Gilded Serpent presents...
a Telephone Interview
introduction to Hadia came through her instructional
video number 3 that focuses on the rhythms of Raqs Sharki.
I was struck by her technique (her locking hip drops are to die
for), and was interested to learn more about her. My teacher,
Christina Bates, has studied and traveled with
Hadia and let me know about a workshop in Vancouver
last year. In person Hadia’s teaching skills and technique
are as evident and impressive as in her videos. Her personality
shines through, and you can’t help but have fun while you are
learning. I spoke with Hadia on the phone from her new Montreal,
Quebec home about her belly dance career.
The conversation focused on how she started out and the changes
she has seen through the years as a dancer and teacher.
To label Hadia
as a belly dancer would be an inadequate and limiting description.
Perhaps belly dancer, Flamenco, African and Brazilian dancer,
Jazz, Latin and Polynesian dancer, Manual and Massage Therapist
registered practitioner and post-graduate studies teacher, and
dance-teacher trainer comes closer to encapsulating the accomplishments
and career of this educated, well traveled, well learned woman.
When talking to Hadia, three things become very evident as being
of the utmost importance to her as a dancer and teacher.
believes in being well informed and knowledgeable about the
dance and its origins, she believes in the advantage of knowing
our bodies and how the muscle groups work to produce the moves
we make, and she believes in maintaining personal and professional
integrity above all else.
lived in various cities through out Canada, Europe and the Near
East and has traveled, studied, performed and taught in North
America, Mexico, South America, Europe, the Middle East, the Far
East, New Zealand and Australia. Her belly dance experience
started at the Vancouver YWCA where she attended classes while
completing her theatre degree. Hadia was instantly hooked.
teachers in Vancouver at the time were a good start for Hadia,
but she decided to take it further and traveled to study with
Badawia of Portland, Oregon and on to California
to several instructors there. These women shared their personal
versions of a “West Coast American Arabic” style, but it was during
a workshop with Lebanese-Canadian
Ahmad Jarjour, that Hadia had her first taste of
the illusive and divine soul of oriental dance! It was the
big, “ah – this is what this dance is supposed to be”. She
continued with intensive studies and workshops with artists such
as Ibrahim Farrah and Nadia Gamal,
then went on to find out first hand what was actually going on
in the Middle East - its people, its culture, its dancers and
their many styles. Her other primary influences have been Mona
Said, Ibrahim Akef and Dina.
performances were for free for friends at the endless parties
and celebrations of that era. Eventually, she began to be
invited to and paid for her performances in a wider and wider
circle, including a myriad of ethnic restaurants, and nightclubs,
both Egyptian and Greek. Hadia said,“There was so much work that
we were dancing 6 days a week. There was an explosion of ethnic
restaurants and curiosity about foreign, distant places at that
time in Vancouver.“
early to her – she was “thrown into it” after her role as Fatima
in Boys From Syracuse at the University of British Columbia.
After a long run of the play, the staff and students in the theatre
department wanted to take classes, and so the director gave her
a studio and sound equipment and she began teaching her colleagues
for free. Her classes were an instant success, and before long
she set up shop in the world outside the theater. She can
recall full classes of 30 students every time she taught, despite
the fact that students paid on a purely class by class basis and
the concept of advertising was as far away as the moon.
the early years of her lengthy career to the world of oriental
dance today. Another planet!
danced in a state of ignorant bliss of almost no information
with no internet, almost no magazines, no books, no organized
tours to the middle east and certainly no classes over there.“
she points out the ease with which people can learn from dancers
and musicians who have a great deal of knowledge, years of training
and teaching technique to share. She advocates study with such
renowned teachers, as well as travel to areas where the dance
is integral to society. Hadia explains that the dance for
people in this area of the world has been part of their culture
for millennia, and was not considered something that necessitated
teaching. Everyone dances! It is in their blood! However,
almost no one dances professionally, as this is considered “haram”
(forbidden) in Islamic society, especially since the recent rise
in fundamentalism. The professional dancer is regarded akin to
a prostitute and sadly, a large percentage of dancers do practice
this even more ancient art. (She also suggests that any
starry-eyed occidental dancer dreaming of dancing abroad in the
Middle East should undertake an objective study of the culture
and the business realities there before undertaking any contractual
It is not
surprising then, that schools teaching this dance were non-existent
in the Arabic countries until very recently. (When she was in
Egypt, for example, she
was granted permission by the National Egyptian Folkloric Company
to watch their rehearsals and dance with them, as she was by the
National Turkish Company in Ankara). As more and more Westerners
had been bitten by the Belly Dance Bug and began traveling to
these countries to learn with Arabic dancers, some who had already
been to America and seen
the potential for business realized that there was a huge new
market to be exploited. Now there are festivals and classes
experience is that, although many dancers in Middle Eastern
countries are wonderful artists, they generally lack the skills
to teach in an effective, methodical, safe way. The approach
is often “do and let follow” with an occasional “hup” thrown
Hadia and author
If you have
attended classes or workshops with Hadia or read her articles
on proper technique and introducing the particular muscle
groups used for dance movements, you have noticed the emphasis
on anatomy. I asked Hadia what made this such an integral
part of her teaching. She replied simply that she is
a therapist. After graduating from the West Coast College
of Massage Therapy, she pursued post graduate studies in Muscle
Energy Technique, CranioSacral Therapy, Myofascial Release, and
several other areas of expertise. She worked as a full time
instructor and clinic supervisor at the Rocky Mountain Academy,
and has taught post graduate studies at the Mount Royal Massage
Training Institute in some of the above mentioned areas.
