- The Lodge of the Butterfly Goddess
- Recommended DVD's for Bellydance Students
- A New Chapter for the Maya Zahira School
- The Belly Dance Drum Solo
- Belly Dance and the Art of Forgiveness
- So What is it With Doums and Teks, Anyway?
- Wisdom from Beneath the Earth
- Henna Body Art
- Finding My True Name
- Finger Cymbals 101
- The Ancient Origins of Belly Dance
- Stop the Food Fight
- Overcoming Physical Obstacles in Belly Dance
- It's Not About Being Perfect
- Envy, Admiration, and Inspiration
- The Constant Grind
The Lodge of the Butterfly Goddess
by Kathy Dougherty
The state of your womb reflects the state of your life…
The womb is the gateway of all human life. When the womb is honored and respected, it becomes the channel of power, creativity, and beauty—and joy reigns on earth. When her voice goes unheard, unanswered, denied, the womb becomes a vessel of disease, and disharmony covers the earth.
The collective state of women’s wombs reflects the condition of the world, as well as the condition of women’s minds, spirits and actions. It is the storehouse of our emotions. Unfortunately, too many women in today’s world experience some form of womb degeneration that results in disease.
Unnatural living and unhealthy lifestyles perpetuate this negative state of womb health, and in turn, supports conflict upon the planet.
But, when a woman’s womb is in a healthy state, her life is a reflection of this balance. As women heal and transform our wombs, we change our destiny and the destiny of the earth.
Women, it is time to take back control! We must heal and defend our wombs, for the womb is the birthplace of all our creative abilities. We can “break the chains” of generational womb problems such as menstrual cramps, PMS, fibroids, infertility, cancer, endometriosis, and toxic emotion that is suffocating us and the planet.
You have the power within you to heal your womb and reclaim your power!
In The Lodge of the Butterfly Goddess, we learn:
• PMS, a menstrual discomfort, and womb ailments are not normal but are consequences of an unnatural lifestyle.
• Time-tested, scientifically proven homeopathic tools to heal our wombs and our lives.
• The importance of a daily spiritual practice and how it can enhance our physical, emotional, and mental health
• How to source the feminine body through Moon Lodging.
• How to attune your body to the rhythm of the Earth and use the elements to heal your womb.
• Essential oils, flower essences, crystals, and other homeopathic tools necessary for the clearing and cleansing of our wombs during each particular moon cycle.
• Monthly information packets including moon cycle information, instructions for the use of all the homeopathic remedies, recipes, Gateway Instructions, and more.
• Guidance and information from professionals in the field of womb health through monthly presentations.
The Lodge of the Butterfly Goddess healing path will…
• Help you understand what it means to truly connect to the Divine Feminine and how that connection is practical and necessary.
• Give you practical tools and up-to-date information to keep your female body and womb healthy and happy naturally.
• Allow you to be supported by a group of women in a safe, friendly, truly nurturing and non-judgmental environment.
• Help you find the missing pieces of yourself, and make peace with your body forever.
• Assist you in attuning your body to the natural rhythms of the planet to encourage healing individually and globally.
• Help you successfully reach your goals by hearing your own guidance and being led by it.
Facilitator, Maya Zahira
Maya Zahira is a teacher, healer, retreat facilitator, drummer, and belly dancer. She is a Reiki Master in the Usui tradition and is the owner and director of The Maya Zahira School of Belly Dance in the Kansas City area. The Butterfly Goddess Lodge is modeled after the work and teachings of Maya’s mentor and friend, Kathy Dougherty, as well as the writings of author Queen Afua and others.
Classes now forming in Kansas City, MO
Open enrollment begins February, 2010
Cost: $25-$35 sliding scale per month
Classes meet one Saturday each month. For dates, please go to our website events page
To register for this women’s circle, send your name, phone, email, & mailing address, and first month’s fee ($25-$35) to Maya’s Oasis, 5604 NE 63rd St, Kansas City, MO 64119. Make check payable to Maya Zahira.
When registering, please contact Maya at 785-979-4681. New members may join February, March, and April.
Recommended DVD's for Bellydance Students
by Beth Jones
You are a bellydancer that would like to try out a bellydance DVD, but with so many to choose from it is hard to know where to start!
First off, decide if a bellydance DVD is right for you.
- Do you have space in front of your TV?
- Does your family mind you using that space for at least an hour a week?
- Do you have a mirror to check your technique & posture from time to time?
- Do you have any medical conditions to talk to a doctor about first?
Next decide if you should rent/loan a DVD or buy one for yourself.
- How often will you use this particular DVD?
- How much instructional material is on the DVD?
- Have other dancers highly reccomended this DVD?
If you will not be buying it, consider some other options:
- Swapping out DVDs with other dancers/classmates
- Getting DVDs through inter-library loan
- Using online rental such as Flixter
- If you borrow from an instructor, I would suggest offering money for the loan
(I have had too many DVDs lent to students that have not come back)
The list of Bellydance DVD reccomendations below is by no means all-inclusive. It has DVDs that are not mass-market exercise videos, but technique videos by reputable instructors. There are many other videos/DVDs that have not been included. If you see one that you like that is not on this list, check out a Bellydance DVD review webpage before buying. These videos can get very expensive very fast. A good place to start looking for reviews is: http://www.shira.net/reviews.htm
Beth Jones learned exclusively from videos in North Dakota before finding a bellydance instructor. Since the closest instructors were 5 hours away, she continued to learn from videos over the next 5 years and supplemented with private lessons from those instructors. Videos are not a substitute for regular classes. A video will not correct your posture or technique and will not answer your questions. Videos are a wonderful supplement to classes, though. You can learn new moves to add to your repertoire and try out new styles and props. Also learning from a variety of instructors helps you identify which styles of bellydance you like best. Don't forget there are many performance DVDs out there as well that you can sit and enjoy again and again, whether you are doing laundry or having a girl's night in. I hope you enjoy this list of DVDs and continue to be on the lookout for new ones by new instructors.
There are many great DVDs to practice to. Lately, I really like Michelle Joyce as a video instructor. She has great technique, breakdown, drills, and presentation.
