You Spin Me Round, Right Round...
One of the most requested help topics I get from dance students is how to turn. Whether it be how to nail multiple spins in a bellydance routine or some basic swivels in a Ballroom partnership, turning gives people trouble! Here’s the low down on getting “turned up!”
Turning Tips & Tricks
By Ziva Emtiyaz
One of the reasons why dance is so fun to do and so exciting to watch is because of its multidirectional quality. Spins and turns make up some of the foundational elements of dancing. They can be used artistically to visually accent a change in the music, to evoke a mood, or even to inspire the feeling of flight. They can also be used... FULL ARTICLE HERE.
It’s a great big world out there. While I’d like to think I have a strong foundation of dance knowledge, there are new dance forms developing and older forms evolving that I don't even know exist. Getting familiar with the Orange County and Los Angeles County Dance scene, I’ve seen the word “Kizomba” pop up on fliers promoting Salsa and Bachata events. Kiz-om-what?! Read on to find out what I discovered about this emerging dance:
The 411 on Social Dance Etiquette
Social dancing in Orange and Los Angeles Counties has given me some amazing dance memories. It’s also given me some dance moments I wish I could forget. In any social setting there are unspoken rules that help us “play well with others.” Good etiquette applies to the social dance world although it sometimes feels like the unspoken rules of the dance floor need to be spoken. In fact, after a particularly uncomfortable dance night I fantasized about printing out a blog I wrote for Bella Ballroom Dance on Social Dance Etiquette and handing it out to dancers in need. While I wouldn’t actually do that, I share the 411 here on successfully getting your social dance on…
As a belly dancer, I have learned to work with my long hair so that it becomes a part of my performance. (Hairography anyone??) Some of the traditional Middle Eastern styles of dance I perform even require hair tossing and shaking. Luscious layers of hair have played a positive role in my belly dance shows and Middle Eastern dance performances, but more recently have given me some trouble.
Since my move to Southern California I’ve gained another reason to whip my hair around. Salsa Dancing in Orange and Los Angeles Counties has twirled me round and round, spinning my flying hair into… Someone’s eyes?! Participating in partner dance has definitely made me reexamine how to tame my tresses. Read on before your hairography goes wrong and even gets a little hazardous.
Suelto! - Solo in Salsa Dance
Living and dancing in Orange and Los Angeles counties has given me awesome opportunity to cater to one of my favorite evening activities… Salsa dancing! The Los Angeles Salsa dance scene differs from the Orange County Salsa dance scene, but one thing they both offer is a variety of dance partners. As a follow, I find that salseros will often disconnect from their partner for a brief moment to engage in dancing “suelto”, or dancing an improvised solo. As a dance instructor and lifelong dance student, this inspired me to write a blog for Newport Beach’s Bella Ballroom Dance studio sharing tips and tricks on how to solo in salsa. Get the details on how to stay connected, “do you”, cheat and more!
The FIRST First Dance
Dance and tradition go hand in hand like a bride and groom. As a dance instructor at Bella Ballroom in Orange County, I get to work with wedding couples in preparation for their first dance nearly every day. Now more than ever I see that the value of preparing a first dance goes way beyond just the dancing. As the big day approaches, wedding plans and work often crowd a couple’s schedule. Preparing a first dance gives the marrying duo a chance to connect before the wedding. It’s also an opportunity for a bride and groom to learn something new and create something together. They gain social dance skills they will use the rest of their lives as a married couple and will prepare something for their friends and family to enjoy. (Or at the very least they’ll feel more comfortable on the dance floor in front of all of their guests!)
While these values make valid sense in today’s world, I wonder how and why the first dance tradition began. After a little research, here is what I found out:
The First First Dance
By Ziva Emtiyaz
While the first dance between a bride and groom is commonly accepted as a modern European and American wedding tradition, it is uncommonly known why. There are various theories to how this ritual began. One explanation comes from the Eastern European idea of a formal ball... READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a big sucker for dance surprises! I’m fortunate to have played a variety of roles in flash mobs and other unexpected performances. As a spectator, flash mobs have brought me to tears. There’s something about the love behind the unexpected gift of dance breaking up an otherwise normal day that gets to me. As a participator, I’ve experienced the adrenalin rush of a flash mob. It’s different than any other type of dance performance. Again, there is something special about the beauty of dance erupting in an unexpected environment affecting strangers instantly in a positive way. As a flash mob organizer, I have a good understanding of all the planning that goes into coordinating choreography for a group of people, keeping it a secret, and scouting out all the finer details like location, time, and music projection.
