Belly Dance Moving Across the Floor (I)- Technique, Playlists, and YouTube Links

Classic New York-Style Belly Dance with Veil (I): Class Notes, Playlists, and YouTube Links

Step-Touch (Linear Walk), Step-Ball-Ball, and Rocking Rhumba

First step is opening up and getting our connection flowing again.


Warm-Ups (In-Place)

  • Simple drop-down-and-reach-up, with veil (use music Diaspora from Spain, see link above),
  • Simple in-place gyrations – emphasize whole-body movement – with veil (same music as above).


YouTube Vids for Reference

A more complex walk, the “Turkish Walk,” to do later: Learn to belly dance: the Turkish walk .

Related Blog Posts

Master Class Study

Preps for Turns and Spins


Very best wishes as you use Oriental dance (belly dance) for personal growth and healing!

Yours in dance –

Alay'nya - author of <a href="">Unveiling: The Inner Journey</a>
Alay’nya – author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

Author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey
You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus. Become the Jewel!

Founder and Artistic Director, The Alay’nya Studio
Bellydance a courtesan would envy!

Check out Alay’nya’s YouTube Channel
Connect with Alay’nya on Facebook
Follow Unveiling: The Inner Journey on Facebook



Alay’nya, Unveiling: The Inner Journey





Copyright, 2016 (c). All rights reserved.

Winter Quarter Studies, 2017

Dear All – We had a great kick-off class on Saturday, Dec. 3rd!

Here are some links to help you start your at-home practice, as an adjunct to what we will be doing this Winter Quarter:

Winter is the Season of Pentacles; it deals with the element of Earth. So, during Winter, we do grounding and anchoring types of things. We work with solid, percussive rhythms that help us connect with our Earth-Mother. We work with zills and complex rhythms. We do drum solos.

Here are some posts-from-the-past on these topics:

And since this site is getting a total overhaul and update, why not begin at the beginning? The very first blog post – from 2003:

Too Cold to Get Out of Bed?

Belly Dance When It’s Just TOO COLD!

Sometimes, it's too cold to get out of bed.
Sometimes, it’s too cold to get out of bed.

Sometimes, it’s just too damn cold.

A self-respecting cat will just stay under the covers.

But with the cold – and for many of us, the snow-shoveling – our lower backs get tight.

More than not fun, this actually gets a little dangerous.

Risk of pulled muscles, all that.

So what’s a cat to do?

Stay under the covers and stretch!


Yes, Sometimes We’re Amazon Warriors

Robert Fusaro Sensei, 8th-Dan, Shotokan Karate, <a href="">Midwest Karate Association</a>.
Robert Fusaro Sensei, 8th-Dan, Shotokan Karate, Midwest Karate Association. (Photo from

Years ago, I studied Shotokan karate with world-renowned Robert Fusaro Sensei. (He’s now Eighth-Dan; that is – 8th-degree black belt – first and only Caucasian to reach that rank, I believe.) He still teaches in Minneapolis, MN, where it is even colder than it is here in the Mid-Atlantic this week.

Fusaro Sensei has brought many of his students to a high level, including several women who have reached 4th and 5th-Dan (4th and 5th-degree black belts).

Fusaro Sensei has always shown great respect for the dance art, and has particularly complimented Cassandra, who teaches Oriental dance in Minneapolis. (At one point, Fusaro Sensei and Cassandra shared studio space. Not the same classes, mind you!)

Here’s an Unveiling excerpt about studying with Fusaro Sensei:

One winter morning, with the temperature about 15 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit), I showed up with other students for the 6:30 AM class. The furnace had gone out over night, and they were awaiting repairs. The top floor dojo was icy cold. Harsh, northwest winds buffeted the exterior walls, stripping away the meager warmth provided by kerosene heaters. Our feet cringed against the frigid floor as we donned our karate gi’s. Leading us slowly and carefully through warm-up stretches, Fusaro Sensei gazed at us firmly. “This is Bushido [“way of the warrior”] training,” he said. Fusaro Sensei taught us to take all of our life experiences as part of our training and overall development – including an early-morning cold dojo!

From Unveiling: The Inner Journey, Chapter 23: “In Praise of a Few Good Men,” p. 324.