For my Beginning Students, I recommend:
- Belly Dance Crash Course: A complete guide to the fundamentals
- Belly Dance Basics
For my Intermediate Students, I recommend:
- Drills! Drills! Drills!
- Pop, Lock and Shimmy
- Secrets of the Stage Volume 1, 2, & 3
Also, for Egyptian styling, I recommend Ranya Renee teaching:
- The Baladi - Bellydance Egyptian Style 2-DVD Set
- Modern Oriental - Bellydance Egyptian Style
- Bellydance Egyptian Style: Classical Oriental (Releases on Oct 27th. 2009)
find them on World Dance New York or Amazon.com
Magnificent Moves - Egyptian Technique - Belly Dance Instruction by Zahra Zuhair
Arabic Rhythms & Combinations by IAMED
Rhythms of Oriental Dance with Nesma and Khamis Henkish (DVD with CD)
An Introduction to Bellydance Technique DVD ~ Nourhan Sharif
Amira's Belly Dance 101 Dvd, a 5-Star Instructional Video of Belly Dancing Basics for Beginners DVD
Aziza's Ultimate Bellydance Pratice Companion DVD
Masters of Egyptian Choreography DVD set, Volumes 1 ~ 3, including Companion Cd
Visual Melodies: Egyptian Bellydance DVD ~ Hossam Ramzy
Nadia Gamal Dance Workshop
A New Chapter for the Maya Zahira School
by Maya Zahira
As we prepare for the autumn months, I think back to my move out to Subterra (www.subterracastle.com) last fall and all of the changes that have taken place. Like many of our students and clients, The Maya Zahira School of Belly Dance was deeply affected by the economic down-turn. As some of you may know, in 2008, our student enrollment suddenly dropped by 75%, and in the process, we lost most of our staff. We came extremely close to going out of business, but I was determined to keep that from happening.
After diligently working on a number of unsuccessful options, I received an invitation from Ed and Diana Peden, owners of Subterra, to move out to their land. I excitedly accepted the invitation, as it had been my #1 choice from the start! I quickly moved forward with my plan to sell and give away most of my belongings so that I could fit into the tiny, cozy cabin on the Peden’s land. The idea was to downsize personally and financially as much as possible so that I could focus all of my energies onto rebuilding the dance school.
I remember when I first moved to Subterra; I was feeling completely devastated and distraught by the recent events. I felt disillusioned and abandoned, and I felt that somehow my dream for a Middle Eastern Dance School had been a mistake. It was Diana Peden who gently pointed out to me, “No Maya. You haven’t made a mistake; you’ve simply reached the completion of a chapter, and now you’re moving forward into the next chapter.”
Those words have really stuck with me through the past year and have helped anchor me through lots of healing and the letting go of outdated dreams and expectations. I feel as though the last year has been like a gestation period for me, a time of going within, a time of growth, a time of “re-visioning” what I want to create with The Maya Zahira School. Out at Subterra, we are surrounded by nature and the beautiful Konza Prairie, and that in itself has been a tremendous catalyst for healing, inspiration, and the opening of a new creativity.
Over the last year, I have been delighted to welcome many new staff members and students to the The Maya Zahira School! Together, we have helped to create the next chapter of The Maya Zahira School of Belly Dance. As we enter into the fall months, I am filled with eager anticipation for all that is to come. We have many exciting events planned, and I hope you will join us on the journey of our new chapter!
The Belly Dance Drum Solo
by Maya Zahira
The drum solo is a dynamic and exciting dance performance, commonly performed at the end of a dancer’s routine, which showcases the dancer’s ability to perform sharp percussive dance moves and seamless shimmies. Drum solo music typically features rhythms played with a doumbek or tabla, a goblet shaped drum from the Middle East and North Africa. Whether the music is performed live or via a recorded CD, the dancer performs either choreographed or improvised dance moves that match the complex rhythms of the drum. Watching a belly dance drum solo is exciting indeed, and rehearsing/performing a drum solo is an excellent form of exercise.
In honor of the fact that my intermediate/combo class in Lenexa is currently studying the art of the drum solo, I’ve decided to compile a list of recommended instructional and performance drum solo DVD’S, plus links to a variety of drum solo clips on YouTube, and best of all, a comprehensive educational article about drum solos written by Jasmin Jahal.
(Please forgive our temporary website shortcomings and excuse the non-clickable links! Feel free to cut and paste the suggested links into your browser.)
First, use the link below for the informative drum solo article by Jasmin Jahal.
The Dynamic Drum Solo
**YouTube Video Clip Recommendations**
www.bhuz.com is an online belly dance forum. Use this link on Bhuz (http://www.bhuz.com/forum/belly-dance-fan-forum/11697-favorite-drum-solo-clips-youtube.html)
for one teacher’s list of her top favorite drum solo examples on YouTube. The video clips include lots of variety!
Here are some extra details you might be interested in….
The first video clip is by Dina, one of Egypt’s most beloved bellydancers.
The second clip is by Mona al Said, another legend of bellydance who hails from both Egypt and Lebanon.
Both Dina and Mona show examples of traditional drum solo performances.
The performance entitled, “Tabla Solo O Solo de Berbake” begins with a taksim section, which means that both the music and the dancer are executing an improvisational performance. Notice how the dancer does various snake-y moves during this taksim section. Later in the music, the drum joins in and the dancer’s moves become more percussive.
The list also includes a drum solo by the current international star, Rachel Brice, who performs American Tribal Fusion, an interpretive style of belly dance which fuses elements of various Middle Eastern, Spanish, Indian, and American styles. One of my favorite things about this clip is that the drumming is performed live, and you have the opportunity to observe how the drummers and dancer work together to create a really great performance.
The other dancers in the various video clips are not as well known, but they are still good examples of various styles and levels of drum solos.
**Recommended Bellydance DVD’s**
The Art of the Drum Solo (instructional dvd with Sonia and Issam)
Rania Advanced Choreography Drum Solo (instructional dvd)
Drum Solo Technique and Choreography (instructional dvd with with Sadie)
Drum Solo Technique and Choreography (instructional dvd with Jillina)
Belly Dance Drum Solos (performance dvd with Sarah Skinner)
**Recommended Drum Solo Music**
For recommended drum solo music, refer to Jasmin Jahal’s article above or go to my Recommended Music page on this website (under the INFO drop-down menu).
