Adventures of Marrakesh Festival & Dance Workshops With Leila Haddad, July 2005

Katie Holland, Glen & Tai Pelham-Mather, Louisa, Jon, Eli & Tula Matthews.

Morocco has a deserved reputation for being a crazy place. When we told people we were taking our children all aged under 3 years we were met with looks of horror - but thats exactly what we did! And we didn't do it simply either...

Cheap flights to Malaga-coach to Algeciras-boat to Tangiers-overnight train to Marrakesh! (complete with rucksacks and 3 wheeler buggies).

We arrived early and went straight to our beautiful hotel for a rest and to accustom ourselves to the heat (+40c). We had a few days until classes began so what else to do but shopping! You can buy everything you ever thought of and more, theres not much in the way of bellydance costumes, but loads of cds, dvds and jewellery. This was interspersed with henna tattoos, drumming, swimming, Berber markets in the mountains, more shopping and as much cous cous, mint tea and orange juice as we could manage.

Exploring the museums, old palaces and souks by day and by night spent our time in the amazing J'ma Elf Na. Around 5pm every day this square turns into a festival in itself-snake charmers, monkeys, acrobats, Berber dancers, kids boxing(?!), musicians(one with a chicken on his head) and men dressed as bellydancers smoking under their yashmaks. You have to have plenty of spare change as they clock you even if you only watch for a minute plus refuse to play until the tourists have thrown enough money at them.

The amazing thing about the musicians is that they constantly swap instruments each one playing just aswell as another. With one particular group a Berber woman danced a Zar type dance-we were transfixed. Then they grabbed us, the rhythms are quite different to Egyptian but we were soon lost in it. Back to reality my 2 year old daughter started to dance then tried to run off with the money pot! A sure way to get the kids to sleep was to take a horse and carriage ride around the square and back to the hotel. It also gave us chance to reflect on the day and plan the next one. Time for the festival and Leila's classes. At our first one we discovered we were the only english speaking mixed in with mainly italian, spanish and french speaking ladies. Thankfully one spoke english and Leila translated everything into four languages!

I had been to Leila before in the UK, what I really like about her is her relaxed a la Leila style and that she doesn't teach choreographies-instead lots of sequences so you can take ideas with you.

We covered Sharqi, Baladi, veil, stick and sagats. The last class was for anyone to show their own choreography and have a 'critique' from everyone including Leila. There were some very honest opinions from a very non-english audience. And what did the men and kids do? Swimming, they found parks and an indoor play area, they even went shopping! Then we swapped and they went for hammams and drumming with Rashid a local drummer.

Near to our hotel there was a park where during the festival you can watch free performances this ranged from Ballet to Chinese to Moroccan, this was packed with locals and a few tourists. Another beautiful place, Menara Gardens, again not many tourists but very friendly. The stage was on a lake and the consisted of groups from different regions in Morocco in traditional dress performing their own styles of music and dance against a backdrop of projections on the palace and water.

The final highlight - being invited to Fatimas family house (Fatima worked in the hotel where we stayed). It was a Sunday and we were given strict instructions not to bring men. Nervously we went inside a seemingly quiet house in the backstreets of Marakesh.Then women and children of every age suddenly appeared from nowhere, shutters closed, music turned up loud, cakes, mint tea, handed hip scarves and made to dance much to the amusement and surprise of everyone there. After ten surreal days off for the return journey working our way across North Africa, Spain and back home-phew! Can't wait for the next time and the kids loved it. For a dance experience never to forget check out Leila Haddads website for forthcoming dates.

