Sunday, September 27, 2009

Egypt 2010

Custom Dancers Dream Tour to Egypt 2010 April 2-12

Join us in Egypt for an adventure of a lifetime! Let 2010 be a memorable year. Immerse in the beauty of the season amidst one of the cradles of civilization and the roots of our art, our dance, our spirit. The Dancers Dream Tour in 2010 will take you to Cairo for culture, shopping, dance classes at the Nile Group Festival, performance opportunities, and the humbling experience of the Great Pyramids..

During a cruise in the mystical Nile River we will stop and see some of the most ancient buildings remaining, and the dancers among us will be transformed into Queens of the Nile one night adorned by our beautiful costumes and dance. There! On the Nile ! We will dance everywhere we can along the way, and learn from the local native dancers how to feel what the music is telling us.

One of the extra features of The Dancers Dream Tour sponsored by Samra Iara is that the already economical price includes trip to the Sinai Peninsula , where you will relax on a marvelous beach on the Red Sea and experience one of the most magical moments on earth: The sunrise from the top of Mt. Sinai ! These highlights are not included in other available tour, especially for this price.

Egypt National Tour LLC, operated by Leyla Amir of Las Vegas and in conjunction with a sister company in Egypt , have been in business since 1976. Leyla Amir lived and worked in Egypt for many years and now returns there for extended periods. Samra Iara spent a month in Egypt traveling and exploring it alone. She is also an experienced world traveler, having traveled alone to many countries and several continents. She has led groups to Europe and started the yearly Lotus Dance Retreat in Bali . You will be traveling with a company and sponsor with decades of experience and reliability.

Read the itinerary for all the details and sign up as soon as possible because this tour is filling fast. We are keeping our group small to enjoy this unforgettable experience even better.

• Day 1...Depart from your home town to meet in NYC. Our non-stop flight aboard an Egypt Air jumbo 747 jet leaves for Egypt at 6:30pm . Please plan to arrive at least 3 hours before take off.

• Day 2...Ahlahn wa Salam... Welcome!! Arrive in Cairo . After checking into the hotel you will be whisked away to Khan el Khalili to shop till you drop. For dancers there will be plenty of fabulous ready to buy costumes available, plus much more! The evening will end with a Whirling Dervish show. (Seasonal. This event may be scheduled on a different day.)

• Day 3...After early breakfast, you will take off to see the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Continuing in the afternoon you will visit the famous Egyptian Museum of Antiquities where you will see many of the wonders of ancient Egyptian history. This evening you will have your Dinner/Show Cruise along the Nile ....

• Day 4...After breakfast, fly to Aswan . Sight seeing of this city before boarding your 5* Nile cruise ship. Enjoy your first night on the cruise with an ethnic show on the boat or at hotel nearby. Then from your cabin relish the mystical beauty of the Nile river at night, and dream about the days of the Pharaohs.

• Day 5... Port stops with included transport to see the temples of Isis, Horus and Sobek, and Kom Ombo

• Day 6...Port stops which include a tour to the Valley of the Kings and the temple for Queen Hatshepsut. Time to relax in your cruise ship lounge or pool or take an optional class with a native folkloric dancer *. Or ride on a Feluca boat. Show at night. DANCERS IN OUR GROUP WILL BE THE STARS.

• Day 7...End cruise in Luxor with a visit to the magnificent temple of Karnak . Flight to the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el Sheik . Evening free to enjoy the beauty of this city, relax on the beach, or an optional dance class with a master Egyptian Oriental dancer *

• Day 8…After early morning brunch, transport for early climb of Mt. Sinai to see the sunrise – one of the most spetacular sights on earth! Visit St. Catharine monastery.Evening free.

• Day 9… Return flight to Cairo . Citadel, Mohamed Ali Mosque, City of the Dead and Medieval Cairo . Evening free, or extra shopping

• Day 10. Arranged private class with another Egyptian master dancer*. Rest of day free. Optional trip to the Saqqara Pyramids may be arranged. Evening free. Khan Al khalili bazaar will be open or you can shop with the locals in the business center.

• Day 11...Departure for your home destination. In Egypt we say: "Salam Alakum". OR Optional extensions begin.

We always have non scheduled stops for food, water and shopping.

