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The Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive 2008:

Vegas and Belly Dance Celebrities

Report by Mareeshka, photos by Brad Dosland

posted 2-6-09

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of so many of the top names in bellydance, I’m lucky that I don’t often have to travel to enjoy shows or workshops with my favorites. Even those talents that don’t actually live here, usually make this area a stop on their tours. But there are some events that are worth getting out of town to enjoy and the Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive is just such an event.

It started with the location. With top-flight food, entertainment, and accommodations, Las Vegas is obviously a major destination for anyone, but the area also has a very robust dance community, rich with local talent. In addition to big names such as Aradia and Amira, there’s a host of both veterans and up-and-comers in the scene that give the event a rich local flavor and keep it from being yet another big generic production.

Just as its host city brings together Paris’ Eiffel Tower , the fountains of Bellagio, and the pyramid of Luxor , the Bellydance intensive brings together this local talent with international stars, combining traditional cabaret with the latest tribal styles, to create a big event that feels comfortably intimate.

That intimacy began with the attention to detail paid by the event’s organizers. A block of discount rooms at the Palace Station venue are set aside for attendees, along with limo service options. The Intensive arranged exclusive VIP entrance to Rain at the Palms, one of the hottest clubs in town, on Friday night and provided a lush cocktail party reception (complete with Elvis impersonator and decked-out showgirls) at the Palace Station before the big Saturday night gala. Even smaller matters, such as complimentary gift bags complete with bottled water for all registered full package holders, helped make you feel welcome at the Intensive.

The workshops themselves were conducted in spacious facilities at the hotel/casino site. While these general purpose rooms weren’t kitted out with the staples of a traditional dance studio, such as wall mirrors or sprung wood floors, they definitely worked for this sort of event and beat the cramped spaces some workshops suffer. Professional sound systems, as opposed to chintzy boom boxes, made sure everyone could hear the beat and many instructors had wireless mics to help them be heard. One headset didn’t work properly, but the organizers worked to stay ahead of the technical snafus.

The content of the classes was excellent, with tracks for both experienced and newbie dancers covering everything from veils to zills, and from shimmies to pop-and-locks. Whether you wanted to spin a cane or poi, the Intensive had you covered. Even Bollywood-style Bhangra was on the menu. One classic moment occurred during a Sharid Sana class titled “Zills and Thrills” where this amazing dancer from Mexico asked us all to follow her in a basic pattern then proceeded to effortlessly perform a breathtaking backbend worthy of a Cirque Du Soleil contortionist. After picking our jaws up of the ground, we all attempted to follow her lead, with mixed results to be sure. Sometimes workshops run at half speed and it’s refreshing to get to see the ideal we’re all working toward.

flamencoThe event’s headliners lived up to their billing in the most popular workshops of the weekend. Karim “Turbo Tabla” Nagi proved the depth of his knowledge about the music, the dance, and the culture that spawned them, explaining (and helping pronounce) native terms and traditions. Coming off her tour as a Bellydance Superstar, Kami Liddle proved to be as talented as she was approachable, spending one-on-one time with so many of us in her class. Ava Fleming shared her unique techniques and experience in drills developed through her considerable career in dance. She often had the class laughing at her off-beat sense of humor, especially as she had us trying to find the bellydance beat in non-bellydance music. This was an out-of-the-box experience for many of the dancers in the room and one more dancers should practice.

The weekend also consisted of some outstanding stage shows featuring talent from the teaching staff, as well as guest performers from the area and abroad. The Friday night show was held on the big stage at the Flamingo Library (which I learned wasn’t the reading room at the casino of that name, but an actual library on the street named for the famed casino). This is a great amphitheater-style venue, with a round thrust stage and professional lighting that allowed everyone to take in the sights on stage. And what sights they were! The show started with a solemn duo by New World Rhythmatism, performed to live music on stage. The reigning Miss United States (and Las Vegas native) Brittany Williams spoke with us about her appreciation for bellydance, which she proved by taking part in classes the rest of the weekend. We got a sneak peak at 2009 Intensive instructor Aubre when she performed a powerfully emotional piece. Kami Liddle showed why she deserves the label Superstar with her tribal turn. Ava and Karim teamed up for a very playful drum solo. But veteran hoofer DeLois LaDelle stole the show with her mix of singing, bellydance, and old-school tap.

Saturday night’s makeshift stage at the Palace Station was not nearly as nice as Friday’s, but the talent on it did not disappoint. The show opened with a Lebanese Elvis impersonator performing “Little Egypt” while Angela Palmeri & April Hough (both local professional belly dancers as well as professional showgirls) pranced around as back up dancers.  Saturday’s gala continued with big troupes and big talents. Aradia, Marjhani, and Ah Ya Helu (under the direction of Ashtalea) came out in force and filled the big stage with a flood of dancers. The comic set by Tabu had the audience in stitches and the emcee, a semi-professional stand-up comedian, entertained the audience with his stories of being a dance husband. Edenia’s number showed the promise that she could someday be a superstar in her own right. And Karim rounded out the evening with his amazing bag of tricks. The set was interrupted when his assaya staff splintered during a sharp floor strike but he covered well and went forward like a true professional.

Perhaps the only real disappointment of the weekend was the shopping options. While great deals were to be had (and I did purchase a complete cab outfit and replacement veil for the one I had forgotten before my workshop), I wish there had been more vendors on site for when we took breaks between sessions. But, like all things about the Intensive, this did not go unnoticed and I’m told the shopping area is doubling in size at the 2009 event as well as the addition of a festival so there will be entertainment in the bazaar.

Overall, the Las Vegas Bellydance Intensive is one of the big success stories in dance. Growing from a modest local gathering into world-class event through ambition, passion, and attention to detail, it’s the sort of special gathering one wouldn’t hesitate to recommend or return to year after year.


Aradia Aradia
Asian Duet
of San Luis Obispo, CA

of Toronto, Canada
cab troupe
Aradia and the Ra Dancers
Ava FLeming and Karim Nagi Duet
Ghasan as Elvis
Ghassan plays a Lebanese Elvis on stage and then plays a dumbek at the after party.
He sang Little Egypt and Viva Las Vegas at the Saturday night show.
fan veils
of Seattle, WA
Amira performs for the first time after having her daughter Sofie a month previous.
Sacha performs
Britt danced a duet with Marisat

Kami performs


mature womanmature woman
DeLois LaDelle lives in Las Vegas and is one of those golden era dancers! She has taught at previous Intensives.s
Miss United States 2008, Brtianny Williams, talks about incorporating BD into her young women's empowerment program.
Joshua Levin of New World Rhythmatism
Asima and Deborah of New World Rhythmatism

blue solo

Ashtalea will direct next years fesitval

fringe swing
Saida swings that fringe. Her daughter is also a pro dancer.
green solo
Leyla Amir
Daughters of Durga do ribbons
Daughters of Durga under the direction of Tori King on right.
poi veils
Poi Veil by Danya
ren fair musicians
Oojahm Tribal Bellydance
of Upland, CA
Tassel Troupe
lead by Marjhani in white
Saudi trio
A Saudi dance by Hand of Fatima under direction of Rossah
Natasya from Southern California also taught 9/8
stripped tits
of San Bernadino, CA
tirbal trio
Tabu of Las Vegas does a comedy routine-. Inara, Nisha, Raven
A Vegas number by Ah Ya Helu
cab vendor
The Belly Dance Shoppe from North Carolina
Sharid Sana
Sharid Sana of Mexico teaches
Teresa and Darren
Unknown participant


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