My recent move to Southern California brought me the opportunity to teach at Bella Ballroom studio where I help create and choreograph dance surprises for students every week! This summer I enjoyed teaching dance with the intention of surprise for several Orange County weddings. I gained a lot from the experience and researched some more fun ideas surrounding wedding dance surprises including elaborate proposals, fundraising flash mobs, and more… Read on!
Coo Coo for Choreography!
Most of us may remember a time long, long, ago, when MTV actually played music videos, and young adults we’re inspired to imitate the choreographies danced by their favorite pop stars. I’m willing to bet that some of these music videos and choreographies made a lasting impression in your mind. Go ahead. Think back. What dance scenes impressed you so much that will you remember them forever? How about Michael Jackson’s untimely “Thriller”? Maybe it was Janet Jackson’s “If” that left you dancing in your living room? And then there’s Beyonce. Just about everything Queen B has touched has given viewers “Sweet Dreams” of “Irreplaceable” attitude and impressionable footwork, undulations, and body pumps.
So, what makes a choreography foreverful? What is the secret sauce to creating a dance that will leave an eternal mark on the mind of its viewers? Let’s discover 4 professional secrets that top choreographers consider when transforming moves into masterpieces.
1. Popping Personality
Choreographers often start by determining the character of the piece. They take what is unique about the song and express it throughout the dance. The theme, emotion, and unique story of the piece must be creatively told through movement. Choreographers consider who their audience is going to be and what it will take to keep them interested.
2. Delicious Dynamics
Contrast is one of the most important elements of a foreverful choreography. Choreographers work with different dance elements including varying textures, levels, speeds, tension, transitions, sequences, shapes, timing, spacing, formations, focuses, directions and more!
3. Master Musicality
A developed awareness of musicality separates the professionals from the rest. It is well known that audiences share a primal enjoyment of seeing a connection between music and movement. Top choreographers express all the intricacies of music including rhythm, melody, lyrics, accents, breaks, crescendos and other musical details.
4. Go Big or Go Home!
The most groundbreaking choreographies are those that take risks, think outside of the box, and ultimately revolutionize dance. Creative choreographers have the ability to avoid boring clichés and go where no other choreographer has gone before!
Ooh la la... Costumes!
The Urban Dictionary describes this month’s Hipspiration “Va Va Voom,” not only as the sound of a car engine, but the following:
1. The feeling you get when you're filled with inspiration or full of excitement and energy
2. To be interesting, exciting, or sexually appealing
3. A phrase or expression used when a particularly attractive person is seen
As Arabic Dancers, I ask myself, what makes us go “Va Va Voom”? What excites us and upon sight makes us shout, “Ooh la la!”? After reflection, I’m overwhelmed with a plethora of answers. While I believe there are several inspiring, energizing, sensual, and interesting elements of the dance, let us pause in April to reflect on the Arabic Dance costume.
The “bedlah” is used to describe the sequined bra and belt set that we traditionally see on classic cabaret performers and dancers today. In Arabic, “bedlah” means suit or outfit.
Before the bedlah, dancers were accustomed to performing in their everyday dress. Classic dancers such as Suhair Zaki preferred the figure-hugging baladi dress, which covered the body from shoulders to toes. What’s fascinating is that the cabaret costume featuring the decorated bra, skirt with side slits, and belt developed from the influence of the Western world in the 1920s. Hollywood’s film industry was booming and developed costumes projecting an Oriental fantasy drawing inspiration from the female allure that was associated with the vamp. Dancers in Egypt we’re not even allowed to show their bellybuttons as the Western world’s costume depicted. Arab dancers adopted the costume, but covered their mid-drift by adding a long strip of material running vertically between the center of the bra and the skirt.