If you have any questions about drum solos, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belly Dance and the Art of Forgiveness
by Maya Zahira
Recently, I attended a belly dance convention which included belly dance workshops, costume vending, and a dance show. It was a lovely event, with eager students, knowledgeable workshop instructors, reasonably-priced merchandise, and an interesting and diverse show. For this particular event, I chose to participate solely as a vendor, and as I sat at my vending table, I took on the role of observer. I sat back and pondered the beautiful, complicated, and messy nature of human relationships. I observed many friendly greetings, hugs, smiles, encouraging words, and helpful actions. And I also observed mean looks, sneers, cold shoulders, whispered gossip, biting words, and cliques avoiding interaction with others.
This dichotomy of love versus dislike is most certainly not reserved for the world of belly dance; it exists throughout the entire human race. We see it everywhere, in our many humble human relationships, with family, co-workers, teachers, peers, friends, and strangers. None of us is perfect; we have complicated relationships and complicated feelings. Sometimes, we feel dislike, anger, or even hatred towards another person or group. Feeling the entire range of human emotions is simply part of being an authentic human being. It is normal and healthy to feel both positive and negative emotions. However, if we hold onto these emotions for an unnecessary length of time, or act in unloving ways, we cause harm to others and even to ourselves. It is how we respond to our emotions that makes all the difference.
Every day, we have the opportunity to hold on to our anger, blame, and resentment, and every day, we have the opportunity to forgive those we feel have hurt us. When we grasp onto our anger and don’t let it go, we keep ourselves imprisoned. We do not meet our loving potential because our thoughts, words, and actions are a reflection of our negative emotions. On the other hand, when we forgive, we become free. We let go of old feelings that no longer serve us and we make room for people and situations that resonate with us. We make room for more love and joy in our hearts and minds.
Consider this. If you are angry or upset with someone, consider that you may not understand the bigger picture about the situation. Consider that there are two sides to every story and that you may not fully understand the other side. Consider that you may not TRULY know the other person, their motivations, and what is really in their heart. Consider that the qualities that bother you most in other people are typically qualities that also exist in you. Become open and humble. Compassionately acknowledge these qualities in yourself. Consider that we are all the same, although we may have our differences. We are all human beings who simply want to love and be loved.
Choosing to forgive another person does not mean that we have lost the fight against them; it does not mean that they have ‘won’. Quite the contrary, if we choose to hold onto resentment, we are trapped in unhappy and unloving feelings that keep us from being the joyful and loving people we were meant to be. When we choose to forgive, let go, and move on, we become free, and everyone becomes the winner.
When we choose to forgive, it does not mean that we are condoning another person’s actions. When we forgive, it means that we are choosing to love the person despite the fact that we disagree with them.
Choosing to forgive does not mean that we become a doormat. If we disagree with someone’s actions or philosophies, we can choose to voice our opinion in a loving, tactful, and professional way.
It is important to remember, however, that we cannot change another person. Everyone has free will. Everyone is responsible for themselves. We are not responsible for others, and we cannot control others, nor should we try to do so.
Other people are not responsible for our actions, thoughts, and feelings. This means that no one makes us feel or act in a particular way. We are each fully responsible for ourselves.
Remember that honest and loving communication is paramount in all our relationships. If something has angered us, have we attempted to talk with the person about it? Or have we dropped hints and expected them to read our minds? Which method do you think would be more effective in actually solving the problem? Be direct with the other person about how you feel, but remember, you cannot force another person to change.
If a person continues to do or say things that we do not agree with, we may choose to lovingly remove ourselves from their company. Removing ourselves means that we are taking care of our own well-being by reducing contact with that person. This does not mean that we should create a closed-off social clique so that we can create alliances in our favor. It does not mean that we should participate in gossip, ‘boycott’ the person’s classes/events/performances or post ranting messages about them on online newsgroups. These actions, although not uncommon in the belly dance world, do not serve to solve the issue in any productive, positive way. If the person does not meet our expectations, we are responsible for letting it go and moving on with our lives. This may mean reducing contact with this person if we feel that is in our best interest.
Within the world of belly dance, we come across many opportunities to forgive. We may have been part of a class or performance where a student, teacher, or fellow performer has rubbed us the wrong way. Perhaps they said or did something we didn’t like; perhaps we don’t agree with their dance philosophy, or perhaps we just simply don’t like them. When this happens, we can honor our feelings, whatever they may be, and we can choose to respond in a loving way toward ourselves and the other person. When we feel up to it, we may choose to talk to the person about the issue. Perhaps the person will change to meet our wishes; perhaps they will not. Regardless, we are responsible for our OWN actions and feelings, and it is up to us to choose forgiveness and love.
If we disagree with someone, we may take some of the following loving actions:
1. Speak to the person about our concern.
2. Don’t speak to the person about the issue, and instead choose to let it go (perhaps we’ve decided it’s not that important)
3. Respectfully remove ourselves from their company, either indefinitely, or until we feel better about the situation.
Here are some key points to keep in mind:
1. It is ok to feel both positive and negative emotions. This is part of being an authentic human being.
2. It is normal to disagree with people sometimes.
3. Holding onto anger and resentment keeps us from being truly free.
4. Choosing to forgive allows us to meet our potential as a loving and joyful human being.
5. We are responsible for our own feelings and actions. Other people are not responsible for our feelings and actions.
6. Other people are responsible for their own feelings and actions. We are not responsible for changing others.
At some point in our lives, we may have situations where we just simply cannot forgive the other person. Even though a part of us may want to forgive the person, our pain is too great to be able to let it go and forgive. In these instances, we can have compassion with ourselves, and we can accept and honor where we are in our healing process. Sometimes, it is helpful to think or say aloud, “I WANT to forgive,” and each day this can help to bring us closer to actual forgiveness.
