

And just for fun - two of my all time favorite dancers, Aziza and Tito!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Videos for Ramsey Beginners

Review of combos

Previous performance of Batwannis Beek

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Video Goodness

Since I won't be in class this week, I've gathered a few resources for you in case you want to practice.  Intermediates, even these basics are a good review.  Or put on your favorite music and dance!

Hips Ups and Downs (simple hip isolations)

Arms (including the dreaded snake arm :) and hip circles

Scoops (Upward figure 8s)

Shoulder Shimmies, Chest slides and lifts

Hip circles and walking hip circles

3/4 vs 4/4 shimmy and 3/4 shimmy practice

Awesome video overview of the history of bellydance

And just for the intermediates - a little layering practice!

And for fun -Tito!!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Free Music and Upcoming Shows!!!

If you like Turkish inspired music or just like free music, go to  This is the last week their music will be free - some really good stuff!

Essence of Bellydance 4 is 9/11-9/14.  They are having two shows, a participant show on 9/12 at 8:30 at the 12 Hotel at Atlantic Station.  I'm dancing in this and the entire lineup is pretty awesome.  The second show is the Bellydance Evolution Alice in Wonderland Show on Saturday 9/13 at 8:00 at Atlanta's Rialto Theater .  This was created by former Bellydance Superstars director, Jillina and also stars Sharon Kihara in all her fabulousness.  Info and tickets for both shows can be found at

Here's a preview of the show (wondering about the style?  It is technically Theatrical Bellydance but some numbers have more of a Americanized Egyptian feel and some are more Tribal in influence)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Welcome back!!

Welcome to Athens and Bellydance at Ramsey!

You can sign up for Ramsey classes and passes online - just go to Visit to register online. Log in with your myID and password, register and pay online!  Then you will swipe your UGA ID at the door before class each week.

Some general information - email me if you have any questions!"  style="text-decoration: underline;" >Belly Dance With Samira

Friday, June 6, 2014

Advice from Royalty

Princess Farhana is dance royalty in more ways than one!  She also has a blog that is always chock full of practical info. 

Fascinated by drum solos?  Check her latest post out

She is also coming for a workshop in July, two days, 6 workshops you can purchase individually 

I also regularly read a blog by a former ballet/modern dancer who talks about physical training and retraining for dancers.  Although it is geared to the western dance world, a lot of her advice holds true for middle eastern dance.  Here is her list of her top 5 over compensations she see in dancers. I'm working on 3 and 4 - see any you are guilty of?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Long ago workshop reflections

While planning for class the next few weeks, I was rereading workshop notes looking for inspiration and nuggets of wisdom.  No matter what type of notes I take in the workshop, I go back and jot down comments or overall reflections of what the instructor said.  This stuff isn’t dance steps, but overall dance advice.

Rereading all of these over the past few days I saw some trends emerge in my notes from Mira Betz, Jill Parker, Amy Sigil, Maria Hamer and Paulette Rees-Denis.  These are all “tribal” dancers but their ideas and workshops inspire all my dancing, not just the tribal side. 

All of them said dancers should be grounded and should push into the earth/floor for support.  Bend your knees to lower your center of gravity.  This will allow your feet the freedom to move wherever they need to and stabilizes you.  Mira talked about polarity – having that grounding but having a lifted upper body as well.  Cathy Jackson (my Yoga instructor) describes it as being rooted into the earth by your feet and lifting towards the sky out of your hands and top of your head.

Draw from your roots – both physical and dance related.  Jill and Paulette both stress the importance of dance as an organic experience and shouldn’t feel forced.  By the same token, they both emphasize the importance of “quiet feet.”  Your hips should be the focus, not the feet – major difference from western dance where the feet are the primary focus.  They should only be the focus when you consciously choose for them to. 

All these dancers believe that all dance should be intentional.  That doesn’t mean it has to be strictly scripted, but instead that you are fully experiencing each movement.  I think sometimes we get so caught up in trying to get through it we forget that we need to give each movement our full attention.  Aziza of Montreal says to “complete your sentences.”  If you think about it, that idea meshes perfectly with the ideas of organic grounded dance.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

 Performance checklist!

Final rehearsals Sunday.  Anyone doing a solo or small group at 6:00 everyone else at 6:30.

