• Bellydance Blossom
    Festival
  • Join the Revelation
  • April 1-3, 2016
  • Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, Canada

2016 About

Sponsors

The Bellydance Blossom Festival's Artistic Vision is to create an environment of explosive creativity that will inspire, engage and ignite participating artists. The festival's objective is to create a space where the true soul of Bellydance can reveal itself - a place where all the myriad styles and expressions of Bellydance meet and share common ground.

Through Collaborative Works, Explorative Works and Discussion the Bellydance Blossom Festival hopes to reveal the meaning and purpose of Bellydance. It will be challenging, fun and hugely rewarding for all participants.

At the last International Bellydance Conference of Canada (2012), a persistent question was in conversations on the stairs, in panels discussions and in workshops. What is the essence of Bellydance? What does it express? Let us try to answer these questions in the Bellydance Blossom Festival.

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Imagined and created by Yasmina Ramzy, founder of the International Bellydance Conference of Canada.

Blossum group faces

2016 Workshops

Highly Creative & Unique Master Dance Artists from Egypt

Attendance at all workshops is included in registration fee & not available separately



Camelia of Cairo

Camelia Masreya of Cairo

Camelia is one of the most famous stars in Cairo. She started her career as a folklore dancer in the end of the 90s. Lately she turned to dance the oriental classical "sharqi" dance style and is at the moment one of the most famous and popular bellydancers in Egypt. She is currently working at many five Star Hotels in Cairo. Camelia is dancing with a never ending energy and creativity and her show is breathtaking. She is giving workshops and performing in Egypt and all over the world.

Master Workshops

1) Oriental Camelia Egyptian Style

2) Shaabi Camelia Egyptian Style

3) Technique - Oriental & Khaleegy

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Saleh

Mohamed Saleh has traveled the world with the Reda Troupe since 1995 but started his career in Egypt's Childrens Troupe performing all over Egypt. He has worked in the Opera House in many styles of dance including Modern and Contemporary. Mohamed has worked with Mahmoud Reda, Hassan Affifi, Walid Awni and Dr. Magdi Ezz. As a creative choreographer, his work is presented on national TV and at many festivals. He is now a soloist in the Reda Troupe, a featured teacher in Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival and sought after in China, Japan, Korea, Ukraine and Italy. He has won many awards and recently is a graduate of the Academy of Arts.

Master Workshops

1) Mahragan - Egyptian Street Dance Part I

2) Baladi & Milaya

3) Mahragan - Egyptian Street Dance Part II

Mahragan - Street Shaabi Dance


Description by Mohamed Salah

At the beginning of the seventies of the last century appeared a broad sector in the Egyptian society with their costumes and traditions. This sector influenced and led to change the surface life style in Egypt. This sector was the Artisans sector, and was able to change some of the day use words the Egyptian using them in their streets lifestyle talking. Also, was led to change many methods of the dealings and talking dialogue between the Egyptians. These sector its result ended to the change in the new Egyptian vernacular Poetry, which led to the changing of the Egyptian music styles and the performance of the Musical phrase. All these influenced the emergence of most of the singers who used these new musical notes and many of this sector's words in their songs. One of those top singers renowned artist “Ahmed Adawia” who changed many of the song styles and the way of the music.

At the same time, a new motion performance appeared with this artisans sector, which expresses themselves in their parties during their dance. Their dance steps are mixture between the Egyptian folk dance, Belly dance, and a bit of Arab folk dance. Also, the pattern basic in their dance always be an individual, and each performer uses or acting looks like using his crafts tool in his dance performance. When you look at the performers in their parties, you will recognize that every one of them dancing in a manner different than the others. Also, from each one step, you will understand his type of craft. The essential tools in their dance are: the Knife, or Sword, or Stick. These tools related to the artisans communities by force and security. Also, 90% of the performers doing and acting in the place, which it means they doesn't move allover the stage or the place they do their performance in.


2016 Blossom Talk Speakers


Roula Said head shot

Bellydance as a Radical Act of Love
(aka "Who Knew my Pelvis was on Another Planet")

Bellydance has been a journey of personal healing and transformation in my life, as it has for so many others. I have also struggled to find my authentic voice within the shifting zeitgeist of this dance form, and with the personal challenges that I have faced, psycho-spiritually, culturally, and physically. I constantly quit being a "bellydancer" – I’m clueless about the latest trends and superstars, I don't have a single bedlah left in my wardrobe, yet I feel that the essence of this dance lives inside me and feeds me and helps me stay sane… and that feels like love.

Roula Said (Toronto, ON)

Roula Said is a singer, dancer and actor of Palestinian heritage. Roula is the director of Om Laila Studio where she teaches Arabic music and dance, and is the vocalist, dancer and percussionista of the funked up Arabic-Roma band, Nomadica. She also plays qanun and sings traditional Arabic songs and has performed on many fine theatre and festival stages across Canada. Roula has appeared in numerous films and theatre productions over the years including Ruba Nada’s film, Sabah, (see it on Netflix) and in her own one woman play, 40 Days, created with Yasmina Ramzy’s mentorship and currently in development.

Giving Back- Nurturing The Source of Our Inspiration

We often gravitate to this dance to empower ourselves but if you are fortunate enough to travel to any developing country, you are either blessed or cursed with the realization that this is just one of the many things we take for granted. We are among a minority (of women) on this planet that has this privilege. Since travelling to rural Egypt in 2011, following the revolution, Jamiila has had this on her mind. Whenever she spends time there, she becomes more aware of the fundamental needs of women and children there. If we want to protect the cultural source of our inspiration, this ancient wellspring of creativity, we must somehow assist in the empowerment of women in Egypt.

Jamiila B (Vancouver, BC)

Jamiila began her journey Oriental dance nearly 30 years ago and since then, has had the honour of learning from some of the most renowned masters of this dance from Egypt and around the world. Her performances have delighted audiences of all ages and backgrounds. In 1998 she started teaching and working closely with the Folk Arts Council and Artists in the Schools programs to educate and entertain those communities that would otherwise never have had the opportunity to learn of this dance and its rich historic culture. In 2001 she was the first ever“bellydancer” to receive the support and recognition of the Manitoba Arts Council.

Shira headshot

Health Benefits of Belly Dance

Belly dancers have learned from experience that dancing makes us feel better, both physically and emotionally. However, it takes more than anecdotal experience to gain traction in scientific circles. In recent years, a number of peer-reviewed journals have published articles that explored the health benefits of dance. Although not all of these looked specifically at belly dance, several of them did look at dance forms which had properties in common with belly dance, such as improvisation. In this talk, Shira explores available literature that shows the benefits that belly dance and closely-related other dance forms offer to body, mind, and spirit.

Shira (Iowa City, IA)

Shira is known worldwide for her work as a researcher, author, lecturer, and publisher of information on Middle Eastern dance, music, and culture. She has been interviewed by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for stories on Middle Eastern dance, and is highly sought after as a contributor to magazines centered on this art form. Her web site, www.shira.net, is the most comprehensive and most linked-to Oriental dance Internet resource in the world. For continuing education, Shira has traveled three times to Turkey, ten times to Egypt, and twice to Morocco.

Cultural Appropriation

Although academic papers have been critiquing belly dancers on cultural appropriation for nearly 10 years, an incendiary article appearing in Salon.com in 2014 is what brought it to the attention of the mainstream dance community. Today, many are trying to find the balance between the social justice concerns and their desire to continue participating in the dance they have come to love. In this talk, Shira offers a starting point in understanding what cultural appropriation is, why it can be hurtful to people of color, and how to use the discussion as a springboard to grow in the dance.

