Getting to know: Claire Barnfather

Though Claire studied with me for years, she has gone onto develop her own style – both as a bellydancer and as a bellydance teacher.  I love teaching the accredited courses with Claire – her teaching is so clear and concise.  She pulls out the best from people and identifies things that really help their dance.  
I love watching Claire perform – especially an emotional piece – she makes you cry …. in a good way!  – Kay

Tell us a bit about your dance journey – how did a geologist get into bellydance?
I got into bellydancing when I was doing my MSc at Durham Universit and was looking for something different to do other than a fitness class. I stumbled across the university Bellydance Society being taught by the lovely Oona Leppington and it didn’t take long before I was hooked.  On moving to Newcastle I was lucky enough to discover Kay Taylor’s classes. Her teaching was an inspiration for me, and her support unwaivering. I had always been “the shy one”, and nothing could ever have been further from my mind than performing in public. Yet, with Kay’s encouragement, I got to the stage where I could not only get up there, but I could actually enjoy performing and sharing my love of dancing with people. Since then I have had some fantastic experiences through dancing…being part of the Tarab Dance Company, performing on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe, Glastonbury Festival and in Algeria, learning to dance in Cairo and meeting the most incredible people. I remember my dad rolling his eyes at my latest hobby when I bought my (first) hip belt…I don’t think either of us would ever have guessed how it would take over my life for the next 20 years!

 How did you start teaching?  Tell us a bit about your teaching journey.
I started teaching occasionally about 15 years ago to help provide cover when a local teacher was ill, before starting to teach my own regular classes. I did enjoy it, but the turning point in my teaching didn’t come until after I’d been teaching several years and decided to do the JWAAD Teaching Diploma. The background knowledge it gave me was invaluable, but it did more. It opened my eyes and gave me the tools  to develop my own distinct teaching style; which focuses on experiencing the music, developing body awareness and encouraging students to be themselves and develop their own unique style. Knowing how the JWAAD Diploma changed the way I look at both teaching and my own dancing, I’m really proud to currently be part of the teaching team on JWAAD’s accredited courses. I love the moment (which seems to happen whenever I get to teach on one of the courses) when I see something click for one of the students and make them see what they do in a whole new way!
Over the years I have found that I have a real knack for spotting those small changes that can make a big difference to a dancer, and as such absolutely love helping dancers to develop one-to-one. For this reason I’ve run two “Leyl el Raqassa” performance projects; working over a summer with soloists of all levels to develop unique performances that help them develop their dance in new ways. The resulting shows have been fantastic, intimate, supportive events where the dancers have been able to take risks and really push their performances to a new level – I’m really hoping to be able to run one of these courses again soon! These shows have been some of my proudest moments in my entire dance career, alongside the absolute jaw-dropping surprise of receiving the 2017 NADA Glitter Award for Most Inspirational Teacher.

You have a young son – how do you manage to combine your day job and dancing and motherhood?
Bellydancing has been such a huge part of my life for so long that I was really shocked at just how tricky it can be to create both time and headspace to dance in between juggling babies/toddlers and doing the day job. Having my son has given me so much respect for the job that mums do! What has kept me going during the tough times is the enthusiasm and love for the dance that my students have…I adore teaching them and they’re a constant reminder of the joy that dance can bring and why I love it so! If I ever feel exhausted before a class, I always leave buzzing.  I find these days that I have to guard some time for myself,  so my big tip to new mums would be to try to book some time and space away from the house to just really dance and blow the cobwebs away every now and again!

What do you like to do to relax?
Nothing beats a walk along  the sea front on a blustery day (maybe followed by a coffee or hot chocolate to warm up again). 

What is your star sign?

What is your favourite colour and why?
It varies – I like rich jewel colours: turquoise; the blues and greens of a peacock’s tail; magenta and fuschia pinks; flame orange; and dairy milk purple. I don’t know why – these bold and beautiful colours just make me smile!

At Fantasia you are teaching ‘Dodo wings to dancers arms’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
Arms and hands seem to cause trouble for many of us as dancers:  sometimes they’re an afterthought to the rest of our dancing and we find them flapping around; sometimes they’re drilled into position so hard that they can feel and look dead and unnatural; or other times they occupy all too much of our headspace and distract us from the rest of our dancing. We’ll be looking at a few techniques and tricks you can take away and practice to improve arm and hand alignment and energy, develop good habits and build muscle memory of some helpful arm movements. Dramatic results are possible!  