*Dance classes with Egyptian masters are scheduled after we have an approximate number of participants for each class and it depends on the Instructor’s availability. No company can guarantee a specific class without commitment from participants. At this moment these instructors are being contacted for class arrangements: Mona Said or Tito, Lucy, one of the Banat Mazzam sisters, and several others.

For those joining the Nile Group Festival extension, please, visit their website of master instructors: Their roster of instructors include legendary dancers such as Mahmoud Reda, Farida Fahmy, Aida Nour and many many more Egyptian and other international contemporary stars.



For those joining the Nile Group Festival extension, visit their website at: Their roster of instructors includes legendary master dancers such as Mahmoud Reda, Farida Fahmy, Aida Nour and many more Egyptian and international contemporary stars. The class sizes at the Nile Group Festival are smaller than other festivals, so one receives more individual attention, and the shows include the highest caliber of dancers! Also, all participants have one night they can perform, so no matter your level or status you can share your dance with fellow participants.


Alexandria was named after Alexander the great and it was the cultural center of the western world. The library in Alexandria is an example of the legacy of that period. The Romans built some of their finest architectural masterpieces there. Christians met, hid in were buried in Catacombs. The relics of Roman Empire are yours to explore in this magnificent city on the Mediterranean . We will spend the night there, beforing driving through the desert on our way to Siwa.

Siwa is an exotic oasis near the border with Lybia. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony bathed in the famous pools in Siwa. One of the most fascinating aspects of Siwa, besides its natural wonders are the local inhabitants. They originate from the North African Berber tribes known as Amazigh. Because of their geographical isolation they have remained relatively unchanged. Their colorful clothing and their unique music and dance styles inspired a dance named Hagallah created by Mahmoud Reda and now popular around the world in theatrical and cultural performances. The beauty of this Oasis is a bit of a secret unknown by the majority of tourists visiting Egypt. This is your opportunity of discover this “off the beaten path” pocket of culture and incomparable natural beauty.

All travel arrangements are made through Egypt National Tours.

To register, visit the site:

For more information visit:

Check for updates as details and FAQ details are posted often. If there are any questions, email Samra Iara at or or call 276-236-4533

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ho Chin Mihn City

HO CHIN MIHN CITY (Saigon) I didn't have as many days to spend in HCMC as I did in Hanoi. My schedule was also less intensive, so I had more time to rest, do a little shopping, and hang out with my kind hostess, Sandrine and her family who had just arrived from an extended holiday in their home country of Switzerland. They have a lovely small mansion in HCMC and her husband and teenage sons were also very patient and generous in sharing her time with me during my stay at their home. They also treated me like a member of the family and even invited me for an evening at some friends' house, where I tried to test my French listening skills and see how much I could understand -- not much. I was also invited by Donald and Lauren with an invitation extended to Sandrine, who accompanied me to their fantastic Lebanese restaurant named Byblos. If you visit HCMC, you must go there. The food is delicious and authentic, the atmosphere very inviting (especially upstairs) and they feature Belly Dancers. I patronize anyone who supports dancers and our beloved art form. Plus Donald and Lauren are extremely friendly and warm. We enjoyed the performance of two of Ngan's (a local BD teacher) students. They were lovely young dancers and very energetic. They used traditional music and were very enthusiastic in their renditions. I really enjoyed the evening. Then, we had a bit of audience participation and we all got up to dance. Sandrine is the Oriental Dance instructor at DanCenter where I conducted my workshops, and she is now also teaching with Ngan at another location. Belly Dance is very new in Saigon, but there is a huge interest and some students are pursuing this art very seriously.

Whereas in Hanoi the
majority of the participants in class and workshops were Vietnamese, the majority of participants in HCMC were from other parts of the world, either living there or passing through. It was very interesting for me to teach students from Eastern Europe, which was a new experience. It always amazes me how dancers from all over the world can get together and share this beautiful dance as a common bond. One of the highlights of my cultural experiences in HCMC was the night that Sandrine and I went to see a show of water puppets. I have a fascination for puppets and seriously pursue the art of Shadow Puppetry (after visiting Bali several times), but I had never heard of Water Puppets. This art is also popular in Hanoi, but I didn't have time to go see a show there, so I was as delighted as a child when I got a chance to see it after all. I even took pictures with the lifesize puppets outside. I totally enjoyed the show and was amazed at how precisely the puppeteers can manipulate the puppets on the surface of the water and standing in water out of sight of the audience. Finally the day arrived that I had to leave Saigon and say good bye to Vietnam. My sweet memories and gratitude to all will always remain. I was now on my way back to Malaysia, where I would again stay at Esther's house (she deserves so many thanks from me), and teach workshops at her son's studio named Outcast located in the greater Kuala Lumpur area. My next blog will be about those incredibly intensive two days. My flight back to Malaysia was calm, but my heart was stormy due to the news of my puppy back home being very ill.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Belly Dancing in Hanoi

Hanoi : I will never forget it.

