took my very first class with
www.bellydancingbyzaphara.com in 1990, and I was
inspired by my boyfriend's ancestry,
family and traditions. Our favorite cookbook that reflected his
grandmother's recipes is Helen Corey's Food from Biblical Lands: A
culinary trip to the land of the Bible.
I believe through dance and music, one can connect the
body and spirit to the Earth and her people and have the opportunity to share this with
others. I am also focused on how we can connect as dancers and people
into a larger international community and give back to each other and
that international community.
It is my joy to share dance and hooping with others and to bring conversation to
performances and the dancing community about culture, dance, and
Below find more
information on terms,
history, several linked
articles for discussion, other thoughts
on belly dancing, and cultural appropriation.
*Pictured above dancing at Med Fest 2012 and to the
right hooping with LED hoop at Seatac home office.
Other thoughts on Belly Dancing
Linked articles for Discussion
Rhythms, Zills, Drums & Riqs
Leilani's upcoming performances
shops for dance and hooping wear
I have found dancing and hooping
have helped to heal hurts around body image, strengthen a
connection with our bodies and their beauty, help rehabilitate muscles, and
connect us to a larger dancer and international community.
Dancing, drumming and hooping improves flexibility, strength, grace, and rhythm.
As a certified personal
trainer and massage therapist, she brings a unique understanding of the
body, exercise and stretching.
taught beginning levels of belly dancing for five years in
Seattle but she is currently not teaching unless by private contract for an
event or party. Private beginning hooping lessons are also
Did you know that the term
may not be the best terms to describe dancing inspired by and from the
Middle East, North Africa, Western and Central Asia, and the Mediterranean? For some,
both terms are considered to perpetuate some stereotypes about the dance form.
For example: it is not
always done with the mid riff exposed, it is not only performed by women,
and it is not the art of seduction.
To see men in dancing
Articles about the history and myths of
belly dancing (I am not personally agreeing or disagreeing with any of
these sites but sharing them for discussion & thought.)
Some individuals feel that the term "belly dancing"
and "Oriental Dance" are racist, colonist,
and based on Victorian values.
Despite this, you will find
these terms are commonly used and have been adopted by many
dancers and instructors.
Some other terms you will
find in the dance community are:
Middle Eastern Dance,
Danse du Ventre, Raks al Sharki, , Raqs Sharqi, American Cabaret,
American Belly dancing, American Tribal Style, Tribal Fusion, Goth
Fusion, Golden Era Nightclub, Burlesque, Folkloric, and Ethnic.
If you scroll
down under the FAQ's under how many belly dancing styles are there
you'll see Zanbaka has given
several definitions and some links.
Details on costuming differences.
There are many dancers,
instructors, and troupes that do not neatly fall into one or more the other
categories but it is Leilani's hope that knowing more about these terms will help you on your
dance journey. Here are a couple definitions you may find useful:
used to refer all belly dancing that is not "tribal" . The solos are combinations of choreographed and
improvisational (and sometimes to live Arabic and Middle Eastern music or CD's); whereas group performances are choreographed.
Costuming is commonly very colorful sometimes with beads (some coin-like) and sequins
and in bra-belt
combinations or similar dresses combinations. Examples: Leilani's first instructor
is not just an American term but it's an American originated style. It is
improvisational style of partner belly dancing with a group
of dancers complete with subtle cues for dance move changes and that combines a wide variety of cultures' costuming
from the Arab
world, Middle East, Africa, Asia, and
can include traditional Middle Eastern and North African dance and a fusion
of dance styles. For examples:
A different view on belly dancing history and ATS
Gypsy is commonly erroneously used by
dancers as a descriptive term for an archetype, dress style,
attitude/presence or dance style.
The term is considered by many a derogatory term.
It is often used to describe the ethnic group of people more properly
referred to as the Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma or Roms. It is racial ignorance to refer to ourselves as "Gypsy"
-insert dancing, style, themed, inspired, etc... [unless we are Rom.]
There is much to learn about the history of dance and of the many
peoples we have borrowed from to fuse together what we now think of as
For more in depth look at labels, try these articles
and do your own research about these and other terms.
Other thoughts on Belly Dancing:
How do we want to be
intentional in dancing, learning, teaching and performing so that we are
lessening harm or better yet creating something that changes the world
in positive beautiful ways? What are our ethics in our spending for
costuming, music and classes? Do we consider the intersections of
privilege, classism, racism, colorism, imperalism, and Orientalism?