Take a moment, and think about how amazing and beautiful the belly dancing community would be if we worked just a little bit harder to acknowledge and take ownership for our own emotions and actions, if we released responsibility for other people, and if we opened ourselves to forgiveness. Many of us are familiar with the healing capacity of belly dance and how it has such immense potential to heal the feminine collective. Think of how much more effective this could become if we were to embrace forgiveness.
So What is it With Doums and Teks, Anyway?
by Beth Jones
Many beginning bellydance students hear their instructors talk about doums and tecs in the music and feel that it is too much to take in. Let me try to de-mystify it for you...
First, you need to understand that it is important to understand the music you dance to. It is the foundation of every step, hip drop, and facial expression. The best way to understand it is to listen to it. I wouldn't start out with Egyptian Classical, though (which is very complex). Put in a bellydance pop CD, Middle Eastern rhythm CD, or listen to the music your teacher plays. Feel free to ask your teacher about the rhythm used in the song, that way you have a name to put with the rhythm. After listening for a while, you will start to feel the rhythms more than count them. My favorite CD for dance students to learn the rhythms is The Dancing Drum with Issam Houshan.
Doum is the "foundation" note of the drum. It is deep in pitch (tone) and often accented on the first beat of the rhythm. Tek is the higher pitch sound of the drum played with the dominant hand. Ka is the higher pitch sound played with the non-dominant hand. All Middle Eastern Rhythms can be played on the drum with these three notes. (Doum, Tek and Ka) Tek and Ka often sound the same, so you might not be able to distinguish them in the music until you learn the structure of common rhythms.
Before we go on to a basic rhythm, let me explain counting rhythms. Western (esp. American) music typically consists of 2, 4, or 8 beats before repeating the rhythm. So, a 4-beat measure/rhythm could be counted 1, 2, 3, 4. If you divide it, you can count 1, &, 2, &, 3, &, 4, &. You can divide it again to count 1,e,&,a,2,e,&,a...
And so on... Arabic music is different. Instead of just divided, it is also "added". For instance. An 8 beat rhythm can be a 3+3+2 rhythm. Which means it would be counted 1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2. Each time there is a "one", it is a down beat. Think ONE two three ONE two three ONE two. (rhythm malfoof)
Because of this counting structure and the way rhythms have been passed down orally for generations, rhythms in the Middle East have families. Any rhythm in the Beledi family, for instance, will be based off of the same Beladi structure. For instance...
D D T D T
D D T D T tk
D D tkT D tkT
D D tkT D tkT tk
D D T D tkT tk
D D k T D k T tk
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
if using numbers, you would say:
1 & & 3 4
You might say "It looks like gibberish to me." Think of the D being a Doum. T stands for Tek and K stands for Ka. If the letter is a capital it is accented and/or part of the basic structure. The little letters are different ways to fill in the rhythm so that the music has more variety.
If you would like to learn some Middle Eastern rhythms, let your instructor know & check out these web sites:
And fun with drumming by the masters...
Have fun dancing & enjoy the music!
Wisdom from Beneath the Earth
by Maya Zahira
I sat at the edge of the circle and watched, while rhythmic hands made music with doumbeks and djembes, while hips swayed, shoulders shimmied, and bodies moved to the beat of the drums.
The New Year’s Eve celebration at Subterra was a yearly occurrence. The former missile base, retired and privately purchased 25 years ago, had been transformed from a place of potential violence and war, to a place of sacred beauty—filled with hanging tapestries, rich fabrics, and statues of ancient deities. The place where we drum, dance and hold ceremony is aptly called, “The Temple Room”. Countless drum circles have been held in this place, underground in the healing womb of the earth.
This was my fourth year to visit Subterra on New Year’s Eve. In previous years, I was right in the middle of things, belly dancing around the circle with hip figure eights and snake arms, and drumming until my hands were sore. But this year was different. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and a feeling of fear and dread that I just couldn’t shake. My intuition told me that the year we were welcoming in with our celebration would be one of loss and very difficult transition for me.
But I pushed through my feeling of doom and darkness and stood up to slowly sway my body. Two rattles lay on the edge of a chair. I picked them up, and as I did, I felt as though I moved into some ancient time and place, as though I was a medicine woman or shaman. The rhythm intensified and I let it move me, spin me, shake me, and connect me with the earth. Deep down, I knew that whatever lay ahead of me in the year to come, that year would eventually come to an end, and the year following would be one of great relief, healing, and transformation.
And now, as I write this, my difficult year of transition is nearly at an end. I have recently moved to Subterra and have made it my home. As I prepare to welcome in the new year, I look back at the lessons of the previous year. Some of the lessons were quite painful, and were met with much resistance and many tears. But now, it is time to acknowledge those lessons, to give them my thanks and gratitude. These are the lessons I’ve learned…
Lesson 1: Slow down. Human beings are not meant to run frantically like gerbils on a gerbil wheel. We are truly living our lives when we make time for stillness and inner quiet, and when we are fully “present” in each moment.
Lesson 2: Receive as freely as you give. Giving to others while neglecting ourselves only makes us feel abused and unappreciated. When we nurture, heal, and give to ourselves FIRST—then we will be in a state to fully give to others.
Lesson 3: Less is more. We do not have to save the entire world. Like the “butterfly effect”, sometimes even the smallest action can have a beautiful impact.
Lesson 4: Pay attention. Listen. When we face resistance in our lives, sometimes we respond by taking action, working harder, pushing harder, and we do not listen to our inner wisdom. Stop; Listen to intuition. Pay attention, and see the resistance as a possible sign that you might be going the wrong direction.
Lesson 5: Allow. Don’t try to force things to happen in your life. Allow things to happen in your life. If it is meant to be, it will happen.
Lesson 6: Let go of attachment. Attachment can cause tremendous suffering. When we are attached to a person, place, thing, or particular outcome, we experience emotional suffering when we lose that thing. It is better to be free from expectation and attachment so we can let go with ease and grace.
Lesson 7: Be compassionate. Be compassionate with yourself. We are all human beings and we all make mistakes. Be compassionate with others—especially those we feel have hurt us and those who judge us harshly.
Lesson 8: Embrace your “shadow emotions”. Even our so-called negative emotions, like anger, hurt, and despair have something to teach us. Allow those emotions to exist, without judging them as good or bad. Allow them to process so they may be released and healed.
