Bellydance events and classes in the U.K. are already getting cancelled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. But there are a wealth of opportunities to keep on learning online thanks to some tech-savvy members of our dance community. As of the time of writing, we don’t know what how extreme any kind of shutdown will be, but there is a growing sense that daily life is going to be heavily disrupted in the coming weeks and months.
At a time like this, it’s really important to continue doing the things we love and that bring us joy. As to how we make that happen, it looks like we will all have to get a bit creative.
Any bellydance devotee can attest that this dance has fantastic benefits for overall fitness and mental well-being, and I believe that it is exactly what we need during a challenging time like this.
I’ve compiled a list (which I will keep updated) with resources for learning bellydance online. For serious dancers, I hope this will be a good resource for keeping up your practice during what could be a long hiatus for our community. I also hope this might encourage people who have never tried bellydance before to give it a go from the security and privacy of their homes. Bellydance is a low-impact activity that is suitable for all ages and doesn’t require any special equipment, and if any of you are going stir-crazy without your usual fitness routine then I highly encourage you to give it a try.
Please share this with your friends and communities, and feel free to get in touch with comments and suggestions. I have proofed and checked links as best I can, but if you spot any errors or omissions then please get in touch or leave a comment below.
Want to learn from an award-winning professional bellydancer who is currently making waves in Egypt? Then you need to tune in to Zara’s YouTube channel for her new series of tutorials. These are in Arabic but they have English subtitles. This would be a great place to start for a beginner, and you’d be learning the authentic, Egyptian way. Zara has over 47,000 subscribers and as well as the tutorials, the channel gives a fascinating peek into the life of a bellydancer in Cairo.
If you want to work on body conditioning and flexibility, then head over to Tara Lee Oakley’s Youtube channel. Some of you will know Tara as one of the organisers of Rouh Arabi, one of London’s most popular haflas. As well as being a professional dancer, she’s a certified fitness coach and yoga instructor, so you will be in good hands.
Over at Dance Pandemic (yes, that really is the name of the company), you can find tutorials and online bellydance classes from Zahida Palma, a well-loved and very wise bellydancer based in London. She’s also got a YouTube channel which offers videos and advice on fitness, flexibility and body awareness, with content in both English and Spanish. The whole thing is an absolute treat, with advice on how to keep your spine in tip-top condition, how to shit properly (look, us bellydancers don’t mince our words) and simple exercises to stop you grinding your teeth at night. Lots of good stuff to get you through these anxious times.
If things are feeling a bit grim right now, then Leila Isaac and her megawatt smile are guaranteed to bring some positive vibes to your day. Leila is normally found teaching at London’s Pineapple Dance Studios, but she’s also got a very well-established YouTube channel with over 217,000 followers. Leila’s videos cover everything from the absolute basics through to a range of drills that are guaranteed to make you sweat. Oh, and there is also a tutorial for the choreography for Shakira’s Whenever, Wherever. Go on, no-one’s watching.
Over on the incredibly elegant Ilaria Polizzi’s YouTube channel you can find tutorials on foundational bellydance moves, including a really useful video on how to warm up properly and safely for your dance practice (this is really important, newbies!) Ilaria tells me she will also be offering online classes very soon, so check back on her website shortly for more information.
If you need some more direction and connection in your dance practice than what YouTube can offer, there are some great paid classes that go right up to professional level.
Aziza of Montreal runs weekly online classes at times to suit dancers on both sides of the Atlantic. SHE CAN SEE YOU (thank you, conferencing software) and can offer proper feedback to participants. So tidy your room, move that laundry out of the way and log in for an audience with a true superstar. I’ve previously trained with Aziza, both online and in person, and I thoroughly recommend the online classes to serious dancers. There’s also a Facebook page for the classes.
Intermediate- to professional dancers who want a more holistic training programme need to check out Charlotte Desorgher’s Undeniables Online programme. This is the online cousin of Charlotte and Aziza’s Undeniables mentoring programme which launched in 2017, and it provides a wide range of tutorials, drills, online classes and bonus classes in special topics include veils and Arabic rhythms. Participants will get personal feedback from Charlotte and membership of a private Facebook page. If you need a sense of community to boost your dancing, this is where you can find it. Charlotte had closed the programme to new entrants a few weeks back, but tells me that she will be re-opening it to a small number of participants next week.
Tevec, a London-based dancer of Turkish origin, offers private classes via Skype if you need a bit more one-on-one attention. I’ve taken class with Tevec in person and she is a fabulous person to train with.
Melissa has been offering an online version of her London- based bellydance classes for several years now. These up-tempo, sassy classes include bellydance, Polynesian, Latin hip hop fusion and belly-yoga fusion. There’s also a good selection of free content on her site to get you started.
Other recommendations that have come in are Datura Online , where you can access classes from big names such as Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes, online classes from the world-famous Salimpour School and YouDanceOnline.
That’s all for now, but I may do a second post which is more geared towards general fitness and yoga videos, as I’ve received so many great suggestions in the past 24 hours and there was too much to fit in one post. Til then, look after yourselves and listen to this message from Egyptian percussionist Karim Nagi and the Baladi Bunny: