Kiyaana's Blog

March/April 2016 Session Begins March 7!

We're starting the next session of classes at Strictly Ballroom in Fredericksburg, VA this Monday, March 7. Both classes will learn choreography during the March/April session to perform at my 5th annual fundraiser hafla on Saturday, May 7.

The 7 pm "Continuing Bellydance" class is for Intermediate level and above. "Intro and Essentials" at 8 pm is suitable for beginners and advanced beginners. If you are new to classes with me and are unsure about which level is right for you, please contact me and let me know what dance training you already have.

The fee for all seven classes is $75, paid on March 7. You can still drop in for one class for $15, but $75 for seven is a much better deal! There is no class on April 6. Arrive 10-15 minutes before class on the first night of the session to sign up at the front desk.

Q: What if I can't attend March 7, but still want to learn the choreography?
A: Your best option is to sign up for the full session, even if you have to miss a class. Not only is it less expensive than paying for the remaining classes individually, if you sign up for all seven, I will put you on the class mailing list right away. You will receive video clips for practicing as well as song information.

Q: Where is Strictly Ballroom?
A: I have instructions with photos here on my site.

Q: I'm not sure I want to perform. Is it required to be in the class?
A: Performing is not required. I like to provide opportunities for students to share what they have learned, but it is optional.

Hope you can join us!

Healthy Hips - What to do for Sciatica

In late October 2015, I had my first (and only, so far) experience with sciatica. The strange pain that would either be in my right glute, back of the thigh, or even just above the back of the knee was alarming, especially since I had a troupe performance and a special Advanced Artistry intensive with Yasmina Ramzy coming up. While I could still function normally, certain movements (like getting up from a chair or out of the car) were very painful. I was amazed that my dancing was minimally affected, other than deep hip circles and dancing with caution. However, I knew dancing without treating it would make it worse, so I immediately started researching solutions. While the problem wasn't resolved before I went to Toronto for the intensive, all of my pain was gone within about six weeks. As of this writing in late February 2016, it hasn't reoccurred.

Sciatica can be caused by various circumstances, depending on your own lifestyle, so please consult a physician for guidance. I am not a health care professional.

Many people develop sciatica due to disc issues or during pregnancy, but I believe I personally developed sciatica because of not stretching the hip muscles enough following dance training and performing (this is very common among dancers, I found out) and from long sessions of driving without sitting properly. Plus, some recent life issues (day job and dance job) were very stressful for me and in general I was not taking the time to alleviate the stress, so my muscles were absorbing it. While I do get a monthly massage and my massage therapist worked on my hip that session, I knew I needed to spend some time researching solutions and putting the ideas into practice.

The sciatic nerve actually fascinated me. If it's under pressure, it can affect muscles all the way from the pelvis to the foot! From what I read, I needed to focus on the piriformis and psoas muscles, as well as the IT band. When these areas are tight, they can I already had "liked" the Core Walking Program on Facebook and found many of the posts helpful as I researched advice for stretching and posture corrections. Therefore many of the links here go to, though I am not affiliated with their program in any way. I recommend reading through the articles I have linked below and testing out what resonates with your individual situation.

Info about the psoas

Great stretch for the IT band

Pigeon pose for the piriformis muscle

Driving tips for sciatica and piriformis syndrome (this was especially helpful for me)

Reflexology for sciatic nerve disfunction

Best treatments for sciatic nerve pain

8 easy yoga poses to relieve sciatica pain in 16 minutes or less

Sciatic nerve pain relieve begs for good posture and core tone

Video of "frog belly" for stretching the piriformis (ended up being one of my favorite stretches)

Video for piriformis release

Video for using a tennis ball to massage for sciatic nerve relief

One last note, don't forget to acknowledge that you need to eliminate or at least alleviate stressful life situations. Getting away from my day job for a week while I focused on dance in Toronto did wonders for my sciatica. I was worried about the 10 hour drive there making it worse, but knowing I had a week to focus on healing while expanding my dance abilities helped me greatly. During the week away, I was able to spend quiet, quality time stretching and attending to the issue. It didn't hurt that I didn't have to drive in stop-and-go traffic for five days, either!

Shamadan and Saidi Workshops with Kiyaana and Blythe

Kiyaana of Fredericksburg, VA performs Egyptian Dance with a ShamadanBlythe Egyptian Folkloric Dancer with AssayaSaturday, April 162016 in Fredericksburg, VA 

Want to expand your dance repetoire? Interested in Egyptian folkloric styles? Join Blythe and Kiyaana, experienced instructors and dedicated students of Faten Salama, to learn to dance with a shamadan, the dramatic candelabra used to lead wedding processions, and the assaya (cane), the women's prop for Saidi.
12 noon - 2 pm Shamadan with Kiyaana
2:30 pm - 4:30 pm Saidi with Blythe
Kiyaana will present the basics of dancing with a shamadan, including leading a zeffa as well as performing on stage. (No shamadan required! Skills can be used with other balancing props, too.) After a short break, Blythe will teach a sassy Saidi-style cane choreography. (No previous cane experience necessary. Extra canes will be available to borrow.)

(At least six months of dance experience is recommended for these workshops.)

Time: 12 noon-4:30 pm  (30 min. break between workshops)  
Location: Bodyworks, Fredericksburg, VA    
Cost: $40 each or $70 for both        

Payable through PayPal. Or pay at the door via check/cash. Click here for form.

Shamadan with Kiyaana
12 noon - 2:00 pm
Saidi with Blythe
2:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Both Workshops
12 noon - 4:30 pm

Our workshop location is Bodyworks in downtown Fredericksburg, VA, approx. 10 minutes from exit 130A off of I-95. Find more details here about driving and parkingPark in the lot behind Bodyworks, off of Sophia (one-way street) and Amelia (also a one-way). **Use the parking lot entrance to get inside.** OR park in one of the visitor lots off of Sophia St. or the downtown parking garage (and walk several blocks to Bodyworks).

More about the instructors:
Blythe discovered her love of orientale dance in 2000 and found her mentor in master instructor, Faten, in 2007.  She is a company director and instructor at Saffron Dance, and is a member of Faten's two dance companies at Saffron. Blythe is also a member of Al Massraweya, a folkloric troupe dedicated to presenting Faten Salama's choreographies, with Eleni, Kiyaana, Sama, and Zaira.  Blythe is also a costumer who makes many folkloric and orientale costumes for groups and soloists.

Kiyaana has been a lifelong dancer, but discovered her true love in Raqs Sharqi, the "Dance of the East", or bellydance. She began studying bellydance over ten years ago and has warmly embraced the music, culture, and history of this Middle Eastern dance form. Kiyaana has been teaching weekly classes in Fredericksburg for over six years and is the director of her student group, Sameeha Bellydance Collective. Like Blythe, she is also a member of Faten's "Fellahi" performance company at Saffron Dance and a member of Al Massraweya.

Watch a performance showing Blythe and Kiyaana using shamadan and assaya here.

If you are not able to attend, the workshop fee(s) are not refundable. However, you may transfer your workshop(s) to another dancer. If the workshop(s) are cancelled, you will receive a full refund.

12 Days of Bellydance (Insert Holiday Here) Gifts

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Have a festive Saturnalia! Happy Holidays! As we well know, bellydancers come from all walks of life, variety of religions, etc. One thing we have in common - we love sparkly things! Well, maybe not quite as much sparkle for tribal dancers, but my list includes gift ideas for those ladies and gents, too.

1. The name says it all! I recommend the square sequin hip scarves, ruffle lace hip wrap, Saroyan Arabesque finger cymbals, Aziza's veil & hands/arms/poses DVDs, Masters of Egyptian Choreography DVDs, and Fan Veils DVDs (Mahsati or Sedona). Steer clear of the tops/bras and anything else fitted; it is really challenging to pick the correct sizes of such items for someone else. Feel free to contact me if you want a specific recommendation.