Shira (Iowa City, IA)

Shira is known worldwide for her work as a researcher, author, lecturer, and publisher of information on Middle Eastern dance, music, and culture. She has been interviewed by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for stories on Middle Eastern dance, and is highly sought after as a contributor to magazines centered on this art form. Her web site, www.shira.net, is the most comprehensive and most linked-to Oriental dance Internet resource in the world. For continuing education, Shira has traveled three times to Turkey, ten times to Egypt, and twice to Morocco.

Youth in Belly dance

Increasing Attention to Youth based Bellydance Programs.
A thorough and powerful presentation proposing that an increase of youth focused belly dance programs over the next decade, would create an wave of positive changes. Public awareness and accessibility, both development and preservation of the art, as well as economic impact to the industry of belly dance would all see benefits.

Wendy Goudie (Penticton, BC)

Wendy Goudie, Founder of Get Bent Dance, Co-Founder of the Get Bent Active Arts Society and Co -Founder of the Belly Dance Standards Association, currently runs the largest full time, youth focused belly dance school in Canada. Joining her for this talk are a group of teens that have been dancing for over a decade. Get Bent has founded a 5 phase training program for youth in belly dance. For 14 years, the Get Bent faculty have been leading youth through a regimented training program, and now assists the dancers that have completed the training, to build a financially viable and creatively rewarding job in the belly dance industry.

Kathleen Fraser headshot

45 Years of Inspiration

Kathleen Fraser discovered belly dance quite by accident but, looking over decades of involvement, realizes that this dance and its devoted worldwide community have changed her life’s directions. In this talk she explores the many ways she has been emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually renewed by this dance and argues that it is a profoundly transformative art form. This quality, she thinks, holds its secret to attract and keep so many adherents.

Kathleen Fraser (Toronto, ON)

Born in Toronto in 1931, Kathleen Fraser has been involved with belly dance and belly dance history for over 45 years. She has an MA in dance history from York University, Toronto; her thesis title was “The Aesthetics of Belly Dance—Egyptian Canadians Discuss the Baladi”. She has since presented at numerous dance history conferences and appears in scholarly journals. She is the author of the recent (2015) Before They Were Belly Dancers: European Accounts of Female Entertainers in Egypt, 1760—1870 published by McFarland & Company.

Angelica Headshot

A Canadian Girl Dancing in the Arab World

Drawing from her personal experiences of performing 150 shows in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, Angelica Jordan will discuss the differences she perceived while performing for Arab audiences in the Middle East vs. Arab audiences in North America. How did the reaction to the dancer and music differ? How does the interaction between the dancer and audience become affected? What stereotypes were broken and which ones were reinforced?

Angelica Jordan (Montreal, QC)

Angelica Jordan discovered Middle Eastern dance in 2005 and has since become fully dedicated to learning, expressing and sharing its artistry. She is a full-time professional dancer and instructor, and has performed thousands of shows in restaurants and private events all over Montreal. She has also performed as a solo dancer in three of Jordan's top 5-star hotels: Le Royal in Amman, the Intercontinental, and the Movenpick in Aqaba, in 2015. In 2012, she performed in the United Arab Emirates at the Global Village Festival in Dubai with the Folkloric company, Sanaa Danse. She is also the founder and artistic director of the dance collective, Ya Eshta. For more information please visit www.angelicadance.com& www.yaeshta.com

George Sawa

Aesthetics and Types of Dances in the Medieval Middle East

The paper will discuss the requirements of a good dancer: innate talent, physical characteristics of the body, the importance of rigorous training, the varied repertoire, creativity and flirtation. The body of the dancer will be also seen as a musical instrument, whether the dancer produce sound while dancing (raqs) or produces no sound (zafn). The types of dances include: camel dance (ibil), horse dance and hobby horse dance (kurraj), dastband (dance involving turning around while holding hands). Since no dance music has survived, an informative comparison will be made between the 14th- century European form of dance music with the 19th-century Syrian scarf dance.

George Sawa (Toronto, ON)

George Sawa was born in Alexandria, Egypt where he studied qanun. In Canada, he obtained his doctorate in historical Arabic musicology. In 2005, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture for his research in Arabic music history. George has been the musical director for several productions of the Toronto-based Arabesque Dance Company, and taught hundreds of dancers at the Arabesque Academy and in Canada, USA, Brazil and Mexico. His Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers has won international acclaim and is an invaluable companion to bellydancers all over the world (also available in Chinese, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish).


2016 Panel Discussions Speakers


Barbara, Christine, Anne

Transnational Bellydance - North America, Cairo, Toronto

This panel will explore how and why dance forms which originate in the Middle East have entered new geographic spaces and taken on new meanings. We will address how belly dance has moved globally through processes such as immigration and globalization. Barbara Sellers-Young offers expertise on belly dance's transnational moves in the United States and throughout the globe. Christine Shiraz Şahin will add insight from her ongoing studies of transnational belly dance in modern-day Cairo, and Anne Vermeyden approach belly dance's global movement from an historical perspective, specifically focusing on belly dance's historical trajectory in Canada.

Barbara Sellers-Young (Toronto, ON)

Barbara Sellers-Young is a Professor in the Dance Department at York University. Her research on transcultural body has been supported by grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, Davis Humanities Center and the Center for RISK at Charles Sturt University. She is past president of the Congress on Research in Dance and has taught at institutions in United States, Australia , China and England . Her books include two single authored books: Teaching Personality with Gracefulness and Breathing, Movement, Exploration and three edited volumes including Belly Dance Around the World.

Christine Shiraz Şahin (Riverside, CA)

Christine Shiraz Şahin is a third-year Ph.D. student in Critical Dance Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Şahin is also a performer and instructor of belly dance throughout southern California. Şahin’s research investigates circulations of belly dance, looking at how its meanings and contexts change as it crosses different bodies, borders, and spaces. Şahin focuses on ethnographic explorations of belly dance centered within various class communities in Cairo, Egypt. She interrogates how foregrounding dance as a research lens uniquely speaks to women’s issues of gender, sexuality, and nationalism, both locally and globally, within Cairo. ShirazDance.com

Anne Vermeyden (Guelph, ON)

Anne Vermeyden is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Guelph. Her dissertation focuses on the transnational history of belly dance in the city of Toronto. Her work explores why and how belly dance forms from across North Africa and the Middle East entered new contexts and took on new meanings in Toronto between approximately 1960 and 1990. Vermeyden also performs belly dance as a solo artist in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and offers lectures and workshops on dance history. anne.vermeyden.com

Samantha&Yasmina&Rahel

Bellydance's Place In Today's Political Climate



Samantha Burnstein (Montreal QC)

Dancer and ethnographer, Samantha specialises in the dances of North Africa and the Middle East. She has devoted herself to her passion of ethnic dance for over 20 years, and has performed and taught oriental, folkloric and African dance throughout Canada, the U.S.A, as well as in The United Arab Emirates. Trained in anthropology at Concordia University, she has studied throughout Egypt, and West Africa, and done extensive research within local cultural communities in Montreal. She is the founder and director of Sanaa Dance Company, who have performed in the United Arab Emirates, as well as for ambassadors and superstars such as Cheb Khaled. Sanaafolklore.com

Yasmina Ramzy (Toronto, ON)

Yasmina Ramzy is a visionary and a highly acclaimed choreographer committed to the presentation of Bellydance as high art. Since 1981, she has performed over 10,000 times often for royalty and heads of state and throughout the Middle East. Yasmina has had the unique priviledge of performing for several years in Syria with the famous master musicians of Allepo. As well as creating the renowned standardized Arabesque Academy curriculum, she teaches in over 60 cities on five continents. She founded Arabesque Dance Company and Orchestra, Arabesque Academy and the International Bellydance Conference of Canada (IBCC).