From this birth of the bedlah, the cabaret costume has evolved. Through the years we have seen a variety of costume fads, from Negwa Fouad’s long fringe in 1978 to Dina’s short skirts in the 1980s. Today we see prints, asymmetrical cups, clear straps, feathers and more trending fashions. Cairo’s dancers now also wear stylish and classy dresses similar to the party clothing of Arab people, only with more sequins and beads. Ironically, this mimics the pre-bedlah dresses that Arabic dancers were wearing before the cabaret costume developed!
When deciding what costume to wear, there are many things to consider. Does it match the piece of music? Does it fit right? Will it stay on and endure heavy shimmying, pops, locks and rolls? Is it appropriate for the venue? Does it accentuate the dance or inhibit it? The list goes on. Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself ladies is, “Does this costume make me feel Va-va-voom?” Rock something that suits you, and that makes you feel completely gorgeous daaaa’ling. Don’t worry about looking like anyone else or fitting someone else’s ideal. Life is just too short not to feel absolutely stunning.
“Costume Porn… The latest trends in Egyptian Belly Dance Wear”
Buonaventura, W. (2010). Serpent of the Nile. Northampton, MA: Interlink.
Dictionary: Va va voom. (2012, November 28). Retrieved March 27, 2013, from
Varga Dinicu, M. C. (2011). You asked Aunt Rocky: Answers and Advice about Raqs
Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi. Virfinia Beach, VI: RDI.
Badiaa Masabni, a true wonder woman of her day, was a dancer, singer, actress, and entrepreneur. This quadruple threat was born in 1892 to a Lebanese father and a Syrian mother in Beirut, and was a pioneer in Arabic Dance’s evolution as a performance art.
In 1926, Badiaa opened up Egypt’s first music hall in Cairo. The nightclub was called “Opera Casino” and offered a variety of entertainment to attract both European and Middle Eastern audiences. Baidiaa also offered a 6 o’clock show for only women that was packed every night. Badiaa hired artists from Egypt, but also from Sudan and Europe. Her choreographers came from out of the country and her stage shows had a strong foreign influence. It was this fusion of multiculturalism that gave today’s Raqs al Sharqui (Dance of the East) its’ glamorous stage-show start. It was on Badiaa’s stage that stars such as Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioka, and Naima Akef were born.
In addition to taking Arabic Dance to the stage, Badiaa Masabni influenced the style of the dance as a performance art. Originally performers would stand in one spot, and the upper body and arms did not play a particular role in the movement. Badiaa incorporated the Western idea of traveling around the entire stage and exploring the use of space. She encouraged dancers not only to hold their arms out to the sides, but also to use serpentine, flowing patterns of arm movement. Badiaa introduced the use of the veil and taught choreography to traditionally improvisational dancers.
Badiaa also had a strong understanding of Middle Eastern music. She loved to play finger cymbals and would sit with the band to play for the dancers in her nightclub. This led to the now common ritual of hiring a musician dedicated to playing just zils as part of the ensemble. Badiaa also hired classically trained musicians to join the traditional line-up of riqq (tambourine), zurna (winded instrument), and tabla (Egyptian drum) players. The taqsim (improvisational solo) could be explored and more intricate rhythms we’re introduced to the dancers at her club.
Badiaa Masabni passed away in 1970. She was a true feminine character with the strength of Superman and the allure of a beautiful woman. Her innovative and artistic eye was well paired with her business-smart intuition. Badiaa’s influence brought Arabic Dance to the stage and her impact on the style of Raqs al Sharqui is seen today worldwide. Badiaa Masabni will forever remain a pioneer in this performance art that will be embraced for years to come.
Ziva Emtiyaz loves being inspired by the Wonder Women of the world. Explore your inner and outer strength on the dance floor with Ziva in Arabic Dance II, Shimmy Pop, and Shimmy Pop Toning at Hipline. Reach out to Ziva at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.zivadancer.com .
Badia Masabni. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2013, from
Buonaventura, W. (2010). Serpent of the Nile. Northampton, MA: Interlink.
Richards, T. (Ed.). (2000). The Belly Dance Book. Concord, CA: Backbeat.
Ziva Emtiyaz is an award winning International Dance Artist excited to share her knowledge and life experiences about the big world of dance!