Gilded Serpent presents...
Belly Dance in Brazil
From the point
of view of a dancer and newbie teacher.
enjoy the beautiful music and dance of my country very much,
I've always felt attracted to belly dance; a dance in no way
connected to my heritage. I'm a typical Brazilian, a mixture
of nationalities, but they don't include any from the Middle
East. Many other Brazilians have now taken up this passion for
Middle Eastern dance and music.
In 1997, I
started taking belly dance classes, thus starting my journey
into this beautiful new world, while in my home city of about
500.000 people. Back then, there was just one place and we were
the first class of belly dancers. The
group started with two students and now the school has more than
30, I've heard.
most dance schools offer belly dance classes among performances
of ballet, modern, jazz and tap dancing... and very much
There is also
developing in my city, a market of belly dance costumes and accessories
available to purchase!
After two years,
I decided to have classes in the center of the belly dance community,
São Paulo City, which is about 1.30 kl from where I live.
There I found Khan El Khalili, a belly dance
business center which had already been here for fifteen years.
They offer classes with great teachers, shows
with beautiful dancers and excellent food at their restaurant.
There is more, they have their own magazine with very interesting
information on belly dance, videos and CD's produced by the
house. I have to name the greatest dancers of the house and my
teachers, Soraia Zaied, who is on tour in
Egypt right now, Shahar, a dancer who shines
and dazzles you, and Lulu Sabongi, one of
the most respected dancers and teachers in Brazil. You can
their site http://www.khanelkhalili.com.br/frame.htm and
there is more information about them.
Sabongi has released a collection of videos of her series The
Belly Dance Art in Portuguese. The volumes incorporate examples
of hip techniques, eights, undulations and circles, veil, walking,
taksim, percussion solo and Rhythms 1 and 2 and much, much more.
You can visit her site: www.lulusabongi.com to
check about these videos and others. Soon they will have an English
version. Besides her technique and movements, these videos presents
many Brazilian dancers, including Lulu, who follow the Khan El
Khalili style of dancing.
other important schools in São Paulo with many students.
I can name Luxor and one of the owners, Hayat,
who won an award in the USA in 2000. Luxor also sponsors
workshops such as Delilah's and Hadia's
and an International Festival for the third year. They have brought
many important names performers and instructers such as Farida and Mahmoud
name in our community is Saamira who promotes
a festival every year called Mercado Persa where
you have belly dance performances, contests all day long along
with costumes and accessories stands. Dancers from many other
cities in São Paulo State and other States, come to attend
it; dancing, competing or just watching the shows. Visit their
site and check their work: http://www.orienteencantoemagia.com.br/
and Shalimar, developed a survey among students, dancers
and teachers, where they asked many questions related
to the professional side of this dance. With this information
they are trying to organize a Code of Ethics.
This won't have any legal value, but it can work as a
guide where the dancers may refer to.
are many other good schools and teachers in São Paulo
and all over Brazil. You can have from the very traditional Egyptian
style to fusion and also a more mystic view of the dance.
names have come to Brazil for workshops. Omar Naboulsi (http://www.bellydance.com.br/),
one of the most known names to organize workshops here, has brought Hossam
Ramzy, Amani, Gassan, Samara
e Setrak, Shoukry, Sami Khoury, Raqia
Hassam and others. Khan el Khalili and Omar organized
this year (2001) a group of dancers who went to the Festival
of Egypt of Raqia Hassan. The Brazilians were the biggest
group at this festival.
In Rio de Janeiro,
the land of the samba, there are many schools and belly dancer
students too. The Union of the Professional Dancers of
Rio de Janeiro was founded in 1984 and the category
for belly dancers was organized by Shadya (http://shadyadance.vila.bol.com.br/i800x600.htm)
and Claudia Hazam, earning more respect to this
dance within the community of the dance.
develops a work that is opposite to the majority. Being a beautiful
and delicate dancer herself, she is not the stereotype of what
most people have in mind. Nevertheless, they are surprised by
her grace and ability. Her classes are opened to all women, and
from children to the older generation they all feel welcomed
at her classes.
is a very valuable work since some of us feel oppressed
by the beautiful and slim bodies that the media shows
us everyday, creating the feeling that we are not fit
to this or any dance form.
We also have
an "industry" behind it. Many shops of Arabic products
exist in our country, since the Arabic community here is very
is said that the biggest population of Lebanese live
in São Paulo.
It is an obligatory
tour for belly dancers to take a tour of the area around 25
de março Street and Ladeira Porto Geral. There you can
find anything a belly dancer may dream of, from the complete
costume to beads and fabrics to make one from scratch. There
shops and street vendors there for all tastes and expense.