This was written by Katie Holland, with many fond memories of Jon Matthews-we'll never forget our amazing Marrakesh adventures with you :)


Review by Wendy Cook

Bodies & Beats 21st April 2007

A Celebration of Dance and Rhythm

 “Rhythm is a musical sound characterized by regularly occurring accented beats”, says the master himself, Hossam Ramzy. I didn’t know that all Egyptian rhythms come from one, the Wahda Kebira (it means ‘the big one’!) From this eight beat rhythm cut in half comes Maqsoum, and from that, the two beat rhythm Fallahy. Drop the first ‘tak’, you get Zaar, and drop a ‘dum’ to get Malfouf. This in turn leads to Adani, Khalidji (Adani with decoration) and finally Karatchi, all stemming from the same rhythm, Wahda Kebira. So simple when you know! After this hour master class in rhythm, a little chilly from sitting, we gratefully warmed up with Serena before departing on a journey with her and Hossam to learn and move our bodies to the choreography prepared for us.  Listening and counting the rhythm seemed much easier when we knew what to listen for and, as the choreography ‘sunk in’, we began to feel the music, be observant of the ‘hits’ and stops and relax into the interpretation of the dance. The class was full of smiles as we broke for much needed sustenance.


I was lucky enough to be able to speak to Hossam and Serena over lunch and find out more about their shared passion for Eastern music and dance. Hossam’s belief is that the music and dancer become one during a performance. The dancer’s body becomes her instrument to play her tune, in time with the other instruments. The music, therefore, is the basis from which the dance is inspired and it is happy music because, originally, that’s when the Egyptian people would dance, at celebrations, weddings, birthdays and christenings. We spoke about baladi, the dance of the people, the real people of the country of Egypt and Hossam explained that, in Egypt, if you asked a woman to dance, she would dance baladi. He believes it’s a great place for beginners to start to learn bellydance, interpreting the music, telling the story and moving as the Egyptian people do.


We spoke of his vast career (he’s been to all five continents, five times!) and I asked him what it was like to work with Western musicians and why he’d enjoyed it. He had been brought up with Western music, jazz, blues and funk and he found working with Western musicians a real privilege. As across the Middle East, music has been influenced by many other cultures, so Hossam has loved joining with Western musicians to inject the flavour of the East and increase our knowledge of Arabic music. He feels strongly that beginners and advanced dancers alike, should start with the music and, that the moves and steps come out of it, rather than fitting them to the music. For new tabla players, he recommends getting familiar with the instrument first then devoting time to learning the letters of the language (a good ‘dum’ and ‘tak’), before learning the rhythms. Hossam is a real exponent of all fusion, as long as there is a good understanding of all parts so that they truly fuse together.


He then spoke at length about the joy of his work with Serena. It hasn’t always been easy for them but Hossam has been very careful not to stifle Serena’s own style and interpretation. It is obvious how proud they both are of each other and this joining has been a positive, profound experience for both of them, living, working and performing together. In Egypt, most dancers are taught by their drummers and Hossam and Serena continue to research and observe whilst they travel the world so their performances are constantly inspired.  Learning from a multitude of sources produces the ‘individual’ dancer, as opposed to a clone, and Hossam stressed the importance of this for all dancers. The old Egyptian dancers were all unique and it is from this background we must learn.


The Ramzys told me about their dream for the future, that they are bringing down to earth; Villa Ramzy in Egypt, complete with dance studios, music studios and accommodation to facilitate an amazing learning experience in the land where it all began.  Dancers and musicians will be able to learn, work and share in a unique atmosphere, motivated by the Ramzys’ passion for Eastern music and dance.


We concluded with Hossam talking about the love and admiration he feels towards the Bedouin musicians who play on his Gypsys of the Nile CD and his forthcoming Tribal Bedouin CD. These musicians live today ‘off the Nile’ (how the wording was originally meant to be!), in tents hosting satellite dishes and with mobile phones upon their persons and yet, though they now live in the 21st century, the music is the same as it has always been; the original music made by the original people of Egypt.


My afternoon was spent in the Tribal/Tribal Fusion Workshop with Storm.  Her effervescent teaching style soon brought the class together, the majority being ‘tribal virgins’ and we giggled and grumbled our way through the tough warm up before embarking on Storm’s lesson for us.  A large part of the workshop was based on layering, moves performed at different levels so, we began with Storm’s Arabic walk; piston up (right up on our toes!), side stretch, tribal fusion arms into half satellite.  We enjoyed practising ‘gloopy’ and strong arms and powerful stretches and were warm and ready to learn more. We practised torso rotation (vertical as opposed to the belly dance horizontal), with hand flores while layering up and down. I found it impossible not to flore on every rotation! Layering cobras with hip shimmy was also a big challenge for me but really fun and definitely homework to practice! The last part of the lesson was done with partners, practising choo choos and back bends and we all had an absolute blast! Time ran out, no one wanted to stop but, after a stretch out, class was unfortunately dismissed.