Bushido training appeals to us when we’re in our Amazon Warrior mode.

But sometimes, we want to be in Hathor mode; accessing our inner goddess of sensuality and pleasure.

So what do we do when our backs are tight, and when there’s still more snow to shovel?

We do The Most Luscious, Nurturing, Feel-Good Thing You Can Do. Yes, this is my post from this time, last year. And if you’re going to read just one post from me – read this one. (Hint – it’s about figure-eights – and their connection with our vital energy> – and you can practice in bed!)


Raising Our Internal Energy (When We Don’t Feel Like Moving)


Sometimes, before we even change into dance clothes, or do warm-ups, we need to get our energy going first. Then we can get the physical body into action.

Check out this lovely Energy-Raising YouTube with energy healer Carol Tuttle. The clip itself is only about six minutes, and once you’ve learned the energy-raising techniques, you can do them in about a minute. You can do this while waiting for coffee to brew, while microwaving a quick breakfast, or even to take a break at your desk. (Not that obtrusive, and you don’t need special clothes.) Check it out – I just did, this is fun!


Very best wishes as you use Oriental dance (belly dance) for expressing those aspects of yourself that come out only when you dance!

Yours in dance –

Alay'nya - author of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"
Alay’nya – author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

Author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey
You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus. Become the Jewel!

Founder and Artistic Director, The Alay’nya Studio
Bellydance a courtesan would envy!

Check out Alay’nya’s YouTube Channel
Connect with Alay’nya on Facebook
Follow Unveiling: The Inner Journey on Facebook






Copyright (c) 2014, Alay’nya. All rights reserved.

Related Posts: Winter Dancing

Related Posts: Winter – Esoteric Energy Dance for the Season of Pentacles (Metaphysical Element of Earth)

Dancer’s Archives: Classic Drum Solos (DVD & YouTube)

Dancer’s Archives: Classic Drum Solos (DVD & YouTube)

Morocco in Bahlam Beek & Drum Solo – the drum solo starts at minute 7; a solid 3 1/2 minutes.

One of the most fascinating things about watching the really great dancers is their sense of humor – something missing from some of the younger ones.

Morocco accompanies the drummer throughout on this piece with expertly-played zills (at a tempo and with patterns that few dancers today can match). Generally, playing zills during the drum solo is a “no-no.” The idea is that the only musician playing during a musical “solo” is – indeed – the solo musician. Zills are a musical instrument, hence, the dancer should not compete (musically) with the drummer.

However, great dancers can break all the rules.

This one is worth watching.

Dalie Carella opens an improvisation with a drum solo.

Mid-East Darbouka Drum Rhythms

Five drum rhythms: baladi, ayube, masmoudi, malfouf, & karsilama

Malfuf rhythm

Top ten drum rhythms: Maqsoum, Baladi, Ayub, Malfuf, Saidi, Masmoudi, Chiftetelli, Fellahi, Khaleegy, Wahda

Four Ways to Play the Maqsoum, posted Dec. 10, 2016, 7PM.

Veil Dancing – A Beautiful Instructional YouTube Clip

Belly Dance Veil Instructional YouTube Vid by Imei Hsu Shows Softness, Sensitivity, Technique

Too many of us in Oriental dance have performances that are heavy on the glitz and glamour – all brightly-colored, sequined and beaded costumes, big smiles – and not enough sensitivity and depth of emotional feeling.

One of the best ways to enrich our emotional repertoire is by dancing with a veil.

Anahid Sofian, Master Teacher of Oriental dance.
Anahid Sofian, Master Teacher of Oriental dance.

Veil dancing gives us mystery and depth.

I learned this from two of my master teachers in Oriental dance, Anahid Sofian and Elena Lentini.

Both of these teachers were renowned for their flowing and expressive veil movements.

In Chapter 4 of Unveiling: The Inner Journey, I describe one of Anahid’s favorite veil drapes, the “Turkish turtleneck.”

In Unveiling’s Chapter 26: Selective Revelation, I share a powerful lesson that Anahid taught me.

Unveiling: The Inner Journey currently has twenty 5-star reviews. It includes many vignettes of studies with leading teachers of Oriental dance.
Unveiling: The Inner Journey currently has twenty 5-star reviews. It includes many vignettes of studies with leading teachers of Oriental dance.