What does the dance world hold for you in the next 6 months?
My post-baby return to dance has been longer and harder than I had ever imagined it would be, and I have been developing my very own toolkit to help me get back into the swing of things… I’m hoping down the line that this is something I can share with other dancers coming back from a break!  Now I’m back,  I really want to make the most of and enjoy every moment of my dancing. So, for the next little while I’ll be dancing and going to events for my own pleasure; helping my students to develop and flourish;  and plotting and planning for my next performance project!  

Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
In 5 years’ time I’d like to be back teaching again more regularly, helping more and more dancers to reach their potential!  

To book your Fantasia day ticket click here.
Fantasia is Londons longest established bellydance festival.  If you haven’t been to a Fantasia Bellydance Festival yet, now is the time!

About Us

Getting to know: Moyra Banks

Moyra Banks aka The Scottish Bellydancer is based in Edinburgh where she teaches regular bellydance classes. I remember the first time she came on one of my Cairo trips – and bought a Sahar Okasha costume – the most expensive costumier in Cairo. More than 10 years later she still has it …… so it must have been worth it. Moyra now has a range of designer bellydance costumes: Eman Zaki and Hanan Mahmoud as well as her Sahar ones. As she performs regularly she does need them. She is probably the best dressed bellydancer in Scotland! – Kay

How did you get into belly dance?
As a teenager I saw my friends attend a bellydance class. I originally thought this was hilarious and wondered why on earth they would do such a thing. I then went to see them perform and I was hooked from then on. Something in the music and the costumes just resonated with me and I knew I had been missing out.

Tell us a bit about your dance journey – how did you end up teaching and performing

Through my first teacher I began regularly performing in a local restaurant with other students. From there other performance opportunities arose and I have been performing at weddings, hen parties, restaurants and even a funeral or two ever since. I am lucky that the dance community is relatively small in Scotland so I know most of the other dancers.
In terms of teaching this came about as an opportunity when my teacher moved to Cairo. She passed on some classes to me and since then I have grown and developed my teaching including through completing the JWAAD teaching diploma. I am now training to teach the JWAAD accredited courses which I am very excited about.

What did you like most – and what did you like least – about teaching bellydance?
I love seeing my students develop and go from hiding at the back of the class to rocking it on stage. I love the development of the nerves and uncertainty before their first performance to being asked if they can dance again after it as they loved it so much.
Teaching certainly keeps you on your toes and developing so you’ve always got something to teach your students and sometimes you can doubt yourself which is definitely a downside to it.
I have become a JWAAD mentor and this has led to teaching more private lessons as I help folks progress with their dance. I love seeing the difference this makes – and it gives me more confidence that I am doing something right.

You are really busy with dance, a day job and being one of the principle dancers in the Helwa Dance Company – what does a normal week look like for you?

Moyra leaping off stage sha’abi style

I think it can be summed up in the word “busy”! I teach 2 to 3 nights per week and one night per week I am normally reminding myself of what is on the lesson plan that week. At the weekends I normally have at least one gig and there can also be full day Helwa rehearsal too and on occasions I try to squeeze in a lesson with Kay Taylor of Farida Dance. I am very excited about out upcoming Helwa tour – you can find details on

I am lucky that my day job is focused on outcomes and not hours and I have a really supportive manager. I can work from home when required so there are times when I may leave work in the middle of the day to dance and then log back on in the evening.

What do you like to do to relax?
I’ve recently started to focus back on my own health and wellbeing after realising I was always giving to my students and not taking time to myself. This involves early starts at my local gym doing a focused programme but it is great start to the day and helps me take time for me. I also love a spa day and on occasion I can be found at the local stables out on a hack. Normally though, due to time you can find me having a long soak in the bath with a good book.

What is your star sign?
I am a Pisces and I love that this is associated with creativity and the arts. It is also known for being addictive which may explain why dance takes up most of my time…..

What is your favourite colour and why?
I wasn’t sure I had one but I’ve just checked my dance wardrobe and I think I will have to say green / blues. I just seem to be drawn to this and on reflection a lot of the ateliers seem to put me in these colours. There must be a reason for that!

At Fantasia you are teaching ’Sassy Saidi’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
I love Saidi.  My aim is to deliver an upbeat and vibrant workshop and hopefully give people some new ideas to spice up their saidi. It’s a short workshop but we’ll look at some patterns and combinations. (You can see Moyra performing saidi at the Aini Ya Aini festival here.)

