Kiyaana's Blog

Tie on a Hipscarf!

If you go to a bellydance workshop, you will find women and men in various workout clothing such as yoga pants, tank tops, t-shirts, etc.  What makes it obvious that they are learning bellydance is that almost all of them will be wearing some sort of hipscarf.  Yes, it can make dancing more fun, but the main reason for tying something around your hips is to make your hip movements more obvious and visible.  You are helping your teacher or audience see what you've been working so hard to learn.  If you are practicing in front of a mirror, you receive the visual benefits, too. 

Fringe?  Coins?  Fun, but not necessary.  Some teachers actually discourage wearing coin hipscarves due to the noise level and because they often "shed" coins when you get your hips moving.  (So be prepared with an alternative when taking a class or workshop from a teacher that is new to you.) 

Where do you find hipscarves?  There are many lovely scarves in retail stores that will do the job - they often have a little fringe, too.  You can also make your own (details to follow on a future blog post).  There are several online vendors who carry scarves with coins, are crocheted with beads, or glimmer with paillettes.  One of my favorite places for such scarves is Scheherezade Imports.  Click on "Hip Sashes" on the left.  

Scheherezade Imports also has a great "Finger Cymbals, Veil & Hip Sash Getting Started Set."

If you are looking for a simple dance outfit that is perfect for beginners, check out the Student and Troupe offer from L Rose Designs.

Bellydance Footwear

Ask five bellydancers what they wear on their feet for practice and performance and you will get five different answers.  Barefoot, ballet slippers, jazz shoes, lyrical sandals, hermes sandals, ballroom heels, and the list goes on!  Part of the decision is based on personal preference and part on what is recommended by dance instructors.

What do I recommend for a SharQui™ class or a regular bellydance class?  I tell students they can go barefoot or wear dance slippers.  Socks will work if you are adverse to barefoot and don't yet have dance slippers, however they may not "stick" as well.  Why barefoot?  If you are able to trust the floor, which should be the case in a fitness or dance class setting, bare feet allow your toes to properly spread for optimal balance. If you have preexisting foot issues, I recommend reading the section on feet in Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain. An in-between option is the half-sole or lyrical sandal, pictured with this article.  It gives full coverage for the ball of your foot, but allows your toes to spread properly.  A more recent addition to dance footwear that I have not yet tried, but am curious about is Capezio Women's Full Body Footundeez Lyrical/Modern Shoe.

Performance footwear is another matter.  Again, if I can trust the floor, I prefer barefoot, but unless you are on a theater stage, that is rarely the case.  For restaurant shows, I usually wear Very Fine Ballroom Dance shoes, but sometimes opt for a Split Sole Canvas Ballet Slipper, depending on the look I want for my costume.  Different shoes affect how your turns, spins, and shimmies feel, so it's important to regularly practice in the shoes that you choose for performance.

How to choose?  Read recommendations and visit a dance supply store, if possible.  In the Fredericksburg, VA area, Dancer's Wardrobe has a great supply of slippers, jazz shoes, half-soles, and Foot Undeez.  Visit them to see what feels best for you.

Gifts for Bellydancers

Looking for some last-minute holiday gift ideas for your belly dancing girlfriend, wife, or friend?  Kiyaana to the rescue!  (Men can do this dance, too, but my suggestions are geared more towards the ladies.) 

Easy to order in advance:
Sparkly, Noiseless Hip Scarf - How many hipscarves does a bellydancer need?  One more!  Search for "square sequins" and you'll find several colors from which to choose.

Bellydance Magnets - These are so cute!  If you're up to the challenge, you can make your own.

Raqs Cuisine (Bellydance Cookbook) - Recipes are from dancers, custom artwork is by Nikki J.

Silk Veil by Fairy Cove - Veils are very common props or costume accessories in bellydance.  Pick her favorite color or a color combo.

The Way of the Belly - Fun book by the Bellytwins, includes a DVD, order through Amazon or Hay House (the publisher)

With at least a week to go:
Scheherezade Imports gift certificate - Lucy (Scheherezade) carries a wide variety of CDs, DVDs, hipscarves, costume patterns, and more. 

Bellydance DVDs, CDs, and books from - This link will take you to a short list of recommendations.  If at all possible, check her existing collection so you don't chose something she already has.

LAST MINUTE (night before!!!!):
Amazon gift card - Send her to to find music recommendations or direct her to the list I linked above.

eMusic subscription - She will get 25 free downloads to start, then a set number per month.   Here's a bellydance-specific list to get her started.

Sephora eCertificate - All of that performance make-up has to come from somewhere.  :)  (Note: eCertificates may only work when ordering on the site.  If you have a store nearby, stop in to pick up a regular gift card.) gift certificate - Unless your dancer ONLY does Tribal style, I'm sure she can find something here.  (But the Tribal girls may prove me wrong.)

A night out to see a bellydance show - You'll need to be a little creative with this one.  Make a certificate for a night out and tuck it in a special card. If you live near a major city, you probably have several Middle Eastern restaurants that regularly feature bellydance, at least on the weekends.  She may already have one picked out that she'd like to visit. Is she a Bellydance Superstars fan?  Check their schedule and buy advance tickets.  You get the idea.