She has also run her own practice and taught intensive, accredited
weekend workshops. When she started dancing, she was seeing
it from the outside and trying to mimic the movements. Once
she was educated in the working of the body, she began devising
ways of being more efficient and safe in her dance. She
states that we have a very safe dance, but “there
are still certain things, particularly in alignment and how we
do our technique that we can still injure ourselves in some pretty
major areas like lower back, hip, knees.”
Hadia is now
primarily a teacher and her occasional performances are for her
“favorite public”, namely students and fellow dancers. Her Teacher
Training Program is presented in two levels. The first is
an introductory level wherein a large variety of information is
presented including effective teaching principles, her technique
methodology, musical interpretation, rhythmical and cymbal studies,
history and styles of oriental dance, basics directly applied
to oriental dance movements and injury prevention. The second
level explores the above themes in greater details and assesses
the students to make sure that people are going out there with
the knowledge needed.
acknowledges that teachers have a great deal of responsibility
to their students and seriously hopes that the thousands of
new teachers riding the wave of our present oriental dance explosion
will take this responsibility to heart and will seek out some
sort of specialized training before injuring or misinforming
their students. She is happy to be able to share the knowledge
she has acquired over years of experience and trial and error
and considers this to be her legacy to leave with the community.
On her web
site and in interviews Hadia has mentioned the need for belly
dance to strive for excellence within its own community before
seeking it from those outside. To start with, she stresses the
need to “work hard and study for years before considering ourselves
advanced dancers and teachers.” She knows from personal
experience as a flamenco and jazz dancer how hard dancers in other
forms of dance have to work in order to be recognized and feels
we need to bring belly dance up to this same level.
Occidental society we are fortunate that our dance form is finally
being considered as a legitimate art form but if we want to
reach, develop and maintain an audience with the general public,
it is very important to present our art in productions (maximum
2 hours) by highly skilled experienced profession artists, in
theaters, with good lighting and concepts/story lines.
an eternal idealist, she hopes that somehow we can also maintain
the “art and soul of oriental dance” without letting it turn into
chorus-line, show-girl slick Broadway production. Although it
is important to provide students and newly emerging dancers with
performing possibilities, she insists that these should be separate
events. We should also be professional enough to write and
accept “real” reviews in order to grow out of the bellydance community
into the general dance world.
warns that because we don’t have a general public, that we are
currently feeding on ourselves.
that this system cannot sustain itself, and is already starting
to short circuit. She tells of tours and workshops by great
teachers being canceled because of an excessive number of workshops
and festivals, often by highly media-sized newcomers. Oriental
dance has become BIG Business, with the focus on quick fame and
money to the detriment of art and education. She fondly
remembers her first years as a dancer and the support and help
that each dancer had for the other. After predicting that
the overload of the present unprecedented popularity of belly
dance will cause its downfall, she hopes that the truly dedicated
artists will continue with their chosen art form and keep the
that a career in dance “was never something that I planned.
It was obviously my path. But I probably have a few paths...professional Flamenco dancer for years... health care professional….”
Hadia is still
in love with oriental dance and its powerful ability to transform
and assist women in their personal journeys of self love and self
esteem. She sees it as a beautiful, joyful and magical way to
allow oneself to be a total and real woman. Her commitment
to her students and to disseminating information about the dance
and how to perform it will continue. Through the number
of workshops she teaches and the number of students she touches,
her legacy will certainly survive.
To learn more
about Hadia or find out when she will be teaching a workshop in
a city near you, or leading a tour or dance camp in a far away
land (her trip to Turkey this year was fantastic!) see her web
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
Unity through Belly dance
you are reading this publication, then you too have fallen in
love with belly dancing.
A SuperStar Jillina’s Drum Solo Workshop in Vancouver
If you have the opportunity to dance with this amazing, educated,
experienced, beautiful, and did I mention fun? woman, do not hesitate
to do it. It is worth every penny and every minute!
Belly Dance in Israel
by Orit Maftsir
dancers are the hottest trend at the moment, unlike the totally
frozen attitudes towards the Arab culture in Israel.
Belly Dancer of the Year
2005 Grand Dancer, more Duos, Trios & Troupes photos by
May 28, 2005, San Ramon, California.
Arabesca: A Different Approach to the Student Recital by Vashti,
Photography by John Steele
the student recital. There is nothing like watching fledglings
leaving the nest, discovering their own creative wings and flying
off into the wonderful world of belly dance.
Rakkasah West Festival
2005 Photos- Saturday & Sunday Page 2 photos by GS Staff
Belly Dancer of the Year 2005
Page 1 Duos, Trios & Troupes photos by Monica
May 28, 2005, San Ramon, California.