Whilst I had been occupied with Hossam and Serena and Storm, the other workshops running included fitness yoga with Niina Martin, Bollywood with Kat Zborvjanova, African Dance and Drumming with Wukulu, Poi Dance with Louisa Matthews, Samba/Salsa with Marta Scott and Flamenco with Helena Duende, plenty of opportunities to experience new dance and rhythm for everyone.


The entrance hall to the event, was full of stalls selling costumes and accessories with plenty of changing room available in the loos and there was plenty of time to browse between classes or before the evening programme began. A buffet meal was followed by and exciting, exhilarating evening show, the star of which was the exquisite Serena. Katie Holland, the event organiser, expressed to me what a privilege it was to have Hossam and Serena taking part in the Bodies and Beats event, the Ramzys always working on their own, so it was the first time they had worked in conjunction with other teachers on a workshop day. Everyone agreed that they added their own special sparkle to the evening. The other performers were Helena Duende dancing Flamenco, Eshta, Charlotte Desorgher, Nyoka tribal fusion and Katie herself.

Wendy Cook



Written for Nafoura online magazine 

August 2009


The assumption that being a white skinned dancer in India also means you are a prostitute is a common misconception that I constantly have to deal with. This notion has come about mostly due to Bollywood pop videos featuring only foreigners in skimpy western style outfits and advertisements of bikini clad western girls on beaches in Goa.
As time goes on I have realised how difficult it is to change these perceptions and added to this is the brain washing of MTV. People see rich looking, white skin 'goras' as we are called, writhing over Indian men in skimpy outfits.
This does not give a good impression and has a knock on effect not only to me but to all foreigners travelling and/or working in India.  India is a country steeped in tradition where sisters, wives or daughters aren’t allowed to work as artists or even drink in bars in some cities and yet there are the constant double standards where the top Bollywood actors are thought of as living Gods, where its ok to perve over white girls and have them stripping, lap dancing etc. Yet unmarried couples living together and homosexuality has only just been made legal.

I am endlessly explaining to agents that being white does not automatically mean you are 'up for it', that you can be your own manager, that you can dance even if you are over a dress size 8, be married, be a mum, that Oriental dance comes from the Middle East-not Russia- and that yes, to be a 'Bellydancer' does mean you have to study the dance form!

I had a very steep learning curve as my initiation into the Indian entertainment world.
I realised if I was going to break through these stereotypes and be respected as a dancer in a deeply religious country I had to become far more socially aware and sympathetic to the Indian way of thinking.
At first I was worried and found it difficult to become consciously assertive because I felt like I was speaking harshly and many agents had told me foreigners have a reputation for being unreliable, awkward and stroppy. Then I noticed my polite, absolutely no nonsense approach was having a surprising effect.  Far from losing work, I gained recognition for both performance and reputation, often being booked because the agents know they can trust me to turn up, not go off with guys at the events and thankfully they also recognise that I am properly trained and not just a white girl prancing around in a belly dance costume.

So, I made a plan. I started to observe and try to suss things out. I have had to become an avid social observer: I started to people watch....the other artists, the agents, the audiences - if it was all men at a corporate show, how did they react to my dancing? What level of corporate are they? Does it make a difference? Which part of India are they from, have they ever seen a white girl in the flesh before? If women are there, what caste are they? Families, weddings, filmy events etc how does the reaction differ and what works best?

From the moment I step out of the car until I leave a show I am judged on everything. The clothes I arrive in, my costumes, makeup, hair, shoes, how pale or tanned I am, who I speak to and for how long, if I drink alcohol - which alcohol, can I understand and/or speak Hindi, do I know and use Indian mannerisms, even if I eat veg or meat!

At first I found this impossible to accept and took it personally, feeling like I taking part in an endless test and parade show. It felt so shallow and went against everything I stand for and believe in.

