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.
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.|
- 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)
Stage show and video appearances
- Dancing Fire (2003)
- Oasis in Your Eyes (2002)
- Eastern Journeys (2004)
- Raks Spooki (2008)
- Visions of the East - A Tapestry of Life
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!
- Seyyide (Boston area) My first teacher and dear friend, Seyyide is a classy dancer strong teacher who really promotes technique. I would not be where I am now without her "yes, you can, now do it again!" coaching! Thank you for helping me do more than I ever thought I could and changing my life with this dance!
- Katia of Boston Truly a master of the dance and a fount of dance wisdom, Katia is not to be missed. She takes a dancer and makes her a performer. Well-traveled and studied, she is a fabulous teacher, dancer, and choreographer - not to mention costume designer - and a stunning woman all around. Her Summer Retreats are NOT to be missed. I adore you, Katia, and I treasure every minute I spend with you!
- Phoenix Avathar Phoenix is the teacher who got me back on my feet after I took too much time away. She is well-trained in Raks Sharqi, but her passion is American Tribal Style and Gothic/Dramatic Bellydance and she excels at both. She is a fabulous group choreographer! Thank you, Phoenix, for getting me back in dancing shape and for winning me, Miss Traditional, over to trying ATS and Gothic!
- Su'ad While I have only recently started to study with Su'ad, I've known her and taken workshops from her for years. Knowledgable and a queen of folklore, Su'ad is highly involved in the dance world, sponsoring fabulous workshops and events. I am greatly looking forward to studying with her and am thrilled and honored to be joining her Desert Moon Dancers!'
Qamar’s Workshop Instructors
- Nourhan Sharif and The Egyptian Academy of Oriental Dance
- Leyla Jouvana
- Roland (drumming)
- Shadia Tohmae Maalouf (Boston area)
- Anahid Sofian
- Habiba of Philadelphia
- Virginia of Miami
- Amir Thaleb (Argentina)
- Phaedra (Boston-area)
- Phaedra (NYC)
- Lorraine Lafata
- Phoenix Avathar
- Melina of Daughters of Rhea (Boston area)
- Josie Conte
- Karim Nagi Mohammed (zills/sagat/finger cymbals)
- Wendy Buonaventura
- Aepril Schaile
Ruth St. Denis
Sources of Dance Information
- Middle Eastern Dance in New England - the ultimate newsletters for the region with articles, events listings, class and teacher listings, and more.
- bellydanceMA@yahoogroups.com - All the latest events and classes in Massachusetts plus lots of discussion
- Northeast Belly Dance Association (NBDA) - I am a card carrying member of the Central Massachusetts Chapter, the Belly Buttons. The NBDA inexpensive to join, and provides access to lots of information as well as sponsoring events and workshops and providing a central place for New England dancers to communicate. Join!
- The Art of Middle Eastern Dance(by Shira) - a site chock full of all sorts of fabulous photos, advice, and information
- bhuz.com - Bhuz is the massive on-line dance community. You'll find it all here!
- The International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (IAMED) - Site with all sorts of belly dance news, photos, and information from around the world.
- OrientalDancer.net has articles, interviews, advice, and belly dance news from around the world.
- The Gilded Serpent "an e-zine", this is yet another source of info, articles and more
- iShimmy.com is another "e-zine" with articles, reviews, etc.
- Zaghareet "An American Belly Dance Magazine" - actual hard copy magazine!
- Jareeda - a hard copy magazine of Middle Eastern dance
- Bennu magazine -I don't know if they are still publishing, but through this site you can purchase back issues, arranged by topic. They have great research and 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
- Karim Nagi Mohammed - amazing Boston based Egyptian musician, specializing in percussion. Does workshops, classes, and presentations in percussion including finger cymbals(sagat or zills) and well as Arabic folkdance and culture. Also the creator of TurboTabla!
- Ed Melkian Ensemble - fabulous live Armenian, Turkish, Greek and Arabic music ensemble, presently performing at the Sahara Restaurant in Worcester once a month.
- Mitchell Kaltsunas - beautiful voice and talented musician with a great band in the Greater Boston area! Plays for many of the local clubs and restaurants.
- Aboudi Badawi is a top notch Lebanese Boston-based band leader who has done great work with the Boston dance community. He doesn’t appear to have a website, but he is worth looking for if you want a real Arabic band.
- Freddy Elias and the Athenian Ensemble - this group is comprised of spectacular musicians playing Greek, Arabic, and Armenian music. They play at the Athenian Corner restaurant on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and dancers appear on those evenings as well! Freddy’s violin work will bring tears to your eyes - he is a master. GO see dancers, listen to great music, and enjoy delicious Greek food at the Athenian Corner in Lowell, MA.
- Tony Chalmoun - a great drummer from the Greater Boston area, he has released a superb drum solo album with solos named after top local dancers. The link is to a detailed review of his CD. You'll find him playing at a number of Boston area clubs.
- John Bilezikjian - a world reknown oud player, originally from the Boston area who has played with world famous orchesteras and for world leaders. I was fortunate to hear him play live at the Athenian Corner when he was back East visiting. Amazing. His albums are fabulous for dancing and listening alike.
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!
- Hossam Ramzy The famous and prolific Egyptian percussionist has a wonderful selection of music for dancers. You really can’t go wrong with any of his albums.
- Amr Diab - leading Egyptian pop star - great music to dance to!
- Ragheb Alama - leading Lebanese pop artist
- George Abdo - An Egyptian musical legend from the greater Boston area, the late(2002) great George Abdo worked with a variety of Middle Eastern music with his band, the Flames of Araby. He was the king of the famous Averof supper club in Boston and his music was loved by dancers and listeners alike. The Smithsonian has preserved some of his work in their Folkways recordings, but a number of his albums are still available. His music may sound a bit dated or hokey to some modern listeners, but this is the man that pioneered belly dance music in the Untied States, and nothing is wrong with a bit of drama!
