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Instructors

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It is with huge honor that we welcome the Queen of Cairo, legendary Belly Dancer and Actress, Dina Talaat, to Essence of Belly Dance 10!

Dina began her dancing career in the 1970's training with Mahmoud Reda, co-founder of Reda Troupe, a group of Egyptian folkloric dancers that toured nationally and internationally.

?She began her solo career in the 80's, quickly rising to the top of the belly dance scene in Cairo and remaining there up to this date, in a difficult and evolving social and political landscape. 


??Times have changed in Egypt, and the pendulum has been swinging further and further towards religious conservatism over the past few decades. ?In a 2008 article, Newsweek called Dina "The Last Egyptian Dancer," in reference to the growing conservatism in the country which is causing fewer and fewer native-born women to become professional dancers. This, coupled with Dina's provocative costumes and movements, have made her into a very controversial figure in her country and abroad.

But whether you love her or hate her, her influence in modern Egyptian style is undeniable. Dina herself is the clear dividing line between the vintage and classic styles that came before her and the modern styles that exist today. 

Her Reda-influenced steps marked the beginnings of new trends in belly dance which favor more complex footwork and weight shifts. Her exaggerated and dramatic facial expressions and gestures,  sharper hip and pelvic accents and slower and more provocative hip circles have been copied all over Egypt and the world. Her daring bras showcasing ample cleavage became the new normal in belly dance costume design (the "Dina bra"), and her occasional choice of a mini-skirt over traditional full-length skirts created new trends that are still being followed and developed upon all over the world today.

 

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Suhaila Salimpour is a highly-acclaimed belly dance performer, instructor, and choreographer. As a teenager, she began integrating the Middle Eastern dance passed on to her from her mother, Jamila Salimpour, with her own extensive training in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, and American street styles. She also studied Flamenco with Rosa Montoya, Kathak with the late Chitresh Das, and tap with Tony Award-winner Hinton Battle. Through her work with Boogaloo and tap dancer Walter -Sundance- Freeman (now of Riverdance fame), Suhaila revolutionized belly dance movement through the quick and sudden movements now known as isolations.

In the mid-1980s, Suhaila moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles, where she appeared on television series such as Fame and Max Headroom and choreographed various music videos. There she also worked with music video choreographer Michael Rooney. She was also the first belly dancer to be featured on Arab-American television, even before Nagwa Fouad. For six years, she was the featured dancer at the prestigious Arabic nightclub Byblos, where she shared the stage with the most renowned singers of the Middle East. She also had the honor of studying with the late acting coach Sanford Meisner, whose method profoundly influenced her approach to performance and instruction. At this time, too, she produced the groundbreaking solo performance recording Dances for the Sultan.

She spent 10 years in the Middle East as a featured performer in top nightclubs and 5-star hotels in Cairo, Beirut, and other major cities. There she works with some of the Arab world’s most famous singers, including Ahmad Adawiyya, Sabah, and Amr Diab. Her fresh approach to belly dance movement, musical interpretation, and deep understanding of Arab culture and sentiment made her one of the most celebrated performers of her generation. Her experiences in the Middle East inspired her to create an educational program for belly dancers that valued both virtuosic technique and experiential cultural knowledge.

When she returned to the United States, she sought to fill a need in belly dance for training that emphasized both dance technique and cultural context. She established her school and her five-level certification program. In 1996, she created the Suhaila Dance Company, which to this day performs her choreographic repertoire, which includes hundreds of dances, from the classic to the avant garde. She also revived her mother’s world-famous Bal Anat, a faux-loric company that inspired the creation of tribal style belly dance. She also began producing her own recordings of classic Arabic compositions, drum solos, rhythmic teaching tools, and fusion belly dance music. She also continued to produce video recordings of her performances. By the mid-2000s, she had firmly established herself as a leader and innovator in her field.