Everything was nearly perfect during my whole stay of 8 days!
The gracious owner of Apsara Studio (An) allowed me to stay in the studio complex, in a beautiful room overlooking a cozy tropical garden. Apsara Studio is also home of the project Hidden Hanoi. There, they offer cooking classes and basic Vietnamese language for tourists as well as an assortment of dance classes. The whole complex is beautifully decorated and welcoming. An designed the studio and came up with the concept.

The whole staff was so friendly and helpful that I can't describe in words. They simply treated me like a member of the family. Since Ara (the Belly Dance teacher) was in France during the month preceding my arrival, Giang ( a member of the troupe Bastet Douat) did a lot of the organizing of the workshops in conjunction with An and the Apsara studio staff. Their level of professionalism is just amazing! Ara arrived the day after I did and she is a delight to hang out with, plus a great teacher and dancer

The workshops and group private lessons were a lot of fun and I hope that they had as good a time as I had. Everyone also kept me busy in the evenings, finding great places to go eat, or inviting me to their own homes!!! The generosity and hospitality of the Vietnamese people is unforgettable and humbling, really. I felt totally pampered. Also in Hanoi I had the best massage ritual ever!

I could go on forever about how much I loved Hanoi. You just must go and experience it yourself. It is a very unique city with a rich history and culture and one of the most wonderful people on earth. They are getting ready to celebrate the 1000 year anniversary next year, I believe, so it will be a party!

The only regret I have is that I didn't have more time to travel around the area since I was happily busy involved in dance lessons, workshops and the Hafla, but I did get to spend two days at Ha Long Bay-- a MUST SEE for everyone. It is a bit overcrowded with tourists, I agree, but its beauty is worth it and that is why we all want to go there. I will always have a bit space in my heart for Hanoi and all the people who made it such a wonderful experience.

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First Stop in Asia Tour 2009

It has been a long time since I posted in this blog. Since I can't go back in time to share all the exciting things that happened since my last post, the direction to go is forward. Thus, I will start with my recent trip to Malaysia and Vietnam to do what I love so much: teach dance

First stops: Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, Malaysia.

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur is like arriving home away from home. Although it is on the opposite side of the globe, the palm trees visible from the train that runs 28 minutes from the KLIA airport to the Central is familiar and soothing. My dear friend Esther Tan recruited her friend and manager of her son's Outcast Dance studio to meet me and take me to her home. They brought a big van for my luggage. But to our disappointment, my luggage did not arrive with me and it took 3 days for it to be delivered to me in Ipoh, Malaysia.

After spending a very tired night at the comfortable home where I was welcomed by Esther, I rode the bus to Ipoh the next day. There, I had 3 days scheduled for workshops and private lessons hosted by Wendy at Dance Vogue Studio. Wendy is a very dynamic dancer and very friendly person. This was her first time hosting Belly Dance workshops at her studio. She had been traveling, and August was a vacation month. I was busy however, with small group workshops and private lessons. The most challenging workshop to teach was the scheduled double veil choreography because the level of participants was so different. Some dancers had never held a veil, while others were ready for the choreography. As usual, I explained that one gets from a workshop all they can, and the higher the level, the more they absorb because many of the concepts they hear in one workshop, they will have again at another and with time it gets easier. I hope that everyone got at least a new move or combination.

I really enjoyed teaching a 9 year old a new choreography with use of finger cymbals. She had never used them before, and still she got most of the choregraphy in a 2 hr lesson.

One of the highlights of my stay in Ipoh was to spend time with my dear friend Annie Ong who came from Alor Star to support Wendy's event and spend time together with me. I love to be with Annie because she is a true friend who tells you like it is, but also supports her friends with all her heart. We always laugh a lot and this time was no different. We got "invited" to crash a birthday party for a 21 year old by his Indian family. Wow, what a party that was! They insisted for us to come in and we finally did, and before we realized it we were dancing with the family, and I ended up on stage with the birthday boy... Really hilarious. Annie arranged this feat, but sat quietly taking a video as an excuse to not be dragged up with me.