Rahel (Vancouver, BC)

Rahel fell in love with bellydance at the age of 15 and is now a full time bellydancer, bellydance instructor and yoga teacher in Vancouver BC. Rahel is an award winning dancer/choreographer, has been featured in film and television, and has performed for such stars as Bif Naked, Shantel, Juno Reactor, and more. Rahel is the founder and artistic director of Vancouver based bellydance troupe The Helwa Dancers, and is the producer and director of her annual show "Ya Helwa". Rahel considers herself a feminist, an eternal student, and a full time lover of this life changing art form.

Four speaser's collage

Aging in Bellydance

We would investigate and discuss psychological and physical barriers to creating and presenting quality dance, as well as public and personal perception.


Cassandra Shore (Minneapolis, MN)

Cassandra Shore is one of the world’s foremost practitioners of Arab dance, recognized for artistic intensity, sumptuous mastery of the form’s technical complexity, lyrical grace, and musicality that sets her apart from other artists. Schooled in classic Modern styles, Cassandra embraced Arab dance, consciously grounding her style in cultural immersion with performance, research and study in the expat community as well as Egypt and North Africa. Searching for ways to move Arab dance “beyond the museum,” - creating original choreography for this vibrant living art form - in 1989 she founded Jawaahir Dance Company, dedicated to cultural authenticity, artistic excellence, and a spirit of exploration in traditional and contemporary Arab dance.


Leila Gamal (South Bend, IN)

Leila Gamal is an internationally recognized as a premier dance artist that continues to inspire and influence many of today’s rising stars of Middle Eastern dance. Leila always presents an informative and high-energy class with emphasis on developing musical sensitivity and strong movement technique. She has the unique ability to develop and to inspire students of any level to express their fullest potential. As master teacher or seasoned performer, Leila Gamal captivates her audience with beauty, dynamics, and professional command.<


Ruby Jazayre (South Bend, IN)

Ruby Jazayre has been immersed in the Art of Middle Eastern Dance since 1978. Since then she has enjoyed international acclaim teaching, performing, choreographing, and mentoring. She has published four instructional videos, and fifteen “classroom companion” DVD’s. In 2001, she joined the faculty of Indiana University South Bend, Ernestine Raclin School of Fine Arts, Theatre and Dance, achieving Merit Status in 2008. Artistic Director of "Sisters of the Nile and Company", she empowers women of all ages and from all walks of life to "be all that they can be".

Is Bellydance on the Rise or Decline in North America?



Leila Gamal (South Bend, IN)

Leila Gamal is an internationally recognized as a premier dance artist that continues to inspire and influence many of today’s rising stars of Middle Eastern dance. Leila always presents an informative and high-energy class with emphasis on developing musical sensitivity and strong movement technique. She has the unique ability to develop and to inspire students of any level to express their fullest potential. As master teacher or seasoned performer, Leila Gamal captivates her audience with beauty, dynamics, and professional command.



Shira (Iowa City, IA)

Shira is known worldwide for her work as a researcher, author, lecturer, and publisher of information on Middle Eastern dance, music, and culture. She has been interviewed by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for stories on Middle Eastern dance, and is highly sought after as a contributor to magazines centered on this art form. Her web site, www.shira.net, is the most comprehensive and most linked-to Oriental dance Internet resource in the world. For continuing education, Shira has traveled three times to Turkey, ten times to Egypt, and twice to Morocco.



Shannon Bishop (State college, PA)

Shannon Bishop has been teaching, studying and performing Middle Eastern dance for more than a decade. She is the owner of Black Cat Belly Dance in State College, PA and is the creative director of the region’s only professional belly dance ensemble. She has made several trips to Egypt to continue her studies of Egyptian dance and hosts biannual events in central Pennsylvania that feature world-class instructors. She is committed to honoring the rich culture and roots of Middle Eastern dance and music.



Wendy Goudie (Penticton, BC)

Wendy Goudie, Founder of Get Bent Dance, Co-Founder of the Get Bent Active Arts Society and Co -Founder of the Belly Dance Standards Association, currently runs the largest full time, youth focused belly dance school in Canada. Joining her for this talk are a group of teens that have been dancing for over a decade. Get Bent has founded a 5 phase training program for youth in belly dance. For 14 years, the Get Bent faculty have been leading youth through a regimented training program, and now assists the dancers that have completed the training, to build a financially viable and creatively rewarding job in the belly dance industry.


2016 Collaborative Works - Ensemble


Amy & Get Bent's picture

Amy Leung Creates for Get Bent


Amy Leung (Toronto, ON)

Amy Leung is a Toronto based dance artist. As a lead dancer in Arabesque Dance Company & Orchestra, her highlight performances are with Cirque du Soleil in the Pan Am Opening Ceremony, on the Gala Stage of the International Bellydance Conference of Canada and in Arabesque productions of NOOR, JAMRA, and SAWAH at Fleck Dance Theatre. Amy's professional training is with Yasmina Ramzy having started with Judy Reynolds and Roula Said. In addition to her regular training, she has taken workshops with international artists including Dina, Fifi Abdou, Mahmoud Reda, Sahra Saeeda, Raqia Hassan and Luna of Cairo. Amy is a senior instructor at Arabesque Academy, rehearsal coach for the Arabesque Student Troupe and a sought out solo artist in the Toronto area known for her Arab nuance and emotional range.


Get Bent (Penticton, BC)

Nicole, Michelle and Celine are senior dancer in Get Bent Professional Training Program. They dance 5-10 hrs a week, and have been dancing for upward of 10 years. Specializing in Bollywood Belly Dancing, they also train in Tribal Fusion and Cabaret. They are so excited about the opportunity to work with Amy Leug in the collaborative works!!

Sashar&Maysa&Hala

Sashar Zarif Creates for Maysa & Hala Jamal Duet

Music: Munojot Yelchiyeva - Uzbekistan
Music design and costume design: Sashar Zarif

Did God Forget About Me?

When the apricot tree blossoms
Flowers have decorated the branches
Calling the name of life at dawn,
And naughty wind on the first morning
Stole away the aroma of the blossoms.
Every spring the same is repeated,
Every spring passes the same way,
No matter how I try, those shameless
Drafts deceive me and leave for good...
Hamid Alimjan - translation from Uzbek

Sashar Zarif (Toronto, ON)

Internationally acclaimed Sashar Zarif has over 25 years of professional practice in over 30 countries around the globe, researching, educating, creating, performing, and producing dance within academic, community, and rural environments. He Specializes in Cross-Cultural Collaboration, Performance and Identity, Sufi-Shamanic dance rituals as well as Persian, Azeri, Uzbek, Turkmen, Tajik, Afghan, Western Mongolian and Kyrgyz Traditional Dance forms. Zarif is a research associate at Centre for Asian Studies at York University, an honorary faculty at Uzbekistan State Choreographic Institute, recipient of the Order of Arts-Master of Dance from Uzbekistan, Order of Artists for the People from Azerbaijan, Chalmers Arts Fellowship (2015), and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contribution to arts.

Maysa & Hala (Banff, AB)

Catherine Dafoe (Hala Jamal) and Kim Mayberry (Maysa) both began studying Belly Dance about 15 years ago and are devoted to a lifetime of learning. They met in 2007 and since then have challenged each other to go deeper into the art form. If you're ever in Banff, come see them perform at the Balkan restaurant or visit them at Dance for Joy Studio.

Rahel creates for Maysa & Hala

Balance

This modern, theatrical piece will explore the symbolic struggle between light and darkness within us. The two dancers, symbolizing the two opposing energies, battle for dominance, each in turn trying to overpower the other, finally to discover that they both need each other to find balance and harmony, yin and yang.

