Alexandria, Entertainment, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Dance Preview: Bellydance Superstars

The Bellydance Superstars in Bombay Bellywood. Photo courtesy of Bellydance Superstars.

The Bellydance Superstars will be at The Birchmere this month for two shows – October 27 and 28 – with a new production called Bombay Bellywood. I last saw BDSS perform at the Lisner in March 2009, and it was an infectiously fun performance that had the audience shimmying in their seats. For those of us studying dance, it’s always fascinating to watch and learn from professional touring companies. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve come up with this time around, in a production that’s mixing Bollywood and Bhangra into the usual line-up of Egyptian Cabaret and Tribal Fusion styles.

One of the highlights for me last year was the whirling veil work of Petite Jamilla, and I was thrilled to get a chance to talk with her about the new production and what DC area audiences can expect later this month.

“We are really leaving our hearts on the stage,” she said. Continue reading

Fitness District, The Features

Fitness District: Bellydance

"Image_1165.jpg" by VelvetJAM on Flickr

Part of our ongoing series about different ways to get fit in the District…

In our last edition of Fitness District, Samantha ventured into the world of dance with a trip to B. Fit to try the Barre Method, a system based in part off of ballet. This week, we explore another form of dance that’s recently taken off in DC as a fantastic way to stay fit and challenge your body – bellydance, also known as oriental dance or raqs al sharqi.

Most people’s experience of bellydance in DC is probably relegated to a cabaret performance at a Moroccan restaurant like Marrakesh or Casablanca, or maybe even a show at Palace of Wonders or DC Tribal’s monthly nights at venues like Asylum, but increasingly dance companies are also performing in grand productions on local stages. I got hooked both ways, by watching a performance of Bellydance Superstars in a large theater, and being privileged to have local American Tribal Style troupe Sammati Dance perform for a small party at my house. Inspired by the vibrant joy and sensuality, I wasn’t convinced I could actually get that kind of isolated control over my muscles, but I was sure going to try!

It seems like every gym is adding a bellydance class these days, but I urge you to make sure you are learning a properly constructed curriculum from an experienced dancer to avoid injury. There are many fine dance studios teaching bellydance in the DC area – Joy of Motion, Sahara Dance, and Saffron Dance (where I study) are consistently mentioned as the best. Also, with a thriving community of professional dancers here, you have the opportunity to take private lessons as well, which is a real boon if you choose to advance.

Now it may not seem like it at first, but it takes a lot of control to shake your booty. My very first class had me a sweaty red-faced mess by the end – and that was just a beginners class! As you advance – traveling combination steps, layering shimmies, undulations – it’s hardcore. But every single person I’ve asked about their experience learning bellydance has said the same thing – that it restored their confidence in their bodies and self-esteem.

I asked two professional dancers and instructors, Kostana and Asharah, to talk more about how bellydance impacted their fitness and body image.
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The Features

Fitness District: Ready?

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘sazztastical’

Worn out by the constant snow? Yeah, me too. And I’m a blizzard-baby, February’s child, I’ve got ice running through my veins. So they say, anyway. But winter’s got me beat. During the past several days stuck at home I’ve been browsing spring fashion and fantasizing about the day when summer kisses my cheek.

But then it hit me – all this hibernating comes with a price tag, and it isn’t the one they keep touting the Fed’s closing. Oh no, it’s the extra poundage we pack on during winter to keep us from freezing (or at least, that’s my justification). So guess what? It’s time to start getting motivated and work it off. I mean, we here at WLDC yo-yo for you! You think all those cocktails don’t add up? That’s a lot of sugar, baby!

But, I admit, regular conventional gyms bore the hell out of me. Judging from the masses who influx in the late winter only to disappear after a month, I’m not the only one. People sweating away on an elliptical for hours with no life-changing results… sigh. So I and my fellow WLDC authors are on a mission to find some of the best outside-the-box fitness solutions and preview them for you as we hone in on the perfect spring and summer body.