You are one of the team launching a new festival in Edinburgh: Alba Orientale. Tell us a bit about it.
I am really excited to be part of this festival. There’s something really special about being in Cairo and watching a dancer live, not everyone can get to Cairo so we’re bring a little bit of Cairo to Edinburgh. I am passionate about showing as many people as possible how amazing dance can be and encourage people to push themselves and try new styles and moves. This is an opportunity for people to have access to some of the most amazing teachers and styles. Find out more on

Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
Hopefully a little less day job and some more dancing and teaching. I’d like to make some time to see some more of the world too.

To book your Fantasia day ticket click here.
Fantasia is Londons longest established bellydance festival. If you haven’t been to a Fantasia Bellydance Festival yet, now is the time!

About Us

Getting to know: Mayel

Originally from France, Mayel, her husband, Francois and daughter, Alma live in London.  Mayel is an exquisite dancer, every shape she forms delightful.  I have loved watching her develop.  She has been the principle dancer in several dance companies, including Johara, Company of Dreams and the female lead in Ozgens shows.  Mayel takes bellydance seriously and believes in studying and training hard to achieve results. – Kay

How did you get into belly dance?
I grew up in France surrounded by North African music, Dance and Culture but it wasn’t until I went to University that I started to actually learn the Art of Belly Dance. I had my first experience of performing on stage at the age of 4.  It was in France, a children’s musical and for the next 10 years we worked on a different musical every year.  At this time I was also training as a rhythmic gymnast and starting to enter competitions – good experience for later!  
One day my friend said she had found a bellydance class.  This was 15 years ago.  It has become my passion, my calling and I have never looked back. 
Tell us a bit about your dance journey – how did you end up being a professional dancer?
I moved to London in 2007 and my dance teacher in France had recommended me to go to Jo Wise classes… I’m so grateful she did as it felt like rediscovering belly dance all over again. It also allowed me to meet some amazing dancers who have become my dance family. After a couple of years of attending Jo’s classes I joined Johara Dance Company and it is also when I started to dance in restaurants. I was working as a part time French teacher and I could do with some extra money to cover the cost of classes, workshops and costumes etc… I started by being a cover dancer in a restaurant in London. In 2012 I won the Belly Dance Trophies – which was the biggest London competition at that time. It gave a boost to my dance career and helped me to little by little build my network and get my own gigs.
What did you like most – and what did you like least – about being a professional dancer in London?
What I love the most is the connection you can developp with your audience. When people are receptive, appreciate the Art or are curious about the Culture then it makes my job really easy and lovable.
The  Belly dance comunity is always so encouraging and welcoming but when you dance in restaurants it’s a different world, you need to have thick skin… As there are still people out there who don’t know anything about our dance style and get the wrong idea. You also need to deal with constant competition and need to always be at the top of your game.
How did you get into teaching?  And what do you like most about teaching?
In 2010 if I remember well I started my training to become a JWAAD teacher. It is a very complete course that allowed me to learn a lot about teaching methods, musicality, the culture & history of the dance.
Once I got my diploma it gave me the confidence to start to run my own classes and workshops in London and in the UK.
What I love the most about teaching is watching my student grow and become their very own dancing self.
You have a young daughter – how do you balance motherhood with your dance work?
It is the biggest challenge to be honest and I had to reduce a lot of my dancing time.
But I feel lucky to still being able to dance and teach as I need it to keep me balanced… I have a great partner. Whenever he is at work I look after our daughter and when he comes home I go out and teach or gig.  I manage to make it work as being a mum developed a new organised side of me I didn’t even know existed… but I have to admit being a mum is a full time job itself and I’m definitely not taking as much work as I used to.
You have worked with several dance companies – tell us about the highlight of your time.
Stage is my 1st love really… my cathartic place… it allows me to wash away all the negative in my life. It is my way of meditating. I’ve had the chance to works with very talented choreographers and directors such as Jo Wise, Charlotte Desorgher and Ozgen on Theatrical productions. With Ozgen I got to go to Australia to dance in his show… It has been such an incredible experience!
In order to join Company of Dreams, I had to train myself in jazz and ballet so I could add a new repertoire of moves and techniques to my belly dance. Touring with Company of Dreams has been a dream come true really as I was paid to do something I absolutely love, I learnt so much from the other dancers and it created a bond between us that is so unique!
My style has gained so much working with commercial, ballet and jazz trained dancers.
As belly dancers in restaurants or cabaret settings we are used to dance solo and on the spot. Most of the time we dance in 2 dimensions and we are not aware of our arms (as there is no space to use them really!) So learning group dances as well as working with a partner definitely pushed my boundaries and taught me how to adapt, use space and trust my fellow dancers …
Theatre is a great place to develop creativity… everything is allowed, the limit is limitless.  (You can see Mayel here performing at the Arab Quarterly)
What do you like to do to relax?
I’m honestly not the most relaxed person… but breathing exercises really help me.
What is your star sign?
I’m a Virgo, a perfectionist with all the good and bad that comes with it. lol
What is your favourite colour and why?
I don’t have a favourite colour… It keeps changing with my moods. But to wear I love red! I think it is what suit me the best but somehow I keep buying pink belly dance costumes.
At Fantasia you are teaching ‘Crazy Oriental Combos’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
I’m super excited to be teaching at Fantasia again this year.
The workshops will cover some unique foot patterns and cool combinations using different techniques and styles to wow the crowd in your choreographies or improvisations.
Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
In 5 years time, my dream would be to tour again in a theatrical show… And possibly my own show.
To book on Mayels sessions and get your Fantasia day ticket click here.
Fantasia is Londons longest established bellydance festival.  If you haven’t been to a Fantasia Bellydance Festival yet, now is the time!