Rahel (Vancouver, BC)

Rahel fell in love with bellydance at the age of 15 and is now a full time bellydancer, bellydance instructor and yoga teacher in Vancouver BC. Rahel is an award winning dancer/choreographer, has been featured in film and television, and has performed for such stars as Bif Naked, Shantel, Juno Reactor, and more. Rahel is the founder and artistic director of Vancouver based bellydance troupe The Helwa Dancers, and is the producer and director of her annual show "Ya Helwa". Rahel considers herself a feminist, an eternal student, and a full time lover of this life changing art form.

Maysa & Hala (Banff, AB)

Catherine Dafoe (Hala Jamal) and Kim Mayberry (Maysa) both began studying Belly Dance about 15 years ago and are devoted to a lifetime of learning. They met in 2007 and since then have challenged each other to go deeper into the art form. If you're ever in Banff, come see them perform at the Balkan restaurant or visit them at Dance for Joy Studio.


2016 Pre-Arranged Partnerships


Al Andalus - Cassandra Shore Creates for Arabesque

Cassandra Shore (Minneapolis, MN)

Cassandra Shore is one of the world’s foremost practitioners of Arab dance, recognized for artistic intensity, sumptuous mastery of the form’s technical complexity, lyrical grace, and musicality that sets her apart from other artists. Schooled in classic Modern styles, Cassandra embraced Arab dance, consciously grounding her style in cultural immersion with performance, research and study in the expat community as well as Egypt and North Africa. Searching for ways to move Arab dance “beyond the museum,” - creating original choreography for this vibrant living art form - in 1989 she founded Jawaahir Dance Company, dedicated to cultural authenticity, artistic excellence, and a spirit of exploration in traditional and contemporary Arab dance.

Arabesque Dance Company (Toronto, ON)

Where music and movement become one, where ancient and modern blend, where East and West merge. Arabesque is a dance and music ensemble that embodies creative contemporary sensibilities steeped in a rich and ancient Arabian tradition. Seventeen male and female dance artists directed by Yasmina Ramzy and eight acoustic musicians directed by Bassam Bishara and Suleiman Warwar weave together seamlessly the infinite and ornate intricacies of refined and redefined Arab art. Soaring emotional waves, smouldering passion, earthy raw spirit and unearthly spirituality; all are experienced memorably in an Arabesque performance.

Sanaa dance group shot

Sanaa Dance Creates for Festival Attendees

KHALIJI

For several years of dancing folklore together Sanaa Dance has felt the power of the shared communal dance experience that folklore brings. It has been a dream to create some really large numbers, and during a khaliji workshop last summer with some 25 dancers all pulsating to the groove we were feeling the energy and one step closer to realizing that dream. For the festival we made an open call to dancers attending to join in a massive khaliji dance and have several dancers from across Canada and the U.S. The goal is to create an experience beyond simply performance that celebrates that essence of the true folkloric spirit, through the beautiful khaliji dance. Choreography by Samantha Burnstein.

Sanaa Dance (Montreal, QC)

Celebrating the diversity of folklore from Morocco to the Persian Gulf, Sanaa Dance Company showcases the beauty and rich heritage of traditional dances from the Middle East and North Africa. The only folkloric company of its kind in Quebec, Sanaa Dance is acclaimed for embracing the essence of traditional folk styles in modern context. Under the direction of dancer and ethnographer Samantha Burnstein, the company has performed across Quebec, Ontario, as well as internationally. In 2012, Sanaa Dance performed 90 shows in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, showcasing women’s dances of the Arab world. Other performance highlights include performing with Algerian superstar Cheb Khaled and the ambassadors of Morocco and Tunisia. Sanaafolklore.com

Nour Hayati Creates for Shireen

Nour Hayati (Toronto, ON)

Dorothy "Nour Hayati" has been dancing since she was able to stand up on two feet. She took jazz dancing lessons since the age of four and danced ballet and tap in her early teens. Nour discovered bellydance as an after-work diversion in 2001, fell in love with the artform, and has been dancing with Habeeba Hobeika's Egyptian Dance Ensemble since 2005. She is a longtime troupe member and accomplished soloist. Nour's passion is classical and folkloric Egyptian styles; however she also enjoys performing fusion, dabke, and modern shaabi. Nour has been choreographing dances for herself and friends since her early teens; she has co-choreographed several bellydance routines for her troupe, and choreographs most of her own dances.

Shireen (Toronto, ON)

Shireen is a member of Habeeba’s Dance Studio and has been performing from a young age. She regularly treats guests at weddings, corporate events and parties to dazzling performances with her troupemates from Habeeba’s. Prior to discovering her identity as a dancer, Shireen spent many years studying and performing classical piano as well as stage acting. Shireen found her way to bellydance by coincidence as many do, and she has developed an affinity for all things classical and folk. Shireen dances for joy and for love; her aim as a dancer is to share this with fellow dancers and her audience members.


2016 Collaborative Works - Solos


Rahel&Radi

Rahel Creates for Radi Atanasova

Baladi Ya Oyouni

In this Oriental-inspired Baladi, Radi will step outside her comfort zone and dance her way through the complex range of emotions one experiences on the path of relationships.

Rahel (Vancouver, BC)

Rahel fell in love with bellydance at the age of 15 and is now a full time bellydancer, bellydance instructor and yoga teacher in Vancouver BC. Rahel is an award winning dancer/choreographer, has been featured in film and television, and has performed for such stars as Bif Naked, Shantel, Juno Reactor, and more. Rahel is the founder and artistic director of Vancouver based bellydance troupe The Helwa Dancers, and is the producer and director of her annual show "Ya Helwa". Rahel considers herself a feminist, an eternal student, and a full time lover of this life changing art form.

Radi Atanasova (Toronto, ON)

A Toronto based dance artist, Radi's biggest dream since she was 14 years old, was to perform Middle Eastern Dance. Her professional training has been at Arabesque Academy under the tutelage of Yasmina Ramzy. She has also studied with Arabesque instructors Melissa Gamal, Sarita, Nikki Gentles, Shari and Amy. Radi has additional training with world famed instructors from North America, Europe and South America. As a dance artist with Arabesque Dance Company & Orchestra she appeared in the Opening Ceremony of Pan American Games with Cirque du Soleil and Dance Ontario Dance Weekend. Radi appears as a regular soloist at various Arabic restaurants and night clubs. She is an instructor at Arabesque Academy where she shares her passion for her beloved art form.

Yasmina Ramzy Creates for Leanna Mendolia

Ehdono El Ayam sung by Warda

Yasmina Ramzy (Toronto, ON)

Yasmina Ramzy is a visionary and a highly acclaimed choreographer committed to the presentation of Bellydance as high art. Since 1981, she has performed over 10,000 times often for royalty and heads of state and throughout the Middle East. Yasmina has had the unique priviledge of performing for several years in Syria with the famous master musicians of Allepo. As well as creating the renowned standardized Arabesque Academy curriculum, she teaches in over 60 cities on five continents. She founded Arabesque Dance Company and Orchestra, Arabesque Academy and the International Bellydance Conference of Canada (IBCC).

Leanna Mendolia (Toronto, ON)

Leanna began her dance career as a member of the elite all-star cheerleading team, Cheeerforce Tigers. Competing across North America with the the team for 3 years, she won countless titles including provincial, national and grand-championship titles. Since 2007, Leanna has dedicated her career to Raqs Sharqi performing throughout the GTA and beyond. She has studied with notable instructors such as Mahmoud Reda, Aida Nour, Yasmina Ramzy and many more. Leanna joined Arabesque Dance Company & Orchestra in 2013. With Arabesque, her performance highlights are the 2014 production of SAWAH and the Cirque du Soleil choreography in the Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony. She has since started her own studio entitled BellaDance by Leanna, in her hometown of Hamilton. Her passion and dedication to dance makes her a popular teacher at BellaDance as well as an ensemble and solo performer with the Arabesque Entertainment Agency.