Lesson 9: Find the joy. No matter what is happening in our lives, we can choose to feel joy.
Maya Zahira is a professional belly dance artist, choreographer, educator, IFA certified fitness instructor, and Reiki master. She is a guest resident at “Subterra Castle” (www.subterracastle.com). Information about Maya’s classes and events can be found at www.mayazahira.com.
Henna Body Art
by Beth Jones
Did you know that henna is the world's oldest cosmetic? Henna has long been used throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East for beauty, healing, and celebrations. The henna plant is harvested and left to dry. Once it is dry, it is ground up and sifted into a fine powder. This powder needs to be mixed with an acidic liquid such as lemon juice for the dye to be released. Often times some type of sugar is added to the mix to make the henna stick to the skin better and an essential oil such as lavendar is added for its smell and ability to make the stain even darker. This paste is mixed up and appied to the surface of the skin. Many henna artists use a squeeze bottle or an "indian cone" to apply the paste. As the paste sits on the skin, it releases the dye and stains just like the way blueberries and blackberries can stain your fingers. The longer the henna is kept moist with lemon juice, the better the stain. Another way to increase the stain is to keep that part of the body warm. While the henna stain can range in colors from orange-red to dark brown, it is NEVER black. Black henna often includes a dye called PPD that can cause alergic reactions and chemical burns on some people.
Many bellydancers like the look of henna for a safe, temporary and ethnic body art to wear while dancing. There are many styles of henna art such as Moroccan, Arabic Gulf, Sudanese, Indian, and contemporary. Choose an artist that has experience in the style that you are looking for. The henna artist you chose will often ask you how large of a design you want, where you want it, and how much you are willing to pay. The more you are able to pay, the more intricate the design can be. It is best if there are several people getting designs at the same time and are not in a hurry. That way the artist can use the whole batch of henna (it will spoil if not kept frozen). So have your friends all bring over some appetizers and hire an artist to make a great girls night in. If your budget is tight or your friends creative, you can buy pre-made henna and easy to use bottles to do the henna on each other. There are even sample patterns and stencils available to get you started!
Find out more at:
Get started with henna:
Finding My True Name
by Maya Zahira
I sat at my desk with a list of common Middle Eastern names which had been emailed to me by one of my belly dance teachers. Although I was not yet dancing professionally, I wanted to choose a stage name for myself, a name that sounded both mysterious and glamorous.
On my list of names, I was drawn to the name Maya because it was both simple and pretty like my given first name, Jane. Delving deeper into the meaning of Maya, I knew that it was the name of the goddess of illusion in Indian tradition, as well as the name of a native culture in South America. The concept of “illusion” resonated with me in that as belly dancers, we create a stage presence when we perform, an illusion of glamour that captivates the audience. My attention then focused on the name Zahira, which, according to my list, means “luminous”. I had an “aha! moment” as I considered putting the two names together, “Maya Zahira”, to form a name meaning “luminous goddess”.
At the time, I had no idea that choosing a new name would be part of my personal journey in finding my true self, that this new name would symbolize the release of old personal trauma, the acceptance of personal healing, and a new experience of inner strength and peace.
Like many people, I had grown up in a dysfunctional family. My mother, bless her soul, was severely manic depressive, while my father was controlling and physically abusive. Growing up, this made for a scary and chaotic home environment, and as a result, I developed issues with trust and self-esteem, as well as difficulties allowing myself to express anger and setting healthy boundaries with others.
Not surprisingly, as an adult, I attracted many abusive relationships into my life as I, like many adult survivors of childhood abuse, continued the patterns I had learned as a child. Ever so slowly, I began to understand the childhood patterns I was perpetuating, and I diligently worked to release them, to heal and to grow.
Eventually, I began dancing and teaching belly dance on a professional level. My students, especially those whom I had conflicts with, taught me a great deal about myself, about how to communicate my boundaries in a clear and loving way, and how to express my truth bravely and without fear. My teaching peers, especially those who did not support me, taught me to create my own self-esteem and self-worth from within myself without depending on receiving it from others.
I was changing myself from the inside out, releasing the negative habits I had learned as a child, and becoming more my genuine self. As I was changing myself so drastically, I began to consider releasing my childhood given name and having not only my students and clients call me “Maya Zahira”, but my friends and family as well.
This decision was made final one evening while I was at a large social gathering. As it was a personal social gathering and not a gig or class, I had introduced myself as “Jane”. At one point, the conversation turned to belly dancing. Someone said to me, “I’ve heard of a local dancer named Maya Zahira. Do you know her?” “That’s me!” I said, “I’m Maya Zahira!” At that moment, I realized I was probably missing out on many performances and teaching opportunities by hiding behind the anonymity of my birth name. Plus, my birth name no longer felt right. To me, it symbolized an abused, meek, and frightened little girl, and not the strong woman I was becoming.
So the change was made. I announced to my students, teaching peers, friends, and family that I was now officially going by the name Maya Zahira. The change was easy for my students, friends, and family. Some of my local teaching peers, however, had difficulty with the change and continued calling me by my old name. I remember one time at a local seminar, the coordinator was trying to find me and was calling my name, my old name, over the loudspeaker. Apparently, she had called for me a number of times, but because my name change had been so final in my own mind, even on a subconscious level, I did not hear her calling for me.
After my mother passed away a couple of years ago, I went ahead and made my name change legal. This has simplified things considerably, as I can now sign legal documents and checks with my true name, Maya Zahira. My drivers’ license, passport, library cards, etc. reflect my new name, my true name. This is the name that reflects the strong and loving woman I have become and am continuing to become each day. I have chosen the path of healing. I have chosen to become my authentic self. I have chosen my true name.
Finger Cymbals 101
by Maya Zahira
If you are new, or somewhat new, to belly dance, you may have noticed that some belly dancers play finger cymbals when they perform. Finger cymbals, also known as zills or zils in Turkey or zagat or sagat in Egypt, have been used as musical instruments since the time of ancient Mesopotamia. Throughout history, belly dancers have played zills while dancing, thus making them both dancers and musicians at the same time. Lately, playing zills has become less popular in Egypt and Turkey, however it still remains a vital part of the dance in the United States.