From Unveiling: The Inner Journey:

What was it that Anahid had, and that I had totally forgotten?

Simply, it was the power of holding something back.

In my dance, I had started the way that many dancers start these days; holding my veil behind me, and using it to frame myself as I moved across the floor. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, if the music is very active and dynamic, theis can be a great dance opening! However (and this is important), this approach lacks the power of mystery and suggestion.

In the dance that Anahid showed me, she started by staying in one place, with the veil wrapped around herself. She held the veil edges in such a way that her hands were covered. She held her hands high enough so that, with the veil wrapped around her from behind, it covered her face as well. [pp. 359-360]

Where Can We Learn Good Veil Techniques on YouTube?

Imei Hsu does Veil Bellydance for Emotional Performance as a YouTube video clip.
Imei Hsu does Veil Bellydance for Emotional Performance as a YouTube video clip.

In last week’s Alay’nya Studio blog, I shared one of my favorite recent finds – a YouTube vid veil performance by Imei Hsu: Bellydance Veil for Emotional Performance.

Today – in preparation for this week’s class, and for those of you who are studying with me “virtually” – let me recommend two of Imei’s instructional vids.

Basic Veil Openings and Movements

If you are just beginning your veil work, start with: Imei Hsu’s How-To Veil Basics. Although she starts even beginners with a 3 1/2 yard veil (and recommends 4 yards for taller students), her techniques are very accessible; within a short time, even a beginner can be using these techniques and looking very good.

Soft, Graceful, and Emotionally-Rich Veil Openings and Movements

Melina, of Daughters of Rhea, teaches Greco-Turkish Oriental dance.
Melina, of Daughters of Rhea, teaches Greco-Turkish Oriental dance. Photo by Najmat.

Imei has a second, slightly more advanced tutorial: Imei’s Advanced Belly Dance with Veil YouTube Instructional Vid.

If you have problems loading this clip by clicking on the link above (YouTube is being just a tad bit tetchy today), then open a browser in YouTube, and enter the key words:
Imei Hsu Belly Dance Seattle Classes How To Dance With a Veil – you’re looking for a vid clip that is 8 minutes 14 seconds long. That should get you there.

Once again, here’s the link to Imei’s Advanced Belly Dance with Veil YouTube Instructional Vid.

I like this clip because it breaks down several of the techniques taught to me by Anahid and Elena. Imei credits Melina (of Daughters of Rhea) with some of her techniques.

Here are some special points to note:

  • Longer-than-average veil allows more flexibility with dance opening moves. Imei favors a 3 1/2 yard veil. Most veils today come in 2 1/2 yard and 3 yard sizes. When you go to a 3 1/2 yard veil, it is a bit more difficult (especially for shorter dancers), but the increased vocabulary range makes it worthwhile.
  • Emotionally-compelling dances often begin by keeping yourself fully veiled from view. Imei shows two lovely variations on how to enter covered with your veil, where one of the long ends is tucked into your hip belt. The veil can be draped so it covers your head and torso, either coming up from the front, or swooshed to the back and draping down over your front. Both are lovely and give a subtle sense of mystery and drama to your opening moves.
  • Your longer veil gives you more options for framing and partial draping. Imei shows how you can frame yourself from behind, or throw your veil over one shoulder and arm – while still keeping the tail end tucked in your sash. There’s a lot of choreographic and expressive flexibility with these moves.
  • Lovely way to frame your hips for shimmies. Imei shows a very pretty and useful way to have the veil close-held and yet frame your hips, about 3 min, 40 seconds into this clip.
  • Beautiful “Z” movements – can be combined with turns. This section is very reminiscent of some of Elena Lentini’s movements; about 5 minutes into this clip. A dramatic flip-up, followed by “double-Z’s” is very reminiscent of what I’ve learned from Elena! (About 5 min, 40 seconds in.)
  • Veil work – with back to audience – can be a lovely lead-in to shimmies. See a section about 6 minutes in. Imei shows the same movement she just did previously, with back to you (the audience; the camera), followed by a little in-place shimmy. Delightful!
  • Play with your veil as though it were your dance partner. Imei’s concluding technique demonstrations – starting about 6 1/2 minutes in – show a beautiful veil change-of-pattern embedded into an in-place turn; this was new to me and very worth learning. She follows with a segment on holding the veil (more or less) steady in front while doing a turn – I prefer to hold the veil more taut for this. (Petite Jamilla shows this beautifully on her DVD, Unveiled.) Her concluding techniques are both lovely and dramatic, and well worth mastering.

