ad 4 Fahtiem


The Advanced Class
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from left: Fifi, Noura, Soheir, Sabah, Samia, Shadia and Erna. In front from left: Vala and Zizi (thanks, Soheir!)
Gilded Serpent presents...
Bellydance in

by Sabah

Recently, I was able to witness first hand how truly global the world of bellydance has become.  Dances of the Middle East and North Africa are no longer a mystery and unknown “exotic” style of dance. 

These dances are now as documented, preserved, mutated, fused, and experienced across the globe as ballet, jazz, flamenco, and other dance forms have been.

 Since October 2005, I have had the opportunity to travel to Iceland to experience the growth and development of a young community of bellydance enthusiasts. 

Iceland, the northern-most island located between Europe and America, surprisingly does not live up to its extremely frozen sounding name. The capital and biggest city, Reykjavik, has a population of about 150,000; this is half of the total population of the entire country. Near the center of the city, locally known as Reykjavik 101, is a two-floor dance house called Kramhusid.  Kramhusid was the first dance house in Reykjavik to offer “alternative” dance styles to the classic jazz and ballet styles. Kramhusid was opened in 1983 by Hafdis, a movement teacher who had originally trained drama and theater students. Kramhusid has come a long way from its beginnings and currently offers classes in yoga, African dance, salsa, funky jazz, hip hop, aerobics, creative movement (taken from many dance forms), Caribbean, flamenco, tango, Balkan, and bellydance (translated in Icelandic to magadans).

Since the turn of the millennium, Kramhusid changed from just offering the occasional workshops and bellydance classes to regularly hosting guest teachers from around the world. When asked to recall all of the master teachers that were hired to come teach bellydance at Kramhusid, Hafdis recalls bringing teachers from Sweden, Brazil, the United States, Belgium, many from Denmark, and an Egyptian teacher to teach for one- to six-week intervals. If there is any time between these visits, advanced students with at least four years’ experience teach the beginning classes while they use class time themselves to review and rehearse their performance pieces.

Bellydance students have the opportunity to perform in recitals, festivals, cultural nights, gypsy tea parties, haflas, and even a few wedding receptions. The advanced students usually perform at least 5-10 times per year. Because of the constant flow of professional teachers, dedicated students have learned a variety of styles including folkloric, raqs sharqi, fusion pieces, and pop choreographies.

Advanced students perform with Anna Barner

In 2004, advanced students Soheir and Noura were the first to take their dance skills outside of Iceland to take part in Stockholm’s annual bellydance festival. This inspired Maher Kishk, a visiting master teacher, to create an Icelandic branch for his dancing troupe, Shams el Amar.  Maher Kishk now travels to Iceland at least twice a year to teach and rehearse his choreographies. Advanced students who are able to travel meet in Stockholm annually to join the Danish members of Shams el Amar to perform as one troupe. This year there will be eight Icelandic dancers traveling to the Stockholm festival. 

In a world where different cultures, foreign cities, and new destinations are only an Internet or plane ride away, I would like to conclude by saying that when you find yourself passing by or traveling to Iceland, be sure to stop by and check out the ever-growing bellydance scene at the Kramhusid dance house! 

More information can be found by visiting or Although neither site has yet been translated to any other language outside of Icelandic, they do provide contact information, pictures, and more information on bellydance in Iceland. 

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