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Welcome to September's Zameena!!

(Zameenaby Zara's Zoukaims to share the empowerment, knowledge and LOVE,of bellydance)
For lots of us dancers, September means an exciting start to a 
We wish you, teachers and students alike, a wonderful, successful, danceful year!  Hopefully, we will see you at an upcoming event or workshop and, don't forget,

we should never stop learning!

This month, we are honoured to have Mark Balahadia (picture abovejoin us, 
 Yaaay!   Welcome Mark! 

Mark is a dancer and singer based in New York. A keen researcher into the music and dance of the Arab World, Mark now specialises in the dance styles of Iraq and the Arabian Gulf where his videos have a huge following.

Never one to shy away from controversy, Mark gets real and talks about COOKIE CUTTER BELLYDANCERS and mediocrity in the foreign/western bellydance world!

Info Spot the lovely Leyla Hayat leads us on a journey of discovery where we learn more about Algerian Alaoui Dance

Music Corner features folkloric songs to boogie too.

There are goodies from Zara's Zouk, including Shahrzad's Weekend Intensive tickets, and a peek at some newly arrived bra and belt sets!

Please, sit back and relax as, without further ado, we hand over to

Cookie Cutter Belly Dancers:

Why Mediocrity is Encouraged and Celebrated in the
Foreign Belly Dance Community

by Mark Balahadia

My first exposure to belly dance was during my freshman year attending college. It started when I went clubbing with several friends in Washington, DC. When the DJ played Egyptian pop music after being asked, one of my friends, a Saudi/Lebanese woman, started belly dancing. I was amazed, captivated and dumbfounded by her beautiful performance. I knew then that I had to learn. From there, I started taking dance classes and attending belly dance performances and conventions. 

After 16 plus years, I am now a famous Middle Eastern-style male dancer in an industry dominated by women. I have a large following in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and have garnered countless views on YouTube and Instagram. Although I am most well known as an Iraqi and Khaliji performer, I still belly dance semi-regularly in the New York metropolitan area.

Through my journey of learning, performing and teaching, I have come to several conclusions about belly dance in the West

Foreign belly dancers should be credited for facilitating the growth of the industry and its exposure beyond the Middle East, but this has come with major costs. They have often morphed belly dance in ways that corrupt the original spirit of the dance form, resulting in culturally offensive performances. The industry is rife with teachers, students and hobbyists who teach and perform poorly executed, mediocre, and “copy and paste” stylings. They also badly perform other Middle Eastern folkloric dances that they often pass off as something of merit. It’s clear that the art form has been diluted in its migration from the Middle East.

(Note: There are many foreign teachers, performers and  students who do not fit these categories. However, there is more bad belly dancing being taught and performed than there is good).

Workshops and classes abound by some teachers who either lack the cultural education, knowledge of proper technique, or both. Often incorrect information is spouted off as fact, and false information further confuses students. I don’t think these teachers take the time to really understand the cultural or historical context of the dance or immerse themselves in the Middle Eastern club dance scene where people engage in belly dance in its most pure, authentic form. 

 An example of bad belly dance is the recent trend for Iraqi radah dance (often erroneously called Iraqi dance or kawleeya) in the foreign belly dance community. You suddenly had countless “teachers” performing this style overnight even though it takes significant time and dedication to learn it. Many of them had little knowledge about Iraqi folklore. This showed up in the prevalence of bad technique that could later cause injury or combinations that do not exist in the Iraqi radah movement vocabulary. A “style” of sorts has developed in the Eastern European dancing competition circuit, where dancers shove as many steps and combinations into one Iraqi song as possible, with little regard to understanding the music or the culture it came from. These dances seem so far from their original form that they are insulting.

Watch Mark dancing Iraqi radah - enjoy!

Then there are students (and teachers) who just copy their favorite teachers and/or dance trends instead of cultivating a unique dance style of their own. I cannot count the number of times I have seen dancers copy verbatim the combinations and even facial expressions of Dina or Randa Kamal instead of being inspired to create a unique movement vocabulary of their own. A big reason why I continue to belly dance is that I want to develop and cultivate a dance style that is unique to me. What is the point of belly dancing at all if a dancer’s style is just copied exactly from another dancer? I see this kind of “copy and paste” dancing to be the antithesis of belly dance and should be discouraged. Unfortunately, the dance community continues to host workshops and classes that just teach choreographies and combinations without encouraging personal and creative development in belly dance, let alone any cultural and historical context with depth.

A big reason why all this bad teaching and dancing are encouraged and not criticized is the fear of losing work. If you call out other foreign teachers and dancers for bad technique, cultural appropriation and cultural misinformation, you risk being ostracized. This can lead to fewer teaching opportunities over all.

I had become so disheartened with this state of affairs that I gave up engaging in the belly dance community altogether. I am still connected with a few dancers and teachers, but for the most part, I have cut myself off. Most of my dance activities are geared towards the Arab community, the LGBT Middle Eastern community, and Khaliji and Iraqi social media. 
My uniqueness as a foreign male belly dancer, who happens to speak Arabic, has helped me build a big social media presence online outside of the foreign belly dance community. My fans are for the most part Middle Eastern, not other foreign belly dancers. Although I do miss teaching sometimes, I do not miss having to fake a smile when I see a belly dance teacher badly performing a folkloric dance without any knowledge of the genre or dancing a routine straight from Randa Kamal.
The one good thing I see coming out of the community is a willingness to talk about the sins of cultural appropriation. I have been seeing a lot of discussions about it on Facebook, and I think many dancers are starting to understand their privilege as foreign dancers performing a dance where native performers are vilified and foreign dancers are not. Unfortunately, I do not see the foreign belly dance community being able to police themselves in other ways, and this will continue to be a problem in the future.  
A great big
for sharing your feelings on this thorny subject and expressing them with such finesse.  

