The Gilded Serpent presents...
Workshop & Show with
and Amaya
Produced by Leea of Belly Dance!
at El Morocco on date
Report by Monica
Photos by Ed Lampo
(except where indicated)


Leea and husband Ed Lampo
photo by Lynette
It was a mild afternoon in suburban Pleasant Hill, California, as over thirty dancers filed into the El Morocco Restaurant. , Usually empty during the day save for the prep cooks, the atmospheric restaurant was filled with dancers who were there to study with dance masters Bert Balladine and Amaya!  

Leea Aziz of Studio Belly Dance! sponsored her dance "grandfather", Bert Balladine, who was the teacher of Leea's late teacher, Sula. He taught a fun hour and a half section of the workshop. Bert did not focus on technique or specific moves. After leading us through a simple warm-up, and some hand and arm movements, he honed in on our attitudes. “He makes you feel special and sexy!”, one participant was overheard to exclaim.

Bert aims to pull real expression out of dancers, and focuses on concepts that seem simple but are often overlooked.

For example, he offered several short combinations that focused on theatrically walking on and off a stage or the dance floor. It is important to bring a flair for the dramatic even into how you execute a stage walk, and Bert continually reminded us that we are onstage from the moment we are seen by our audiences until the last second we disappear from their view.


Amaya leading class
Dancers in class behind Amaya (L to R): Roya, Monica, Nasirah, Bahijah, Leila, Margo
After a short break for water and snack, Amaya of New Mexico took over. After Bert’s low-key presentation, her teaching seemed like a whirlwind. Using upbeat, modern techno music, Amaya had us shimmying like mad. Amaya’s class was entertaining, and her experience teaching large groups was apparent.

She is aware of her teaching space, is great about shifting lines so everyone gets a chance to be in front, and is a very communicative instructor.

When a number of students were clearly not quite understanding a move, she would stop and break it down for them, but for the most part all of us just danced along with her. After a half an hour of fast moves and combos, she progressed on to some of her unparalleled arm and hand movements, and then formed us into a circle to work on some combinations.

It was a pleasure to have this New Mexico dancer in town to teach us, and it was also wonderful to see Bert share his gifted teaching and theatrically inspired views of Middle Eastern Dance. As we left the workshop to get ready for the evening dinner show, our anticipation of Bert and Amaya’s upcoming duet performance was high!


Back Row: Kalifa, Roya, Salena, Margo, Monica, Numa'ir, Jasmine, Leyla, Morganne, unknown, Tamara, Paula, Julan Amira, Naiya, Anisa.

Middle row: Leea, Shaleena, Johari, Bahijah, Khalida, Malika, Nasirah, Jilleea, Kelly, Shaia, Anusha.

Front row: Bert, Amaya, Serpiente (braids), Tabitha (reddish hair leaning in with Serpiente)

  Amaya's unique costume-
pants & pleated lame veil.
  Khalida dancing is wrapped in light blue veil. Watching at left are Jilleea and Leea. The owner of El Morocco, Fadil Shaheen is singing with musicians Fouad, Nazir, and Reda.

Bert makes a cameo appearance to the delight of all!





Bahijah, aka Zamon












Numa'ir and Naiya










Najia & Bert
in back to right)








Jilleea's money-clad torso, Bert, Lynette, Carol Fitzsimmons, and fan in background.


Jasmine, Leea, Monica,

Khalida, Numa'ir, Naiya




A successful display of
audience participation.

photos by Lynette below

Carol, Bert, Kalifa

Wash those hands before you dig in!

Kalifa, Najia, Bert, Amaya

Here comes grandma... her!

The woman in the photo hugging Jill is her granny,
's mom, who used the name Zenouba when she was dancing!

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