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* * HAPPY NEW YEAR!  * *

*  It's a New Year!  *
*  It's a New Decade!  *

 We wish people worldwide a chance of 

For us dancers, let's blow away the cobwebs of 2019, do more of what went well for us and prepare ourselves for a
wonderful, funful, danceful year ahead!
Starting with an amazing offer we have for
Cassandra Fox workshops in London!

And we have two amazing contributors this month!

Siobhan Camille (in pic above)  
Oriana Brooks!
Whoop! Whoop!

There's a great song in Music Corner to get your 2020 playlist off to a fantastic start, and don't forget to check out Zara's Zouk for your next costume and other dance needs!
Without further ado, sit back and enjoy!
Building Strong Bodies for the New Year:
 Better Performance and Injury Prevention
(4 Top Tips)

 by Siobhan Camille 

The New Year is upon us!

And for 2020, I’d like to propose a different sort of New Year’s Resolution.
One that doesn’t focus on the size of our bodies, or on avoiding certain foods.
One that doesn’t focus on how our bodies look in a bikini, but rather, one that focuses on how our bodies function and feel during dance and life.

Dance allows us an outlet to express ourselves whilst keeping active at the same time. However, too often as dancers we spend all our time loving the dance, and neglecting to maintain the condition and strength of our bodies to keep up with our graceful, strong, and at times athletic movements.

I’ve met many young dancers who are secretly nursing niggly injuries that they try to ignore, and older professional belly dancers who tell me they wish they had taken better care of their bodies when they were younger. Whether you’re a professional dancer, or just dancing for fun, you can help reduce your injury risk (and improve your dance stamina and technique) if you put some time into looking after your body.

As part of my work, I conducted the first ever scientific study examining injury incidence in belly dancers. From the results of this, and combined with almost a decade of experience working in injury rehabilitation and athletic performance, I have some ideas on what we, as dancers, can do to look after our bodies.

To ensure you’re dancing strongly into 2020 and beyond,
here are my 4 quick tips for happier, healthier bodies!

1. Be active outside of belly dance

In our study of 118 female belly dancers, participation in non-dance-related exercise was associated with a significant decrease in injury rate.[1]

This may come as no surprise to some of you, as it’s well known that training in other types of exercise has been found to reduce injury in professional dancers of other styles.[2]

Working on your strength (think bodyweight exercises like squats and push ups, or using weights or resistance bands), and aerobic fitness (with activities like swimming, cycling or jogging), can be beneficial as it can help make your body more resilient, and better able to deal with the demands of dance.[3],[4]

My personal motto is that I always want to be stronger and fitter than my performance or teaching schedule actually requires, so I’m less likely to experience injury.

Be easy on yourself if this is your first time incorporating non-dance exercise into your schedule. If you’re not exercising at all during the week apart from belly dance, jumping into 5 days of training will be both unrealistic for your motivation, and perhaps even lead to an injury from such a sudden change in your training load!


Start low, progress slow: Aim to add in just one 20 minute strength session per week, or start getting off the bus or train a stop earlier to work and take a brisk walk the rest of the way. Look for places to sneak in just 10 minutes of continuous exercise into your day, then build from there.

2. Get to
know your

If you’ve ever gone to a belly dance intensive, you’ll know you can feel a bit sore when you suddenly increase the amount of dance you do.
When you have sore muscles or joints, take notice – these are the areas you want to focus on if you want to improve your dance stamina and decrease your injury risk.

Tight calves after a weekend in relevé? While stretching them out might feel good in the short-term, it’s a sign that in the long-term, you want to focus on calf-strengthening. If your muscles are tight and sore, they need some more strength in order to meet the demands you’re giving them.

What about joints? Sore knees? The general rule is, strengthen the muscles that cross the joint. Muscles are supposed to be the main stabilisers of a joint, not ligaments. So if your knees are complaining, work on strengthening your quadriceps (front thigh), hamstrings (rear thigh) and calves.

Taking notice of where you’re getting tired or tight will give you some handy information to know what to work on in 2020!
3. Incorporate mobility, not just flexibility

Mobility? Flexibility?
Is there a difference?

Flexibility tends to be what we are talking about when we refer to the ability to complete (sometimes intense) stretches like forward bends, the splits, or backbends.
In practice, I refer to flexibility training as stretching, and flexibility is just one component of overall mobility or range of motion.
So what makes up mobility training?