Wendy and her family took Annie and I to an incredible seafood restaurant. The food in Ipoh is famous for its flavor and its thick, crunchy bean sprouts. Yummy, I always put on a few pounds in Malaysia.

After the workshops in Malaysia I had to tell everyone a sad good bye and return to KL by train. Again, Esther picked me up at the train station and took me to her house ( I can't express enough how sweet and kind Esther is). The following morning, I had to return to the airport to fly to Hanoi. Esther asked her nephew to take me to the Central and soon I was in the train along the palm trees on my way to my next adventure. I had never been to Vietnam and my heart was racing with excitement.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008


Besides the classes that Samra will be teaching in Mt. Airy, NC and in August at Surry Community College in Dobson, NC, these classes are available at MOVING ARTS CENTER,
Woodlawn, VA (centrally located between Hillsville and Galax)

SUMMER FITNESS DANCE at Moving Arts Center, Woodlawn, VA)

Regular Classes will start on week July 7, depending on the night of the class. Also, there are some intensive camps mixing dance with other art forms and culture. Weekly classes $30 per month (4 classes) or $10 per class. Group and family rates available.

MONDAY NIGHTS: Alternating. Beginning Salsa and Other Latin Dances (assistant instructorinvited)
TUESDAY NIGHTS- Dance exercise/Belly Fitness for ages 14 –mature adults 6:30 Dances from Around the World 7:45-8:45

THURSDAY NIGHTS- Belly Dance: Children: 5:45 , Beginners: 6:00, Advanced: 7:15
SATURDAY: July 26th. Donna Mehalko’s workshop: Dance Performance for Holidays and Luau, and African Belly Dance Fusion (At Southwest Virginia Training Center and SHOW) Register early to reserve your spot in the show.


FOR ALL THE CAMPS,PAID PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED BY JULY 5 - Minimum 6 students required for each camp. Registration on the first day of event is possible if space remains. Class sizes will be limited. Short break on the hour. Snacks are permitted during the break. Because of diet and health concerns, each person brings own.

BELLY DANCE FITNESS FOR TEENS: July 14-17, July 19 (rehearsal and performance at a local venue) 6:00-8:00. Basic technique and a full choreography will be taught. $60 Includes notes and a CD. COIN hip scarf will be ordered for PRE-REGISTERED students at a discount.

DANCES FROM AROUND THE WORLD: Egypt, Hawaii and Gypsy Inspired Ages: 7-12 ( or younger with instructor’s approval)
10:00-12:00 - $70 includes ALL SUPPLIES: TOTE BAG to be Decorated by students, practice CD with music used in class, and a written outline of the course. Performance opportunity at the conclusion. July 21-25

BELLY DANCE FITNESS OR DANCES FROM AROUND THE WORLD FOR ADULTS (Sampler): Latin, Hawaiian and Turkish Gypsy(Rom). Mini- Basic Routines for each style. July 28-August 1. 6:30-8:30 $60


How Was Bali?
Lotus Dance Retreat has come and gone and everyone unable to go is asking how was it?
Bali as always was enchanting. This year our retreat spent 3 nights at the Batukaru Mountain Resort, and 6 nights at Pelangi Bali Resort on the Beach. This gave the opportunity for the participants to have more diverse experiences. Although we all loved the beach, the shops and other tourism activities, we were all sad to leave the mountain resort. It was 3 days in paradise. It is located right in the heart of a tropical forest in the mountains, in a very personal setting with comfortable accomodations, wonderful food, and entertainment brought each evening just for our group. We enjoyed A Balinese show, a night of Drumming and Dancing under the Stars, and on our first night after our yummy welcoming meal, we were entertained by our talented host, Richard, to his melodious singing accompanied by his guitar. If you go to Bali, be sure to stay at this magnificent, yet affordable place on top of the world.