However, as time goes on and with my kids at local schools, I have made more Indian friends of all religions, became more involved with events, managing my own shows, other artists and a dance troupe I began to discover the way that India works. If I wanted to continue working there I had to find a way around this that I was comfortable with and helps me to fit in……and now in the village where I live everyone knows when I am off to a show…..

My driver really laughs at me. Gone is the usual scruffy beach look, crocs, no make up and messy hair. My show 'uniform' as I call it is polished and with the aura of having stepped out of a Bollywood film. Eyebrows threaded precisely, eyeliner, mascara, hair down (even if its so hot you want to die). Jeans (jeans are considered the coolest item of clothing in India), tightish top-not showing cleavage or shoulders, heels, sparkly handbag, bling ear-rings plus of course the biggest Jackie O' sunglasses I can find.
The next stage to the ‘image’ is when I step out of the car and/or airport and strut up to the agent with hair flinging shampoo advert style. This act ensures I am more likely to get further bookings and they have decided already that I've done a brilliant show before I've even danced - brilliant!

This image gives you what is seen as the 'superstar' look in India. If we are in Bombay or my husband Glen comes to a show with me we often get stopped for photos because people think we are famous (just by our clothing!) or they want a picture with the man who has muscles like Bruce Lee!

I noticed that anyone dressed similarly in airports is guaranteed to be a model, DJ, actor, singer or performer of some kind. I have met all kinds of artists this way because its like a recognisable dress code. They will know that I am involved in the same industry and will come and speak to me, swapping business cards and the possibility of networking for the future.

Other observations that have shocked me is the way Indian dancers are treated compared with the foreign dancers. We are paid more and often treated with more respect simply because we have fair skin. There is an obsession with whiteness, I have seen Indian girls with skin lighter than mine covering themselves in skin bleach before a show in an effort to look whiter. The girls also wear light coloured skin body suits under their costumes in 40 degree heat! They can’t be seen to be drinking alcohol so they are always sending me to the bar because as a white woman it is acceptable for me to be served.

Friends often say to me how glamorous this all sounds - it can be, but also living the reality it can be very different. I am often travelling for long periods. One time I took twenty eight flights in a six week period (my longest journey was thirty hours one way for a fifteen min show). Another time travelling for twelve hours with seven other dancers and suitcases in a car meant for four then waiting for ten hours in costume to perform and the worst - having to share a bed with one, two or even three other female artists who you have never met before!

However on the whole it is an amazing experience. I find my own ways to balance out the shallowness of the entertainment world. Whenever I can instead of getting a taxi to the airport I get the local bus for 25p crammed in with a hundred people into a space meant for forty and then hail a motorbike taxi with my costumes in a rucksack on my back zig zagging between the pot holes and lorries, just for a bit of normality! It may be that I’m the only woman on the flight and armed with my costumes and flight ticket land somewhere in the Himalayas or deepest India to be met and driven to an ice palace on a mountain side. One night when I arrived in Nepal for a show I was collected by motorbike from the airport (he put my suitcase in a taxi though!) and I was whisked off into the darkness through the back streets of Kathmandu where at that time they were only given four hours of electric a day. Another time in Jaipur my changing assistant took me to her Hindu temple for a festival and I was able to join in a traditional dance ceremony similar to Sufi dance. When I danced at the Goa Film Festival my show was delayed because they were waiting for all the stars to arrive so they could take the red carpet for me to dance on as I was being filmed by several TV channels and they thought it would look good and make me dance better because famous people had walked on it.