Rather than just stretching, effective use of strengthening exercises, neural glides (sometimes fondly called “nerve flossing”), and dynamic movements can help us improve our overall range of motion around our joints (and get rid of those “stiff” feelings!).
If you’re doing strength work, make sure you’re working with (or aiming towards) the full range of motion of the joint as you lift and lower the weight.

If you feel stiff at the end of a session, consider using a foam roller or tennis ball to get into some of the tighter, knotted parts of the muscles, or ask an exercise professional for some ideas on moving stretches or neural glides that you can use in addition to your standard, static stretches.

Generally speaking, I would start any dance or training session with more dynamic movement, and leave static, traditional stretches until the end of a session.
Why do I do it this way? This follows the RAMP style warm-up for the beginning of a session,[5] and we’ve known for a while now that static stretching (stretches in which you hold a position without moving) at the beginning of a workout can increase injury risk, as it reduces the muscles’ ability to produce power, and therefore potentially their ability to meet the demands of your training. When you’re in a static stretch, there’s also some evidence that hanging out there too long can increase your injury risk, and might not actually increase your real flexibility, but just your tolerance to stretching[6]. Opt for active stretching over passive stretching where you can. Rather than hanging out in a long hamstring stretch, try slow leg lifts on one foot, getting that leg as high as you can by making the hip flexors work!

Bottom line? Incorporate more than one way to get mobile, and don’t hang out in stretches texting on your phone. Keep your muscles active as you try to increase your range of motion!
4. Keep a training (and dance!) journal

Honestly, this has to be my number one tip for not only improving your dance technique and practice sustainability, but also for injury prevention.

The great thing about a training journal is you get to see, right in front of you, how often you’ve danced, for how long, and most importantly, how it felt.
I really feel a training journal is most useful if you keep notes other than what you actually did. How did you feel? Were you tired? Did something hurt?

These notes are great fuel for choosing what to focus on in the next sessions, whether it’s for strength or general dance practice. Plus, you can see patterns that might indicate you’re heading for injury (or you might be blessed with hindsight to prevent a future injury next time!) such as repeated entries saying you felt sore, you didn’t feel like it, you felt burned out, etc. Seeing how much you’re really doing and how you’re really feeling is great for planning your rest days in!


In summary, if you want to improve your dance technique and your body’s resilience in the dance studio, start incorporating some strength and cardio exercise into your routine. Honestly, I think better dancing is a much more motivating reason to exercise than to look good in a bikini! As for mobility and flexibility, keep it mindful. Don’t go to sleep in long, passive stretches, but use dynamic stretches, trigger point release, and strength exercises to increase your range of motion. Keep a record of what you’re doing so you can note your success, and keep an eye on when things are going right or wrong.

Here’s to stronger technique and stronger bodies in 2020!

Footnote Sources:

[1] Milner SC, Gray A, Bussey M. A Retrospective Study Investigating Injury Incidence and Factors Associated with Injury Among Belly Dancers. J. Dance Med. Sci. 2019 Mar 15;23(1):26-33.
[2] Bronner S, Ojofeitimi S, Rose D. Injuries in a modern dance company: effect of comprehensive management on injury incidence and time loss. Am J Sports Med. 2003 May-Jun;31(3):365-73.
[3] Koutedakis Y, Pacy P, Sharp NCC, Dick F. Is fitness necessary for dancers? Dance Res. 1996 Oct;14(2):105-18.
[4] Koutedakis Y, Jamurtas A. The dancer as a performing athlete: physiological considerations. Sports Med. 2004 Aug;34(10):651-61.

[6] Støve MP, Hirata RP, Palsson TS. Muscle stretching - the potential role of endogenous pain inhibitory modulation on stretch tolerance. Scand J Pain. 2019 Apr 24;19(2):415-422.  

Thank you Siobhan for a fab and so useful article! 
Get to Know Siobhan

Siobhan is a dancer and Rehabilitation Exercise Specialist and Conditioning Coach from New Zealand, now  based in the Netherlands with a passion for belly dance.