About Us

Getting to know: Samantha Neal

Samantha Neal is one of those people who just has a really good energy.  She inspires her students and is a great role model in the bellydance community too.  I am delighted that she is teaching at Fantasia this year.

How did you get into belly dance?
I loved watching old films as a child and particularly loved the Arabian nights movies. I was mesmerised by the beautiful dancers and decided I wanted to be a bellydancer when I grew up. 

Tell us a bit about your dance journey?
I was stuck in traffic on they A40 and back then a chap would walk along the dual carriage way selling newspapers. The traffic was going no where so I bought a copy and flicking through I saw a tiny ad. It was an advert for a bellydance class so I called the number as I had always wanted to try it.  Galit Mersand answered the phone and soon I started classes with her and was quickly hooked, going from one class a week to three. Galit suggested I go along to her techers classes too. So I went to join the amazing Josephine Wise and beautiful Yvette Cowles. Very quickly my hobby turned into a passion. I attended workshops, signed up for Summer School and the Fantasia festival. Went to Cairo with Kay Taylor on a number of Farida Adventures. I trained as a Jwaad teacher and started teaching my own bellydance classes in North London.
How did you get into teaching?  What do you like most – and least about teaching?
It just happened really. I loved dancing so when Jo asked me if I had considered the Jwaad teaching training program, I decided to go for it. I wanted to share our beautiful amazing dance with others. Over the years I have seen ladies blossom and glow and beautiful friendships develop. The only downside of teaching is finding a good dance studio with decent flooring, mirrors and parking. They are like gold dust in london. 
You love performing – tell us about your performance work and your dance troupe.
As a new dancer. Galit suggested her class perform at an event. I thought it would be fun. I had only been dancing a few months.  So little did I know how huge the Fantasia was. This was when it was held at Great Portland St and I remember watching the performances and being in complete awe but terrified at the same time. I can still remeber seeing Jo Wises dance group Masriat for the first time. It gave me goose bumps. So a few years later when Jo asked me if I would like to join Johara I can not describe the amazing honour I felt. I was lucky enough to tour with Johara on 3 shows and one my particular highlights was when we performed at The Bellydance congress. I now have my own student dance troupe Badra Bellydance. I love dancing with this amazing group of girls. We are dance sisters and I am always so impressed by their commitment and camaraderie with teach other.
What do you like to do to relax?
I like to go to gym and I do yoga. I particularly like hot yoga and dance flow yoga. I also love marvel movies and, like a lot of ladies I love a bit of retail therapy. 
What is your star sign?
I am a gemini
What is your favourite colour and why?
I don’t have a favourite as such I just love bright colour. I am really into hot pink and orange at the moment. 
At Fantasia you are teaching ’Shimmy Showcase’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
We will be getting our shimmmy on. A journey from the small understated shimmy all the way to a big bouncy show stopper. How to create the power and energy adding layer along the way. 
Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
Still dancing – in my own purpose built studio I hope.