If you are studying with me – either in-person or virtually – please review both of these YouTube clips before class on Sunday.

Right after Sunday’s class, I’ll post a very quick little “class review notes” blog. It will cover techniques and micro-choreographies that will be our homework for the coming week.

Whether you’re with me in person or at a distance, please do chime in with your comments as we move through Autumn Quarter, devoted to emotionally-expressive movements in Oriental dance!

Very best wishes as you use Oriental dance (belly dance) for expressing those aspects of yourself that come out only when you dance!

Yours in dance –

Alay'nya - author of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"
Alay’nya – author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

Author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey
You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus. Become the Jewel!

Founder and Artistic Director, The Alay’nya Studio
Bellydance a courtesan would envy!

Check out Alay’nya’s YouTube Channel
Connect with Alay’nya on Facebook
Follow Unveiling: The Inner Journey on Facebook





Copyright (c) 2013, Alay’nya. All rights reserved.

Related Posts: Veil Dancing

Related Posts: Autumn – Esoteric Energy Dance for the Season of Cups (Metaphysical Element of Water)

Spring – the “Season of Air” (and Veils, Turns, Spins, and Swords)

Spring – the Season of Air (and Veils, Turns, Spins, and Swords)

Metaphysically, the Season of Spring is associated with the “element” of Air.

In fact, the “seasonal correspondences” are:

  • Winter – “Sign” of Pentacles, “Element” of Earth
  • Spring – “Sign” of Swords, “Element” of Air
  • Summer – “Sign” of Rods, “Element” of Fire
  • Autumn – “Sign” of Cups, “Element” of Water

In our Studio, we connect our dance practice (on all levels; physical, emotional, mental, energetic, and spiritual) to the various Seasons. This simply makes it simpler and easier for us to organize our focus.

Thus, during Spring, we turn our attention to topics relating to the “sign” of Swords, and the “element” of Air.

Naturally, this means that Spring is our favored time for veil dances, especially those involving movement across the floor – as if we were propelled by a strong March wind! We do “air-like” movements such as:

  • Movements across the Floor – various steps and movement patterns,
  • Veil Patterns in Space – learn a rich variety of “veil patterns,” particularly those that flow as we move,
  • Spins and Turns – study a wide range of spinning and turning techniques, and learn how to fit them both into “static” (in-place) choreographies as well as how they give structure and interest to “movements across the floor,” and
  • Transitions – how to go from static to moving, and vice versa. Lots of wonderful little insights and skills here!
  • In addition, of course, we also use Spring as the time for studying swords; both the practical movements (and choreographies) involving sword dances, and the psychological components – especially how to create tension and drama.

    Posts during this Season of Air will include:

    • Music Resources – favorites for moving across the floor, with match-ups between music selections (and specific sections within the music) and suggested techniques/movements,
    • Technique Resources -technique notes together with links to the best YouTube links that we can find, illustrating specific kinds of spins, turns, and “movements across the floor”, along with veil and sword techniques, and
    • Dance Resources – both DVDs and YouTube links,

    Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus
    You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus.
    Become the Jewel!

    You study and perform belly dance (Oriental dance) because it brings forth a special aspect of who you are – the full range of your emotional expressiveness; both the sensual and sacred aspects of your being.

    Join me – get the latest on how to become the jewel (a fully expressive you) in the heart of the lotus (your life, and all that surrounds you)!

    Be the first to know about upcoming events, valuable online tips and training guides, and all that will help you create yourself as the jewel in the heart of the lotus!

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    Do you have a suggestion? Email us. Send us your best recommendations for music, DVDs, and YouTubes to: alaynya (at) alaynya (dot) com. Those whose recommendations are adopted will get back-links to their own websites!

    Alay'nya - author of "Unveiling: The Inner Journey"
    Alay’nya – author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey

    Very best wishes as you make your dances more sensual, interesting, and exciting by including a veil!