Yes, it can be done! And we’re willing to completely humiliate ourselves for you in the process! Well, maybe. Read on for a sample of what we’re going to be testing out, and please leave more suggestions in the comments. And oh yes, this experiment will include some swinging around a pole… Continue reading

Entertainment, Night Life, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Mohamed El Hosseny


Mohamed El Hosseny, courtesy of Saffron Dance

Sometimes I pinch myself, being so lucky to live here. There are many incredible opportunities available to us, it’s a bit overwhelming! You can learn about different cultures every week, sampling a bit of the world.

As I’m currently studying bellydance at Saffron Dance, I’m learning more about Middle Eastern culture, dance and music. One area I’m not familiar with at all is the tradition of male dancers. Luckily, Saffron is hosting Master Egyptian Dancer and Choreographer Mohamed El Hosseny next weekend, his first time in the US. An expert in the folkloric dances of the Suez – known as Simsimiyya – El Hosseny has been the male soloist for the Egyptian Reda Troupe and is renown for his interpretations of folk dances. I’m really intrigued to see him at their Summer Gala performance on Sunday August 16 at Marrakesh. He’ll join Saffron’s student dance companies and faculty in a night that is bound to be exhilarating. Tickets are $45 (which includes the usual four-course Moroccan feast).

If you’re a student of dance, then it’s not just the performance that will inspire you – El Hosseny is also giving three master class workshops (beginner through advanced, so no worries if you’re just starting out like me). Continue reading

Entertainment, Music, Night Life, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Saffron Dance

"Shimmy" courtesy of Saffron Dance
“Shimmy” courtesy of Saffron Dance

This past Sunday when I arrived for my Oriental bellydance class at Saffron Dance in Clarendon, the studio was a frenzied hive of activity. Costumes fluttering, dancers rehearsing in every available space, everyone giving their all in that wonderful energy that takes over the week before performances. Every glimpse I catch inspires me to try harder in class so that one day I might be able to shimmy around a stage. But until then, I’m content with enjoying not one but two performances this weekend at Rosslyn Spectrum - and I highly encourage you to do the same.

First up, Saffron Dance Company performs “Shimmy” on Saturday May 16 at 8pm, highlighting classical Egyptian inspired bellydance as part of the Planet Arlington World Music Festival. What makes this performance really exciting is that they will be accompanied by live music. Moroccan vocalist Hatim Idar (whom I’m told is rockstar incredible) and the El Anmari Ensemble will perform original musical compositions on traditional Arabic instruments including the oud, nay, qanum, violin, tabla, riq and frame drum. It’s a rare treat to be able to watch the interplay between dancer and musician, and will no doubt make for a captivating evening. Tickets are $25.

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Entertainment, Foggy Bottom, Special Events, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Bellydance Superstars


"Petite Jamilla" courtesy of Bellydance Superstars

A couple of years ago I took a bellydance class at Joy of Motion, totally on a whim. My instructor was an incredible American Cabaret style performer named Michelle Forner. I’ll never forget the first class when she did a quick routine for us and I thought, “Oh. My. God. There is NO way I will be able to do this.” The technique she displayed, with complete control in isolation of various core muscles, was intimidating and yet enthralling.

I recently decided to take the plunge again and take another bellydance class, this time in American Tribal at Saffron Dance. We’ll see how that goes! The differences between the many styles of bellydance, including the growing fusion between them and other branches of dance (such as urban, goth, bollywood, etc.) are highlighted in this year’s tour of Bellydance Superstars, which I had the luck of seeing Tuesday night at GWU’s Lisner Auditorium. The Superstars will be back in our area this June for Raqs America, and I highly recommend if you have any interest in this dance genre to definitely check it out.

Despite an overblown and cheesy opening voiceover, the 2009 tour titled “The Art of Bellydance” is a good introduction to the amazingly talented resurgence of this dance form in America. Featuring some incredible performers, exquisite costumes (more so for the tribal than the cabaret, which just isn’t to my personal taste), and the brilliant Issam Houshan on drum solo – it was two hours of beauty, pure and simple.

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