Some performances create
stereotypes of women, borrow from cultures without thought, analysis and
critical conversations, and marginalize
the experiences of the very people we are inspired by. Some fancy and fantasy performance art
can create an exotic
"other-ness" that perpetuates harmful stereotypes that directly negatively
affects other women. Can others respectfully represent another culture's
dance? What is culture and cultural appropriation? As dancers and performers
not from or of the cultures we dance, do we feel that we are not harming
anyone because we are picking and choosing music
and costuming from so many cultures? That in doing so, we make dance
performance art so far removed from any particular group or culture as
to erase any culture reference from our minds and in essence committing
a form of "cultural genocide?" Is acceptable to change, blend, and leave
behind the culture of an ethnic dance art form? I hope that as dancers and performers while we
are embracing our artistic journey, we also asking ourselves hard
questions, exploring together in conversation, and ever evolving and
influencing change in ourselves and our community.
Ideas on how to give
back if you love belly dancing!
To learn about the local dance
community check out this
community and there are also on-line forums for discussing belly dancing.
above dancing at
Med Fest 2012
Zills, Drums & Riqs
A local Egyptian drummer and instructor,
George Sadak, teaches music of the Arabian gulf and Middle East
A favorite female doumbek drumming instructor,
Raquy offers workshops,
instructional dvd's and cds for Middle Eastern and Arabic rhythms
A Northwest drummer and an excellent drumming
instructor, Michael Beach
http://www.baladi.com/ in Middle Eastern, Arabic and world music
The Seattle Drum Jams list is an
excellent way to find out about opportunities to get out there and drum or
dance in the Seattle area. If you're a beginner drummer, the list is an
great party line to discover an amazing world of activity you were never
aware of before. And experienced percussionist and dancers can keep up to
date on happenings around town. Subscribe: email@example.com
You can join the list and manage your membership at this web page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/seattle-drum-jams
Offers a great variety of drumming classes and has an email announcement
list of upcoming
African Djembes and congas classes that you can join check it out
A local venue for drumming, dancing, and more!
I love my instructional cds, dvds [or vhs] on drumming,
tambourine [riq] and def playing by
Middle Eastern music and rhythms
* Pictured above dancing at local restaurant
Zills: Learn more about them here
http://www.shira.net/zills.htm I came to realize there are cymbal how to videos! I
love Saqra and her techniques are great!
So, first there's
http://www.saqra.net/Shopping/musicvid.html And then I found yet another video on learning to the play the
finger cymbals also known as zills! Mesmera is a little corny but the
technique is lovely maybe a little fast paced but you can rewind and do it
over and over! "Saroyan How to play finger cymbals with Mesmera" available
through www.saroyanzils.com . I
rented mine through the King County Library system
www.kcls.org and had it delivered to a
library close to me and later bought a copy because I liked it so much.
However learning to drum Middle Eastern and Arabic rhythms helped me play
zills much better because I could find the down-beat more often!
Riqs/Tambourine: You can get a skin covered riq for
$14 from Saqra, a $20-25 Western
synthetic head one [good in the NW wet conditions] from
Johns Music. If you love them,
then you might consider a higher end riq (a traditional instrument in Arabic
music) . The nicer riqs are available from Johns Music but you might
have to special order it. Like these different Remo varieties:
http://www.layneredmond.com the tar-Rine, lotus or riq
here) or the
http://www.glenvelez.com/ Glen Velez
Doumbeks: At this time I recommend Remo's doumbeks
aluminum check out
http://www.saqra.net - with either a fake skin head or a plastic head
for indestructibility and portability. If you want a clay one like mine be sure to get a
padded case - one drop and no more drum! The clay doumbeks have a lovely
deep dum and a nice high tek sound and they're gorgeous!
African percussive toys: shakers, bells, inexpensive frame
drums and frogs and more
World Rhythm Festival:
to meet, hear and learn from drumming instructors and performers from around
Ideas on how to
give back and
about the dances in the context of the cultures and people you're
appreciating. Just for example: What do we know about Greek, Turkish,
Egyptian, Lebanese, Tunisian, Bedouin, Moroccan, and Saudi dances and
music? What do we know about the people, their cultures, religions,
history, and current events? What about what immigrants face here in the
donation or give a percentage of what you spend on belly dancing
costumes, cds, etc. to a charity that benefits the people's (and
especially the women) culture, music, and dance you're enjoying
like LifeUSA and
UN Girls Education or find your own
cause/charity that moves you and directly gives back to the people and
cultures you're appreciating. To give an example for 2012, Leilani is
donate 10% of what she spends on dancing items to
http://www.unicefusa.org/ clean water projects.
