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Dance instructor teaches students how to belly dance in one-hour crash course

a woman wearing a belly dancing costume dances

By Angela Kazmierczak

Edmonton dance instructor, Zahra Ismail, taught students on campus a one-hour crash course on belly dancing styles and techniques on March 14th. Upon being handed  jewelled hip scarves, students practiced several dance moves and then combined them into one lively dance at the end. 

Belly dancing, a dance of Middle Eastern origin, involves the rolling of the hips and abdomen. Moves generally comprise of hip thrusts and the vibratious shimmy. The style of belly dance practiced varies from country to country as each country has its own cultural spin on it.

Ismail, the dance instructor, says her Egyptian background is what first got her interested in the artistic dance. It was a part of her culture from a young age. She even recalls her first workshop to this day. 

“My mother took my sister and I to a belly dance workshop when I was in Grade 7. Culturally speaking, we would have belly dancers at all our weddings and special events, so there was that exposure to belly dancing at an early age,” said Ismail.

“[Belly dancing’s] the dance that doesn’t hurt you but fixes you.” 

While historians and dancers still widely debate the origins of belly dancing and if it is the oldest dance around, it evidently has many influences from its many styles; being folkloric, classic, tribal improv or theatrical. This is a glimmering pink and gold hip scarf a student received at the event. THE NUGGET / Angela Kazmierczak

The belly dance event was an opportunity for students to try it out and see if they wish to pursue further classes. The dance takes years to master.

“I love seeing people from all ages enjoy learning how to dance. It’s one of the dance forms that you don’t need to start young, so I find the range of age groups I have is everything from children to seniors. It’s just really nice to see everybody being able to dance in a safe, fun way.”

With 14 years of teaching experience, Ismail instructs four belly dance classes every week at multiple locations in Edmonton. She offers beginner to intermediate levels. Scheduling and where to register can be found on her website called Desert Rose Dance Studio. Students receive a 25% discount on classes when they use the promo code, nait, at the checkout. The offer is also advertised on NAITSA’s Perks and Deals page. 

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