    Yours in dance –

    Author of Unveiling: The Inner Journey
    You are the Jewel in the Heart of the Lotus. Become the Jewel!

    Founder and Artistic Director, The Alay’nya Studio
    Bellydance a courtesan would envy!

    Check out Alay’nya’s YouTube Channel
    Connect with Alay’nya on Facebook
    Follow Unveiling: The Inner Journey on Facebook

    “Alay’nya brings divine sensuality to women in the ancient forum of dance. This book is delightful.” – Dr. Christiane Northrup, New York Times best-selling author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause.

    Copyright (c) 2013, Alay’nya. All rights reserved.

    Related Posts: Veil Dancing

Curriculum Overview for the Coming Year

Curriculum Overview for the Alay’nya Studio – Studying by the Season (Part I)

Recently, I was counseling one of my young dancers. It was like talking to myself, when I was her age. Exactly the same issues.

Around the same time, I’ve been hearing from one of my other proteges, a brilliant young woman who is more than half-ways towards getting her doctorate in a particularly challenging field. Again, the same issues that I had when I was her age.

These two young woman – both intelligent, goal-oriented, and motivated – are struggling with a set of challenges that many of us face. Each of us may recognize ourselves in the feelings that they’ve shared. Many of us, all too often, feel fatigued and overwhelmed by our workloads.

What Do Women Need? And What Do Women Want?

Overwhelmed? It can happen to any of us.

We need more than a way to extricate ourselves from too many tasks and responsibilities.

What we really want is a way to release ourselves from our own expectations.

We often feel discouraged when we recognize that we’ve created our own “prison” of demands and expectations.

Alay’nya’s Story

I certainly felt this way, almost three decades ago, when I first discovered Oriental dance.

Prior to that time, I’d been – as many of us are – largely male-identified. That means, I’d defined my self-worth in terms of my ability to succeed in exactly the same areas, and with exactly the same set of criteria and expectations, that men used to vie for their power-and-success games.

Side Note: Do you want my full story? It’s in the Introduction to Unveiling: The Inner Journey, and you can read it using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature for Unveiling!

My Story Is Your Story Is the Story of All Women Today

In a sense, my dear sisters, we’ve set ourselves up for this.

This situation – one which confronts many women, worldwide – is a result of over two hundred years of work, by several generations of women, to gain “equal footing” with men.

We have, most fortunately, been successful.

This success, however, has come with a price.

Now that we can have equal opportunities with men – whether to get an education, hold jobs and advance in our careers, own property, run for office, or (most recently) fight along with men on the battlefield – we now expect that we should do this – and do this competitively with men, while at the same time maintaining all of our traditional “feminine” roles.

Exhaustion? Burnout? Fatigue? No wonder!

The challenge, dear sister, is not the opportunities or even the expectations.

The challenge lies within our dominant reference frame.

That means, the challenge is not so much with the work or the tasks themselves, but in how we evaluate ourselves, and how we create a mindset of what we should be doing, and how we should be focusing our minds, attention, and energy.

If we use a masculine-oriented reference frame, then we’re setting ourselves up for a no-win situation, simply because we’re not men. That means, no matter much we succeed at doing what men typically do, we’re not acknowledging that what we really need – for our personal growth and satisfaction – is something a bit different.

So what do we need? And what do we want?

The Simple Answer

For many of us, the answer is: is a body/mind/psyche/energy integration pathway. In fact, we need an integration pathway specifically designed for women.

At this point you, my dear reader, might nod and say, “Sounds good. But what exactly is a body/mind/psyche/energy integration pathway?”

Good question. And a particularly appropriate one if you’re seeking to reclaim what would once have been your heritage-by-rights.

Sometimes, we just need a lifeline. (Image from Learning To Share .)

In short, a body/mind/psyche/energy integration pathway is a lifeline. It’s something that touches (and yes, integrates) all aspects of your life.

What Makes a Pathway Work for Us?

Waterfall stairs images by Aubrey Hord

Whatever we select as a body/mind/psyche/energy integration pathway has to be something that – more than anything else – helps us connect. It has to help us connect our feelings (psyche) with our bodies. It has to help us connect our internal energy work (ch’i circulation) with our minds.