Note: If you really want to get her a costume, resist the urge to pick out one yourself.  (Sizing and styles can be tricky.)  Instead, get her a gift certificate for her favorite belly dance costume store or website.  If she doesn't have a favorite (as far as you know, anyway) make your own "Costume Gift Certificate" on the computer and put it in a lovely card.  Believe me, I am thrilled with a gift of costume cash.  :)

Happy shopping!  If you are reading this, that's already a good sign that you care and will pick out something your dancer will love.

Bellydance Instructional DVDs - Worth the Money?

While a bellydance instructional DVD will never replace a real, live teacher in front of you in a class or private lesson, these DVDs do have their place.  Your teacher may not specialize in certain props and/or techniques or you may want something to supplement and complement what you are already learning.  But where do you start?  If you search for "bellydance" in the DVD section on, you get hundreds of results. Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you sort through the myriad of options out there.

1. Read the reviews.  Of course Amazon itself has lots of reviews, but be aware that the glowing reviews may very well be from the author(s) of the DVD and the negative reviews may come from individuals who have NO idea what they're talking about (!) Search on in the forum for the DVD title and you will often get a more dancer-focused perspective on the DVD.

2. Do some research.  Check out the dance instructor's website.  Does s/he teach regularly?  Is s/he recognized for that particular style? (If so, s/he probably regularly teaches workshops around the country or even the globe. You should be able to easily find information on the internet other than her/his own site about a reputable instructor.) 

3. Be honest about your current skill level.  If you are a beginner, stick to those DVDs that are geared towards beginners and intermediates.  If you attempt something more advanced, you will likely be overwhelmed, disappointed, and may even injure yourself.  Likewise, if you are already at an intermediate or advanced level, don't pick out a beginner DVD and then give it a negative review!

My recommendations for bellydance fitness instructionals:
SharQui - The bellydance workout Level 1
SharQui - The bellydance workout Level 2 (after you are comfortable with Level 1)
Bellydance With... Jillina: Shape Up n' Hip Out! (I don't recommend this for beginners since the movements aren't thoroughly explained.)
Aziza's Ultimate Bellydance Practice Companion (Also not recommended for brand-new beginners.)

My recommendations for bellydance choreography instructionals:
Belly Dance Basics: A Complete Lesson with Choreography for Beginners (Cheeky Girls Productions has many wonderful DVD releases.)
1-2-3 Drum Solo with Bahaia (belly dance)
Bellydance with Jillina Choreography, Vol. 1-3 (Recommended for intermediate and above.)
Bellydance - The Art of the Drum Solo

My recommendations for bellydance movement and combinations instructionals:
Combination Nation Vol 2: Belly Dance Instruction with America's Hottest Performers
Combin-ography - Bridging the gap between choreography and improvisation - belly dance
Veil with Aziza Belly Dance Instruction DVD
Learn 21 Shimmies and 1001 Variations Belly Dance Instruction
Discover Bellydance (Definitely for beginners.)
Learn Hot Combinations with Ansuya - Belly Dance Lesson DVD

And there are many more! Those I have listed can be found through As you become more interested in and experienced with bellydance, ask for recommendations from your teacher and friends.  There are many DVDs that are more difficult to track down, but are certainly worth the money!  (Hadia's DVDs come to mind.) For DVDs made from workshops taught by the bellydance stars from the Middle East, check specialty sites such as Scheherezade Imports, Dahlal, Maqam, and

Music on a Bellydancer's Playlist

I'm always looking for new music!  While I certainly have plenty of the classics to keep me busy, I love discovering new versions.  It's also exciting to hear original songs from the traditional Middle Eastern orchestras.  And who can resist the fun songs that the pop starts keep churning out?

Some recent favorites:
Bellydance Superstars Volume 7 - This volume features mostly pop, remix, and fusion type songs.  I was happy to see this album available for download (at least through Amazon) since volumes 3, 5, and 6 are only available in CD form.

Tahia's Dance - If you haven't already downloaded all of Jalilah's albums, DO IT.  They are an amazing resource for fully orchestrated versions of classics.  There are nice breaks in the long songs (such as this one) in case you need to cut it for length.  Anyway, this particular track is just over 16 minutes (what a bargain for a $.99 download!!!!) and has a classic intro beginning, taqsim section(s), baladi, Hassan Ya Ghouli with vocals, and an exit.  It's a treasure trove, even just for listening.

Amal Hayati - This is an under-four-minutes snippet of this classic, sung by Oum Kalthoum and composed by Muhammad 'Abd al-Wahhab. I'm adding the original to my listening study list. I came across this page with a translation and the opportunity to listen to the original (essential homework before even attempting to dance to an Oum Kalthoum piece!)

Ba'ed Annak - At the end of June, I spent five days learning from Sahra Saeeda (in a group of nine dancers) and at the end of our time together, she (at our request) danced a little for us.  This is one of her trademark songs.  Now whenever I hear it, I can only think of her excellent dancing and how generous she is. She is exquisite! (You can see her perform to this on the IAMED DVD called, "Belly Dance!".  This performance and several others can be found on YouTube.  I believe the version used in those performances can be found on the CD, "Layali Zaman".)

Of course, I try to keep my list on updated, so check there to see what I use for my restaurant shows and for class.