As you're planning your costuming, don't forget jewelry and makeup.  Bigger is always better ;)

Some of my favorite places to go for makeup inspiration

Lauren Luke - has her own makeup line but does awesome celebrity inspired makeup

Arabic Eyes Tutorial is here, here, and here - all different variations of the smokey look

And for the ultra dramatic looks - check out Doe Deere's blog

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ramsey rehearsal video

Thursday, April 17, 2014

For the Raptor Pack

Dance ideas :)

and if you want to go old school

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Final Music!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Something for Everyone!!

Final practice video for Ramsey Beginners

Show flyer as jpg

Flyer for download as jpg

Facebook Event for you to join and invite people to

Music for Ramsey Intermediates


Monday, March 24, 2014

Sample improv video

Here's my troupe's performance from Sunday. Watch and see how the transitions and lead changes work

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Practice Video - 3/18

Music is "Lawn Oyounak" by Nancy Arjam (the 4 minute version)it is available on Itunes and Amazon

Monday, March 17, 2014

Great event for you to attend!

If you are in Athens this Sunday night, you need to check this out. Not only will my troupe be dancing, so will several dancers. I saw a wonderful guitar rehearsal today plus a fun debke perfomance. AND the tickets are super cheap for a show at the Morton!

Monday, March 10, 2014

More thoughts about "that article"

It has been really interesting to see the discussion around the article in my last post. This discussion is not limited to our own little dance world, the original article has been reference by several articles/posts on mainstream sites. Here are a few more people's thought on it:

and - Luna's blog to me was especially interesting since it address the original article as an issue of blatent racism. She brings up some points and examples that I had not really ever stopped to think about.


I do think that as dancers, we need to be mindful of our roots. I think that anyone with more than a few months of classes under their belt needs to know something about the music and people this dance represents (which is why I rarely use western music in my beginner classes). However, art is not stagnant and incorporating new ideas is part of growth. For example, Samia Gamal used ballet and latin dance in her raqs sharqi in the 1940's. I think it is a dangerous slope when someone claims to be teaching "authentic" anything unless they have the years of study to back it up. Those of you who have taken classes with me have heard me explain that is why I don't teach Indian dance - it is because I know very little about it and don't feel I could do it justice by teaching it.

I do think it is incorrect to assume that skin color is the only qualification in being a knowledgeable dancer. Two members of the "old guard" in the dance form are not native but probably have a deeper understanding of the dance and it's roots than all but a few people from the middle east. These two women are Morroco (Aunt Rocky) and Sahra Saeeda. Both have done extensive scholarly studies of middle eastern dance and the people who live in these regions. But based on the original article's premise, neither of them should dance because they are "white," but as someone who has taken workshops with both of them, I know their knowledge is encyclopedic and their passion for sharing is real. So which wins out - DNA or knowledge?

Friday, March 7, 2014

All sorts of drama....but it starts an important conversation

Last week, this article was published online and immediately it created a firestorm in the dance community. It argues that "white" dancers have no right to be doing any form of middle eastern dance. Touchy subject, but it brings to the forefront topics that are important to consider when learning a dance form from another culture. As several people have mentioned in online discussions, is it cultural appropriation or cultural integration? Your decision to make

A few responses to this argument - the second half of this article really deals with the issues at hand

And some thoughts from someone outside the danceworld

And a similar argument from several years ago that some of the above blogs reference

Two fascinating videos

"Lauren of Arabia" by Karim Nagi

More about Karim

Syracuse lecture by Donna Meija - she dances at about 3:30 and starts speaking at about 1 hour into the video

More about Donna

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Halfway point for Lawn Ouynack

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tribal Musings........

Over the past decade or so, I've had a little bit of a love/hate relationship with Tribal dance. Part of this comes from my first teacher who's style was much more traditional Egyptian and she didn't particular like tribal. Some of that rubbed off on me - and the fact that while I studied with her I may have seen all of 2 tribal performances. During a teacher-less time after she moved out of town, I took a Tribal basics class with Ziah of Awalim. I'll admit, I wasn't crazy about it; the idea of trusting a performance to following a leader was quite terrifying. As a western choreography based dancer, the idea of performing without know exactly what you were going to do every moment was overwhelming. But I loved Ziah's energy (who doesn't??) and the combos we learned.

