Who can belly dance?

Is there a limitation as to who can raqs sharqi? I don’t think so!

Male, female, disabled, able bodied, tall, short, thin, curvy whatever, even…


Can cats bellydance?

Charni shows no prejudice against anyone wanting to learn belly dance!

Online classes versus Offline classes

Have you noticed how our jargon terms have changed more and more over the last few years with the dominance of computers and the internet? People are regularly LOLing or ROFLing and we know what they mean. It used to be that when I said I was a belly dance teacher, people knew what I meant, but now that I am also teaching online classes too, I have to describe the classes I teach as Offline or Online. “Face to face” or “repeatedly rewindable”. When people go on line to get online belly dance classes they are looking at the advantages of being able to repeat a class as often as they need (at a time that suits them), or go back to an earlier class to review something they’ve forgotten or need a bit more practice. In a face to face class when students want to learn how to

Charni and Happy Hips Belly Dance students performing a veil dance for the local community at a retirement village

bellydance (or raqs sharqi), they have to ask me to clarify a point or repeat a move. I am happy to do this as often as is needed (sometimes over and over again), but I know that some students are too shy to speak up for fear of looking stupid or slow. Remember THERE ARE NEVER STUPID QUESTIONS! To my way of thinking, if somebody asks a question and it is something I have already explained, it means that I didn’t explain it enough, or in the right way or used the right description, or imagery for that student. It is for this reason that I use a variety of ways to explain the one move.

If you are to learn at home in the comfort and safety of your own home (not to mention the convenience of not having to go anywhere!) you don’t have the “stigma” of always being the one to ask for clarification as your tutor is there for you every step of the way.

It’s also a personal choice. Some people like to dance in private, some people like a group. Some people go to a class with a friend or family member as something to do and some don’t like to dance in front of anyone. Some people are longing to show off their new-found skills as soon as they can, and some like to practice over and over in private. Some are eager to leave the house and get out of their own 4 walls, and some people aren’t able to (Mother’s with babies or children in bed, carers of elderly or ill family members, or have transport issues or don’t have a car, or are unable to drive due to a disability).

I hope that has answered your questions about which is right for you, now go on out there and do what is most suited, and above all – go belly dance and have fun!!

“Hunger Games” Barbie Katniss doll??!!

I just recently wrote about how I had enjoyed the film, but found the focus on Jennifer Lawrence’s so-called “too big” figure. I have just found out that the latest buzz word is that Barbie is releasing a Hunger Games Katniss Doll on September 1 2012. Gee, I’d better pre-order to not miss out! Not! When will it end?

Barbie have made a Katniss doll from Hunger Games

Barbie have made a Katniss doll from Hunger Games, is this promoting a good image for young girls?

Apparently, the doll was designed by Bill Greening. As you can see from the photo she is dressed in the outfit that she wore into the Games, with a bow and arrow. The Barbie also features a miniature mockingjay pin, boots and her signature braid.

Does she promote the tough, solid woman from the movie – well sort of. While she has been obviously “barbiesized” in her facial features, she does resemble Jennifer Lawrence somewhat. What is unclear is whether she is shaped like a tough woman who can hunt, shoot and prepare her own kill for cooking. She looks a bit skinny to me! It would be interesting to know if they took a basic Barbie shape and put a Katniss face on, or whether they minimised the bust and gave her better feet for running in the woods rather than walking in high heels.

The boots on Barbie's version of Katniss from the Hunger Games

The boots look like they have a heel built-in to allow for the perpetual tiptoe of a Barbie, so I’m thinking – no.

So girls, if you like Katniss emulate her by taking up archery, tree climbing and join the scouts or guides on wilderness survival or take up belly dance! – you’ll get more out of it than a Barbie doll!

Farida Fahmy: review of the film produced by Keti Sharif

“Farida” film viewing Sunday March 23 2012 at RMIT Melbourne

Charni from Belly dance Lessons Online reviews the DVD "Farida"

Charni from Belly Dance Lessons Online reviews the DVD "Farida"

Hosted by Keti Sharif who also produced it, this film chronicles the life story of Farida Fahmy through interviews with Farida and her brother-in-law, Mahmoud Reda, enhanced by photos and footage from the Reda Troupe of which Farida was principal dancer for 25 years. It was fascinating to hear about how the Reda Troupe started and about the three great influences of Farida’s life: her father, her husband and her brother-in-law Mahmoud Reda.

Her father, a Professor at Cairo University, was very advanced for his time (for any country let alone a conservative country like Egypt). He encouraged both of his daughters to study and do sports and follow creative pursuits, Farida with dance and her sister, Nadeeda, with painting. He withstood much criticism for this. It was through this support and his good public standing, that helped pave the way for dance to become a legitimate profession at a time when it was deemed socially unacceptable. As Farida puts it, he encouraged her to always find out “why” something was the way it was in order to gain greater depth of understanding.

Mahmoud met Farida’s sister at a sports club when Farida was only 13 so he saw her grow up. When she got older she married Mahmoud’s older brother Ali who was already a dancer. Ali was a great husband and supportive of her dancing career. Her husband went on to direct her three films with the Reda Troupe: Agazet Nus El-Sana (Mid-term Vacation, 1963), Gharam Fil Karnak (Romance at the Karnak, 1965) and Harami El-Waraqa (Thief of the Lottery Paper, 1970). The first two are the only ones referenced in the film and are apparently shown on Egyptian television almost every week! They were key to Egyptian cinema as they were the first to incorporate the music and dancing into the storyline, rather than stopping the story to have a song and dance!


Mahmoud told a funny story about filming the movie “Love in Karnak” where Farida had to kiss Mahmoud. He found it very awkward as that was his sister-in-law and didn’t feel at all romantic about having to kiss her in front of her husband who was directing the movie and telling them to kiss! When filming they had to do 23 takes as something kept going wrong!

Farida has a confident, humble style to her reminiscing about the Reda Troupe. I know that sounds a contradiction in terms, however, she says that she was such a success because she had complete and utter trust in Mahmoud and did what he told her, but also acknowledges that she must have had the talent inside her to express what Mahmoud wanted her to. While Mahmoud talks about her amazing dedication and professionalism, she says that she felt she had to set an example of how to behave for the other girls and just did what was expected of them.

Farida also very carefully sorts out some of the misconceptions about dance and origins as opposed to theatre. She talks about the different styles, and the costuming (the first ones were designed by her sister) and how they were not being “authentic” as it was all for the theatre; for an audience sitting in their seats wanting a good show, not a gathering at a party, which is a different audience. It was very illuminating.

The interviews were conducted in Cairo during 2011 (a very tumultuous year in Egytpain history!), and I love how you can hear the constant horns, yells and cries from the street when Mahmoud is on the screen.

I highly recommend this film for anyone interested in raqs sharqi, the Reda Troupe, Egyptian cinema, belly dance and a story of real people who got a dream to materialise and changed a country in the process.

The DVD can be bought through either Keti or Farida‘s websites. Charni was neither paid nor receives payment for her endorsement, and in fact purchased a ticket to see the film.