Come dance? Summer Playtime: half class/half practice

The idea:

Drop in for bellydance time in a studio space with mirrors.
It is Air conditioned- though we don’t always feel it.
I would teach a bit, and then you would have free time to play. And if you just want to practice on your own, that’s fine too – the fee is to cover the room rental fees.
You’ll have room to practice your own thing with veils, wings, zills stick, almost anything!
Tuesdays from June 17 to July 22
-6:30 to 7:30p.m.
Location: 172 Guigues – Free parking < entrance off Cumberland just north of St. Patrick>
$65 for 6 weeks 
Drop ins $15/ personTo Register for the full session:

Send me an email at and an email itnerac or Paypal payment of $65.  Or pay me in cash the next time you see me 🙂

 join the Facebook event


Link back here if you like this poster!


2014- Back to Dance! Classes begin tonight – Dance Party Next week!

Every session my schedule changes. For 16 years now,  I spend a few weeks before the start date negotiating with the universe, the community centres and sometimes even potential students to at least get one night of classes running.

I am weak. If I didn’t “have” to be there, the futon, the computer, the paperwork, the lurking sewing commitments would all give me one more reason to stay home.

Teaching helps me.  It helps me get outside. It helps me socialize. and it helps me develop, practice and enhance my craft.

For the winter it’s Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and that’s wonderful!  See some of you tonight!

Oh Yeah – And I also talked a little while ago about stirring things up… so here’s my active contribution to the solution ( with my Bollywood For Fun gals to help)…

Get your tickets here

Jan 24 poster version2

Thank you to all of the Seekers of Knowledge…

I was thinking this morning about how much effort it takes to get out and walk around in Ottawa in January; which then progressed to how I hope the side walks have settled back into walkable surfaces by next week, when I hope to being walking to classes in the evenings.

And then I thought about the participants in my classes who has made the commitment to get out there each week and join me in our learning adventure in dance.

So… wow…thanks ladies.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 7.05.57 AM

It’s not that I am just realizing now how amazingly important it is having willing victims, er, I mean, students, in order for this path I am on to continue, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that without them, my life would change significantly.

Maybe I would sign up for lessons myself, if I had more available time….

Maybe I would do more art….

Likely I would spend a lot more snuggle time with SprocketMinPin during these cold winter months and not be as active as I should be { knowing oneself is important too}.

Check her blog at

Check her blog at

So THANK YOU to everyone who has chosen to come play with me and force me off the futon!

Whatever classes run next week, know that I super grateful for you! And we’re gonna play with zills– just a heads up !

Here’s some of my ladies doing their thing at one of our volunteer events – Keeping it fun!:

Wow- I’m so uncoordinated…I could never do that.


When I tell people I belly dance, that’s one of the “admiring” statements I hear.

And my brain says, “WHAAT?”

and my heart says, “sigh…”

I would love to write an inspiring post that would lift up the self esteem and belief systems of everyone who says that to me, so that they can see how belly dance is SO MUCH MORE than just dancing.

I would love to flick that switch in everyone who says, “I can’t do that”, to ” hmm, I want to  see how I can do that”.

The most I can do is continue to share my love for this dance form, educate those interested in learning more, and flash a small smile to those who might be on the fence and encourage you to give it a try.

It’s okay if belly dance is not your thing.  Maybe you are a runner, maybe yoga touches your heart, maybe walking is your happy place – and to all of this I say “YAY. you go!” And the best way to find “your thing” is to try out all of the potentials – when the right activity comes your way, you’ll feel it!

My approach to this dance form began with the phrase, “Belly Dancing For Fun” and I still use that to describe our performance group of rogue dancers, the nature of my classes and my general philosophy.  If it’s not fun, why bother.

Belly dance can be fun – when one chooses to:

  • accept that it’s a journey
  • smile and laugh with classmates/troupe mates/audiences
  • slow down { journey, remember}
  • no really, slow down
  • take that time to explore what CAN be done
  • revel in those moments of achievement – you are learning!
  • breathe
  • go within and focus on what you are doing, ignoring the grocery list
  • BE THERE –  in class, in the performance, in the moment
  • Slow down.

Belly dance saved me.

It brought me into a group of whacky women with whom I could not have found myself.

