Dancing with Leilani

I took my very first class with www.bellydancingbyzaphara.com in 1990, and I was inspired by my boyfriend's ancestry, family and traditions.  Our favorite cookbook that reflected his grandmother's recipes is Helen Corey's Food from Biblical Lands: A culinary trip to the land of the Bible.

I believe through dance and music, one can connect the body and spirit to the Earth and her people and have the opportunity to share this with others.  I am also focused on how we can connect as dancers and people into a larger international community and give back to each other and that international community.

It is my joy to share dance and hooping with others and to bring conversation to performances and the dancing community about culture, dance, and more.

Below find more information on terms, history, several linked articles for discussion, other thoughts on belly dancing, and cultural  appropriation.

*Pictured above dancing at Med Fest 2012  and to the right hooping with LED hoop at Seatac home office.

Common Terms
Other thoughts on Belly Dancing
Appreciate not cultural appropriate
Dance History

Linked articles for Discussion
Rhythms, Zills, Drums & Riqs
Leilani's upcoming performances
Where Leilani shops for dance and hooping wear
Dance Instructors


I have found dancing and hooping have helped to heal hurts around body image, strengthen a connection with our bodies and their beauty, help rehabilitate muscles, and connect us to a larger dancer and international community. Dancing, drumming and hooping improves flexibility, strength, grace, and rhythm.  As a certified personal trainer and massage therapist, she brings a unique understanding of the body, exercise and stretching.

Leilani taught beginning levels of belly dancing for five years in Seattle but she is currently not teaching unless by private contract for an event or party.  Private beginning hooping lessons are also available.

Email leilani @ leilanimassage.com Leilani's Massage Therapy Personal Training and Nutrition

Did you know that the term "Belly Dancing" and "Oriental Dance" may not be the best terms to describe dancing inspired by and from the Arab world, Middle East, North Africa, Western and Central Asia, and the Mediterranean? For some, both terms are considered to perpetuate some stereotypes about the dance form. For example: it is not always done with the mid riff exposed, it is not only performed by women, and it is not the art of seduction.  To see men in dancing check out http://www.gildedserpent.com/art45/laramen.htm and  http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1AA9A2C0FE7F3C03,

Articles about the history and myths of belly dancing (I am not personally agreeing or disagreeing with any of these sites but sharing them for discussion & thought.)

Some individuals feel that the term "belly dancing" and "Oriental Dance" are racist, colonist, and based on Victorian values.  Despite this, you will find these terms are commonly used and have been adopted by many dancers and instructors. 

Some other terms you will find in the dance community are: Middle Eastern Dance, Danse du Ventre, Raks al Sharki, , Raqs Sharqi, American Cabaret, American Belly dancing, American Tribal Style, Tribal Fusion, Goth Fusion, Golden Era Nightclub, Burlesque, Folkloric, and Ethnic.  If you scroll down under the FAQ's under how many belly dancing styles are there you'll see Zanbaka has given several definitions and some links. Details on costuming differences.

There are many dancers, instructors, and troupes that do not neatly fall into one or more the other categories but it is Leilani's hope that knowing more about these terms will help you on your dance journey.  Here are a couple definitions you may find useful:

Cabaret style commonly used to refer all belly dancing that is not "tribal" . The solos are combinations of choreographed and improvisational (and sometimes to live Arabic and Middle Eastern music or CD's); whereas group performances are choreographed. Costuming is commonly very colorful sometimes with beads (some coin-like) and sequins and in bra-belt combinations or similar dresses combinations. Examples: Leilani's first instructor www.bellydancingbyzaphara.com http://ychessa-dahli.com/about.htmlwww.nadira.com and  www.aleedra.com.

Tribal  belly dancing is not just an American term but it's an American originated style. It is a group improvisational style of partner belly dancing with a group of dancers complete with subtle cues for dance move changes and that combines a wide variety of cultures' costuming from the Arab world, Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Mediterranean and can include traditional Middle Eastern and North African dance and a fusion of dance styles.  For examples: http://www.fcbd.com/ , http://www.uc2bd.com/ , http://www.deeprootsdance.com/p/history-of-tribal-bellydance.html, http://www.tribalbellydance.org/about.html and www.troupehipnotica.com . A different view on belly dancing history and ATS http://www.fcbd.com/about/history_rr.shtml

Gypsy is commonly erroneously used by dancers as a descriptive term for an archetype, dress style, attitude/presence or dance style. The term is considered by many a derogatory term. It is often used to describe the ethnic group of people more properly referred to as the Romany, Romanies, Romanis, Roma or Roms.  It is racial ignorance to refer to ourselves as "Gypsy" -insert dancing, style, themed, inspired, etc... [unless we are Rom.] There is much to learn about the history of dance and of the many peoples we have borrowed from to fuse together what we now think of as "belly dancing."

For more in depth look at labels, try these articles here and here and do your own research about these and other terms.

Other thoughts on Belly Dancing:

How do we want to be intentional in dancing, learning, teaching and performing so that we are lessening harm or better yet creating something that changes the world in positive beautiful ways?  What are our ethics in our spending for costuming, music and classes? Do we consider the intersections of privilege, classism, racism, colorism, imperalism, and Orientalism? Some performances create stereotypes of women, borrow from cultures without thought, analysis and critical conversations, and marginalize the experiences of the very people we are inspired by.  Some fancy and fantasy performance art can create an exotic "other-ness" that perpetuates harmful stereotypes that directly negatively affects other women. Can others  respectfully represent another culture's dance? What is culture and cultural appropriation? As dancers and performers not from or of the cultures we dance, do we feel that we are not harming anyone because we are picking and choosing music and costuming from so many cultures? That in doing so, we make dance performance art so far removed from any particular group or culture as to erase any culture reference from our minds and in essence committing a form of "cultural genocide?" Is acceptable to change, blend, and leave behind the culture of an ethnic dance art form?  I hope that as dancers and performers while we are embracing our artistic journey, we also asking ourselves hard questions, exploring together in conversation, and ever evolving and influencing change in ourselves and our community.  