Sashar&Gretchen's picture

Sashar Zarif Creates for Gretchen Clare

Music: Sezen Aksu
Music design and costume Design: Sashar Zarif

Kavaklar/Poplars

Oh poplars
My body is cold, my heart tingles
With a rough pair of scissors,
they have carved me out of an old photograph
Half of my cheek was left there
It completes itself with emptiness
a cut hand on my shoulder
Which still, still bleeds ceaselessly
Oh poplars
The pain haunts me
Oh poplars
They whistle behind my back
From the music Lyrics - Kavaklar by Sezen Aksu - Turkey

Sashar Zarif

Internationally acclaimed Sashar Zarif has over 25 years of professional practice in over 30 countries around the globe, researching, educating, creating, performing, and producing dance within academic, community, and rural environments. He Specializes in Cross-Cultural Collaboration, Performance and Identity, Sufi-Shamanic dance rituals as well as Persian, Azeri, Uzbek, Turkmen, Tajik, Afghan, Western Mongolian and Kyrgyz Traditional Dance forms. Zarif is a research associate at Centre for Asian Studies at York University, an honorary faculty at Uzbekistan State Choreographic Institute, recipient of the Order of Arts-Master of Dance from Uzbekistan, Order of Artists for the People from Azerbaijan, Chalmers Arts Fellowship (2015), and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contribution to arts.

Gretchen Clare (Washington, DC)

Gretchen is a belly dancer based in Washington, DC. Her dance background includes over six years of belly dance, studying Egyptian cabaret, ATS, and tribal fusion styles at Sahara Dance in DC. She performs regularly as a soloist and with three different dance companies - Raqs Caravan East, Raqs Caravan West, and Raquettes Amira. As a solo choreographer and performer she draws on all these different experiences to do everything from very traditional balady to modern tribal fusion. When not dancing she is a librarian, and is fascinated by studying the history and culture of belly dance and Egypt.

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Ansuya Creates for Vian Stetch

"Scintillating Sword" Choreography by Ansuya represents the beauty of wielding powerful swords in a spirit of peace, passion, and artistry. Performed by Vian, learned by “Bellyskype".

Ansuya

Superstar of Bellydance, Ansuya, is a second generation American Cabaret Style Bellydancer with thousands of students across the globe. With multiple international teaching and performance tours under her Bellydance belt, she now teaches online prerecorded classes at Ansuya.com and live online classes by Skype. Ansuya’s eclectic performance style is powerful, sensual, and energetic and her teaching style is fun, motivating, and insightful. She has been seen as a Bellydancer and actress on television and performed in top clubs, for celebrities, and at notable theaters around the world. Join Ansuya online to become part of her supportive student community!

Vian Stetch (Thunder Bay, ON)

Vian Stetch, is a dance artist based from Thunder Bay ontario, and Co founder of Arabella Middle Eastern Dance Academy in 2005. Drawn to this beautiful dance,Vian travels to Arabesque Academy to study with her mentor, Internationally renowned Yasmina Ramzy. Inspired to expand her knowledge of dance, she has also studies with world-renowned instructors Ansuya, and has attended many workshops and retreats with Bozenka. She has had the opportunity to peform at IBBC in Toronto, Ya Halla Y' All in Dallas, and will be dancing at Ansuya Gala show in Naples. Vian is the cheorographer and director of Vibration Dance Troupe of Thunder Bay.

Ioana & Wendy

Ioana Timariu Creates for Wendy Goudie


Ioana Timariu (Toronto, ON)

Ioana is the artistic director and choreographer for Undine Dance Company, a modern dance company inspired by traditional styles such as Middle Eastern/North African dances, but also urban dance, Latin dance stylings, modern dance, and Butoh. Ioana found herself concentrating mostly on personal expression, inspired by life experience. Ioana would like to present work on the themes of desire and longing, fear, loneliness, and in general the messy business of being, and to use Undine's current repertoire of dance, music, poetry, weaving it unobtrusively with subtle technology.


Wendy Goudie (Penticton, BC)

With foundations from her mother's belly dancing years, Wendy has also brings an extensive background in multiple dance genes. She has committed her energies to belly dance for the past 20 years and is passionately driven to increase accessibility of the art to families and youth. She is most excited to be a vehicle for someone else's creative vision.


2016 Explorative Works - Ensembles


Zaks Al Zahra's group shot

Romantic Grief - Modern Egyptian (Veil)

Romantic Grief is a powerful piece that shows it doesn't matter if you fall down when you give everything in you and experience love; sometimes we can even feel the pain of love. Usually love is beautiful and magical (pink color) but at times there are some unexpected moments. We are representing the different stages ones goes through after a break up or end in a relationship. Some emotions we experience like confusion, emptiness, anger, nostalgia, hope and renewal are expressed with dance movements. One of the most salient scenes is when one body completely sheds its skin and is ready to start again stronger than before. Now love will renew as though it had never been hurt and that is the real one.

Raks Al Zahra (NYC, NY)

Raks Al Zahra is a NY based troupe with a focus in Oriental and Folkloric Styles under the direction of Natalie Nazario. The members of the troupe are made up of Natalie’s most talented and focused advanced students who have undergone intensive training. The troupe first debuted in May 2014 at Spring Caravan in New Jersey. The members performing at Bellydance Blossom will be Kaori, Jesska and Natalie. We have been performing together in Puerto Rico, Las Vegas and Japan. Raks Al Zahra are the Winners of NYCario Raks Festival 2015. The meaning of Raks Al Zahra is embodied in the beauty of a blossoming flower. Whenever they are on stage, Raks Al Zahra dancers emit grace, beauty, precision, and passion. They bring joy, excitement, and a new perspective to the art of dance that will leave you feeling Al Zahra!

Undine Dance Co. group shot

Dancer as Source

As Middle Eastern dancers dancing on pre-recorded music, we are supremely compliant: feminine. Music dictates sharpness, softness, when to melt, even when to rebel. We find sophisticated, subtle personal expression within very tight confines. When dancing with live band, the dancer has a feedback channel to the live band, the drummer, the oud player. Yet, all in all, we still comply. The experiment we propose is for the dancer as source. Her movement controls the music. The poetry, is composed by her. The memories, are hers. The emotions, hers. The singing, hers. Is our femininity lost, when we take the lead?
Technology: Loretta Faveri, Leif Bloomquist
Dancers/Singers/Writers: Roula Said and Undine Dance Company

Undine Dance Co. (Toronto, ON)

Undine Dance Company is a modern dance company inspired by traditional styles such as Middle Eastern/North African dances, but also urban dance, Latin dance stylings, modern dance, and Butoh. We found ourselves in the past year concentrating mostly on personal expression, inspired by our own life experience. This has taken us into unexpected directions. We would like to present work on the themes of desire and longing, fear, loneliness, and in general the messy business of being. We would be using our current repertoire of dance, music, poetry, weaving it unobtrusively with subtle technology. Artistic Director and Choreographer: Ioana Timariu

Rania and Daniella


Ya Bint Baladi & Ya Gada

With imagery of 'slaughtering eyelashes' and 'apple-cheeks,' there's no doubt Egyptian culture is passionate, playful and flirtatious. The lyrics of the famous song, 'Tahtil Shibbak,' illustrate a story of desire and explosive passion; the lyrical tale is interpreted in this comedic duet. The country girl espies her tasty 'gada' "under the window," and sparks fly. But will the baker’s buns be enough to keep the oven hot?

