"Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances."
Maya Angelou

About Qamar

Heather "Qamar" Emerson has been reveling in this dance since 2000 and intends to study it for the rest of her life. She is a member of the Northeast Belly Dance Association, active in the Central Massachusetts Chapter. She will be joining the troupe The Desert Moon Dancers in October, 2008. She was an original member of Troupe Sarab/Mirage as well as appearing in stage shows Oasis in Your Eyes, Dancing Fire, and Eastern Journey under director and instructor Seyyide of the Boston Area. She can be seen modeling traditional dress in the video production Visions of the East - A Tapestry of Life. She has also performed as a soloist in restaurants in the Cambridge and Springfield area, as well as at numerous dance shows, hafli (dance parties) and community events.

She presently studies Raks Sharqi and folkloric styles under Su'ad and Katia of Boston, studies American Tribal Style and Gothic/Dramatic belly dance with Phoenix Avathar, and has studied with numerous teachers from around the country and the world.  She has experience in traditional cabaret style Raks Sharqi, folkloric Egyptian dances, Saudi women's dance (Khaleegi), Bedouin dance and other Middle Eastern folk dances, as well as American Tribal Style and Gothic/Dramatic bellydance.

As a teacher, Qamar encourages students to develop good technique and posture, maintain a respectful representation of Middle Eastern culture, and strives to acquaint students with a variety of Middle Eastern musical styles. She encourages women of all ages and shapes to join her in this dance, and hopes that it will bring them as much joy as it brings her.

Qamar is also a photographer and enjoys photographing dancers in action as well as taking troupe promotional photos and event photos. She has supplied photos to the Middle Eastern Dance in New England newsletter and website. If you are looking for a photographer for your dance event, or would like to do on-site (non-studio) photos of yourself or your troupe, you can contact her through Dreamer's Realm Photography.

"The only reason for mastering technique is to make sure the body does not prevent the soul from expressing itself."
La Meri

Classes with Qamar

Beginning Bellydance with Qamar

Come explore the ancient form of dance that is still being celebrated today by women around the world. Learn the basic techniques of traditional "Raks Sharqi" - the Middle Eastern women's dance - and feel your body tone, your confidence grow and your spirit soar. Because this dance relies on natural body movement, it is a wonderful form of dance for dancers of all ages and shapes, increasing flexibility and toning muscles while being very gentle on the body. Often misunderstood, this is a dance that celebrates womanhood in all its forms in a positive, non-exploitive manner. Students are encouraged to wear clothing that is flexible and comfortable, yet allows to teacher to see body movement. Hip scarves are encouraged - it is helpful to have something to tie at the hips to see movement. Shoes are optional and should be flexible and allow ease of motion.

When: Monday nights from 7:00 to 8:30
Where: CCS Dance Academy, 607 Main Street, Holden, MA (map)
Cost: Enrollment is ongoing monthly for $55 a month, or buy a 5 class "Dance Card" good for two months for $65.
Contact Qamar
“It's what I always wanted to do, to show the laughter, the fun the joy of dance."
Martha Graham

Upcoming Performances

October 19, 2008
Raks Spooki III, 3:30-6:30 The Regent Underground Theatre, 7 Medford Street, Arlington, MA (map)
October 25, 2008
Veiled in the Shadows: A Haunted Hafla, Oxford Community Center, 4 Maple Road, Oxford, MA map)
"Dance is the hidden language of the soul."
Martha Graham

Stage show and video appearances

"Dance is so important in the world. It needs no language. Our bodies speak a language of its own."
Ibrahim Farrah (1939-1998), mentor of many of my teachers and mentors. I never met him, but I feel he has given me so much!