2. "I Bellydance. What's Your Superpower?" shirts. These are my own design. Dancers love the fitted style for wearing to class! 

3. Barefoot Sandals. Many of these are marketed towards beach weddings, so may be a bit overpriced, but if your dancer performs barefoot, some may be just her style.

4. Embroidered Kiss-Lock Coin Purse. Perfect for holding a pair of finger cymbals, some jewelry, or, of course, cash. And really pretty, too!

5. Colorful, High-quality Yoga Mat. Chances are, if she's any kind of serious dancer, she's stretching regularly and a beautiful yoga mat will enhance her experience. (Just make sure she doesn't think you're telling her she needs to exercise!!!)

6. Belly Dance Journal. Does your dancer like to take notes? Perhaps reflect on the happenings of the day? This journal is perfect, offering "practice pages" and "guided practices."

7. Portable Speaker. This one is waterproof and wireless, ideal for bluetooth capability and practicing in a big studio space.

8. Makeup Brushes. Your dancer likely has a whole set of brushed, blushes, eyeliners, shadows, lipsticks, etc. This sweet little travel set can go along to a gig for last-minute touch-ups. Or, give a gift certificate to a local cosmetics store, such as Ulta, Sephora, or MAC.

9. Jewelry. Hmmm. This can be tricky, depending on the dance style. My money's on these earrings for versatility; oriental and tribal dancers could make these work. You may want to opt for a Charming Charlie gift card if you have a store in your area. For sparkly dangle earrings, these are great and you can pick her favorite color. 

10. Gift Certificates for Classes or Private Lessons. If your dancer takes weekly classes or regular private lessons, contact the studio or instructor to find out about gift certificates. Or, if s/he has been talking about wanting to go to a workshop, make your own certificate that says you're paying for the workshop and hotel costs. I am forever grateful for the Christmas cash that helped me further my dance education!

11. Yoga Sandals. Okay, these look kind of strange, but I love them for two reasons. Number one, they really work for keeping my toes apart for pedicures. Two, when I've been dancing quite a bit or even just on my feet, the toe-separation and cushy footbed feel really great. If you aren't too sure about the sandals, go for the YogaToes Gems.

12. Relaxation. Dancers' bodies work hard! Encourage relaxation and recovery with a gift certificate to a local massage therapist or spa.

Bellydance Life Ups and Downs

I've been so lucky as a working dancer and dance teacher! And very fortunate as a dance student, too. For the past seven years, I have been able to gig consistently at Middle Eastern restaurants and for over six years, teach weekly classes in Fredericksburg, and attend classes and workshops with internationally known instructors. In that time, four restaurants have had to close (or relocate, fingers crossed), a usual November workshop weekend no longer exists (thanks for the memories, Women of Selket!), and I had to temporarily cancel my beginner class due to low enrollment (we're back on for Nov/Dec, yay!) But, it's all good. The optimistic restaurant owners have moved on to other locations or opportunities, new workshops and shows have popped up this November (Shem's presents KIN Nov 21 and Katayoun is hosting a Belly Dance Convention and Festival on Nov 22), and my classes continue to grow or at least hold steady.

Sometimes I have to pause to reassess and evaluate what's next for me in my dance life. Starting classes with Faten at Saffron two years ago continues to be one of the best decisions I've made. This past summer, I took classes with Yasmina Ramzy in Toronto and am about to return for her Advanced Artistry session. I am seeking out richer learning and performance opportunities than in the past, tapping into a deeper connection with the music and movement. As I continue to learn and evolve, what I want to share with my students grows, too, which I find exciting as an instructor.

So, what's next? I'm excited to find out. I'm keeping my mind and heart open to the possibilities.