Learning to Belly Dance 
  About my classes
  What to Wear to Class

Ahlan! "Introduction to Middle Eastern Dance"  Welcome to Malia's "Introduction to Middle Eastern Dance". Traditional "Belly Dance",  as seen in the countries of it's origins, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey etc, is a dance of celebration. In the Middle East, everyone dances. High spirited festive family gatherings usually end up with one or more family members dancing the "Raqs Sharqi" or "Belly Dance". Outside of the family, Belly Dance is perfomed by the professional dancer for joyous occasions such as weddings, engagements, holidays and birthdays.  Raqs Sharqi, Oriental or Belly Dance, is a sensuous expressive form of entertainment enjoyed by all, young and old, men, women and children.  The highest form of  Belly Dance is performed to live music. The dancer,  through her movements, finds her  "Tarab", that ecstatic abandon which expresses the emotions of the music.  She in turn, inspires the musicians. While the musicians  and the dancer creatively fuel one another, the skilled professional dancer improvises her entire performance to live music  adeptly going  where the music takes her.     In the Middle East, both the professional dancer and the  person dancing at a family party express rich emotions through their dance.  Emotional expression is the heart and soul of this timeless, sensuous dance form. 

Learning to Belly Dance     My Belly Dance Classes are designed for students wanting to  explore a fun and different form of excersize,  or for those wanting to explore the possibilities of becoming a  professional dancer.    I teach  7 Levels of Instruction (see descriptions below) Levels 1 through 4 are taught typically in a  public studio environment.  Levels 5 through 7 are taught  usually by special arrangement  in the form of a workshop, by invitaion only classes,  or by a private or semi-private  lesson format.   No matter what Level,  Belly Dance is fun!    However, learning to master Belly Dance, is no different than mastering any other serious art form. Learning to Belly Dance  takes time and  committment .  It is up to the individual to decide what their personal Belly Dance expectations are.  I have been teaching  Belly Dance in the Bay Area  for decades. Many of my students have become professional dancers or  teachers themselves.  I am  committed to offering the student a high standard of instruction and encourage the student to take learning how to dance seriously.  For more insights about my teacher/student philosophy, please read Teacher Student Responsibilities

About my classes

DANCE STYLES I teach are, Egyptian Raqs-Sharqi, Egyptian Folkloric, Tunisian Folkloric, Moroccan Folkloric, Gulf and Saudi Regional  dances, Turkish 9/8, and Persian. I also teach American Style Belly Dance which fuses elements of many traditional Middle Eastern and North African Dance styles with other Ethnic  dance forms  such as Flamenco, Dances of India, Romani Dance, Dance of Central Asia and Dances of the African Diaspora. I introduce students to the differences in dance styles, along with  historical  and cultural information about the origins of dance in these areas.     I teach finger cymbals, and American Style Belly Dance elements like veil work, floor work and prop use such as sword balancing. I  teach students about traditional North African and Middle Eastern Music and musical interpretation. I inform students about traditional and non-traditional costuming and about aquiring or making costumes. 

CLASS GOALS To teach students to dance, play cymbals, use props, and understand cultural aspects of the dances

CLASS FORMAT and STRUCTURE  My teaching format is built upon learning Malia's 37 Basic Belly Dance Steps. Every class begins with  warm-up exercises which are a combination of sit-ups and leg-kicks moving into yoga inspired stretches.    We then proceed to learn/review steps, combinations and choreography appropriate to each  level. Each class concludes with a cool-down stretch.  

Level 1 -2 classes I introduce students to each of the 37 Basic Belly Dance Steps.   As students learn each step, I put together  combinations of steps to teach how to transition from one step to another. Level 1-2 students are taught simple sets of step combinations  in order to build confidence  dancing to the rhythm and executing transitions.   Level 1-2 Step combinations are designed to assist the student in remembering the basic steps that they have been taught.  Music used in
Level 1-2 is generally rhythm based.