Tonight I am at a corporate show in Goa....it is 2am and I haven't even performed yet. Some of the other dancers have been here since 6pm. Here is an overview of the nights events:

*I'm booked for two shows, they are five minutes away from each other and the earlier one is supposed to be between 8-10pm, then I can go in my last costume ready for my first performance at 10.35pm at the second show.
*Arrive 7.50pm. They have only just started to build the stage and decide it needs painting!!!
*9pm. Still waiting for the first show to start…(and the paint to dry). They want three sequences-each half an hour apart. I tell them I am leaving at 10pm whatever happens. The client is freaking saying they have booked me for the night and I should wait. The agent has got a crab dinner waiting at his mates restaurant and wants to get off. He pays me and leaves me and his assistant to deal with the situation.
*9.45pm. I leave for the other show promising to try and come back at 11.30pm because I have been told I am on early in the show. Security won't let me through into the hotel and cause lots of fuss even though I dance there regularly and they know me. (Security is much stricter now because of the terrorist bombings in Bombay). They keep me for ten minutes, searching my bags, I have to have a photo taken and I’m given a security pass whilst being given a lecture about not losing it again, when I never had one in the first place. (Another problem to these guys all dancers look the same and they think I’m someone else). I get to the ballroom and they tell me the schedule has been changed. They don't know when I'm on, so I squeeze into the dressing room with a Russian who is getting into a crazy UV dominatrix looking outfit. The young girl in charge tells me the agent hasn't given her my pay for the show. I am also due to go to Bangalore to perform in a show through his agency three days later and I have a discussion with her saying I won't go to Bangalore if I'm not paid tonight for this show. (Another lesson learnt: always get the cash on the night).
*10.30pm. The show starts.
*11.15pm. The first show texts me can I come back now? A flurry of texts follow and he says If I can come now and do my dances five minutes apart including costume changes! I can be back in half an hour. The second agent isn't happy. I tell her I'm going and promise I'll be back by 12.15am.
*11.30pm. I have to fight with security to get out of the place now. Taxi driver isn't answering the phone, a huge monsoon storm starts. I'm starting to lose my patience at security telling them 'don't try and stop me coming back in in half an hour because we already went through the whole security palava'. The first agent says he's coming to get me. The taxi appears, the driver was sleeping. We drive like crazy to the first venue. I literally run in as they play the music. Change in 4 minutes flat and do the second, change again and do the last.
*12.05am. Frenzied driving back to the second venue, pouring with sweat. This time smile sweetly at security, flash my pass and run through the hotel to the ballroom.
*1.45am. Still waiting. They keep telling me to be ready and then someone else goes on. I find out the show won't finish until 4am! So in great despair and to stave off hunger (I've not eaten since 3pm) I have begun to write this article.
*2.15am. Perform my first dance. Afterwards I find out the young girl suddenly can pay me and my money has mysteriously appeared from somewhere. Then she says 'this is so late, I have school tomorrow'. 'What?' I ask in disbelief. 'How old are you?' 'Sixteen' she tells me. Its the first show she has been in charge of and looks really nervous. I tell her she’s doing really a good job and ask her about school, realising she is only six years older than my son and in charge of all us  artists at a huge corporate event. I have a chat with the other acts, everyone is complaining. The compere is the former Miss India, a Bollywood troupe, a Classical Indian dancers, a singer, and a comedian.
*3.15am. Perform second dance. That is it, I'm off! Change and head for the buffet. Stash some apples and pears for the kids-they are imported here and pears are especially hard to get. Escape from a guy hassling me for my number.
*3.45am. Collect my money, the show is still going on. The security men promise not to hassle me next time. Head for home, I fall asleep in the car. We are stopped at a police check point and they wake me up thinking the driver has drugged and kidnapped me.
*4.30am. Reach home, scrape the make up off and fall into bed.

I know this all sounds pretty mad and it is. However it makes me feel alive. I love it. I never know who I will be dancing for, where I will be, who I might meet and where that will lead me. My kids aged nine and six have an amazing education - at school and of life. They have started to get bookings for modelling work, recognise lots of wild animals and birds, can haggle and shop confidently, swim like fish, have friends from all over the world and an understanding of different languages and religions. We never know if we'll see an elephant walking past the house or have to chase monkeys away from the papaya trees in the garden.
We live a very outdoor life, swimming and whizzing about on our scooter from beach to beach to catch the sunsets. We have a studio and gym on the roof of our house where we teach and train ourselves. Glen teaches Tai Chi and works in a holistic clinic giving acupuncture and shiatsu treatments. He is also a stunt man and fight choreographer for Bollywood training actors how to improve their fitness and fight. Most importantly we have time together as a family and are able to follow our many dreams.