Check it out:
Our participants this year were from Norway, Ukraine, USA and Guam. Our instructors were Siri, Samra and Barbara.Barbara Donahue was a guest instructor. Due to the sudden illness of one of our planned core instructors she taught more classes and did a great job filling those slots at the last minute!
We had a real wonderful time, whether we were in classes, or dancing at the two shows we presented at Pelangi Bali, exploring the natural beauty of Bali, going for massages, elephant riding, or doing what we do universally: shop.
While staying at the beach we counted to Yani, our travel representative to take care of all of our needs. From carrying her laptop around to offer emergency internet services, to taking photos and videos when we forgot or got too busy to do it, and just about anything that we needed. If you plan to visit Bali for any reason, I strongly recommend her to take care of your travel needs. She becomes a member of your family and takes great care of everyone during their stay.

Check out
We hope to see you at a Lotus Dance Retreat in the future. Probably the next retreat will be closer to the USA to accomodate those who wish to participate but are unable to make the journey to the other side of the earth. It is certain, however that the Lotus will resurface somewhere soon, so keep your eyes open for announcements. Until then...

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Sharing a Personal Loss
For those of you who met our Holly, or those around the world who kindly listened to endless stories about her cute deeds, I regret to say that she passed away on January 30th.
Holly was our family dog, and despite her intimidating size of 125 lbs, she was the kindest and most loving animal that we ever knew. We are grief striken and we feel that in addition to being a member of our family, Holly was a member of the community as she took the role of being our hostess by greeting everyone who came to the door with the "toy of the day".
She was a dancer at heart, liked many kinds of music, and swayed her hips as she walked in a way that I hope to copy and add into a choregraphy as a loving tribute to her.
Holly will be in our hearts forever.

Loss to Dance Community

A Great Loss to our Dance Community
Our dance community in Virginia has lost a beautiful and generous member. Amira passed away on Jan 31st after a longtime battle with a severe illness. She will be missed and remembered for her generous heart, her commitment and support for the art of Middle Eastern dance, and all art forms with which she was deeply involved.
Her accomplishments and achievements are countless. I will always remember her for her words of encouragement when I was a klutsy beginner, and her words of praise when I persevered in my pursuit of this art. Amira had a great heart that can only be measured in greatness by comparison with her boundless creativity and her desire to share her courageous and optimistic spirit.
Amira will live in our memories and our hearts.
With Love,


In Southwestern Virginia:
At Moving Arts Center:
Classes are now ongoing in these subjects. Students can join anytime until late spring when classes may be offered at different levels. There will be a recital in early Summer when students who wish to perform may do so. Check out these classes: Salsa, Belly Dance for Children and Adults, Creative Dance, Popular Dance, Mother and Toddler, Shimmyrobics and World Dance Exercise.
February 16
YOGA workshop by Tran Shipman. Tran is from China and later Vietnam and has resided in the USA for many years. She works as a legal secretary besides teaching Yoga at Carroll Wellness Center and various locations when invited. 10:00-12:00. Fees $15 until Feb 9, afterwards $20.
FREE DANCE EXERCISE WORKSHOP with Samra 1:00-2:00 for invididuals who have been diagnosed with cancer and is considered a "Cancer Survivor". To register call or email to register. Limit 10 persons.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER WORKSHOP (child 8 and above) - World Dance Exercise. Great time spent together having fun and getting fit. 2:00-3:00pm Special one time fee. $15 for BOTH if registered by Feb 12

Full day of Workshops and Performance At the Southwest Virginia Training Center:
ARMS, WALKS, HIPS, ENTRANCES AND EXITS with Alexandria from Beckley, WV. Alexandria is the Best Kept Secret in West Virginia where she has had an accomplished career as a teacher and performer for over 30 years. She has performed and taugh through out the Southeast. Her performances are always remembered for her exuberance, expressive arms, complex footwork and intricate hip patterns. She will share as much as she can in 2 hrs.Don't miss the opportunity to study with someone who has developed a unique and joyful style.
Registration at 9:30 Class 10:00-12:00
12:00-1:15 Lunch and preparation Show. (Pack your lunch or you may order lunch at arrival from one of the local small or fast food restaurants)
1:15-2:00. Show by participants for the Residents and Staff of Southwest Virginia Training Center. This delightful audience looks forward to our performance each year and it is a rewarding experience for us all
2:30-4:40. WINGS OF ISIS Choreography with Samra. This is brand new Choregraphy to Nebidity Manain and contains various segments that can be easily changed by the dancer to make it "her own". PARTICIPANTS DO NOT HAVE TO BRING WINGS, but they must bring 2 veils, safety pins and either 2 small wooden dowels or plastic venetian blinds pull (found at any department store where they sell blinds). I really recommend this.
FIRST 30 MINUTE OF THE WORKSHOP will be spent learning HOW to make your own wings. Anyone who has an iron, needle and thread and bit of patience can make their own wings. Samra will show how she has made all her wings!!!