Connect with her here:

 Website   Facebook
Let's watch Siobhan dance with
Guy and the Baladi Blues Ensemble!
   Cassandra Fox   
 is coming to London !!
Zara's Zouk is very excited to announce that we will be hosting WORLD SUPERSTAR: CASSANDRA FOX for an intensive weekend of workshops and performance
31st Oct-1st Nov 2020 

We are telling YOU, our Zameena readers FIRST before anyone else, giving you the opportunity to buy the 1st Release EARLYBIRD TICKETS which are amazingly priced:
but VERY limited in numbers - ONLY 10 PASSES Available at this Price

This is a crazy discount! It includes 8hrs of training with Cassandra plus a hafla pass to see the star perform two sets that will take your breath away!
Full price weekend passes are £185!  

We will not be advertising these workshops/1st release tickets on social media till next month. DON'T WASTE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO BOOK BEFORE anyone else and get the Earlybird Price!
And, be a good dance mate, tell your friends! 
Cassandra Fox in Action
Cassandra Fox Workshops hosted by Zara's Zouk online bellydance shop:
Also from Zara's Zouk
Below: the beautiful Tara Lee Oakley snd Sahara Raqs at their Christmas and holiday season gigs in their Zara's Zouk costumes! 
Shop costumes and more at Zara's Zouk

Zara's Zouk: Your Body, Your Rules, Your Online Bellydance Shop

If you don't see what you are looking for online, we have much more in stock so give us a call/text on 0785 402 3948 or email us and we will do our best to help. In London? You can always arrange a visit too! 

Did you know that Zara's Zouk now goes LIVE on Facebook every Monday 
at 7.30pm (UK time)?

Join Sandra for: tips, sales, a fun competition and a giggle! 
Info Spot

Feeling a little overwhelmed in the New Year on how to go about juggling life, work and improving your Bellydance?
No worries! We talk to Florida based Dancer and Instructor and author of
RAQS TO RICHES - Oriana on: 

How to Set Effective Dance Goals
by Oriana Brooks (in photo above)

Whether you make New Year's Resolutions or resolve not to make any resolutions it never hurts to set aside some time to think solely on your goals as a dancer.  Often our dance lives can feel aimless or nebulous with no real defined direction outside of studying more, performing more and trying to get more likes on Instagram.  Oh, and buying more shiny things.

Unlike other dance forms, that can have a more structured tier of gauging student and professional progress, Middle Eastern Dance is often more freeform in its approach.  The good news is that you can choose when and how much you want to study and with whom (especially thanks to more online classes popping up) and you can more or less define what direction you'd like your artistic expression to take (Folkloric, Cabaret, Tribal, Fusion, etc).  The bad news is that all those options can make you feel like a kid lost in the candy store.  Not to mention that once you've been at it for a while and have checked off all of your previously thought-of goals you are now left wondering what else there is to do besides more of the same.  Oftentimes, as both students and professionals, there is very little discussion of goals outside of the competition world.  There is absolutely nothing to fear and everything to gain from setting personal goals as they regard to your artistic pursuits.  

By far the most well known goal organization method is called SMART.  This technique is now widely used by a variety of life coaching methods and modalities and is generally attributed to George T. Duran's 1981 paper defining his ideals for corporate business planning.  SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based.  Simply put it is an extremely effective way to formulate any goal, although we will be using it here only for Bellydance.

Many times we catch ourselves saying things such as, "I want to be a better dancer." Or, "I need to practice more."  These statements are accurate but that are very general and not committed to a plan in terms of the how, when, why or what we want to happen.   Transforming these statements into SMART goals helps us develop a much more defined target to actually aim for and increases our chances exponentially of actually hitting it.  

However, before we can begin to refine a goal we first need to identify one.  Let's begin here.  Take a moment and write out at least three things from this past year of your dancing that you thought you did really well.  Maybe you finally nailed a difficult combination or overcame your stage fright a little more, for example.  Now, write out at least three things that you feel you could improve on.   Anything from you'd like to learn a certain prop better to you felt you could have choreographed a complex piece better before you performed it.  Now review your lists.  Your accomplishments should give you a sense of pride, or even relief.  You did it!  Whereas your list of needed improvements should feel like there's something more to ruminate on while still remaining uncritical.  It's important not to beat yourself up here and take the time instead to uncover what you're struggling with the most.

Now let's formulate that improvement list into SMART goals.  Let's use the example, "I need to practice more."
Specific- Where? When?  What?
Measurable- How long do you need to practice?  Per week?  Per month?
Attainable- How will you know when you've achieved this goal?
Realistic- Is this goal within your reach?  Would you need to change anything to achieve it?
Time-Based- When would you like this goal to be achieved?