Daniella & Rania (Toronto, ON)

Rania & Daniella began bellydancing in 2011 and became fast friends through love of the dance and mutual support. They have continued studying at Egyptian Dance Academy under Nada el Masriya and have performed together at galas, haflas, and community events ever since. Additionally, both attended workshops with artists including, Roula Said, George Sawa, Yasmina Ramzy, Sarah Skinner, Abigail, Cassandra Fox, Angelica Jordan, Doaa Sallam, Suraiya, Raqia & others. They are former Folklore Troupe members & currently dancing with EAST. In 2015, they began teaching classes in Uxbridge. Both are beginning to explore creative professional solo opportunities. They look forward to performing in Sarah Skinner's upcoming June 2016 production.

Ya Eshta Apprentice Dancer

Naima Akef Choreography

Performed by: Abir, Angelica Jordan, Florence Leclerc, Iza San, & apprentices Aimee, Alexandra, Jacynthe & Nadia. Greatly inspired by the dance legends of Egypt, Ya Eshta is going back in time to recreate the work of celebrated Egyptian dance artist, Naima Akef. In this homage piece to Naima, her solo choreography takes on a new form as 8 dancers take the stage to reproduce her work. This number has been collaboratively transformed by dancers Abir, Angelica Jordan, and Florence Leclerc, who have added their own creative touch and voice to it. Song credits: unknown title, composed by Mr. Hassan About Zeid for the movie "Amir El Daha'a"

Ya Eshta Apprentice Dancers (Montreal, QC)

Ya Eshta is a Montreal based dance collective that specializes in Middle Eastern movement vocabulary. Founded and artistically directed by Angelica Jordan since 2013, the group presents polished and dynamic group choreography for commercial and artistic events. Defined by its talented professional dancers who continuously train, research, perform, and teach various dance styles, the group draws on each dancers' strengths in a supportive environment. The result is a unique dance voice composed of highlighted elements brought forth by its individual dancers. For more information please visit www.yaeshta.com

Earthshakers


Phenomenal Woman

Choreography by Yasmina Ramzy set to the voice of Maya Angelou reciting her powerful poem "Phenomenal Woman". I have never set choreography to just words. Having no Arab music is a huge departure and challenge for me as a choreographer. Earthshakers wanted a piece to express power like a super natural warrior. In the end, we found this poem did just that. It uses the most powerful weapon; love and joy.

Earthshakers (Toronto, ON)

Directed by Yasmina Ramzy, Arabesque Earthshakers is an ensemble of female dancers with more of everything, who celebrate the joy of voluptuousness. "Earth Shaker" is the name of one of the most defining blues albums by Koko Taylor who uses the term in her song "I'm a Woman". This powerful ensemble is full of robust bodies, personality and attitude. Since Earthshakers debut in 2010 at the International Bellydance Conference of Canada they have been invited to perform in numerous venues and events including Queens Park Canada Day Celebrations, the CNE International Stage and Harbourfront Centre's Kick Up Your Heels Festival. Where ever they perform, they rock the house with joy.

Aman Choreography

Performed by: Abir, Angelica Jordan, Florence Leclerc, Iza San, & apprentice Aimee Influenced by Contemporary Dance methods of choreography creation, Ya Eshta will present a piece that has been collaboratively created through an exploration process of improvised movement in the studio. Drawing on the strengths and differences of each dancer, this number has been guided and pieced together by Angelica Jordan. The choreography explores the cultural and artistic exchange between the Arab and Western world. The movements are based in Andalusian, Contemporary, Dervish, Hip Hop, and Oriental dance vocabulary. Song credits: "Aman" by Myriam Fares

Ya Eshta (Montreal, QC)

Ya Eshta is a Montreal based dance collective that specializes in Middle Eastern movement vocabulary. Founded and artistically directed by Angelica Jordan since 2013, the group presents polished and dynamic group choreography for commercial and artistic events. Defined by its talented professional dancers who continuously train, research, perform, and teach various dance styles, the group draws on each dancers' strengths in a supportive environment. The result is a unique dance voice composed of highlighted elements brought forth by its individual dancers. For more information please visit www.yaeshta.com

Arabesque Dance Co.


Urfanin Etrafi

Choreography by Yasmina Ramzy. This piece is a departure from any kind of ensemble work I have created in the past. The music has been a favourite for many years but I was too afraid to choreograph it because it is beyond my comfort realm of Arab music as it is Turkish and definitely not meant my usual movement realms. The unrelenting pain and triumphant beauty of watching my father pass away for two years is what I hope to express in this piece with just a handful of Arabesque lead dancers. It is too painful for me to dance as a soloist but I hope to release the expression through other interpreters.

Arabesque Dance Company (Toronto, ON)

Where music and movement become one, where ancient and modern blend, where East and West merge. Arabesque is a dance and music ensemble that embodies creative contemporary sensibilities steeped in a rich and ancient Arabian tradition. Seventeen male and female dance artists directed by Yasmina Ramzy and eight acoustic musicians directed by Bassam Bishara and Suleiman Warwar weave together seamlessly the infinite and ornate intricacies of refined and redefined Arab art. Soaring emotional waves, smouldering passion, earthy raw spirit and unearthly spirituality; all are experienced memorably in an Arabesque performance.

Cuba to Cairo

Choreographed by Ya Amar, this piece will explore the dembow rhythm, and its connection to both reggueton and mahragan music. LatinBelly has always been a style that explores Bellydance movements to Latin/Caribbean music; however in this piece Ya Amar Dance artists will be specifically exploring the connection between this explosive Egyptian electro-shaabi and Cuban reggueton, and also the energy behind both of these genres of music, as representing the disenfranchised, under-represented members of both Egyptian and Cuban societies.

Ya Amar (Toronto, ON)

Ya Amar is a Toronto based dance ensemble specializing in Middle Eastern entertainment. This group of unique artists collaborates with a variety of professional dancers and musicians to create stunning and entertaining packages tailored to celebrate an array of special events and functions. Founded by core members and soloists Melissa Gamal, Sarita Gayle Alvarez and Camelia Dances, Ya Amar prides itself on offering the highest quality in Middle Eastern dance artistry based on many years of dedicated dance training and education in music and cultural history. Ya Amar draws on their cumulative experience as performers and instructors to offer dynamic and unique choreographies. This ensemble was founded on the mutual love of Middle Eastern arts, the joy of artistic partnerships and creative collaborations.

Get bent Teen's group shot

Party Rockers

Get Bent Bollywood Bellydance is a high energy, enthusiastic party! By blending elements of bollywood music and theatrics, and classical East Indian dances with belly dancing, Get Bent has created a lively and entertaining style appealing to youth and families.



Rock You

Get Bent is Canada's largest youth focused belly dance school. Involving the junior and senior high school dancers, a new style of belly dance was created, by and for youth. Using a base of belly dance techniques, mixed with the angst, empowerment and edginess of being a teenager, this style has ignited interest and exploded registrations of new dancers between the ages 12-18yrs.


2016 Explorative Works - Solos


Dance as Ritual, Celebration, and Entertainment

Dance is communication with ritual movement being the foundation of soulful expression. This performance explores movement and it's most basic ritualistic purpose. Omar Faruk Tekbilek provides the musical backdrop with "Ayasofya", a musical tribute to the popular museum in Istanbul which is easily recognized by its massive dome. Built in 537, this exceptional example of Byzantine architecture was a Christian patriarchal basilica and later an imperial mosque. Celebration though dance takes us a step closer to the concepts of communal expression of life and joy through movement to the 7/8 rhythm and Balkan influenced "Laz". Another traditional musical selection from Mr. Tekbilek. Leila hopes you find her exploration most entertaining!