yourself about cultures, religions including symbols, history, and
current events/struggles. For example why wearing bindis is
commonly considered not appropriate unless you adhere to the practices
of that religion. If you are curious about this, do an internet search under "bindi cultural
appropriation" or try this article about cultural appropriation
dialogue and analysis with other dancers and in dancer community about cultural appropriation,
Orientalism, classism, colorism, US occupation/militarism, imperialism, religious
discrimination, and the current
struggles and issues of the people and cultures you're
connections do we have with local Arab communities? examples:
cultural festivals, and
museums. Are we aware
of anti-Arab discrimination locally and in US policies?
Dedicate your performance or tips to a cause that benefits the current
struggles of the people's dance you're inspired by! Dedicate to help
women of African, Arab, Western and Central Asian, and Middle Eastern
descent be able to afford dance classes and make dance classes more
welcoming and accessible.
Consider who is able to access dance classes? How much
space/time/representation of Middle Eastern and North African dance
classes and performances are taken up by White Americans? Is there a way
to make classes more welcoming and accessible to women of color
especially African , Arab, Western and Central Asian, and Middle Eastern women who are
Support local communities, immigrant communities,
cultural events and other
your region that benefit people and cultures you're appreciating.
yourself some time and space to reflect on your personal motivations for
pursuing belly dancing. Here are a few questions to get you started:
What has inspired you to start this dance form? How are you being
respectful of the traditions, cultures, and religions of the people
where this dance originates? How will you be giving credit to the
cultures that inspired the dances? How are you giving back to the
cultures and the people of these dances? Are you representing yourself
in this dance in ways that create respect for women (remember
racism negatively impacts the lives of women of color around the world)?
are the kind of person to ask a stranger about their race. Stop and
re-think how that might be perceived
creative and come up with your own ideas after educating yourself and
doing some of the above exercises and viewing the links below.
Some links and articles for thought:
(I am not personally agreeing or
disagreeing with any of these sites but sharing them for discussion &
A very thought-provoking article about American Belly Dancing:
Arab-Face, Orientalist Feminism, and the US Empire
A video on racism in belly dancing and specifically
An article not specifically critical of belly dancing but the
stereotypes it can create and how it affects Middle Eastern women
An excellent article asking us as dancers about our intentions and how
we appreciate, appropriate and exploit.
Learn about belly dancing and feminism and
intersections of racism and how we represent ourselves in the dance
affect other women
What is cultural? And how this affects how we represent the dance
Interesting notes on a panel I would have loved to
have listened to on the dance and what it has become in the US
A great article explaining how privilege works:
One of my favorite video bloggers talking about how
to talk about race
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU and addresses the
question I'm asked often "what are you"
How race and class intersect with environmental
justice in America?
For something different here's some humor and think
about race and racism
An excellent article about inclusion and
A guide (insert sarcasm) on how to appropriate and
and how to be dismissive when called on it.
Feeling uncomfortable with being called out? Some suggestions here
Explanation of what is white privilege
Learn about privilege and excellent resources on
28 common racist attitudes and behaviors and
suggestions for changing them
* Pictured above dancing at local restaurant
My fabulously highly energetic south King County
a dancer, performer & musician extraordinaire &
produces events in Portland area & travels to teach & learn
My first instructor, the fabulous Zaphara who
has started many on their Middle Eastern dance exploration
The mesmerizing and soulful
An amazing graceful dancer, Nadira
teaches & performs
The gracious and lovely Hasani and her
A talented dancer & instructor &
excellent instructor and performer with a great website and blog
For more instructors in your area, check
WABellydancing or Facebook "Seattle
7, 2014 6:30 pm at Saqra's Monthly Review
I joined Saqra's student troupe and regularly perform with them
many of the performances are during the summer. I update this site when I have
confirmed dates. You can see some of hooping and dancing fun on
my youtube channel.
* Pictured dancing above and to left at
Kent Cornuccopia Days 2012
* Pictured left dancing at
Kent Cornuccopia Days 2012
Where Leilani shops for dance and hooping wear:
The tops pictured here and a number of her
pieces are from LRoseDesigns and
from Izzashop and caftans
Hooping attire from HerbanDevi
Bras from ebay and Junonia
(specializing in plus sized activewear)
Newly starting to order bras from
Poland in custom sizes
for wonderful support
And some sites I plan on checking out:)