Finger cymbals come in sets of four. A small piece of elastic attaches the cymbals to the middle fingers and thumbs. Each cymbal is worn between the finger knuckle and cuticle. When purchasing finger cymbals, it is important to buy those that have two slits in each zill, instead of those that have only a single hole in the middle. This allows the elastic to fit more securely and keeps the finger cymbals from wobbling. Zills can be purchased from a number of places. Turquoise International (www.turquoiseintl.com) and Saroyan Mastercrafts (www.saroyanzils.com) have an excellent reputation for selling quality zills for students through professionals. Cheap starter zills can be purchased from costume shops as well as from bookstores that sell “belly dancer in a box” packages. The cheap zills are good for those on a tight budget who are not yet ready to perform, but be forewarned that these do not have the nice resonating sound as compared to higher quality zills.
Most finger cymbals come with elastic, either in the package, or already attached to the zills. If the elastic is already attached to the zills, you will likely need to cut off the elastic and start with new elastic. This is to ensure proper fit. Examine your elastic and make sure it is new and has lots of elastic stretch. Take a piece of elastic, approximately 3 inches long and the approximate width of your finger cymbal slits. Insert one end into one slit and the other end into the second slit so that the two loose ends are on the INSIDE of the zills. The loop of elastic should protrude from the top of the finger cymbal. Insert your middle finger or thumb into the loop and tighten the elastic for a snug fit. Overlap the two loose ends on the inside of the zill. Carefully remove your finger from the loop, then hand stitch the loop closed with a needle and thread. I like using upholstery thread because it is extremely strong and requires fewer stitches than conventional thread. When you are done sewing the elastic on all four zills, you will have two cymbals fitting your middle fingers and two fitting your thumbs.
Now that you have a set of well-fitting zills, you are ready to learn to play them. To create a particular strike called a “ring”, hit the thumb and middle fingers squarely together and pull apart very quickly. This should create a resonating ring. If your finger cymbals strike does not resonate or if it sounds more like a muffled “clack”, you are probably not pulling your zills apart quickly enough. Even a fraction of a second makes a difference. Also, remember that each elastic should fit snugly to allow for control in striking your zills together.
Try playing a simple pattern, alternating hits on the right and left hand. Play right, left, right, left, etc. (If you are left-handed, play left, right, left, right.) Now, try walking and doing basic belly dance moves as you continue playing this zill pattern. Remember, don’t practice your zills while sitting still. Always move your body, even if you’re just doing a simple walk or hip circle. Dancing and playing the finger cymbals can be quite difficult in the beginning, so patient and take it slow. Eventually, it will become a natural part of your dancing. You are now ready to learn additional finger cymbal strikes and patterns from your instructor. Happy dancing!
The Ancient Origins of Belly Dance
by Ester Rose (Melody Beard-Shouse "M.A. almost")
The theory that bellydance began as a fertility rite in ancient matriarchal religions is both provocative and comforting, especially to those of us wounded by the effects of patriarchy. We view bellydance as a way to connect with the feminine essence of life and heal unhealthy societal attitudes. These beliefs, emotions, and experiences concerning bellydance are valid; however, we must be very careful when looking into history not to see only what we want to see. Certainly these theories strengthen and support our beliefs, but is there evidence for them?
My own survey suggests that there is evidence relevant to bellydance, but it is not conclusive. We have evidence for a women's fertility based religious dance/percussion tradition in the Middle East as early as the Bronze Age. Earlier evidence shows men integrated into the same tradition. This suggests that these religious dances began not within matriarchy but within an egalitarian environment.
I propose that the rise of patriarchy lead to new religious rites. The previous religious dances were relegated to women and eventually severely persecuted. These dances may have survived, with transformations, in tribal/rural societies. They may also be the basis of Middle Eastern social dance and bellydance.
Whether or not these ancient religious practices are bellydance is actually a question of perspective. What is bellydance? Is bellydance defined by movement, music, culture, or associated symbolic meanings?
Movement is problematic. Artistic renderings of dances do not clearly demonstrate movement. We know from descriptions that these dances were described as ecstatic which could indicate bellydance. They are also described as gymnastic which would not typify bellydance. We do have evidence for belts, like a coin belt, which could indicate percussive hip movement.
More is known about music. There is evidence that percussion instruments, like zills, were played while dancing. We also have evidence for similar rhythms and instrumentation.
In terms of culture we are looking at evidence from the ethnic ancestors of Middle Easterners. Some cultural continuity through time can be assumed, but how have immigrant groups like the Romani influenced or even replaced the earlier dances?
Symbolic associations with fertility are present in the ancient dances as well as in modern Middle Eastern dance. Here we can see symbolic continuity, but is this enough to say that these ancient dances are bellydance?
In my opinion there is enough evidence to talk about the possible origins of bellydance in ancient Middle Eastern fertility religion. I like to call it proto-bellydance to emphasize that these ancient dances have naturally evolved over centuries to become bellydance. In other words we aren't talking about ancient bellydance but rather the ancestors of bellydance.
So, what do we do with all that? My advice concerning theories on the origins of bellydance is simple. Educationally, we should use them carefully. Personally, be interested in them, research them, fantasize about them, meditate on them, but don't base too much of your dance philosophy on them. Don't put faith in what bellydance might have been but throw your energy into what the dance is now and what it can become.
For bibliography email email@example.com
Stop the Food Fight
by Maya Zahira
It’s that time of year again; everyone is making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and try out the newest diet trend. I, on the other hand, have made a completely different type of resolution. I have resolved to never diet ever again.
Most women in our culture have been on a diet at some point in their lives. Many women have tried diet after diet year after year, depriving themselves of the joy of eating, only to gain even more weight than when they started. It is an endless cycle that keeps us unhappy with our beautiful bodies, and over the years, many of us even come to see food as the enemy.
The reality is that diets DO NOT work. First, when we diet, we cause our body to go into starvation mode. When we restrict calories or refrain from eating when we are hungry, our body thinks that there is a famine and it responds with many biological processes, including the slowing of metabolism, as well as the storing of more fat in order to keep us alive.