Ideas on how to give back if you love belly dancing!

To learn about the local dance community check out this community and there are also on-line forums for discussing belly dancing.


Pictured above dancing at  Med Fest 2012

Rhythms, Zills, Drums & Riqs

A local Egyptian drummer and instructor, George Sadak, teaches music of the Arabian gulf and Middle East

A favorite female doumbek drumming instructor, Raquy offers workshops, instructional dvd's and cds for Middle Eastern and Arabic rhythms

A Northwest drummer and an excellent drumming instructor, Michael Beach http://www.baladi.com/ in Middle Eastern, Arabic and world music

The Seattle Drum Jams list is an excellent way to find out about opportunities to get out there and drum or dance in the Seattle area.  If you're a beginner drummer, the list is an great party line to discover an amazing world of activity you were never aware of before.  And experienced percussionist and dancers can keep up to date on happenings around town. Subscribe: seattle-drum-jams-subscribe@yahoogroups.com  You can join the list and manage your membership at this web page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/seattle-drum-jams

Offers a great variety of drumming classes and has an email announcement list of upcoming African Djembes and congas classes that you can join check it out at www.LaDrumma.com

A local venue for drumming, dancing, and more! http://www.ottomanbellydance.com/home

I love my instructional cds, dvds [or vhs] on drumming, tambourine [riq] and def playing by  http://www.unclemafufo.com in Middle Eastern music and rhythms

* Pictured above dancing at local restaurant

Zills: Learn more about them here http://www.saqra.net/articles.html#CYMBAL and http://www.shira.net/zills.htm I came to realize there are cymbal how to videos! I love Saqra and her techniques are great! So, first there's http://www.saqra.net/Shopping/musicvid.html And then I found yet another video on learning to the play the finger cymbals also known as zills! Mesmera is a little corny but the technique is lovely maybe a little fast paced but you can rewind and do it over and over! "Saroyan How to play finger cymbals with Mesmera" available through www.saroyanzils.com . I rented mine through the King County Library system www.kcls.org and had it delivered to a library close to me and later bought a copy because I liked it so much.  However learning to drum Middle Eastern and Arabic rhythms helped me play zills much better because I could find the down-beat more often!

Riqs/Tambourine: You can get a skin covered riq for $14 from Saqra, a $20-25 Western synthetic head one [good in the NW wet conditions] from Johns Music.  If you love them, then you might consider a higher end riq (a traditional instrument in Arabic music) .  The nicer riqs are available from Johns Music but you might have to special order it. Like these different Remo varieties: http://www.layneredmond.com the tar-Rine, lotus or riq (learn more here) or the http://www.glenvelez.com/ Glen Velez Signature Riq

Doumbeks: At this time I recommend Remo's doumbeks aluminum check out http://www.johnsmusic.com/ or http://www.saqra.net - with either a fake skin head or a plastic head for indestructibility and portability. If you want a clay one like mine be sure to get a padded case - one drop and no more drum! The clay doumbeks have a lovely deep dum and a nice high tek sound and they're gorgeous!

African percussive toys:  shakers, bells, inexpensive frame drums and frogs and more http://jamtown.com/index.html

World Rhythm Festival: http://swps.org/swps?dpage=home to meet, hear and learn from drumming instructors and performers from around the world!


Ideas on how to give back and
appreciate not appropriate :


  • * Pictured above dancing at local restaurant

    Other Instructors:  

    My fabulously highly energetic south King County instructor,  Saqra,
    a dancer, performer & musician extraordinaire  & produces events in Portland area & travels to teach & learn

    My first instructor, the fabulous Zaphara who has started many on their Middle Eastern dance exploration

    The mesmerizing and soulful Nabeela performer and teacher

    An amazing graceful dancer,  Nadira teaches & performs

    The gracious and lovely Hasani and her fabulous haflas

    talented dancer & instructor & costume designer Zanbaka

    Shay an excellent instructor and performer with a great website and blog

    For more instructors in your area, check NWbellydance , WABellydancing or Facebook "Seattle Belly Dancers"

    Upcoming Performances:

    June 7, 2014 6:30 pm at Saqra's Monthly Review

    I joined Saqra's student troupe and regularly perform with them
    many of the performances are during the summer. I update this site when I have confirmed dates. You can see some of hooping and dancing fun on my youtube channel.

    * Pictured dancing above and to left at  Kent Cornuccopia Days 2012


    * Pictured left dancing at
     Kent Cornuccopia Days 2012

    Where Leilani shops for dance and hooping wear:

    The tops pictured here and a number of her
    interchangeable pieces are from LRoseDesigns and RoDesigns
    ponchos from Izzashop and caftans from Silkandmore
    Hooping attire from HerbanDevi
    Bras from ebay and Junonia (specializing in plus sized activewear)
    Newly starting to order bras from Poland in custom sizes for wonderful support
    And some sites I plan on checking out:) http://www.nubiandivas.com/recommendedshopping.htm