Based off these questions, you could come up with a SMART goal of:
I will practice my choreography for the show at the studio every Monday night for at least one hour.  I will do this every Monday until the big show in June.  I will know I have achieved my goal when I can rehearse it completely by memory and feel confident about performing it.  

Boom!  That's a big bright target to hit.  You now know exactly what you're doing, when you're doing it, why you're doing it and where.  Which also means it will stick out in your mind more and you'll be able to commit more easily to your practice.  It's much easier to spot a yellow car when you are actively looking for a yellow car.  Likewise, it's much easier to commit to a change when you know everything about the change you'd like to make, including the desired outcome.  

Let's try another, more complicated, example.  
"I'd like to learn Isis wings but I don't know how to get started."
OK, so we're already admitting there's a few steps that need to be taken here.  Most likely finding instruction and actually acquiring a pair of wings would be the first things to tackle.
Let's break this down:
Specific: What do you need to do? "I need to purchase a pair of Isis Wings and find instruction on how to use them."
Measurable: Why are you actually desiring to learn them?  "I'd like to create a choreography to perform."
Attainable: How will you know when you've achieved this goal? "When I can create my own Isis Wings choreography and feel comfortable with it."
Realistic: Is this goal within your reach? "Maybe, I'll need to save up for the wings.  And the find a workshop, or a DVD, or something.  I don't know yet."  
Eep!  There's another snafu!  Totally alright, it's just another part of the planning process.  Hitting these pockets of uncertainty are just prompts to dig a little deeper.  What would your ideal situation be or what is the most likely next step?
Lastly, Time Based:  When do you want this to be achieved by? "It'd be really cool to present the choreography at the festival I'm attending."

Now, let's take all of this data we've mined here and make an actual plan with it.  We've realized that we not only need to purchase the wings and find instruction but that it will take some time to get that together.  Then, there's creating a choreography which involves picking a song, a costume and practicing the movements themselves.  After that, there is presenting it on stage.  

We are now going to take the SMART formula and plug it into weekly increments.  You could easily use months, days or a mix of time measures but for the sake of simplicity I prefer to use weeks.
Let's say for the purchase of the wings we are going to allot 2 weeks for your next paycheck to come in which also gives you time to find the pair you want.  You will then purchase your wings and use the next week researching instructors, workshops, DVDs, online tutorials, etc to use when you have the wings.  

After that, you'll give yourself a conservative 8 weeks to pick music, assemble your costume, to get your choreography together and at least one additional week of practice before you present it.  See?  Not that hard, right?

When it comes to timing I always advise that you use your best judgement.  You know if you tend to procrastinate or not.  If strict time constraints make your skin crawl, loosen them up a bit and give yourself three months to do the whole kit and caboodle in whatever order makes the most sense to you.  Having some set specifics is always better than having none at all.

My final piece of advice is to take all of your SMART goals and line them up in order of which ones you'd like to tackle first.  You can choose to arrange them month-to-month or by quarterly increments.  Finally, pick a few that might take the whole year.  Work on such as getting over stage fright or learning zills.  Now step back and look at your upcoming year and realize you have all of these possibilities before you!  You will hopefully feel less anxiety about all of them because you've already figured out how you're going to do them and you've envisioned the entire process.   And please remember, life happens.  New goals may pop up and old ones may need to change as you go along.  
There's no judgement!

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."  Oprah Winfrey
Enjoyed this article?
Want to be the most successful dancer you can be?
Then check out Oriana's amazing book:

Raqs to Riches: Dance with Passion and Achieve Success. 
from Amazon:
or you can buy direct from Oriana's website

A big Zameena THANK YOU to Oriana for her fantastic article!
Get To Know Oriana

Oriana is a professional award-winning Bellydancer, instructor, and Director of Midnight Lotus Dance Company, in Tampa, Florida.

Teaching is her passion!  Oriana's goal is for everyone to have fun while learning about this beautiful art form, it’s culture AND work up a good sweat!

As a performer, she always pushes herself with the music as her guide and partner in expression. Connect on her FaceBook page!
Music Corner
By Zara Dance
Well, I can hardly hold back my excitment because word on the street is that Hakim - the Lion of Egypt - is releasing an album!