Most of all, this integration pathway has to give us a powerful reference frame for understanding our lives, for making decisions, and for evaluating our priorities. (And we keep in mind that our “priorities” can range from large to small: Should we pursue and advanced degree or not? Should we go out and play with our girlfriends or stay home, organize paperwork, and pay bills?)

An integration pathway gives us a reference frame for understanding and consciously directing our lives.

This integration pathway has to be practical. It has to give us “stuff to do” – on a nearly everyday basis – or we’ll forget and wander off. At the same time, it has to help us with the “big picture.”

That’s why, in the Alay’nya Studio, we have a “course of study” that involves all aspects of who we are. We have the physical practice, and we connect that to emotional release work. We have energy cultivation and circulation exercises, and we connect that with releasing thoughts that our mind has used to keep us “stuck” in various ways.

In order to give ourselves some structure, we have a “course of study.” Our program derives from the Kabbalah, or the Tree of Life – the oldest known guide for human spiritual growth and understanding.

What we do with our bodies connects with our emotions, our thoughts, and our energy patterns. And so on.

“See Spot Run” – A Simple Approach to Our Course of Study

An early "Dick and Jane" primer.
An early “Dick and Jane” primer. A classic sentence is “See Spot run.”

When we were children and first learning how to read, we didn’t start by picking up the Encyclopedia Britannica, or by embarking on Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Picture from an early Dick and Jane primer

Rather, our first books showed us a happy dog, with the phrase “See Spot run.”

Using a “primer book” when we were children didn’t mean that we were dummies. It just meant that we were learning something new, and we needed all the help that we could get. Pictures helped.

Right now, starting our body/mind/psyche/energy integration pathway, we’re again going to use pictures. Our “picture book” comes from the Tarot. There are two portions of the Tarot; the Major Arcana (22 cards) and the Minor Arcana (40 numbered cards and 16 face cards). We’re not concerning ourselves here with fortune-telling or divination. Rather, we’re looking at the Major and Minor Arcana as a picture-guide for our study. For us, the cards function much like a Powerpoint (TM) deck.

We use the Minor Arcana as a picture-guide for our study; somewhat like a Powerpoint (TM) syllabus overview.

The Minor Arcana: Forty “Study Topics” During the Year

For our day-to-day (and weekly class) studies, we use the Minor Arcana. These cards give us a step-by-step approach to practical spiritual and psychological mastery. They also indicate energy practices, which we include in our dance training.

Side Note: The Major Arcana deal with our “big life issues.” We study these also during the course of the year. In particular, we study the first six Major Arcana, which correspond to Psychological Types, as identified by Carl Jung. (There are two other Psychological Types not included in the Major Arcana, these are the “battery reserve” archetypes. For details, read Unveiling, Chapters 7 & 11, and consult ongoing topics in the Unveiling blog.)

Tree in Four Seasons
Tree in four seasons, from The Emmaus Road

We divide our study into “quarters,” much like a college does that works on a “quarter system.”

We work with the esoteric traditional of assigning each quarter (Winter, Spring, etc.) to one of the “four elements.”

Many of us know that the 22 Major Arcana cards relate not only to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, but also to the 22 defined “pathways” in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The cards in the Minor Arcana also relate to the Tree of Life. There are ten Sephiroth (centers) in the Tree of Life, and there are four “worlds.”

The four suites in the Minor Arcana relate to the four “worlds” in the Kabbalah.

Each “element” has a set of qualities associated with it, and a particular focus of attention. Our curriculum will include intellectual study, spiritual disciplines, emotional release work, energy cultivation exercises, and (of course) dance movements and techniques and choreographies:

  • Winter: Season of Earth (pentacles, the physical body, a “feminine” season),
  • Spring:Season of Air (swords, the mind, a “masculine” season),
  • Summer: Season of Fire (rods, the spirit, a “masculine” season), and
  • Autumn: Season of Water (cups, the emotional realm, a “feminine” season).