You can visit Tony
Mouzayek's shop, A Casa Árabe.
Tony says that in a busy day more than 300 people pass by his
shop. He is the soul of the shop and everybody wants to talk
to him and bargain a little. Besides having this shop, Tony
Mouzayek is a famous singer and has his own band. He has worked
with all Brazilian great dancers and some from abroad. Al
Mawal is a restaurant in Pinheiros where the dancers
are given the opportunity to dance to a live band, a great
opportunity to newbie dancers. In this restaurant dancers and
students get together to share the love and joy of dancing.
also have our own on-line sites about belly dance. Paula
from Brasilia, has started her site with few participants for
some years and now the traffic of e-mails is huge. There is also
a site on Brazilian Tribal organized by Shaide, the one who brought
this style to Brazil.
If you want
an outfit made especially for you, there are very good places
to go too. Tony & Robby can turn you into a princess. Robby
can turn your dream into reality. Tia Cecy,
a very traditional costume designer in Brazil, produces very
beautiful and exotic costumes. This is her site: www.tiacecy.com.br. Simone
Galassi, besides being a dancer herself, has very beautiful
work and inexpensive. Most dancers have at least one of their
costumes in their wardrobe. In Belo Horizonte, there is Sami
Gil who is a beautiful dancer herself and a serious
researcher. She organized the First International Congress
of the Oriental and Egyptian Dance giving a lecture
about " The Dancer and the Woman in the 3rd Millennium" in
2001. This Congress brought dancers, psychologists and physiotherapists
together. Shahrazad was
the invited guest and received special recognition by her work
and contribution to the Arabic culture by the Syrian Consulate.
then, I came to the very beginning of belly dance in Brazil:
SHAHRAZAD! She was born in Bethlehem but has been living in Brazil
for more than 40 years. All of the students who were trained
by her, have gone on to became teachers themselves. Other professional
dancers, are unanimous in recognizing Shahrazad as the pioneer
in introducing her methods and fighting for their recognition.
She has developed a tremendous body of work and all her exercises
were created by herself. She is a living legend here in Brazil,
and I consider myself very lucky to be one of her students. You
can learn more about her, going to her site: http://www.shahrazad.hpg.ig.com.br/index.html Shahrazad
had her book Redeeming the Femininity translated to English.
This book, written by Shahrazad http://www.shahrazad.hpg.ig.com.br/index.html
and with the assistance of Rosina Farah, is
based on her method developed after years observing the bodies
of her students and herself. The method is based in contraction
and breathing which will develop our body conscience. The movements
make you understand how to flex your legs, move the hips, loosen
the upper part from the lower part of the body, and also work
the energy which is in and around us. This way you can dance safely
and it will bring you many benefits, including the emotional
Brazil, we had another belly dance boom, because it started
a Brazilian soap opera which involved a Moroccan family
and lots of belly dance.
had to have intensive classes with Cláudia Censi,
another important name in the belly dance community. The writer, Gloria
Perez, always approached interesting and polemic issues
on her plots. This one puts together Moroccan culture and scientific
research about clones. The story started with a beautiful Moroccan
girl, Jade, who lived most of her life in Brazil. She was left
alone after the death of her parents and had to go to Morocco
to live under the protection of her uncle, Ali. There she meets
the love of her life, a Brazilian rich guy, who has a twin brother,
and the story goes on. It was a big success among belly dancers
and the public in general. Belly dance is being shown very gracefully,
although not always 100% accurate. (http://redeglobo1.globo.com/oclone/frm_home.jsp)
. I've heard it started being played in the United States too,
mostly for the Spanish audience and they are enjoying it very
much. Many famous Brazilian dancers have participated in this
soap opera. Unfortunately we have just a flash of them during
the many parties and weddings they have, but I can name Lulu
Sabongi, Gisele, Saamira, Najua, Hayat,
Censi, the dancer who taught the actresses at the soap opera
to belly dance,
wrote a book that gives us an overview about the history of this
dance, and an introduction to the beginners to this art form.
There are beautiful pictures of her in astonishing costumes created
by Tony & Robby.
are many other activities going on here because we never
stop. As you can see, we are not standing still. The
Brazilian belly dance community is striving to learn
and grow more and more.
into the world of belly dance hasn't finished yet. I think it
never will. Surprisingly enough belly dance has existed and flourished
in Brazil for longer than people imagine. This is a dance form
which has always had a place in the woman's heart. It doesn't
matter where we come from, this dance will always find and cast
a spell on us.
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