Connect with
Mark Balahadia مارك الأمريكي  click on:

You Tube           Twitter   
Instagram          Facebook   
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Zara's Zouk
    Shahrzad is coming to London !!   
Zara's Zouk is very excited to announce that we will be hosting CAIRO SUPERSTAR SHAHRZAD for an intensive weekend of workshops and performance
April 25-26th 2020. 

We have had an AMAZING response to our announcement in last month's Zameena and ALREADY SOLD A LOT OF TICKETS so please don't hesitate BOOK YOUR SPACE NOW.

EARLY BIRD FULL WEEKEND PASSES ARE ONLY £175 but VERY limited in numbers. This is a crazy discount!

For more info and how to book go to our website here. Feel free to contact us with any questions!
Book your Shahrzad Workshop Tickets HERE!
Don't miss your opportunity to train with Shahrzad!
She is a phenomenal dancer AND teacher
Here she is dancing a tabla solo - enjoy!

Just one of the new
to arrive at
Zara's Zouk
(your online bellydance shop)

In picture we have
Bead Beauty Bra & Belt in Purple

shown here with
Orchid Georgette Skirt

Check Bra & Belts out here  

Check Oriental Skirts out here
By Zara Dance

OOO big news bellydancers, Hegazy Metkal has released a new single!
Why big news? Hagazy is a great artist to know about if you are a bellydancer! He has done so many new releases of traditional folkloric songs; which is gold for us dancers, as we can dance to traditional songs in traditional costumes but it still be relevant to the the times.

Some perfect examples include re-makes of famous folkloric (bellydance must know) songs such as "Bos Al Halwa" and "Btnadeny Tany Leh" (both below). 

Here is his new single "Manga Ya Manga" (above), which is actually I think is an original song. And it's about ... you've guessed it: mangoes (woman).  Have a listen, and why not get out your folkloric dresses for your next hafla and have a go to it? 

And remember this song is not to be mistaken with the MASSIVE 2013 shaabi hit by Ahmed Salah  "El Manga" (bellow) also a great bellydance song about mangoes..... 

Hope you enjoy these 4 amazing bellydance songs this Music corner. If so spread the love and share this addition of Zameena and tell friends to subscribe! 
'Till next month: ya manga ;)
Hegazy Metkal - Bos Ala El Halawa 
Hegazy Metkal - Btnadeny Tany Leh
 Ahmed Salah - El Manga
by Leyla Hayat

5 Facts About
Algerian Alaoui Dance 

Leyla’s passion for belly dance was ignited from a young age. Being part of a huge Algerian family meant she grew up surrounded by African rhythms and oriental melodies. Influenced by her Algerian roots and her love for earthy powerful dances, she started performing and teaching workshops in Algerian and North African dances. 
1. Alaoui is an Algerian ancestral warrior dance traditionally danced with a lot of shoulder movements and feet stamping to the rhythm of percussion.

2. Alaoui is danced at all kinds of celebrations in Algeria these days but did you know that it has its origin in a military warrior dance?

3. Traditionally Alaoui is danced in a group and there is a strong connection between the dancers, showing their unity.

4. More and more women are discovering and enjoying the dance and it is gaining popularity.

5. You can discover and try out this fun and energetic dance yourself:

in London, Sunday 8 September from 2pm - 4pm  
For Info Click Here

Or in Oxford, hosted by Hannah Newton on Saturday 30th November
For Workshop Info Click Here
See Leyla, + other performers and have fun at a Christmas hafla join:
Casbah Cafe - Info Here 
Algerian Alaoui Dance  -  Enjoy!
Upcoming Events with Zara and/or Zara's Zouk
Orientalske Danseforening 20 år - Magedansfestival! 
18-20th October 

Zara will be teaching 3 workshops and performing at 
Zamila's 20th anniversary Bellydance Festival!

Arabic band Habibiz will be playing too, so everyone can dance!   Yaaaaay!!

Celebrating Dance Festival

25-27th October 

Zara will be teaching 3 workshops
and performing 

Zara's Zouk 
will be there too!

Can't wait for this amazingly friendly festival
so looking forward to seeing some of you there!

Haven't booked yet?
Click to Book Here
The Arab Quarterly
Wednesday 28th Nov

Live Music,
Great Dancing and
  Zara's Zouk will be there!

Buy your ticket here!

Saturday, December 7th 1-5pm (Doors open 12.30pm)

Always Fun!
 Zara's Zouk
will be there! How about you?


3rd, 4th & 5th APRIL 2020
Zara's Zouk

will be there so do come AND .......
don't miss this great offer
3 day pass only 

Workshops with: 

Dr Mo Gedawwi
Dalida Galy
Munique Neith
Ivana Cleopatra
Stacey McPartlin


...... and .....  

!!Sara Sarinha!!
Did you make it this far?
A big THANK YOU for reading!

Many thanks again to Mark for tackling such an  important topic and thanks too to Leyla for sharing information on a fantastically powerful  dance.

Till Next Month
 xx Zara and Sandra xx

(The Mother/daughter team at Zara's Zouk)
If reading form an external link? SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE to Zameena here
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