About Us

Getting to Know: Carmen Tormo

I met Carmen Tormo at the Dance Revolution studios in Sheffield with Jaleh Fallah.  They were considering doing the JWAAD accredited bellydance teaching diploma and wanted to know more about it.  They signed up for it and I enjoyed sharing Carmens journey through the course – and see how she has gone on to build on this and develop an international profile for herself.  She taught at Fantasia last year, the JWAAD bellydance Summer school and has taught twice at my Borwick weekend ‘Shimmy Up North‘.  Feedback from all her classes has been fantastic – I can highly recommend you try this session with Carmen.

How did you get into belly dance?
I have danced from a young age. I started off like most little girls with ballet and from there I did a bit of everything, like contemporary and flamenco. It was actually when I moved to the UK that I discovered bellydance! My first week at uni I was looking for activities to join and a friend suggested going to a bellydance class together. That was it, I was hooked. So much so that I ended up running the bellydance society for over two years!
Tell us a bit about your dance journey?
Bellydance wise, it all started off at uni.  I auditioned to get into Ashay dance troupe run by Nisha Lall. Whilst I was in Ashay I trained in many styles with Nisha and got to perform a lot all around the UK. It’s been non stop since then. I discovered the UK bellydance scene, at first dancing as a hobbie and then turning into a full-time passion of mine. I went to as many haflas, workshops and festivals as I could to train and gain performance experience. I started off my own classes in Sheffield which turned out to be very popular and ended up being booked to teach workshops around the UK. I decided that if I was going to really go for it as a dance teacher I needed as much background knowledge as I could get, so I contacted Kay Taylor about the JWAAD teaching diploma. This is where I realised just how much there is to know (and how little I knew!). I feel that I really got to understand this dance thanks to this course and also thanks to the  Cairo trips that I went on with Kay. When I completed my teaching diploma I moved back home to Spain where I have made dance my full time job, teaching at Rosadela’s Oriental Dance School and travelling around Europe to festivals with her.
You have made dance your full time job – what does a normal ‘dancers day’ look like for you?
It actually includes much less dance than you would think!! A lot of my day takes place in front of a computer. I think people don’t realise how much it takes to be a full time dancer, it’s not all glitz and glam. There is so much admin work to do – emails, updating your website, keeping your social media platforms up to date with your life, editing your pictures, preparing new content, looking for new music, finances..etc etc. I do most of my dancing in the evenings, I do 2-3 hours of dance daily. I also get most inspired in the evenings so if I have to prepare a choreography or plan a workshop I tend to do it in the evenings. It’s a non-stop job really 24/7 and there’s no real scheduled times, if I get inspired at 2am I have to get up and dance it off! 
Tell us about the competition you won.
I have won a few competitions now. Some in the UK, some in Spain and a couple in Russia. I think the most nerve racking has been the Russian one. I was at Cairo Mirage with Rosadela and I entered two categories  – one with live music and one with CD. If you’re on social media you know how good these Russian dancers are, they are breathtakingly beautiful, trully mesmerizing. I didn’t think I stood a chance, so I went on stage simply to enjoy myself and guess what – I won!! This past year with Rosadela I have trained very hard with her and polished my style and my look, so I feel this has really helped giving me the confidence to get on stage and simply breathe and enjoy myself!
You have studied belly dance in the UK and in Europe – what are the differences?
I feel that the main difference between bellydance in the UK and bellydance in Europe is that, in the UK there is more of a social aspect to it. There’s more of a “dancing as a hobbie” kinda vibe in the UK whilst in Europe a lot of the dancers train to “make it” in the bellydance world, which means training hard to keep up with the high standards set by the Russian and Ukranian dancers (including all the tricks,flicks and super flexibility). One thing that surprised me about Spain is that there are no haflas, everything is festivals. In the UK it’s the other way around, there are haflas pretty much every weekend. In Spain there are festivals every month with teachers coming from all around the world and competitions with top dancers as judges, so you get the opportunity to train with international stars on a monthly basis (if you have the finance to do so!). I personally like a bit of both, training hard and dancing my butt off at workshops and then having the social side with haflas where you can catch up with friends and have a relaxed boogie.  Here is a video of Carmen performing in Russia.
What do you like to do to relax?
Funnily enough, dance can also be part of my relaxing days. I love going to the theatre to watch other dancers perform, especially flamenco which has always been a passion of mine. I also love live music, my brothers are musicians so I go to a lot of gigs – these inspire me too! If I’m trully relaxing (Sunday vibes style) then it would be either going to the cinema and enjoying some popcorn with a good film or having a Netflix session at home binge watching something and eating some yummy food!!
What is your star sign?
I’m a Gemini! The twins rule my life and I really do feel it!
What is your favourite colour and why?
I looooove yellow! I remember when I bought my first ever professional bellydance costume. I was at JoY and walked past the Farida stall and saw this gorgeous yellow fabric (which happened to be a beautiful Hanan two piece). It was love at first sight. Yellow quite literally brightens up my day. Also turquoise blue, it reminds me of the sea which is my second home (I’m from the coast so the sea has a very important role in my life). Yellow and blue are my colours – like the sun and the sea!
At Fantasia you are teaching ‘Fantasy Oriental Veil’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
You can expect beautiful shapes and an oozey style that creates a beautiful oriental fantasy. We will learn to create that “wow” moment on stage when you use a prop in such a way that makes the audience go “oooh!”. That’s what I like to aim for! Creating magic on stage.
You are also chairperson of NADA (the UK magazine ’National Arabic Dance Association’).  Tell us a bit about NADA and how people can find out more:
NADA is a great opportunity for dancers to be up to date with what’s happening with dance (in the UK and internationally). Members can also enjoy the online tutorials we have from teachers from all around the UK and Ireland to drill different aspects of bellydance – from props, to zills to working with specific rhythms. We have more and more connections with European festivals which means members get discounts!! And most importantly our new festival with Farida Dance – Alba Orientale Festival in Edinburgh!! Last weekend of March 2020 you’ll be able to dance with Soraia Zaeid from Egypt, Rosadela (my mentor and inspiration!) from Spain, Yasmina of Cairo, Lorna of Cairo and a lot of the UK best teachers. NADA members get a discount!! So check out our timetable and join us for a weekend of dance.
What projects do you have planned that people might be interested in?
Alba Orientale Festival is my biggest project at the minute! I have many many plans for the NADA magazine – nationally and internationally, but these things need time and planning so you’ll have to keep an eye on the NADA site. I would also love to start a folkloric dance troupe – I have wanted to do so for quite a while now! So, keep an eye out on social media if this is something that interests you.
Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?
I would love to be travelling around the world teaching dance and meeting dancers from every country! I would like for NADA to be a meeting point for bellydancers in the UK and internationally! Lastly, I would hope that in 5 years we’d be celebrating the 5th edition of Alba Orientale Festival, bringing lots of bellydance to the UK and the best teachers for everyone to learn from. Basically I hope bellydance takes over the world and unites all the bellydancers out there and that it becomes as popular as it once was