It brought me the courage to leave a deadend situation for a much better one { married to the AWeSOME @WTL since 1998!}

It allows me to play! Halyma has fun sparkly  costumes, has fabulous long hair, a sense of feminine empowerment that permeates all of my life!

And while I never considered myself uncoordinated { except for those moments when I am taking a workshop with a master teacher and trying to figure out, What the heck?!? – then I slow down…} I never thought I would be dancing for an audience….

Ad it’s so cool now that I do it for a “job”!


Exploring your dance persona- have you met yours yet?

I had a few thoughts occur to me this week after participating in a wonderful class party hosted by Siddiqah of Fat Cat Bellydance here in Ottawa. My Bellywood with Halyma ladies came out to test drive our latest routine and one thing I had asked them to start considering at last week’s class was to create a character and start to play with that character for the routine.

The nature of this routine has a silly little story, which the audience is unlikely to notice, but it gives us as performers a direction to come from when approaching the moves.

So, upon seeing the execution of the routine at Friday evening’s party, I realized, as a teacher, I can help enlighten my students more by actually spending a few moments focusing on the dance persona and the difference between the everyday person and the “superstar” or “Diva” who graces the stage.

So first, let me introduce Tracey:

Tracey/Halyma peeling fish...

Tracey peeling fish…

Tracey sews, bakes, has a fabulous husband, is sometimes seen as grumpy or scary { both usually pre-coffee/ in need of food, or peace and quiet}, enjoys camping, canoeing, cider,terrorizing their  dog, Sprocket, and generally being a creative problem solver with introvert tendencies. She loves food, walking, and wearing comfy sweats and simple clothes that allow her to move and work with her sewing. She can sit and bead for hours, even longer when coffee and a muffin are supplied! And she enjoys quietly working alone.


And then there’s Halyma:

Halyma Darwings-Cartoon

Slightly over the top, smiles as much as she can, plays with the audience, always wants a new costume and new music for every show, and tries to make sure everyone gets a chance to see her.  She loves to invade your personal space until you smile too and likes to try to look pretty – even if Tracey has been over indulging in the carbs!  She’s happy getting out and  talking to people and introducing more and more people into her fave dance forms!

And yes, obviously, they are both me.  But I was Tracey a long time before I met Halyma and started to get to know her.

When I first began dancing publicly, which I did not think I would do when I first started taking lessons, I looked at the floor, I did not smile and am grateful the early videotapes of my performances have all disappeared.  But I did watch myself after every show and realized where I needed to change things up a bit. I am not talking about self criticizing where all the time is spent putting oneself down. I am referring to watching for ways to improve, enjoying the moments of, “Oh yeah, I felt great at that spot”, through to, “Oh, that’s what I look like when I am thinking too much…”.

And now, I teach, so I should also teach about ways to self-improve to my peeps! Sorry it took me so long, ladies!  But now there’s no excuse, I’ve brought it up in class and have a blog post about it!

I asked my students to think about:

What do you enjoy when you watch another person dance?

What aspects of how they choose to present themselves can you relate to and start to emulate?

When you watch yourself on video, how can you improve?

What are the positives that can be built upon and exaggerated into your own magical Dancer?

And if you already have a dance name { not everyone does, not everyone needs/wants one, but it really helped me}, let her come out to play!

I realized I should express a bit more about this, and so…

Why do you dance?

Why do you perform?

And some suggestions that may or may not help 🙂

Even if you are trying to be sultry, coy, or anything seductive in your facial expressions, make sure your eyes are smiling.

If you are nervous about performing a choreography and how you might forget the moves, ( I relate, and forget quite often) keep it professional on stage – you screw up, it happens, KEEP SMILING and catch up. And practice- seriously practice.

If you are not sure, practice in front of a mirror.  I remember having a discussion with an actor once as she commented she hated seeing herself in the mirror as it distracted her from actually bringing out the emotions from within, and I totally saw the point of that. Dance is like acting a bit, but it’s also like modelling, and it’s about creating beauty.  Sometimes you need a bit of feedback to know if you’ve got the look you want. Practice with a mirror , then close your eyes and feel what your face and body are doing. Or use a camera and record yourself and again feel what you want to express.

There are so many more intense directions one can take as a dancer to help explore your dance persona – acting classes, other dance forms, using make-up and costumes to help develop your style.

I welcome more suggestions if you have found ways to help get out of your everyday person and becoming the goddess of dance within – please share them – we can all benefit!