Leila Gamal (South Bend, IN)

Leila Gamal is an internationally recognized as a premier dance artist that continues to inspire and influence many of today’s rising stars of Middle Eastern dance. Leila always presents an informative and high-energy class with emphasis on developing musical sensitivity and strong movement technique. She has the unique ability to develop and to inspire students of any level to express their fullest potential. As master teacher or seasoned performer, Leila Gamal captivates her audience with beauty, dynamics, and professional command.
“Leila’s onstage presence projects a vital femininity and a lyricism certainly comparable to the Egyptian dancers of the lyrical period such as Samia Gamal.”-Arabesque Magazine

Riqq Solo

One of my passions has been exploring musicality/movement interpretation in Middle Eastern dance: what subtleties and qualities are expected? What “rules” do we follow to give a sense of authenticity to our dancing? How can we be the visual interpretation of the instruments? My goal with this explorative work will be to break from traditional rules by pairing particular movement qualities against instrumentation that it would not traditionally be paired with. I would like to explore how we can bend certain “rules” but maintain the aesthetics/musicality expected in Raqs Sharqi/Middle Eastern dance.

Melissa Gamal (Toronto, ON)

Melissa Gamal is an established dance artist based in Toronto, Canada, and co-founder of Ya Amar dance ensemble. Her movement style and musical interpretation have made her one of the most beloved performers within the dance community and Arab community in Toronto and beyond. An experienced instructor, her classes and workshops are sought after for her attention to technique, as well as her knowledge of historical and cultural contexts. Her foremost training has been at Arabesque Academy under the instruction of Yasmina Ramzy. Driven to always expand her knowledge of this dance, she has also trained with world-renowned instructors from across North America, Europe and the Middle East, including intensive studies in Cairo, Egypt.

Julie bellydancing

So You Who Has Stirred My Soul, Try Out My Fire

I am in the process of exploring bellydance-ballet fusion. As these two dance forms are in opposition, with bellydance primarily grounded and internalized, and ballet lifted and externalized, when paired and fused in one piece, they have allowed me a powerful range of dance expression. In my love for both forms I have sought to maintain the integrity of each form in this piece, which itself references sounds of both East and West.

Julie Middleton (Hamilton, ON)

Julie began her dance journey at the age of 5, having already imagined herself as a dancer. Julie has studied various forms of dance for over thirty years. With her focus now mainly on Middle Eastern dance, Julie has had the opportunity to study with renowned teachers such as Yasmina Ramzy, Dr. George Sawa and Robert Desrosiers. As an apprentice with the Arabesque Dance Company, Julie performed with Cirque du Soleil in the Pan Am Opening Ceremony. Julie is manager and teacher for BellyFlow in Hamilton. Julie has been known to her students and audiences to bring joy and light to her dancing.

Fire It Up!

On her recent travels to Egypt, Jamiila noticed a very unfamiliar sound projected from passing tuktuks, taxi's and motorcycles... a shocking unnatural sounding electronic genre that seemed to intensify with the Doppler effect as these vehicles sped by. Back in the village where she stayed, the sound was on TV as well and all the kids were dancing a totally new and somewhat strange dance. Curious, Jamiila had to learn more about this Mahraganat (a.k.a. Electro Chaabi) and the more she knew, the more she grew to appreciate its rebellious and important role in the rapidly changing Egyptian society in which the youth are the majority.

Jamiila B (Vancouver, BC)

Jamiila began her journey into the world of Oriental dance nearly 30 years ago and since then, has had the honour of learning from some of the most renowned masters of this dance from Egypt and around the world. Her performances have delighted audiences of all ages and backgrounds. In 1998 she started teaching and working closely with the Folk Arts Council and Artists in the Schools programs to educate and entertain those communities that would otherwise never have had the opportunity to learn of this dance and its rich historic culture. In 2001 she was the first ever“bellydancer” to receive the support and recognition of the Manitoba Arts Council.

The Traveller

Join Jamiila as her alter-ego, JamJam, tells the story of a melo-dramatic middle-aged traveller who doesn't ever want the fun to stop but is preparing to return home none-the-less.
Performed to the Bellydance Superstars version of Mohamed Abdel Wahab's Msfar

Jamiila B (Vancouver, BC)

Lots can happen in a 30 year long dance career. In one chapter of Jamiila's story as a bellydancer, there was a small travelling circus show in which Jamiila wore many hats, including...Executive Director, Principle dancer, First Clown and Wrangler of Jugglers and Fire-Eaters. What came out of this experience was a love of clowning. As she explored various forms of creative movement during this time, Jamiila had the pleasure of studying with some of the best clowns around and silliness naturally began merging into her dance like the chocolate sauce on a melting sundae. One day, while deep in daydreams and listening to some classic Egyptian music, a magnificent vision emerged from this creative fog and JamJam, Jamiila's alter ego, was born. On her last trip to Egypt, Jamiila was delighted to see a troupe of men dancing at a wedding got up and did a very clowny dance act, with wacky costumes and all!

Min Alrruh (From the Soul)

A belly dancer's improvisational exploration of Authentic Movement (a methodology originating from Mary Starks Whitehouse in the 1950's as "movement in depth" or free association of the body), this piece seeks to compare, contrast, and reveal the dancer's relationship to Arabic dance from within her soul - first without music, then with music. Another vision of this piece is to strike up a conversation about the place of Authentic Movement within Tarab and vice versa. Can Tarab exist without the music? Can moving from an authentic place within the belly dancer lead the dancer to the same sense of ecstasy as she would find in Tarab? Is the full depth of the belly dancer's artistry presented to the audience equally if the audience is in able to hear the music of the dancer's soul?

Amara (NYC, NY)

Amara is a professional dance artist and entertainer specializing in Middle Eastern Dance, Fire Performance, World Fusion Dance, and Classical Ballet. Residing in the New York City area, Amara is an in demand performance artist and has studied regularly under the world's leading instructors of Arabic dance, including her mentors: Yasmina Ramzy, Yousry Sharif, Kaeshi Chai, & Dalia Carella. Amara attributes her love of both fire dancing and Raqs Sharqi (belly dance) to their ancient and organic essence and feels that each embodies and empowers her inner goddess and her wild spirit.

Acceptance

Revisiting a classical love poem with a modern twist, this piece will use bellydance movement vocabulary and personal movement exploration to touch on the theme of love. The attempt, however, is to move past simple romantic love and rather express the struggle in finding a deeper, universal love for all beings, starting with oneself. Only when we realize that we are the universe and the universe is us, then we can find love and compassion for other through loving ourselves, and vice versa.

Rahel (Vancouver, BC)

Rahel fell in love with bellydance at the age of 15 and is now a full time bellydancer, bellydance instructor and yoga teacher in Vancouver BC. Rahel is an award winning dancer/choreographer, has been featured in film and television, and has performed for such stars as Bif Naked, Shantel, Juno Reactor, and more. Rahel is the founder and artistic director of Vancouver based bellydance troupe The Helwa Dancers, and is the producer and director of her annual show "Ya Helwa". Rahel considers herself a feminist, an eternal student, and a full time lover of this life changing art form.

Moroccan Chaabi

Chaabi is opular music and dance that is found throughout the country. Chaabi is the dance of ' the people ' and dance during festive occasions. The dance is spontaneous and can incorporate footwork and also the rhythmic noise of hands. A little bit of Chikahtes style will be incorpored. The chikahtes are skilled dancers and musicians that animate the festive moments and celebrations. The characteristics of chikhates movements are the movements of the hips, accentuated by large belts wool and metal flakes as well as the rapid movements of the head and hair.