About Us

Getting to know: Elizabeth Aitken

Elizabeth is a recently qualified JWAAD Bellydance Diploma teacher.  She taught for the first time this year at the JWAAD Bellydance summer school in Berkshire and her workshops were really well received.  I was also very impressed by her performance – she sizzled.  Read on to find out more about Elizabeth ….. and don’t miss her at this years Fantasia.

How did you get into belly dance?
I started bellydancing at a local class in Ely. This was my first go at any type of dancing. At the time I was shy and hid at the back of the class for the first few weeks. After a while I realised that I was quite good at it and I became a lot more confident.
I loved the music and I soon became hooked. I started to going to more workshops around the country and made copious notes. I wanted to learn as much as I could.

Tell us a bit about your bellydance journey – how did you end up teaching?
I was asked to provide cover while a local teacher was on holiday. I loved it. I realised I wanted to pass on my passion for this dance and give other ladies the same confidence boost I’d had. I signed up for the “JWAAD Safe Delivery of Belly Dance Classes” course and never looked back. I set up my own company Elysian Bellydance and began teaching straight away. Last year I completed the JWAAD Teaching Diploma and became a Mentor and Assessor.

What did you like most – and what did you like least – about teaching bellydance?
I like so many elements of teaching, the fun in class, seeing my girls perform or take on their first solo. I’d say the best part of teaching for me has to be the reward you get seeing your students transform or seeing that moment when something clicks and they “get-it”. What I enjoy least is the admin.

What do you like to do to relax?
I like a good glass of red and a Keanu film. I’ve also recently taken up Sivananda Hatha Yoga. It’s great for flexibility, strength and balance. It can be hard work but well worth the effort. I really enjoy the stretching, relaxation and breathing exercises.