I haven't been able to find any offical confirmation, but I am not surprised. Egyptians are saying this because, if you follow Hakim on Youtube, you'll see that for the past 2 months he HAS BEEN RELEASING NEW SONGS ALMOST EVERY OTHER WEEK!! These are not music videos in the traditional sense, they are nearly all lyrical videos.

As I have explained in past Music Corners, lyrical videos are really popular in Egypt/Middle East. Songs are released with just a picture or simple animation/gallery with the lyrics of the song going across the screen, great for Karaoke if you can read Arabic.
It originated with Shaabi artists wanting to make cheap simple music videos but now is commonplace across the board. Even stars as massive as Hakim are releasing songs in this simple manner.  And, maybe Hakim is opting for this more modern YouTube route of releasing songs instead of the traditonal album/external music channel route: so in that sense he is releasing an 'Album'.

Why am I so excited? Well, because Hakim is always a
MASSIVE SOURCE of BELLY DANCE GOLD when it comes to music and he hasn't let us dancers down with his new releases.

They are all great for bellydance including the last one Sebona Fe Halna that actually has a 'proper music video' (Check out all his new releases on his channel HERE ) but the one I am specifically highlighting and the link to the lyrical video above is Leila Bambi .
It is a pop/shaabi hit with a few mahragan sound bites making this song up to date, fun, easy going and great FOR YOUR DANCING be it for restaurant, a solo, teaching classes, group choreos etc.

Because this is a lyrical video, this song hasn't featured on any music channels in Egypt but it is spreading like crazy!
I have been playing it at all my gigs and everyone sings along, and those who don't know the song, don't care. The familiarity that comes with Hakim's voice gets everyone out their chairs. CHECK IT OUT and feel free to send me thanks after you are done shimmying around the living room lol  

I am sure you will love the song's catchy lines such as ......

"انا بحبك احبك احبك - انا مليش حبك حبك"
"Ann Bhebek, a-hebek, a-hebek - ana malish ger hobik hobik"
"I love you, love you, love you - I have nothing but my love for you, my love for you" 

...... as much as me!! 


Like having translations? Here is a top ZARA DANCE MUSIC CORNER TIP: underneath this music video are all the lyrics already typed out in Arabic. Copy them and paste them in to Google Translate (the free translation service from Google). You can get a good idea of what the lyrics are saying - though it won't be an exact translation you can get the gist and pick out key important words. 

Where to Meet Sandra with Zara's Zouk
15th - 16th
Feb 2020

Bull Lane, Bracknell
RG42 2LN 

Bellydance Hafla  FB
(on 16th 
from 13:30-15:30)

See you there!

Click Here or on Pic for Website
22nd Feb 2020

Galit Mersand Bellydance Workshops and Casbah Café Showcase

Hosted by Hannah Newton 
Stratfield Brake Sports Ground
Frieze Way, Kidlington,
Oxfordshire OX5 1UP

See you there! 
29th Feb 2020 
Dance For Wildlife 
Hosted by Lorely Rice

Civic Hall, Britwell Rd, Didcot, Oxfordshire 
OX11 7JN
      See you there!
3rd - 5th April

Dum Tak Festival

Zara's Zouk will be there!  

How about you?

Don't miss out on workshops with all the fab teachers!
And some more events:

Want to enter a Bellydance Competition? How about this opportunity?
We are not at this event but Tonya and Atlantis are good friends of Zameena so give it a go!
Come to Cairo!
Come to this fantastic, friendly festival

It would make me so happy and if you feel nervous about coming to Cairo I will be on hand to quell your fears and spend time with you!

Last year Dandash's Festival was so much fun!  Don't miss this opportunity; I encourage you to come, come, come!
Wishing YOU a Happy, Peaceful and Prosperous 2020!

Thank you again Oriana and Siobhan.
And thank YOU for your ongoing support of Zara and her Zara Dance page, YouTube and Zara's Zouk the shares and likes mean more than words can say. 

Love and Shimmies See the source image
x x Zara and Sandra x x
Photo from CD: Zara and Sandra (the mother/daughter team behind Zara's Zouk and Zameena)
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Can't wait until next month?
Check out these past editions of Zameena: 
Guy gives his Top Tips for dancing to live music and
Catherine Taylor talks Cross Training.  Click on the pics to read more:
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