Zills/Zagat/ Finger Cymbals/ covers and all that sort of good stuff

This session both my Monday and Tuesday belly dance classes are playing with finger cymbals. Zills are a great musical toy to play with, once you feel comfortable doing so.

It took me YEARS!
I took workshops, walked along in the winter with my heavy mitts on tapping out 1,2,3 1,2,3 1,2,3…

And so now I want to give a little bit of info to help my students, and anyone wandering across this article, in their adventure with zilling!

Zills come in different sizes.
Small ones are great for small hands and beginners, and you can progress to the larger ones as you go along.

If you purchase “Single holed” zills, you will eventually hang them on your Christmas/Yule tree after they spin around your finger multiple times, so look for the “two slotted” zills.

Some online sites to check out:

Saroyan Cymbals – amazing quality – but sadly the store is closed temporarily as I write this post, but you can search for used Saroyans online, I am sure.

Ebay: Search and look carefully before buying. These resemble some very low-end Zills I purchased a few years ago, but would be fine to get used to the motion and having something on your fingers: CLICK HEREScreen Shot 2013-02-06 at 8.43.48 AM has some tiny ones at a reasonable price – good for starting out!

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These folks just started following my Twitter stream – so check ’em out:

And remember to search for “Zills” “Zagat” “Sagat” and Finger Cymbals to cover all of your bases.

Zill covers:

Obvious: Zills make noise.

By covering one or both of your cymbals on each hand { you are wearing 4 at a time}, you will find it easier to full on “play” them without worrying about your neighbours hearing you or your pets going whacky.


– Baby socks

– elastic wrapped around the zills – just take it off after each practice session.

-You can make your own fancy ones:

Lacy ones – photo from go here for instructions if you crochet:Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 8.29.17 AMOr check out New England Knitters Pretty Petaled Zill Covers

-You can buy some online:

Mistyisle is from Ontario on Etsy: BURGUNDY VELVET ZILL MUFFLERS

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And just do a quick search for “Zill Mufflers” on ETSY.COM and you will find LOADS of them – thank you crafty dancers!!

So you found zills, you found mufflers, now what?

Put them on. One on each thumb between the nail and first knuckle, one on  each middle finger, again, between the nail and first knuckle.

Tighten the elastic until your fingers and zills feel like they won’t separate. No, I mean it. Secure the elastic by sewing or using a tiny brass safety pin.

Then you want to head over to some online places to familiarize yourself with the potential rhythms and beats you can achieve with practice – or find a class and join in! HEre are just a couple – again do some searching and see what you find!

This lovely instructor explains a lot of what I wrote – but here – enjoy:

Once you’ve checked her out – head over to Shimmy Goddess for some interesting rhythms written out, articles and more info:

And that should get you started!!  Practice all of that fun stuff while walking and then start adding it as you are dancing. Simple as that 🙂 …Kidding – it takes practice and allow yourself that time to get comfortable!

Happy playing!

Fall sessions almost over; a break is in order!

I love teaching. I love the energy coming through the students as we dance, explore and learn new things together. As December approaches and we prepare for our end of season recital { sorry, it’s a semi-private sold out event}, I am reminded why I love belly dance.

Even though there are very specific rhythms and moves accorded to all the varieties of Middle eastern dance/ arabic dance, I call what I do, Belly dancing For Fun, because that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Fun, for adult women who have stress filled days and need an hour – or two – to get out and shake things up in a gentle yet physically enriching way.

Fun, as we play with beautiful pieces of fabric that we direct through the air and laugh as those same gentle piece of fabric go awry and wrap around our heads.

Fun, as most of the ladies I teach are from completely varied backgrounds and get to know something about themselves as they all work together over the weeks of a session to learn and accept what their bodies can do!

And then, when it all seemed to be settling into a too familiar rhythm, I decided to mix thing up and created my own fusion classes that I call, Bellywood.

And the fun got turned up a notch!  Mixing moves from Bollywood, classical indian, and general mayhem with fusion music from south asian artists/ canadian artists and whatever suits my fancy, my ever evolving Bellywood with Halyma gang has been making me smile!

Ameenah, Sadirah, Halyma and Esmerelda

And now as things are winding up for the Fall 2012 session, I am looking forward to the break. during which I will over indulge in relaxation and food.

Starting mid January, though, we are back at it!  You gonna join in the fun?