MARCH 18-APRIL 8 - Samra will be teaching in Bali, then going to Hawaii to expand her knowledge of Hula and the Hawaiiaan Culture.

APRIL 19, 20 - SAMRA returns to Danville!!!! This time for a full weekend to include:
Double Veil 102 - Participation in her introductory Double Veil workshop is not necessary. But this workshop will focus on moving from a double veil move to another in smooth transitions and combinations. The sketch of a double veil choreography will be presented, so dancers can create their own double veil dance from beginning to end and include double veil moves as one veil, entering the veils and dancing between them, separating, forming designs, joining then, and covering up IN STILE all possible mishaps that can happen due to wind, fans, and other unpredicatable surprises. Samra will share her several orginal tricks to get inside the veil. (2 hrs) (Saturday 6:30-8:30)
SHIMMY- Samra has produced 4 instruction DVDs with Shimmy as the topic! She will take you through a Shimmy Tour of the Body, from head to toes, and introduce you to various types of shimmies, besides the basic 3/4, 4/4 and 2/4 Shimmies,Egyptian Shimmies, and Muscle Shimmies, plus Felahi, Hagallah, Ghawazee, Brazilian, Flamenco, Tunisian, Roman (not Gypsy),Algerian, and more. If you are a bit sore gluts and thighs the next day, you have done "good". Bonus:Toned gluts and thighs for the rest of your life if you practice regularly :-) 10:00-1:00
Afternoon - Showtime!!!! Shalimar (Donna) is arranging a beautiful place in Danville for the partipants to show their best as a benefit for a local charity. Star polishing that dance, and searching your wardrobe for your look for the occasion.


Below is a Daily Time Plan for the Lotus Retreat in Bali.

For more information visit:

or write to

Companions and family members (non-dancers) are welcome. There are still spaces, but we recommend that you book as soon as possible. Local residents should inquire about individual classes if space is available.
Thanks, Samra
Saturday 22nd – arrival , free airport pick up, check in at hotel. Orientation meeting in the dance room at the hotel.

8 pm Dinner (hotel guests get 10% off menu prices) with Bellydance Show where teachers and participants perform.

Sunday, 23rd March
8 – 9 Breakfast at the hotel
9.30-10am Pick up in Mini Buses from Hotel
10am Sightseeing – Travel to Mengwi Water Palace, drive through Rice Paddies
4.30-5pm Arrive at Batukaru Mountain Retreat
Refreshments on arrival. Settle In
6.30 -7pm Dinner.

Monday, 24th March
8 – 9am Breakfast
9 -10am Orientation at Batukaru Mountain Retreat. (Book massages etc.)
10am -12 Shaabi Technique (Iman)
12 – 1pm Lunch
1 - 2.30pm Left Side (Choreography Technique) Right Side (Improvisation Technique (Samra)
2.30 - 3pm Afternoon Tea
3 - 4.30pm Balinese Dance Workshop (local Balinese instructor)
6.30 - 8pm Traditional Balinese Dinner
8.30pm Traditional Balinese Dance Performance – Joged Bumbung

Tuesday, 25th March
8 – 9am Breakfast
9 - 10am Bellydance Bazaar – shopping in the onsite bellystore for those interested
10am -12 Shaabi Choreography (Iman)
12 – 1pm Lunch
1 - 2.30pm Sword workshop (Iman)
2.30 - 3pm Afternoon Tea
3 - 4.30pm Zills Workshop (Iman)
4.30 - 5.30pm Bellydance Bazaar
6.30 - 8pm Dinner
8.30pm Dancing Under the Stars with drummer (feel free to join in with your zills)

Wednesday 26th March
8 - 9am Breakfast.
9.30-10am Depart Batukaru Montain Retreat. Sightseeing visit Balian Beach or Tanah Lot.
Arrival at Pelangi hotel. After settling in at the hotel we all go out to for dinner at one of the nice restaurants at faboulous Jimbaran Beach for superfresh seafood or vegetarian.