I have learnt that nothing in life is by chance and you have to grab it. If you trust and leap into the void as my runes often tell me it always works out ok. My dance, teaching, patience, independence, intuition and everything about me has evolved from my experiences of working and living in India. I've also learnt some really groovy new dance moves, that a show is never really confirmed until its been confirmed at least four times and that Indian men never lock the toilet door on airplanes!


What Katie did
The Barefoot Festival 14th-16th August 2009

The weather on Saturday morning was close and muggy as I began my first Barefoot workshop with Katie Holland learning Bollywood.

My memories of the previous afternoon and evening were of tent erecting, homemade vege curry from the cool box and a magical evening in the campfire circle. As strains of Irish music seeped from the Irish dance workshop tent, we sat huddled on our straw bales as a drummer started a rhythm. Picked up and taken by another drummer, the rhythm expanded and spread around the circle. We danced. On our own or with other dancers we’d barely met, the music took us as the night darkened and the fire glistened, welcoming us to the magic of Barefoot.

So, at 10am Saturday morning, we were all feeling a little lack lustre, but not for long. In a packed marquee with cowpats discreetly covered by straw underfoot, Katie’s infectious enthusiasm awoke our senses and our feet and the story of her Bollywood dance unfolded.

We came alive to the foot stomping, rave of the chorus which we all picked up quickly, while the other moves and gestures told the story of Katie the dancer performing, while the watching men tried to attract her attention. We danced with our hearts, dropped and crescented our hips, showed off our arms and rolled our shoulders for Katie’s part and mimicked the men smoothing their hair, begging to be noticed and being dragged away by security as they became too excited, still pleading their innocence.

The sun came out and the class oozed out into the campfire circle as the temperature rose in the marquee. Side panels were removed as everyone took up the fervour of the dance. With just an hour to learn the choreography, Katie taught us one section at a time, which we practised and then added on another section. By rotating the lines, we all had a chance to see her moving and confirm the bits we’d missed when standing at the back. Excited, hot and buzzing, we reached the end and had time to dance it three times before we finished, exhausted, exhilarated and very awake!

As well as teaching, Katie had brought along her gorgeous clothing and accessories to purchase and I succumbed to the snuggliest, pixie hooded fleece in my favourite purple but I could have bought the whole stall! She also performed in the evening performance. A cacophony of talent was on show ranging from the sublime classical violin to the show stopping African dancers and drummers, bursting with rhythm and energy. The evening culminated outside with whirling, swirling fire dancers, manoeuvring lighted poi and hula-hoops to the infectious rhythms of the band.

Katie performed solo in a Hawaiian style costume, relaxed and beautiful, endearing the audience to her natural, sensual style and then in a short animal print dress, hat and heels for a sexy Shakira number, tongue in cheek and charming.
The next morning, I joined the class for Katie’s drum workshop, which, again, was packed. After the previous night concert, it was squidgy underfoot, making dancing a little tricky but we soon forgot about the difficulties and became enwrapped in the music. Katie explained the use of different rhythms and ways to interpret them, demonstrating and then guiding us through the choreography. There were lots of Egyptian walks and shimmies, as well as parts for us to improvise so each dance truly became a solo. Simple steps were given a new slant and our own style as we listened to and interpreted the music.

I loved both workshops and learnt so much for my own personal dance and to pass on to my ladies. The whole weekend was excellent and I can’t wait for next year.

Wendy Cook. September 2009
Phoenix Bellydance



The Telegraph Newspaper, Calcutta. July 12th 2009

And you thought that swinging to salsa was sensuous? Or that the jive made you look hot on the dance floor? Now high on women’s weekend leisure charts are dances that are not just making them feel good — but look great as well. So women are curling themselves around poles in the perfect moves of the pole dance, they are lap dancing around chairs (with or without the men seated in them) and even shedding extra layers of garments in an imitation of the sexy striptease.

Moving with abandon to different tunes and newer dance forms is the step forward in boogie town. From the ultra-romantic Latin street dances to the sensual belly dancing moves, exotic rhythms are in, in, in.