Always striving to bring belly dance to a wider audience and to theatrical stages, she choreographed and produced the full-length stage show Sheherezade in 2004, featuring the Suhaila Dance Company. For this work, she was nominated for an Isadora Duncan award for solo performance in 2005, the first belly dancer to have received this accolade. Blending her experience as an aerobics instructor in her youth, she created the Fitness Fusion belly dance DVD instructional series for Goldhill Entertainment. Also at this time, she was featured prominently in the documentary American Bellydancer by Miles Copeland, producer of the rock band The Police.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, in 2009 Suhaila launched the first belly dance online class website. Filmed in her home studio in California, the Salimpour School Online Class website has subscribers from North America to Africa. In 2013, she choreographed Enta Omri, an original concert-length theatrical production set to classic Arabic love songs and performed by the Suhaila Dance Company. Enta Omri has appeared in both the United States and Europe, and continues to tour with its current cast.

In addition to teaching across the globe, Suhaila maintains her second-generation family business, the Suhaila Salimpour School of Belly Dance, in Berkeley, California. Her certification program has also spread worldwide, with schools in the United States and Europe offering licensed classes. Suhaila looks forward to expanding the audience for and appreciation of traditional Middle Eastern dance in a distinctly contemporary style. 

Check out the Full Weekend Schedule HERE

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Donna Mejia is the first tenured faculty of transnational fusion dance globally, and Director of Graduate Studies in Dance at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She began teaching dance professionally at the age of 16, received her undergraduate education in Business from CU Boulder, and her MFA in Dance from Smith College on full fellowship. She has passionately enjoyed her adventures in teaching, performing, choreographing, directing, and learning all over the globe, and is devoted to the study of movement and non-verbal intelligences across human populations.  Donna is an affiliate faculty member in both Women and Gender Studies, and Ethnic Studies. She is also trained as an ethnomusicologist and sewist. She is the 2011 winner of the Selma Jeanne Cohen honor in International Dance Scholarship, the first transnational fusion choreographer of an off-Broadway production in NYC, and the first to perform this genre of dance at the venerated Kennedy Center and Apollo Theatre. She is single mother to an extraordinary daughter and an avid volunteer for human and animal healing efforts.  Updates can be found at https://donnainthedance.com/
 
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Mahaila El Helwa is a renowned instructor, performer and choreographer of Oriental dance.  Mahaila is one of the premier instructors of Brazil who is known for her unique style and precise technique.  In addition to her work in Brazil, she has taught workshops and performed in many countries throughout the world. She improves her dance with great masters of oriental dance and travels constantly to Egypt to improve her dance.  In 2017, she opened the "Mahaila El Helwa Studio - Arab Oriental Dance" in Sao Paulo / Brazil.  Today, she is a top-favorite master teacher of many students who are intrigued and inspired by her personality and dance individuality.

 

 

 

 

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A versatile and extremely well-rounded performer, Zoe Jakes has developed an instruction style all her own and is a popular touring instructor, her workshops regularly selling out.

Katarina Burda (an original member of Bal-Anat) is her first teacher and influence, and Zoe was a company member of Katarina's troop Aywah! along with the talented Mira Betz and Elizabeth Strong. She went on to perform with Suhaila Salimpour, spent a few years learning how to get in peoples faces in Extra Action Marching Band, and immersed in Americana Vaudeville with The Yard Dogs Road Show. A proud Member of The Indigo Belly Dance Company, Zoe holds Mardi Love and Rachel Brice as her teachers and inspiration. Currently Zoe Jakes is touring with her band Beats Antique, a group that has 6 albums and hundreds of live shows under their belt. Zoe designs and makes many of her own costumes and co-produces tracks with Beats Antique, also adding set designer and stylist to her body of work.

Zoe Jakes has the desire and opportunity to bring belly dance to the masses, having performed at Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonneroo in front of thousands of people that don't know belly dance from an elephant. It is her passion that Belly Dance can get a wider recognition and respect, and her classes reflect that with a focus on strong technique and long term motivation.

Zoe has classes at her home studio, Coven, in Oakland, travels all over the US to teach and perform, and has many classes on www.DaturaOnline.com. In 2015 Zoe launched her own tribal fusion belly dance format, DanceCraftTM. The purpose of this accredited dance program is to provide a structure in which dancers can progress towards an achievable goal, and to provide an opportunity to build a dancer's skills intelligently and clearly. This format applies strong technical training as a framework for artistry and creative expression.

DanceCraft focuses on dance technique, strength and flexibility, musicality, choreography, improvisation, critical thinking, stamina, analysis, teamwork, belly dance history, teaching and creating original work.

More details and registration at www.ZoeJakes.com