Thursday 27th
8 – 10 Breakfast
10 – 12 Double Veil (Samra)
12 – 1pm Lunch
1 – 2.30 Saiidi Technique (Siri)
3 – 4.30 Saiidi choreography (Siri)

Friday 28th
8 – 10 Breakfast
Morning free to do whatever you like – go shopping, join a cooking class, snorkeling, shopping or just laze by the pool.3 – 4.30pm Shimmy technique-preparation for the drum solo choreography on Saturday (Siri)
5 – 7pm Firedance (Samra)

Saturday 29th
8 – 10 Breakfast
10 – 12 Drum solo choreography (Siri)
12 – 1pm Lunch
1 – 2.30 Taste of Turkey. (Samra)
3 – 4pm Bellydance for beginners - optional class for companions and anybody else interested,15$. (Siri)
The afternoon free. Those who are going to perform in Sunday’s show, might want to spend some time rehearsing for this.

Sunday 30th
8 – 10 Breakfast
All day free, Those who are going to perform in Sunday’s show, might want to spend some time rehearsing for this.
8pm SHOWTIME. Afterwards we all eat and drink and sing and be merry – or sad that it’s all over.

Monday 31st
8 – 10 Breakfast, goodbyes. Free transfer to airport for those who are flying out this day.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

BELLLY DANCE IN BALI: Lotus Dance Retreat



BALI is more than a resort island. It is one of the most magical places on earth, and its people genuinely warm and welcoming. The island's natural beauty and amazing colors, as well as the low costs and fabulous shopping opportunities, will make you want to come back again and again. Tourists DO NOT need advance Visa to enter Bali if their passport is valid for at least 6 months.
Money matters: The cost of the Lotus Dance Retreat 2008 experienceis 895$ and includes everything listed below. Bring your non-dancing friend, husband, mother..., companion price is 595$ including everything listed below except dance classes• Free pick up at airport • 9 nights of accomodation, starting from 22 March. 6 nights incl• breakfast at 4 star Pelangi Bali Hotel (3 nights, with full meals, at a fabolous mountain resort (Batukaru Mountain Retreat in the heart of the island• 21 hours of classes (read about instructors and their classes below) plus Balinese Dance workshop• Balinese dance performance, dancers + gamelan orchestra• Temple sightseeing (on our way to the mountain resort)• Free massage or SPA voucher• Two dance shows, opening and closing gala, opportunity for all participants to perform (bring your best costume, ladies) a faboulous opportunity to meet new friends from around the world, sharing your passion for the dance.* Dance with candles by the beach
Want to extend your stay? Talk to our local representative Yani , e-mail: who is extremely knowledgable and helpful. You will also find a lot of useful information on or just type "Bali" on any search engine. Bali, and the rest of South East Asia, is an easy and incredibly inexpensive destination for travellers)
Sending a deposit as soon as possible will reserve your spot. Contact one of retreat teachers for instructions.

About the Teachers: SAMRA
SAMRA, of Brazilian origin but living and working in the USA, considers dancing a form of communication and a way to experience other cultures. After many years of intensive study she is a performer of dances from Latin America, Middle East, Polynesia, Turkey, and other parts of the world. She has also studied with masters of North African, Armenian, Balinese, and Central Asian dances. Her interpretive dances include fire, sword, balancing, and other exquisite dances. Samra is a popular performer at cultural and traditional events such as weddings, birthdays, banquets and festivals. She teaches dance workshops regularly across the USA and around the world. She has produced several dance instruction DVDs and has written for academic and artistic publications. Samra won an Excellence in Education award for her educational program to integrate all arts with academics. In Bali, Samra will teach dancing with fire, taste of Turkey, double veil, and left side right side of brain-dancing. Contact me to sign up! 1-276-236-4533

SIRI YDSTIE is a professional belly dancer and instructor based in Oslo , Norway. She runs Oslo Bellydance Studio, with four branches. Her style is Egyptian raqs sharqi, having studied with the world famous Raqia Hassan of Cairo as well as with other Egyptian stars. In addition to regular classes in her own dance studios, Siri also teaches weekend workshops during festivals and similar events in Norway and around the world. She is also in charge of the Noorwegian teacher training and certification program for bellydance instructors. Siri is also a much sought after performer, doing both private events such as weddings and birthday parties, as well as bellydance festivals and other cultural events. Siri, and her good helpers at Oslo Bellydance Studio, organize “1001 Nights” - Oslo Bellydance Festival, an annual event that has been drawing crowds since 2001. Siri has produced one instructional bellydance DVD for beginners, and two DVDs of choreographies for intermediate to advanced students. She will be teaching a drumsolo choreography, saiidi technique and choreography (both choreographies available on DVDs). Contact me to sign up!