My second teacher was the exact opposite, she was most at home in the fusion and improv worlds. She decided we were going to learn a variation of Gypsy Caravan style and perform it. I wasn't thrilled, but went along with it and realized that it wasn't quite as painful as I imagined. In fact, in a later troupe performance under her direction I had a major a-ha moment. We were performing a very long, slow improv to "Whisper Hungarian in my Ear" by the Toids at Nicola's in Atlanta. As it ended, arms stretching out slowly to meet each other, the energy in that chorus was sizzling between us and it became a moment of pure magic. That proved to me how different improv feels when compared to choreographed pieces.

As I mentioned earlier, the base of my tribal style improv is Gypsy Caravan and I still look to Paulette as one of my inspirations. I love her passion, energy, and why she dances - so others can join this community. I also love that Paulette encourages you to tweak combos so that they work for you and your tribe of dancers. Unmata is another inspiration, kick butt combos with tons of attitude.

Some lessons I have learned from improv - you do all the hard work on the front end learning the combos and formations. This makes performing much easier. Second, the performance more easily adapts as the number of people in the group changes or if you need to add an additional piece of music in a short amount of time. Third, you pay better attention to your fellow dancers when doing improv since it is clearly a group of dancers working together instead of individuals dancing at the same time. Forth, it is just fun, I laugh, smile and enjoy myself on stage more when doing tribal. Finally, group improv prepares you for solo improv - we've become so choreo-heavy as dancers that relaxing and just dancing is difficult.

More that with other dance, with improv you are not just learning moves and combos, you are learning a language the same way we all learned verbal language. In a blog post earlier this year and in a conversation at Tribalcon, Ziah pointed out that as you dance more exclusively with your group, you develop your own dialect of improv, complete with variations that are uniquely yours.

I love the camaraderie in a group that know how to improv. You share the same history, the same challenges and the same victories. All of this leads to a common trust - like some of you have heard me say - Improv means never having to say you are sorry. No apologies, No Takesies Backsies!

This sums up how this dance bring us together, even though outside of the dance we have very different lives

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Videos for your practice and viewing pleasure

Beginner Choreography

Pretty Tribal Improv fron last week's Tribalcon from two groups of dancers that don't normally perform together - behold the power of improv!

Unmata - insanely improv combos and formations from about 6:00-12:00. Look at the various formations they are using

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tribal Notes and Tribalcon thoughts and recap

Notes on Tribal for Intermediates

Tribalcon Thoughts.......

Tribalcon is one of the largest tribal bellydance festivals in the US. These festivals/workshops are multi-day events where you have a number of teachers teaching, multiple shows, lots of shopping and tons of dancers to meet. Some are sold as total packages, some as individual class. I actually had not planned to go to Tribalcon this year, but changed my mind during snowpocalypse and found someone who was trying to sell their Saturday and Sunday passes.

I took two classes and a lecture from Maria Hamer of Pittsburgh (who used to be with Zafira). She reminds me of Mira Betz in that she wants to push dancers to be themselves - not copies of her or anyone else. I also love that she openly acknowledges her influences and seems ego-less. She has not problem sharing the spotlight with anyone else. She also lives and preaches the idea of a work/life/dance balance. Looking forward to a dancer's challenge she is doing in a few weeks for those of us in her lecture.

Mardi Love has always been one of my faves. Uber fluid, with moves like melted chocolate. She reminded me to "finish my sentences" instead of dancing a combo. When ever I take notes on her combos, I find my self using the word "melting" quite a bit. She doesn't just transition from a shoulder roll forward into an undulation, she melts them together seamlessly. Her arms have the same fluidity and are extensions of her body and energy, not just as a frame.

Christine Andrews is Maria's sister and introduced me to the world of Kalbelia Rajasthan dance. I've seen dances with these influences before, but never knew where in India they came from or the story behind them. Maria is one of the US experts in this and wanted to make sure we understand where these people are coming from culturally. She also was ego-less and really embraces the idea that she is sharing this dance but isn't truly authentic because she hasn't had the life experiences that has create these dancers. Here is a sample of the dance form (and the description tells you more about the people who do it)

Finally I got to take 2 classes with the amazing Paulette Rees-Denis. Not only do I like Paulette's Gypsy Caravan format and combos, I adore her. She oozes happiness and joy from her pores. Paulette sees tribal dance (of any format) as a way of bringing people together not just creating a dance, but also creating a feeling. Like Maria, Paulette sees dance as an integral part of her life - not a separate entity you take out to play every now and again. There are no words that describe that magical moment when improv clicks. I had a unique experience in her class. She taught a couple of combos that I learned about 6 years ago the befuddled me to no end and I never got them. This time around they came seemlessly - just reminded me of how we learn when we are ready to learn.