Beginner’s Lesson 1: Warm-Ups, Energy Work, Techniques, & Choreography

Beginner’s Lesson 1: Introduction to Esoteric Belly Dance with the Alay’nya Studio

Warm-Ups, Energy Work (the Cabbalistic Cross), Energy Circulation (Introduction), Principles (Anchoring), Basic Techniques, Introduction to Music and Rhythm, Introduction to Choreography

This is a study guide and reference serving three groups:

  • active members of the Alay’nya Studio,
  • those who are visiting from out-of-town, or coming in for an “introductory visit,”
  • those who wish to study with us “at a distance” – you can be living in any portion of the world, from Athens, Greece to Athens, TN.

Look throughout this blogpost for homework assignments; follow the links and be prepared to use what you’ve studied with the online materials when you come to class!


We typically use the same warm-up music each time; Cuts 1 – 7 (all or in part) of Beyond the Sky, by Omar Farouk Tekbilek and Brian Keane. We’ll have the same warm-up pattern each time. You’ll get detailed handouts in class (“Warming Up with Alay’nya”) until you’ve built up a notes collection for the entire warm-up sequence.

Energy Boundaries: The Cabbalistic Cross

Our first step with energy work is to define our space. We do this by setting a boundary – circumscribing the area in which we will work. To do this, one of our mainstay “practices” is the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. (Please note: All words within this ritual are to focus our attention on aspects or emanations of G*d, or to invoke the protective presence of the archangels.

In the first class, we will learn and practice a dance version of the Cabbalistic Cross, which is the first part of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP). The words that you will learn and vibrate are:

(Those of you who are steeped in the Christian tradition of reciting the Lord’s Prayer, or in the similar Jewish tradition, will note that these phrases are drawn from those prayers.)

Our music for this etude will ultimately be Anahat on Zaman by Kairo by Night.

Energy Circulation and Breath Control: Drawing Energy (Ch’i) Up Your Spine

In the Beginner’s Series, we develop a number of energy-circulation movement patterns (or etudes). Our first one helps us to bring energy up our spines. We bring it to each of seven different “energetic way-stations.” (Later on, we’ll learn how to connect these to chakras.)

Our music for this etude is the beautiful Gayatri Mantra on Saffron Blue by Rasa.

As you listen to this music (do so online), you’ll note that the word-sequence or change is repeated seven times. We’ll ultimately use all seven; each for a different energy center.

In preparation for the first class, listen to the music, and read along using the translation.

While doing this, we’ll use a series of mudras, which are hand gestures that help open our energy centers, circulate energy, and encourage certain mental/emotional states. Specifically, we’re going to use two mudras that open our two lower chakra areas. Note that the two sounds that we’ll use are LAM and VAM, with the two respective mudras.

As we do this etude, we will also incorporate a breathing pattern – a very simple aspect of pranayama. We use only a very simple three-part breathing pranayama for this etude. We will have a pause (or retention of breath) after each inhalation and exhalation. We’ll use the four phrases of the Gayatri Mantra to cue our inhalation, retention, exhalation, and pause.

First Principle: Anchoring

We take a Principles-based approach to learning the dance movements. Each Principle gives us a kinesthetic and internal-image “cue” or “trigger” that helps us to align or move our body in a certain way. There are seven basic, or Static (non-moving) Principles that we’ll seek to learn during the Beginner’s Introductory Classes. The first Principle that we’ll learn is Anchoring. This is discussed in Unveiling: The Inner Journey, in Chapter 22: “Looking Like a Dancer (Even If You’re Not).”

Techniques: Hip Drops and Hip Thrusts

When we use the first Principle of Anchoring to align our pelvis, then all our pelvic and hip techniques come about automatically. We simply “discover” that they are there, waiting to be used! Over the first several weeks of the Beginner’s Introductory Classes, we’ll learn an etude that lets us practice lots of different hip movement techniques, particularly hip thrusts and hip drops, together with transitions, step patterns, pelvic circles, and other moves. Our music for this will be The Magic in Your Eyes (Cut #1) on Hossam Ramzy’s Source of Fire.

Music Analysis

We will start our musical analysis with the opening portions of Hossam Ramzy’s Source of Fire. There will be a take-home worksheet for this.


Dream Dancer

Time permitting, we will start two or three mini-choreographies. Specifically, we’ll focus on creating “choreographic units” – small sections that we can match onto a section of different pieces of music.

Cool-Down & Meditation

We’ll close the class with a cool-down section. We often use Beautiful Friend on Dream Dancer by Light Rain as a gentle and beautiful cool-down. This is something that we can develop later for arm and hand work, along with undulations and some turns and rhumba movements.