A dieting body is a starving body, so, the key is to eat a variety of nutritious foods when we are hungry.
Second, studies have shown that food deprivation can cause food obsession, binging, purging, anorexia, and personality changes, including “apathy, irritability, moodiness, and depression”. (Tribole, p. 60)
Let’s focus in on food obsession. When we deprive ourselves of a particular type of food (for example, cookies), we inadvertently create a mental obsession around that food. While dieting, we think of that food often, and we crave that food more and more, until we finally break down and eat several cookies or even an entire box of cookies. Food deprivation invariably leads to “rebound eating” (Tribole, p. 76), which then leads to feelings of guilt and shame, not to mention additional weight gain.
The solution to the diet rollercoaster is commonly called “intuitive eating”. This involves honoring one’s hunger signals by actually eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. It seems like such a simple concept, really a “no-brainer”, but for someone like me who has been dieting since childhood, the realization of this concept has been a total eye-opener.
It is time to stop the food fight! Food is not the enemy. Food keeps us alive! Food is a delight to the senses, and eating is an experience that should give us joy and pleasure. This year, why not make a resolution to finally make peace with food?
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, 1995
The Only Diet There Is by Sondra Ray, Celestial Arts, Berkely, CA, 1981
Do I Look Fat in This? by Rhonda Britten, Penguin Publishers, New York, 2006
The Body Sacred by Diane Sylvan, Lewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN, 2005
Overcoming Physical Obstacles in Belly Dance
by Maya Zahira
All of us have had to overcome obstacles in belly dancing. Some of these obstacles may include physical challenges like bad knees, stiff neck, arthritis, a bad hip, fatigue, and scoliosis to name just a few. In addition, many students have great difficulty maintaining the tucked pelvis position because of years of standing with an unhealthy sway back posture. And yet other students cannot even complete hip and rib cage slides due to years of inactivity and inflexibility.
Many dance students quickly assume that they will never be capable of doing certain dance moves because of their physical obstacles. Why do we give up so quickly? If only we could see these obstacles as projects to be tackled!
So, how can a student overcome their physical challenges? The answer is certainly not simple and will be unique from person to person. First and foremost, it will take commitment, hard work, and patience. Depending on the physical issue, some people may experience physical improvement from medical treatment like physical therapy, medications, or surgery, or alternative therapies like massage, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc. Other students may benefit from merely taking better care of their personal needs including diet, sleep, exercise, and stress-reduction. The important thing to remember is this: Be patient and don’t give up! It may take months or even years to overcome some obstacles, and it may take a multitude of different methods and therapies.
Easier said than done? Maybe so, but if I can do it, so can you! When I first started belly dancing, I could not do even the tiniest rib cage slide because I have two large scoliosis curves in my spine (33 and 28 degrees!). The scoliosis also made it very difficult to perform any moves with my left hip. In addition, I couldn’t even stand with correct dance posture (tucked pelvis) due to lordosis, a condition in which my lumbar spine actually curved outward to create a sway back. On top of all that, I had also been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (comparable to chronic mono) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which made it difficult for me to make it through even the mildest of belly dance classes.
In the last several years, I have used a variety of methods to overcome my obstacles. Stress-reduction, diet, sleep, and exercise have helped to dramatically improve the chronic fatigue syndrome and hypoglycemia. Stretching, yoga, and chiropractic have greatly improved my flexibility and range of motion in my spine. I am still not able to perform a backbend in my belly dance routines, but I haven’t given up on that one yet!
My current physical obstacle in belly dancing is my knees. Ever since I was a teenager, I have not been able to level change down to a kneeling position without piercing pain. This, of course, puts great limitations on my ability to perform floor work. Instead of assuming that I will never ever be capable of doing floor work, I am convinced that I will eventually work past this obstacle. I am currently using acupuncture and specific yoga stretches to help me.
So, just wait! One of these days you’ll see me perform a fabulous floor work routine, and maybe I’ll even do a backbend!
It's Not About Being Perfect
by Nicole Kelley of the Bonner Springs "Cheiftan"
Archive for Thursday, June 5, 2008
Belly dancing: ‘It’s not about being perfect’
Maya Zahira, instructor of a belly dancing class at the Bonner Springs Community Center, demonstrates how to dance with a veil. Students of the class learned movements for their arms and hips in addition to working with veils and finger cymbals. Enlarge photo — Photo by Nicole Kelley
By Nicole Kelley
June 5, 2008
The jingling of coins, the shaking of hips and the flowing of brightly colored fabric veils filled the Bonner Springs Community Center on Thursday for the first day of belly dancing classes.
Participants swayed their hips from side to side to the beats of Middle Eastern music and used “zills,” or finger cymbals, to follow the drum rhythm while learning the beginning basics of the dance.
Instructor Maya Zahira, owner and director of the Maya Zahira School of Belly Dance, has been traveling to communities in Kansas and Missouri teaching belly dancing classes for the last six years and first came to Bonner Springs in January 2008.
“All different body types feel good doing the dance,” Zahira said of belly dancing. “You just feel beautiful.”
For Zahira, belly dancing has been a life-changing experience that has left many positive marks on her life.
Belly dancing first came into her life 10 years ago. She was going through a divorce and said she was searching for an activity that she could do just for herself. After one class she was hooked, which led to a weight lost of 100 pounds, a career change and a happier outlook.
“It was just so intriguing,” she said.
The more she got involved with belly dance, the more her life improved. Zahira said that the dance helped her with improving her body image and self esteem.
Zahira studied belly dancing in New York City. She gave up her elementary school teaching job and began teaching belly dancing classes. She said the classes went so well in the beginning she decided to make it her new career and start her own school.
Despite her own significant weight loss, Zahira said she doesn’t like to place too much emphasis on weight loss in her classes. She said what was more important was a healthier and more “balanced” body.
“I want to help women to shift that thinking and to feel better about themselves,” Zahira said. “It’s not about being perfect.”
Most of the people who attend Zahira’s classes just want to have fun and are looking for a more interesting way to get exercise. The movements involved in belly dance can improve balance, flexibility and cardio vascular health, Zahira said.