Jacynthe Longpre (Montreal, QC)

Jacynthe has been studying Oriental dance since 2005 with various national and international renowned artists such as Amalia, Angelica Jordan, Florence Leclerc ,Yasmina Ramzy, Melissa Gamal, Luna of Cairo, Mercedes Nieto, Sandra, Shahrzad and Valerick Molinary. In 2013, she joined the collaborative dance ensemble, Ya Eshta, as an apprentice. Last year, Jacynthe joined the professional middle-eastern and maghreb folklore dance troupe Sanaa Dance directed by Samantha Burnstein. As a soloist she won the gold medal in the amateur category of the AQDO (Quebec association for Oriental dance) competition in 2013 and the gold medal the semi-professionnal category in 2014.

Raks Africa

Leyla Amir has long been a performer and teacher of the Egyptian style of Raks Sharqi and with her years of experience dancing Egyptian in Egypt , has chosen to present a theatrical piece of music which blends sounds of Contemporary/Africa and Middle Eastern. Although Egyptian Dance is her specialty she does enjoy the creative artistic outlet of blending music and movements for theatrical presentations. Leyla's performance will be her interpretation of a long loved musical piece by many, but not in the label of Raks Sharqi. For her, Raks Sharqi requires a certain cultural sound in the music and essence of cultural in performance. Her styling will reflect a more contemporary "Raks Fusion" with traditional and modern movments to the music.

Leyla Amir (Las Vegas, NV)

Leyla Amir began her journey into Middle Eastern Dance in the very early 1970's. Coming from a musical background growing up, it was the music that pulled her into the dance. As a club performer in the Mid West USA, she continued her studies of Middle Eastern dance traveling around the country , from the top instructors and performers of the era. First traveling to Egypt in 1976 to expanding her knowledge, she returned there in 1981 to fulfill her dream of becoming a licensed professional performer in Egypt until 1990. After a long career as an instructor/performer/promoter, she continues to teach and perform Internationally at select events passing on her years of knowledge, experience, and passion for Middle Eastern Dance, Music and Culture.

Reda Mashup

Set to the 1980s synth-pop version of "Puttin' on the Ritz" by Taco, this cane fusion piece draws on and winks at Reda technique. Mahmoud Reda gained inspiration from classic Hollywood dancers such as Fred Astaire; his steps can therefore be transposed to Astaire's music. Astaire performed "Puttin' on the Ritz" with a cane prop, and this number overlays Astaire's use of the cane with the Saidi cane of Egyptian dance. The use of Taco's recording subtly gestures toward the synth sound current in Egyptian music and highlights the idea of cultural artifacts that continue to reemerge in fresh ways.

Nisreen (NYC, NY)

Nisreen is an NYC-based Middle Eastern dance artist noted for her musicality and elegant style. Her work is grounded in Egyptian dance technique, music, and culture. In 2014, she was highlighted as an emerging dance artist at Atelier Orientale: New Voices, presented by Anahid Sofian. She teaches open-level classes in Brooklyn and performs at various locations around New York City. Learn more about her work at nisreendance.com.

Raqs Baladi

Baladi music is a dialogue between musicians, and dancers make comments on that dialogue. The dancer has to follow the music and it has to be natural, not forced. Dancing baladi is an internal expression shown by movement. No one can show you how to dance a baladi – you must interpret the music your own way. Baladi is not supposed to be fancy, it’s not about a costume or tricks – you just need to follow the music and express your emotions. It’s not about what it looks like to the audience, but about being genuine to yourself and the audience. As a young dancer, I believe it is important to dance baladi, to find your emotions and create your own style.

Saqqara (NY)

At 13 years old Saqqara is already an award winning, multi-discipline dance artist. She has a passion for studying traditional middle-eastern and ethnic dances in addition to ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical. She attends as many oriental dance workshops and events as she can. Saqqara loves performing and creates all her own choreography. Saqqara enjoys acting, has a black-belt in karate, plays violin and is learning to play dumbek, she also loves studying French, math & science.

Amy Leung's photo

Until We Meet Again

Dance is a revealing art form that can express a multitude of emotions. A few swayed movements can tell you more about the artist as a person than they could ever express in words.This piece will aim to bring a topic that is often considered as taboo, to light.

Amy Leung (Toronto, ON)

Amy Leung is a Toronto based dance artist. As a lead dancer in Arabesque Dance Company & Orchestra, her highlight performances are with Cirque du Soleil in the Pan Am Opening Ceremony, on the Gala Stage of the International Bellydance Conference of Canada and in Arabesque productions of NOOR, JAMRA, and SAWAH at Fleck Dance Theatre. Amy's professional training is with Yasmina Ramzy having started with Judy Reynolds and Roula Said. In addition to her regular training, she has taken workshops with international artists including Dina, Fifi Abdou, Mahmoud Reda, Sahra Saeeda, Raqia Hassan and Luna of Cairo. Amy is a senior instructor at Arabesque Academy, rehearsal coach for the Arabesque Student Troupe and a sought out solo artist in the Toronto area known for her Arab nuance and emotional range.

Deb veil photoshoot

What’s More Silent than a Shadow?

I love theatre, I love Bellydance, I love Drama and I love music that moves me, not matter what genre of music it is. I am exploring my inner self, all the little pieces that make me the person I am now, the person I am becoming and the person I once was. The Sound of Silence by Disturbed talks to me and is touching all those little pieces and bringing them together.

Deborah Shaw (Toronto, ON)

Deborah has a lifetime love of performing, since childhood she has studied acting, improv, tap, ballet, modern and jazz. In 2005 she started training with Arabesque Academy and began a love of Bellydance and all that it helps you feel and express. Deborah is a very proud dancer with Arabesque Earthshakers and enjoys shaking the world of dance, one shimmy at a time. She is a guest performer and teacher with Arabella Bellydance studio in Thunder Bay and is also the costumier for Yasmina Ramzy and Arabesque Dance Co.

Radi veil photoshoot

Ya Msafer Wahdak

Ya Msafer Wahdak” means “Oh, Lone Traveller”. This melancholy song is about someone in love with one who is just passing through his life. Ya msafer wahdak is the Oum Kalthoum's song.The composer and the singer was Mohamed Abdel.

Radi Atanasova (Toronto, ON)

A Toronto based dance artist, Radi's biggest dream since she was 14 years old was to perform Middle eastern dance. Her professional training has been at Arabesque Academy under the tutelage of Yasmina Ramzy. She has also been studied with Arabesque instructors Melissa Gamal, Sarita, Nikki Gentles, Shari, and Amy. Radi has additional training with world famed instructors from North America, Europe and South America. As a dance artist with Arabesque Dance Company & Orchestra, she appeared in the Opening Ceremony of Pan American Games with Cirque du Soleil and Dance Ontario Dance Weekend. Radi appears as a regular soloist at various Arabic restaurants and nightclubs.

Natalie's dancing

Oriental Dramatic

Natalie will bring the dramatic effects of intent, emphasis and hesitation through movements. The way to create a valuable experience is when we express our true feelings with dance. Essential nuances will present the character and meaning in this piece. Her quote about her dance journey is "Writing my life with every dance move".

Natalie Nazario (NYC)

Born in Puerto Rico, describe as bundle of beautiful energy tempered by technique and taste and dynamic performances. Natalie moved to New York City in 2012 and started dancing and teaching with Bellyqueen soon afterward. She has forged her memorable brand both as solo artist and as artistic director of Raks Al Zahra in New York. In 2014 she won the Bellydance Evolution People’s Choice Award in Australia, and also won first runner up at the NYCairo Raks Festival. In honor of her late sister Dayna, she created the DAYNA PASS which is a scholarship program to provide educational opportunities for financially disadvantaged dancers. She has actively curated bellydance events annually in Puerto Rico. www.natalienazario.com

2016 Schedule

Friday, April 1, 2016.

Saturday, April 2, 2016.

Sunday, April 3, 2016.

Exciting creative experiences with Arab musicians

Wickedly Wild Wrap Party

Schedule subject to change