Level 3-4 classes In this level we perfect the stylization of the movements. This means the student is encouraged to not only execute the mechanics of a movement, but be able to make that movement look polished, by confidently integrating feet, arms, body and expression and can follow the music correctly.    I introduce playing Finger cymbals while dancing.  Music used is rhythm based and melody focused. We do more  difficult movements, isolations and combinations which teach the student to follow not only rhythm but musical phrasing as well. This level introduces props  such as veils, balancing swords and pots plus floor work.

Levels 4-5
With polished movement vocabulary learned in previous levels,  we expand our movement vocabulary with more complex combinations.  We work on  building our knowledge of Middle Eastern Music  identifying standard songs which use a variety of  different rhythms. We learn how to dance to  music that incorporates intricate phrasing and "breaks".  We explore solo routine format. Students learn how to put steps together in combinations and match to the music. We also work with learning how to spontaneously improvise a solo dance.  Regional dance and music  forms such as Tunisian, Moroccan,  Turkish, Kashlama (9/8), Gulf Dances are introduced and explored.
We continue to  play finger cymbals and work with props such as veils, balancing swords and pots and  floor work. Students in this level may be  invited  to perform with Malia and New Moon Belly Dance either in group choreography or as soloists depending on skill.

Level 6-7 In this level students should be able to create their own choreography,  be able to perform solo,  improvising comfortably to live  music and executing  all their movements correctly, artistically and skillfully . We also work with props such as veils, balancing swords and pots and do  floor work. Students in this level may be  invited  to perform with Malia and New Moon Belly Dance either in group choreography or as soloists depending on skill.

MUSIC   I provide students with a list of CD's that are good for practicing bellydance. 

COSTUMING I provde my students with simple patterns to make basic pantaloons and circle skirt. Beyond that I can assist with many types of costuming ideas, from Cabaret to Ethnic to many regional folkloric styles.  I also bring in Ethnic Costumes for show and tell. I advise, where the best fabric, trim and bead shops are locally. I keep students informed of festivals where I know vendors are going to be selling their goodies. I periodically set-up special workshops for my students where I bring in  artists experienced in teaching   do-it-yourself costume construction.  I also bring people in to class who make and sell costuming. Additionally, I provide my  students with lists of  vendors who sell belly dance supplies  and accessories on the internet. 

What to Wear to Class    To start belly dance you need 3 garments: workout or yoga pants, a top of your choice such as a   tank top or tee-shirt and a hip scarf for your hips.  How to choose your class attire:   Your first consideration should be to select clothing which allows you to move freely and does not constrict your movement in any way. Also consider that you want to wear a fabric that wicks moisture away from your body as you will sweat.    Stay away from garments like jeans,  which restrict movement and due not transfer moisture away from the body.  Yoga pants and a tank top  are great as they provide the needed stretch plus they are usualy made from fabics which wick away perspiration!  As you spend more time belly dancing, you may want to start to wear costumes to class such as Pantaloons and Long Skirts.  Long full skirts are fun,  but please wear yoga pants or leggings under them as we do leg kicks as part of our warm up exercise. You will need to wear some sort of a hip scarf or belt at the hip line so you can focus on hip movements.     NOTE:  Please no glass beaded fringe.  Since we mostly dance barefoot, beaded fringe can often times break and the little bits of glass bead can end up in your foot Here is a list of local vendors who sell dance class practice wear.  

FOOT WEAR  Most Dancers enjoy dancing barefoot. But for those who wish to wear foot covering,  I suggest a soft slipper like a ballet shoe or hermes sandal.  You can have great fun with Middle Eastern Dance simply by putting on the garments that you use to do the dance in.  Dance class gives  an opportunity to wear beautiful, whimsical garments that you may never wear otherwise.  Many students enjoy putting on their  their favourite flowing skirts, colorful hip scarves, armloads of bracelets, coin headpieces, and embroidered vests to class once a week.  It's all up to you, be creative as you please. 

 I hope this gives a few basic ideas. Whether you  intend to make belly dancing your career  or you dance just for fun, buy costuming from Egypt or make your own: CATCH THE SPIRIT! Get the creative juices flowing, adorn yourself, be beautiful, dance well and have fun................. Malia                Back to Home