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The circle of dance. 
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Check out Asmahan's website
Happy New Year 
Happy New Year to all! Here at Zameen we are excited to kick off 2015 with a lovely blog from bellydance legend and dear friend Asmahan - She shares her amazing journey of learning bellydance, performing and goes on to talk about how much she is getting back from teaching bellydance. 

We hope you enjoy the newsletter and remember, if you would like to have an article feature this year - CONTACT US. 

Love and shimmies, 
Zara and Sandra xxx

Learning and Teaching (the circle of dance)

Asmahan a bellydance legend of our time 

There are many ways to learn.  There are many different teachers and teaching styles.  Who was your first teacher?  How do you learn this dance? Is it technique, choreography, following the bum,  steps, learning about the history, learning the music, something else, everything here and more? When did you start to dance professionally and where? How did you decide to become a teacher and pass on your knowledge to a new generation of dancers?
 
Asmahan tells us her story. Over to you Asmahan:

Check out Asmahan's website
 "My first Belly Dance teacher was Jamila Salimpour. She is credited with the being the “Mother of American Belly Dance”. I studied with her for three years taking two classes a week. The classes were two hours. She taught a drop in format. It was an intensive collection of basic dance steps that created the style of the dance. She began with playing sagats (finger cymbals). Then she taught a taksim, travelling steps for performing a song, floor work with acrobatics, and veil technique. We all formed a circle around her and the classes were absolutely passionate. At each class the dancers felt like they were on a journey to a magical performance. 
Check out Asmahan's website
A year later, I started to dance professionally, but continued to study with her.My lessons, with Jamila, were practised on the stage. I danced at The Casbah and we did three 45 minute shows a night. There were three dancers a night. We each had three different shows with our own musical choices. Our idols of the dance were Samia Gamal, Tahia Karioca, and Naima Akef.
 
   
I left San Francisco to dance in London and was confronted with the Modern Egyptian Style. My teachers now were the dancers on the stage. I performed in London clubs with Mona Said, Nahed Sabri, Sahar Hamdi, Safa Yousri, ZiZi Moustfa, Jamila, Soroya, and Nelly Fouad. Now my dance training was coming directly from watching these famous dancers perform on the stage. It was fascinating to watch them six nights a week and learn from them.
When I went to Cairo for the first time, my new teachers were Fifi Abdou, Nagwa Fouad and Suhier Zaki. It was by watching them on the stage hundreds of times that I expanding my style and technique. Every venue I danced in had live music, a band or an orchestra.  I had never danced to recorded music.  
  
   In 1990, when I returned to Egypt for the fourth time, I started to train with an Egyptian choreographer, Madame Raqia Hassan. Now, dance technique was seriously hard. She helped me produce my shows and I had original music for my magencie and sword dance. Madame Raqia is one of the most respected dance teachers in the world and her influence in Cairo is immense. She trained Mona Said, Isa Shariffe, Dina and dozens of other dancers. I also trained with Ibrahim Akef. He was also a formidable dance trainer with whom just about every famous dancer trained. 

   I danced professionally from the age of 23 until I was 50. When I retired from dancing many of my friends said that I should teach. This was a natural progression. I was daunted, but immediately it was my instinct to teach what I had learned. My experience was that of the stage, as a solo dancer in a Raqs Sharqi format, in the Classical Egyptian Golden Era Style. That is what I teach and I use the songs of the stage  of the professional dancers. If you go to see the Arab Quarterly live music show, all the music they use is what I teach in my classes.
Check out Asmahan's website
Check out Asmahan's website
 I have been teaching at Pineapple Studio, London since 1997. I thought I would get bored or feel like a robot after a while because there is fixed syllabus to teach. In order to dance Oriental you must master a set technique to define and create this style. Even if you are going to do “fusion” you must know Oriental. My class is difficult, as my first class with Jamila was hard as well. But I love to explain how the technique is done. This is such a beautiful dance style. It changes your life and how you move. It becomes part of your identity. I want to help transform women’s lives, just like my life was transformed. Even if you are not going to perform, this dance is a wonderful life tonic, for exercise, personal development, and an artistic hobby. It just makes you happy and fulfilled to dance. To be a bit transcendental, “It makes your heart fly”.  My style is the solo dance and it is the most liberating dance in the world.   
I have found the experience of teaching an extremely rewarding process. I love to see the people who walk into my classes bloom into beautiful dancers. The sense of pride you get in seeing one of your students fulfilling their dance potential is second to none. So proud am I that I have recently added a new section to my website with pictures of some of my students who have now gone on to be great dancers in the UK and beyond.  Now, some of them also teach. Seeing this in action really shows the circle of dance and I believe that this beautiful dance form will continue, go on and grow, as it has done for thousands of years.
Check out Asmahan's website
Looking to do more dance training this year, or thinking of trying out a new teacher?

Why not check out Asmahan's Classes? 

Asmahan teaches in Pineapple Studios, Covent Garden, London 

Tuesdays 7pm - 8pm
Wednesdays 7pm - 8pm


 
On a personal note, I really love to recommend Asmahan as a teacher and mentor. Even if you are only in London for a day or two, pop into her classes (they are very central) - Asmahan over the past two years has been a true inspiration and eye opening mentor for me. Her knowledge of the dance blows me away every time I talk with her. She is more than willing to share her insights and experiences.  She is a true asset to the UK bellydance community! 
Some photos of me with Asmahan: 
Check out Zara's Zouk website
Check out Zara's Zouk website
Check out Zara's Zouk website
Check out Zara's Zouk Online Bellydance Shop
Check out Zara's Zouk website
Loving Asmahan's Cleopatra Collar? (photo above - bottom left.) Check out our Pharonic / Cleopatra range here

Our tribal jewellery is also worth a look for "that something different" to wear and remember these beautiful pieces are not just for dancing in! 

Don't forget to keep an eye on our website and check out the lovely costumes.  We have many costumes not on the website so don't be afraid to ask if there is something special you are looking for.

Also, if you are in London at any time, you can always make an appointment to visit us at home to try on costumes in comfort with absolutely no pressure to buy. Get in touch

 
Hope you enjoyed the newsletter! 
Keep spreading the bellydance LOVE
Zara and Sandra x x  
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