Qamar’s Teachers/Mentors

Qamar’s Workshop Instructors

"I see dance being used as communication between body and soul, to express what is too deep to find for words."
Ruth St. Denis

Sources of Dance Information


Musicians are the key that unlocks the door to our dance. You always dance best to a song that resonates with you on some level. That being said, when dancing for a public crowd, particularly if there is any chance of a Middle Eastern audience, you want to be careful about music choice. This is particularly true for songs with lyrics. Many Arabic songs are songs of tormented love - nobody does them better! - but sometimes a song that sounds celebratory or sensual to our ear has a very different translation. I’ve seen a smiling, shimmying dancer swirling about to a song about the horrors of war. Big OOPS! I know of one song that I loved the sound of, only to find out it was about the singer’s dear, departed father. Glad I checked the translation on that one! Also, do not dance to songs with Muslim religious lyrics. As much as I adore the music of Nusrat Ali Kahn, I would only ever dance publicly to his secular works, not his religious works. You can often find translations on the web of popular songs, but if in doubt, go with instrumental!

Live Performers I Have Seen

Artists for Listening and Dancing

This is, of course, just the tip of the Sahara-sized sand dune. There are so many great artists and styles, and even more lovely(and many not so lovely) compilations. Experiment and find what works for you! You can never have enough music or enough sequins!

Costuming Sources

Costuming is a very important part of Middle Eastern dance. As Katia says, although the quote is not exact, the first minute you are performing, the audience is looking at your costume and you, not your dancing. Save the fancy dance steps for later - enter like a queen and display your finery. If you are doing a folkloric or ethnic piece, please do some research and costume appropriately. For example, bedouins do not wear beaded bra and belt sets or saris. Nor is it appropriate to be doing cabaret style dance in a traditional costume.

Remember to always be a lady (for heaven's sake wear underwear - preferably that matches your outfit - this is not a strip tease), and be prepared for any costume emergencies. I always stitch a couple extra hooks and eyes into belts and bras so if one gives, another will save me from embarrassment. Safety pins are your best friend - don't leave home without them! Always pin your belt, skirt, and underwear together tightly so they don't shimmy off and don't separate. I tend to be rather straight at the hips,so things can slip easily. For that reason, and because of modesty, I always wear a body stocking if I am in a two piece outfit. You can pin everything - bra, belt, skirt, etc, to that and save yourself a great deal of grief! Make sure hair items are super secure, and if you are wearing a hair piece make sure it is really stuck on there! You use your hair in this dance, so it needs to be ready to move! Another tidbit of advice - always practice your dancing in your full costume - hair, props - including veil and zills! - and jewelry before using them in performance. You'd be surprised what things may look great together, but don't get along when dancing together!

Do-It-Yourself Costuming Books and Patterns

The “Costume Goddess” series of books by Dina Lydia is a must for beginner costumers and dancers in general with lots of great ideas for creating costumes from basic supplies.

Dawn Devine Brown’s series on various types of costuming and costume creation techniques are excellent. She provides pattern ideas, lots of techniques for the seamstress, and as great deal of variety.

Books of Interest

You really can’t learn to dance form a book, but it is always helpful to know more about the culture the dance comes from. As for Snake Hips, well, it is just so much fun I had to include it! All of these books are available through Amazon.

Snake Hips by Anne Thomas Soffee - a fun, non-fiction account of a woman’s experience in the sub-culture of belly dance in the United States. Incredibly funny, and frighteningly accurate.
"A Trade like Any Other": Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt by Karin van Nieuwkerk - An academic but fascinating study of women’s and performers roles in modern Egypt.
Serpent of the Nile: Women and Dance in the Arab World by Wendy Buonaventura - Fascinating, but sometimes controversial, text as some do not agree with some of her theories.
Dreams Of Trespass: Tales Of A Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi - I adore Fatima Mernissi. She is a Moroccan, Muslim feminist. In this book she tells of her girlhood, de-sensationalizing the usual misconceptions about life in a harem.
Scheherazade Goes West by Fatima Mernissi - A must read for every woman, in my opinion. This book really makes you rethink how our culture effects our views of ourselves.
Grandmother's Secrets: The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dancing by Rosina-Fawzia B. Al-Rawi - A beautiful and touching introduction to belly dance and how it came to be.

Great Dancers of the Past - and Now! - Worth Learning More About

Famous dancers or choreographers worth checking into - mostly classic cabaret and Egyptian film stars. You can find tons of great videos of the Egyptian dancers on YouTube! :

Local Dance Friends

Local dance friends who inspire as well as entertain!