- Um Kalthoum (also spelled Om Kalthoum, Oum Kalsoum, Umm Kolthoum) - the grand dame of Egyptian music. Her music can be a challenge as it follows traditional musical forms, but much of it has been made into instrumental versions. Wonderful for traditional, classic Oriental dance pieces and sure to appeal to Egyptian audiences.
- Kadim al-Sahir (also spelled a number of ways - Kazem al-Saher, Kathem Al Saher etc.) Very talented singer and classically trained composer from Iraq. You don’t need to speak Arabic to feel the passion in his voice. he does classical and pop styles, and uses lovely orchestration. He has worked to promote peace in Iraq, his beloved homeland, having fled the country years ago from Saddam Hussein's regime. He doesn’t yet have his own site, but one is in the works. You can find info on him at wikipedia and other places. I'm totally smitten with him!
- Hakim - a popular Egyptian singer, specializing in the style of Sha'abi, a "working class" style of Egyptian music and dance coming from southern Egypt.
- Natacha Atlas - Egyptian female pop singer - sings in Arabic, French, and English and experiments with a variety of styles, including jazz and modern pop and dance music. Very soulful voice.
- Tarkan - I am not the first, nor the last, dancer to lose her heart to this sexy Turkish pop singer. Sigh.
- Ofra Haza - Sadly, this stunning Israeli(by way of Yemen) vocalist passed away not long ago, but her voice will live forever.
- Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - (1948-1997) Not necessarily dance music, but I had to include him because his voice and music was inspiring me to dance before I knew what belly dance was. A Pakistani singer, specializing in Qawwali, the religious music of the Sufis, he also did secular work and paired up with western artists for performances as well. His music just entrances me. You can find info on him at wikipedia and other places.
- Simon Shaheen - Palestinian musician now based out of New York, he has devoted his life to bringing Arabic music to the world stage. His music can be Arabic, jazz, Western classical, or a mix of all three.
- Marcel Khalife - A Lebanese master oud player and a composer of Western style classical music with a Middle Eastern flare, his music may not be meant for dancing, but is a joy to listen to. He is a large supporter humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people. His album Concerto-Al-Andalus is beautiful.
- Warda - An incredibly famous classic style Arabic singer born in Algeria. Many of her songs have been made into instrumental pieces for dancing.
- Eddie "The Sheik" Kochak - Like George Abdo, Eddie "The Sheik" is a pioneer in Middle Eastern - particularly belly dance - music in the United States. He is an institution and has made over 100 recordings. Guaranteed hokey, and just wonderful. His albums often have full routines for dancers, and can be easily broken apart and reassembled into a performance of your own.
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!
- Sugar Petals is the ultimate source of body stockings and dance costuming supplies. They are not cheap - but they wear like iron, which if your are curvy and then some and love to shimmy, like me, you will greatly appreciate. They carry fringes, bra and belt forms, "gems" for decorating and so much more.
- Shimmy Shimmy - all sorts of dance supplies, very helpful over the phone!
- Anatolia Imports - a collection of all things Middle Eastern (store is right down in Rhode Island! Super nice people!)
- L. Rose Designs - great source for custom made basics.
- Theora’s Bellydance Boutique - great source for custom made basics and costumes
- Sharifwear by Nourhan Sharif - cholis, dance pants - great stuff to wear for class!
- Moondance Bellydance - super, reasonably priced sets and supplies for all sorts of bellydance
- Nahari Silk Veils - my favorite source for veils that move like a dream!
- Sassy Sparkles - fabulous glitter make-up that really lights up your performance
- A creator of the most beautiful, custom designed, hand beaded, dance costumes - Shadia of Boston. She creates custom costumes for many of the top New England professional dancers and shows - not to mention she is a great teacher, particularly of folkloric styles. She also makes a wide assortment of custom body stockings. She doesn’t have a website, but her e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
- Neckelmann's Beaded Bellydance Costumes and Dance Sets - a great place for reasonably priced, custom-made beaded bra and belt sets. You name the color and size, and she'll make it for you. She uses soft bras, so I stitched my beaded bra over a firm, foam bra that fit me well to provide extra support, and couldn't we all use a little extra support? I also reinforced the velcro on the belt with hooks and eyes(at least 3!) to hold the belt firmly. I'm obsessed with not having things fall off!
- The Dancing Gypsy This shop will be opening in Spencer Massachusetts part-time in October and full-time in November. How nice to have a local spot to purchase belly dance attire and find classes and workshops!
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.
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! :
- Samia Gamal
- Fifi Abdo
- Tahia Carioca
- Nagwa Fouad
- Mona Said
- Souhair Zaki
- La Meri
- Ruth St. Denis
- Martha Graham
- Ibrahim Farrah
- Raqia Hassan
- Mahmoud Reda
- Yousry Sharif - the premier Egyptian choreographer in the United States, based in New York City. Husband of the fabulous dancer and teacher, Nourhan Sharif. He is coming to Boston for a two-day workshop in April 2009 and I am SO there - you should be, too! It may be his last time teaching in Boston!
- Morocco - also known as Aunt Rocky, one of the first and most well-known dancers in the US. One of these days I'll make it to a workshop with her! Everyone always raves about her!
- Fat Chance Belly Dance - if you are looking for American Tribal Style (ATS) belly dance, these are the folks who invented it in San Francisco in 1974. Check this site out to get a better understanding of ATS.
- Gypsy Caravan - another one of the original dance troupes developing American Tribal Style.