The show was to all live music and were all gorgeous performances. It was nice to sit back and see the interaction between the musicians and dancers and each other. Afterwards, a small group of musicians came out on the floor and a "conga" line of over 100 people started doing middle eastern line dances. It was a happy, serpentine line of happiness that got everyone dancing. Maybe it was the darkened room, the wine or the adrenaline, but people were dancing out of pure joy. No worries about what other people thought of your dancing or what was the "right" move, just moving and smiling (there's a lesson in all of that for me....). Here's a pic

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mini classes!!!

Got bored - missed dancing with ya'll so I recorded a couple of mini reviews

For beginners (and as a warm up for intermediates)a review of what we have done so far (except snake arms - I figured you wouldn't miss those)

For intermediates - practice improv!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thoughts from the Princess and some videos

For those of you who I am not connected with on Facebook, here is an article I shared earlier this week. All of it is true, especially the last point

Videos of improv combos for Ramsey intermediates

Amaya Box and black widow

Hip Bumps, Arc Turn (this one is 4 counts on each turn, we learned 8), Pivot bump which you can ignore, and the Brown Recluse/Funky Basic

Turning Basics, Basics with a paddle turn (which we have not learned), and Arabic for with a paddle turn (which you know the parts of)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Videos to practice with

3/4 Shimmy Practice

And For Ramsey Intermediates - a review of Arabic 1-6 We learned 3 and 5 on the R left week, but no turning yet!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Feeling all tight?

By request, I'll be showing you how you can use a tennis ball to help relieve tightness in your IT band (down the outside of your leg), hip flexors (right below your hip on the front of your leg) and psoas/tight lower back between Ramsey classes tomorrow.  Bring a ball and join us from 6:45-7:00!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Below is all the information you will need to know for my class this semester.  However, if you have any other questions, please contact me. 

I'm excited to get this semester off the ground!

Belly Dance with Samira

Also, if you want to know what is going on in the Atlanta area with Bellydance, check out Barbara Smith's blog at  You can all sign up for her newsletter if you are afraid you are going to forget to check the site.  Her calendar lists local shows, restaurant performances and workshops.  Floorspace dance here in Athens has a couple of workshops coming up, check their website for details (

Another opportunity to dance is Shimmy Mob on May 10th.  Not only is it fun to spend the day flash mobbing around town with other dancers, it also raises money for Project Safe! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Free Week and Dancer's Year in Review

Don't forget - Free Week is here!!

Today - (Jan 6), Mahsati is teaching a free beginner class at the Healing Arts Centre (on Prince Avenue) at 7:15.  On Tuesday I'll be at UGA's Ramsey Center for free week - teaching Basics at 5:30 and Beyond Basics at 7:00 - one change these will be in the martial arts studio (yay for squishy floors!)  Share with friends!!

Dancer’s year in review
As we kick off a new semester of dance and a new calendar year, take a few moments to think about what your goals are for your dancing.  Depending on your life and the amount of time you have been dancing, these vary a great deal from person to person.

A few things to think about as you look back on your dancing thus far:
What did you accomplish/what are you proud about with your dancing?  This can be as simple as making it through the performance, or nailing a combo you were struggling with.  If you can’t think of something, we need to talk J  I can list multiple things each of you have accomplished. 

In planning for the new year – What down you want to work on?  This can be one simple thing or a couple of things.
Looking back in one of my old dance notebooks, I found some of my own lists.  They were simple, like improving my chicken arms (yep, I had them), attending a workshop with Aziza, learning how to Berber Walk and elevator drop without pain.  

If you have been dancing for a while, these goals may include trying your first workshop, joining Shimmymob, or working on your physical strength to make you better dancer.  Need someone to help you be accountable, talk about your goals with a dance friend or me!!  Happy Shimmies!!!!