What is your star sign?
It’s Libra!
The sign of balance symbolized by the scales. I definitely enjoy the times of equilibrium and peace in my life and like to keep things on an even keel.

What is your favourite colour and why?
I love mixes of bright colours. I expect that’s the Indian in me.

At the Fantasia bellydance festival you are teaching ‘Arabic Salsa’ – can you tell us a bit about what to expect:
Expect exuberance. I’m going to be teaching step patterns and combinations full of energy and attitude that dancers can use to spice up their own dance.

Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?

I’ll definitely be dancing!

Here is a link to Elizabeths web site and a video of her performing.

To find out about Fantasia and book your dancers day ticket click here.

JWAAD designs and delivers the only certified bellydance training accredited by a recognised awarding body at Level 3.

About Us

Teaching Bellydance Safely

**Jennifer Houle completed the JWAAD Safety course in 2016.  She has just written a blog about it and asked us if we would like to republish it.  It is always great to hear how useful people find this course.  Though it is particularly useful to those starting out teaching, I did it when I had already been teaching for several years and found it re-inforced my good teaching habits – and gave me the opportunity to rethink other elements.  Below is Jennifers blog.

Have you ever thought about belly dance teacher training? Back in 2016, I completed the JWAAD Belly Dance Training ‘Understanding Safety’ course which helped me take my first steps towards teaching belly dance. I chose a JWAAD course because it’s the only organization in the UK that offers belly dance courses which are externally accredited to the equivalent of a UK A-Level in complexity. Because of this, I was sure that the course would cover a lot of useful information in-depth and be academically rigorous. Why am I talking about it now if I completed it back in 2016? I’ve just signed up for the JWAAD ‘Understanding Music’ course for early next year, so I have JWAAD on my mind 😊.

What to expect during the course? You’ll find a general overview on the JWAAD website. During the first weekend of the course, we learned most of the information presented on the course through a mixture of formal teaching sessions and experiential learning. We also got set our assignments. Then, we went away and did our assignments, which I found to be difficult but very worthwhile to help me learn the material. On the second weekend, we learned more information, completed our practical assessments, and submitted our portfolio of evidence.

Safety course students and tutors

I found all of the course information to be extremely useful and applicable to me as I was starting my belly dance teaching journey. Some of it, like health and safety, was fairly common sense, but other information, like anatomy, would have been hard to pick up on my own. For me, the anatomy section was the hardest, but one of the most useful. It’s very helpful as a dancer and a teacher to know how muscles and joints operate. For example, joints only work in certain planes of movement so you or your students shouldn’t be trying to ‘twist your knee’ as this is anatomically impossible. I enjoyed learning about and practicing breaking down belly dance moves – an essential skill to have as a belly dance teacher.  This information, and more, gave me the confidence that I could teach belly dance safely without injuring my students.

We had two main practical assessments on the second weekend. The first was a practical warm-up assessment. We designed a warm-up using safe dance principles we learned on the first weekend, and taught it to our fellow students on the second weekend. It was slightly nerve-wracking teaching while being observed for assessment. I did manage to pass, and got some very useful feedback on areas to improve in future warm-ups. I still use a variation of that warm-up for my classes today.

The second assessment was a technique review where we performed various belly dance moves one-to-one with a tutor and were subsequently given a level. You don’t need to have a particular level of technique to pass the safety course, but you do if you wish to progress to the full teaching diploma. I was already familiar with JWAAD bellydance technique from the Personal Development Programme, so I felt prepared for the assessment. For someone unfamiliar with the JWAAD style, I think it would be very difficult to score highly on the assessment. The standards are a higher level than many local classes, so even though I had been dancing for several years, I only scored as ‘improver’. That wasn’t a surprise to me, but some course-mates were disappointed that they did not score as highly as they thought they should have.  

Overall, the course was hugely beneficial to me. Though not all of the information was brand-new to me, much of it was. Attending the course gave me the tools I needed to start teaching belly dance, and reaffirmed that I was on the right track with regards to dance teaching. I would recommend it to any belly dancers starting on their dance teaching journey!

** Thanks to Jennifer for sending this to us.  For those unfamiliar with JWAAD technique, there is a whole resource area you can access in advance of the course – click here.  
Also if you want to find out more about Jennifer and read her other blogs, click here.