The class she teaches at the Bonner Springs Community is choreographed to benefit people with different limitations. She said students could expect to work up a sweat although the exercise is gentle on the body.
“I hope that these ladies have fun and in some way become healthier and feel better about themselves physically and emotionally,” Zahira said.
In her blood
One of this current session’s four participants is Stefanie Livonia of Lansing. Livonia was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and a family in the United States adopted her. She said she signed up for the belly dancing class because she wanted to get in touch with a part of her heritage.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I figure, why not learn something that’s in my blood.”
Livonia said she always was looking for a way to get healthier as well. She used to take an aerobics class, which she liked, but thought a dancing class would be even more fun.
“I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m having fun and exercising at the same time,” she said.
The same goes for beginner Jennifer Mata of Edwardsville. Mata said she had a friend who took a belly dancing class in Lenexa earlier this year and raved about how much fun she had. Mata figured she’d give it a try and was happy with the how the first session went even though it was her first-ever attempt.
Envy, Admiration, and Inspiration
Envy, Admiration, and Inspiration by Maya Zahira, Director
Every one of us is human, and therefore we can feel the emotions of jealousy and insecurity. The belly dance community is the perfect breeding-ground for such emotions, since most of us, in our heart of hearts, wants to be a beautiful, talented dancer. We can feel threatened by someone we perceive as better than us.
When I was a student, I overheard many indications of envy and jealousy in comments like, “Oh, I hate her, she’s such a good dancer,” or “She’s such a show-off in class, she’s not even that good!” The list of comments goes on and on.
Now, not all comments of envy are mean-spirited. Sometimes they take on a more insecure tone; such as, “I’m no good at belly dancing. I wish I could dance more like so-and-so,” or “I hate standing by her in class. She’s so good and it makes me feel bad.”
Why do people make such insecure comments? The answer is simple, but may take some of you by surprise. People make negative comments like this not because they dislike the person, but because they admire what they see and want that for themselves.
So, now I have a truly groundbreaking idea! Instead of expressing negativity, why not say to yourself, “I like what I see! I want to have that for myself, too!” Let yourself be inspired by that person. Of course, it is easier to complain. But let me ask you this, would you rather feel bad, or would you rather feel good? Of course, we’d all rather feel good! So, it is worth it to break free of our jealousies.
Now you might be grumbling to yourself, “That is SO unrealistic! I’ll never dance as well as so-and so.” Well, you might be right, you might be wrong. But you can aspire to dance as well as so-and-so and continue to practice. Perhaps you’ll even become a better dancer than her, perhaps not. Either way, you’ve allowed yourself to be inspired by someone. What an empowered place to be!
And you may as well accept that there will always be a better dancer out there. Even if you were to become an infamous “dance diva”, there will still be some dancer who can execute certain moves better than you. So, it doesn’t make sense to become jealous of more talented or experienced dancers!
The next time you notice yourself feeling jealous, try asking yourself, “What is it that I admire about that person?” Allow your envy to melt away and be replaced with inspiration. In the end, you will become a better dancer and a better person.
The Constant Grind
by Margo Abdo O'Dell
Would it surprise you to know that from 25,000 to 40,000 BC, goddess
cultures flourished around the world and women were revered?
Women’s bodies were even considered sacred because they
represented the very essence of life. Evidence of these
well-endowed figures can be seen on statuary, reliefs and ancient
Today, the bitter truth is that the curvaceous and fleshy female
figure is constantly disrespected by the media and pop culture.
Women are repeatedly bombarded with messages and methods
to become thin, thinner, thinnest. It’s a constant emotional
grind to stay above the ubiquitous assertion that we are not good
How would you describe your own body? Do positive words come to mind?
Probably not. As for many women, the negative messages for me began
when I was a young girl shopping in the chubette department. Anyone
out there remember similar horrifying shopping experiences?
How could they use that word, chubette?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t watch our weight. In fact, I’m very
into health, exercise and weight management. But I’m also
concerned about the emotional scars these negative words
and images perpetrate on women and girls.
Let’s get real with a few facts from a recent Stanford University
The average American woman is 5'4" tall and weighs 140 pounds.
The average American model is 5'11" tall and weighs 117 pounds.
On any given day, 25 percent of men and 45 percent of women
are on a diet.
Each year Americans spend more than $40 billion on dieting and
80 percent of women are dissatisfied with their appearance.
I could go on, but you get my drift. Because there are extremely
unrealistic images of the “desirable woman” thrust upon us
(just pick up a fashion or women’s magazine), it’s no wonder
the vast majority of women are dissatisfied with their looks.
In response to those images, we sometimes engage in self-loathing
rather than self-loving behavior such as beating our bodies into
submission at the gym, starving ourselves, overeating for comfort,
wearing baggy clothes to hide our hips, and feeling generally
ashamed, unhappy or detached from our physical being.
Several years ago I was moved to action when I received an
expensive, glossy advertising piece for the women’s department
of an upscale store. The models in expensive, designer clothes,
with dark circles under their eyes, looked as if they’d been
shooting heroin and hadn’t eaten in months. Their skeletal
frames were draped on top furniture in provocative positions.
Disgusted, I wrote to the store and described my concerns.
They responded with a professional looking letter of little
content. No subsequent advertising piece from that
store caused me any where near the consternation.
Did my letter have an impact? Who knows?
On a recent trip to New Jersey, I asked a group of dance
students to give me one adjective to describe their hips.
Their responses included “powerful”, “expressive”,
“big – but in a good way”, “flexible”, and “strong”. Not
responses of a typical group of American women.
Other students report the dance helped them recover from breast
cancer, divorce and sexual abuse. It improved their self-esteem,
confidence and grace. And it helped them shed pounds – up to
100 pounds in one year for a dancer in Kansas City.
Now, I’m not recommending everyone sign up for my dance
classes, but you certainly can if you’d like! My purpose in relating
these experiences is to demonstrate women’s empowering
emotional and physical transformations and the fact that they
were the masters of those transformations. They didn’t look to
something or someone outside themselves for validation of their
Dance is not for everyone and I firmly believe it doesn’t matter
its dance, sports, walking, or gardening. What does matter is that we
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined that f