See you in class. Namaste – Alay’nya

"Return to the Goddess" by Suzanna del Vecchio – The "Challenge Dance" for Autumn 2012

Return to the Goddess (a Chifti Telli) by Suzanna del Vecchio – The “Challenge Dance” for Alay’nya Studio Members; Autumn, 2012

Challenge Dance for Alay’nya Studio Members: Autumn, 2012

Every quarter we select a different challenge dance: one that is sure to push us to our limits, both technically and artistically. Each challenge dance is one done by a world-class dancer, and available for all to watch via a YouTube clip or other (free) web-based source.

For the Autumn, 2012 quarter, we’re selecting Suzanna del Vecchio’s beautifully-rendered
Return to the Goddess from her DVD, Dances From the Heart. This is set to a beautiful chifti telli by Alan Bachman (Desert Wind).

The music for this dance is the Isis Chiftitelli, on Alan Bachman’s Kali Ma, and is one of the most-loved songs in the Oriental dance community.

Members of the Alay’nya Studio should begin by studying the portion of Suzanna’s dance that they can watch online, and practicing the first minute with her. (This would be up to the point where she starts circling the floor while doing a rib circle.

Be very careful about easing into your backbend. In our class, we’ll modify that aspect of choreography and defer it (for each student) until she can safely and confidently and comfortably do a backbend facing away from the audience (so that when she moves into the backbend itself, she’s looking “back” to see the audience and they can see her face.)

Alay’nya doing a backbend during Red Phoenix. Photo by Crystal Barnes. Used with permission.

How to Prepare for Your First Class in Belly Dance

Advance Preparation Makes All the Difference in Learning Oriental Dance (Belly Dance)

Darlings – I have a confession to make.

If you’re tracking this blog at all, you’ll know that we’re having our first Open House in over two years. For all practical purposes, I had closed the Alay’nya Studio while doing the final rewrites, edits, proofs, and publication of my most recent book, Unveiling: The Inner Journey. And then, a first year of guiding it through public introduction. Think of it has having a baby, where the last three months of “gestation time” that we need for a human child transferred into 2-3 years to bring Unveiling from raw draft to finished product.

Now, of course, it is not only available (in both trade paper and Kindle download form), Unveiling is actually the first required reading for people who want to study with me.

Obviously, though, this is a dance class. And I’m having to get my “dance groove” back on, just as you will when you join me. (Mark your calendar NOW for our Open House on Sunday, Sept. 9th, and contact me for directions and details.)

So I’m practicing. And in addition to the yoga, core, and conditioning basics, I’m back to practicing dance (and developing lesson plans, reworking choreographies and practice pieces, and all sorts of things necessary to launch a great season).

One of my favorite training DVDs is Kathryn Ferguson’s Mid-Eastern Dance: An Introduction to the Art of Belly Dance.

Years ago, this was my most significant instructional tape; then available only in VHS form. During a summer when my dance teachers took a break, I had just refinished my living room. This empty room beckoned as a new “dance studio.” The big challenge was: could I get myself to practice all on my own, without the structure and security of a dance class to guide me?

My next big question was: could I ever look like Kathryn?

I was entranced and inspired by her tape. What was most mesmerizing about her presentation was that after each (well-explained and well-demonstrated) technique section, she’d have a little vignette in which she used those techniques in an improvisational dance.

I wanted desperately to look like her, to dance like her. Even after finding my “master teachers” (Anahid Sofian and Elena Lentini; read about them in Unveiling), Kathryn remained an icon. And her VHS tape was always my reference standard for introductory teaching.

Now, I’m using her material again. This time, she’s (so thankfully!) released it as a two-volume DVD. You’ll have to contact her to get a copy; it’s not available through Amazon, and not even as a “store item” from her website. But contact her directly. (I may place a bulk order for the class, once everyone has registered for the first quarter.) The extra effort is worth it. This still remains, by far, one of the most fascinating, beautiful, and useful introductory DVDs to this beautiful and gracious art.

But my confession? Right now, I’m looking nowhere near the way that Kathryn does in her teaching DVD. Full circle. I’m back to being a student before I can be a teacher again.