JWAAD bellydance training designs and delivers certified bellydance courses accredited by an awarding body.  Our certified bellydance training is of ‘A’ level complexity but designed to mix academic and practical application.

About Us

More about ……. Dorte Evelyn aka Ishtar Dance

I have known Dorte for quite a few years now and been impressed by her dedication to bellydance and how she has created her business around this.  In particular her on line tutorials and the thought put into her blogs.  If you haven’t seen these, I recommend looking them up.  Dorte is one of the teachers on our accredited courses as well as mentoring several dancers through the JWAAD Bellydance Personal Development Programme.  She is one of the JWAAD Level 3 master bellydance teachers.  Read more about her below.  Come and try a class with her at Fantasia this year.

How did you get into belly dance?

I had trained in various dance forms and was a ballroom and Latin champion, before discovering belly dance during a working visit to the Middle East. I fell in love with it straight away and have never looked back.

Tell us a bit about your bellydance journey – how did you end up teaching?

I started dancing whilst in in the Middle East, and when I returned to my native Denmark I signed up to weekly classes straight away. There was only a choice of 2 teachers in my city, and soon I was taking classes with both of them and started performing at Turkish clubs and hotels. It all went so quickly, possibly due to my extensive dance training in other styles, and within 3-4 years I was asked to start teaching, and my educationalist background really helped. I also helped set up the Aarhus Oriental Dance Society – the second largest belly dance society in Denmark at the time, but soon after I relocated to England to pursuit my career.

What did you like most – and what did you like least – about teaching bellydance?

I love it when I see my students have a break through, and experience that ‘aha moment’, it’s priceless, as it when I see may student perform something I know they’ve worked really hard on, and look effortless and joyful in the moment.
The thing I least like, is when I see real talented dancers give up or get sidetracked from their dancing. Life often gets in the way, but it’s hard when I seen them give it up and lose all that joy and talent. Other the other hand it’s a amazing when they come back again, like one of my students who popped up in class after 5 years away.

You write a successful on line blog – and teach on line tutorials –
how did this come about?  And how easy is it to keep fresh?


Checking notes

I’ve always enjoyed writing, and answer my students questions, so that’s how it started, as a reply to some of the questions I’d get in class or at workshops. The tutorials came as an extension of that, because people would contact me and tell me they wished they could attend my classes because they really enjoyed my teaching style and ethos. I’m currently working on some new formats and online lessons, so stay tuned as it will all go live in the autumn. People who follow my blog via email newsletters will be the first to know, so you can also sign up via

You have a young son – how do you manage motherhood with your bellydance

That is probably the hardest balance to get right. I was back out performing and teaching again only 3 months after having him, and in line sight I would have taken a much longer maternity leave. But it can be really difficult if you’ve already got the bookings in the diary and don’t want to loose regular gigs. I still remember breastfeeding him in full costume before and after performances. It was very surreal as I was so worried to lactate on the costumes! I have scaled my performing schedule down since and now try to balance out late nights with lots of quality time during the day. He loves dancing with me, but hates it when I start putting make up on, as he knows I’ll be leaving to perform.

What do you like to do to relax?

Spending time with my little boy is my main relaxation – and I love being outdoors, whether thats’ in my own allotment, or when I’m visiting friends and family, who all live relatively close to the coast. But dancing in itself is a great moving meditation for me, and I get terribly grumpy if I don’t get to dance every day.

What is your star sign?

Aries – so very much living in my head, which is probably why I need to dance so much so I can feel and connect with my body.

What is your favourite colour and why?

It depends on my mood, but purple and pinks are never far away. Purple because it can be very sensual yet elegant, and pink because it screams happiness.

At Fantasia you are teaching ‘Build your baladi’ – can you tell us
a bit about what to expect:

It’s only a short session, but I hope we will have time to explore the essence of baladi, the feel, key moves and combinations, and then move on to build a choreography. We will also explore different baladi moods and personas, so that everyone can put their own personality and favourite moves into the choreography and not least feel confident when they create their own in the future.  See Dorte performing some baladi here
To find out more about the Fantasia bellydance festival in Camden, London, click here

Lastly, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?

Travel the world with my little boy to show him what an amazing planet we live on, and hopefully do lots of dancing along the way. I hope my online bellydance tutorials and classes will still be going strong, as I can then deliver them whilst exploring the world with my family. We all love travelling together, and I love teaching and performing all over the world, because I always meet such amazing people, that I know I otherwise wouldn’t have met.


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