Most of them tread a dangerously thin line between the sensual and erotic. Dancer Shilpa Rane says: “Any dance form can be made to look sensual, erotic or dirty. From my research on dancers and showgirls in Vegas bars I know that even nudity can be aesthetic.” The 35-year-old dancer teaches pole dancing, lap dancing and striptease at the Dare & Bare classes in Gold’s Gym on Nepean Sea Road in Mumbai.

There are ample takers as well for the passionate Argentine Tango and the romantic Bachata that are taught on Sunday afternoons at Arts in Motion (www.artsinmotiononline.com), a plush dance studio in Mumbai.

“As the dancers tango across the floor, you’re caught in an aesthetic fusing of torsos, swivelling hips and fascinating drops where the man drops the woman within inches of the floor,” grins Prerna Patel, a 25-year-old banker, who’s signed up for Tango classes with her boyfriend.

The bachata is the another dance that’s all about moving in tandem with the partner with the focus on the swaying movements of the body rather than footwork. In Delhi, you can catch up on these sizzling styles at Ballrumours Studio (www.ballrumours.com). Says Aamir Ahmed, the man behind the show: “The idea is to be sensual, not to bring the bedroom to the dance floor.”

Meanwhile Zouk, a dance from the French Caribbean, is creating waves worldwide. In India, it’s being taught by professional dancer Meher Malik (www.bellydancingindia.com) at her south Delhi studio. Expect lots of hip movements, heady swirls and head movements.

But if you want to shed your inhibitions completely, check out Rane’s striptease, pole dancing and lap dancing classes in Mumbai that are divided into six levels. But Rane is quick to emphasise the fitness aspects of these dances as well: “Squatting with verve, butt moves and hip rolls — all performed on high heels — are bound to tone the thighs. What’s more, the dances incorporate gymnastic moves like climbs, spins, and body inversions around the pole.’’

The Bachata and the Argentine Tango (below) are all about moving in tandem with the partner with the focus on swaying body movements rather than footwork; Pix by Gajanan Dudhalkar

Relax, as you don’t need to strip down to the bare necessities during a striptease lesson. “You put on some extra layers and shed them with sexy moves,” says Rane, who also shows you some burlesque/showgirl dance moves. The price: Rs 2,400 (not including taxes) for eight sessions.

At Anchal Gupta’s Arts in Motion studio, belly dancing is a hot favourite. She says once you’ve danced with a scarf/belt of jingling coins tied around the hips, you know you’ve found the way to lose all your inhibitions and revel in your femininity.

Meanwhile in Palolem in Goa, Englishwoman Katie Holland coaches enthusiasts on the Egyptian belly dance — the traditional and tougher form of the dance that is some 6,000 years old.

“I learnt it as an art form and not as an enticement. Even while you move the hips, it is in the way you emote that makes all the difference,” says Holland.

Back in Delhi, Malik spices up Egyptian belly dancing with Bollywood moves. Having spent 17 years in the Middle East, she has mastered the dance that she says was once the domain of the high priestesses of ancient Upper Egypt.

The easier gypsy belly dancing is taught (one-on-one) at Ballrumours Studio where you end up paying as much as Rs 1,500 for a class —exclusivity being the key.

Dirty dancing is catching up in Bangalore as well. From a mere three students when his dance studio kicked off last July, choreographer Lourd Vijay now takes some 84 dancers (and counting) through the routines. A three-month module with hour-long, twice-weekly classes comes for Rs 3,600, but students don’t mind.

At his studio, the dress code is body-hugging leotards and jazz trousers (they sport a flattering cut and boot legs). “I always say that it is crucial to cover everything and yet hide nothing. So hey, no loose clothes,” points out Vijay.

Most of these studios offer free practice sessions and fun nightouts. While Ahmed holds twice-a-week sessions at the chic F-bar, Malik holds Hafla Nites for belly dancing divas at clubs. And Gupta at Arts in Motion has Open House Latin Nites and Hafla Nites when you get to dress up and strut your stuff.

So put on those dancing shoes. We are taking you dancing.


The amazing thing about the musicians is that they constantly swap instruments, each one playing just as well as another