IMAN HAUST is a professional Egyptian bellydancer, living and working in Norway. She started her dancing career at the age of 14 in her native Egypt, performing as a soloist in the local dance ensemble, one of many troops following the Mahmoud Reda tradition. At the age of 22 and 23 she won first prize in the Egyptian contest for soloists of such troops, and was sent to Morocco and Tunisia to compete on an international level. In 2003 Iman moved to Norway, where she now runs two bellydance schools on the outskirts of thecapitol Oslo. She is also a much sought after performer, both in local events such as weddings and birthday parties, as well as in international festivals. Her main influences have been Mahomoud Reda, Farida Fahmy, Nagua Fuad, Dina and Fifi Abdou, and her dance style has been described as similar to that of Egyptian bellydance legend Soheir Zaki. In addition to the dance, Iman also teaches her students about the culture of her native Egypt, and is known to be a very warm and generous instructor. Iman will be teaching the following workshops: Sword-dance , Shaaby (Egyptian pop) technique and choreography, zagat. (zils)


Wednesday, December 05, 2007


DVDs Clarification
In response to various inquiries from dancer friends around the world:Some of you may have seen a "Belly Dance Total Workout For Body Shaping" with Samra for sale at various venues. To make a long story short, I am NOT the person on the cover and it is not a Total Workout For Body Shaping DVD. Instead, this version is an excerpt remastered by a distributor of an instructional video that I authored and produced independently using rhythms by the fabulous Uncle Mafufo. It introduces 6 rhythms, 14 combinations and 8 special types of shimmies, plus short clips of drum performances on stage. The original DVD is entitled "101 Shimmies Vol 2" by Samra and is available at my website and also at and Create Space E-Store.
Next week I (Samra) will be releasing SHIMMYROBICS, which is more of a workout DVD, containining 1 hr of basic instruction for beginners followed by a 50 min workout using 5 combinations in repetitions to progressively speeding tempo to the great music of Sayed Balaha, courtesy of Balaha Records USA. It also contains a warm-up and cool-down. This Shimmyrobics DVD will also be available directly from me, Barnes and Noble and perhaps Ebay at a later date, or any vendor who wishes to carry them.
I will soon be completing "101 Shimmies Vol 3" to conclude the series, which will be a Drum Choreography to "Clap Happy" by Uncle Mafufo, and will use material from 101 Shimmies Vol 1 and 2.I just wanted inform everyone of what is original, and that the Total Body Shaping claim of the "Belly Dance" DVD used by that distributor was not my idea and is practically beyond my control, as is the photo of the beautiful young model on the cover :-(
Thanks for your support and for helping me spread the word. I will be glad to answer questions privately upon request.

Delight of Turkey

This was my second trip to Turkey within 16 months. I went last year as part of Eva Cernik's group and I loved Turkey so much that I had to return soon and see another part of the country that I didn't have time to see last year since I couldn't partcipate in the full month tour.
This year I went with a regular tourist group, but one that gave lots of "optional" tour time, so rather than participating in the optional tours, I followed my own agenda and interests. The great advantage of this arrangement was that it was very affordable, and gave me the security of arranged hotels and a comfortable bus to take me from city to city and some guided tours to amazing historical sites.
The genuine friendliness and welcoming nature of the Turkish people never cease to amaze me. I could go on and on with daily stories of people who would stop what they were doing to help me - a stranger who couldn't even speak their language! Very refreshing and touching in these days when everyone seems to be rushing and too busy for each other. Besides this wonderful experience of human care and concern, there were many highligts from this trip, some of which I will list:
1)The Hellenistic and Roman ruins. Ephesus is awesome. Turkey's ancient history is underappreciated, in my opinion. Our guide pointed out that the Turks themselves are not very good in promoting their richness of history and geographical features, and I totally agree. I personally was not aware of the antiquity of the history of what is now Turkey, neither was I aware of the variety of climate, geographical formations and immense ethnological diversity of the country. In my case I had always been fascinated by the ancient cultures of Egypt, China and India, and somehow didn't realize that the history of Turkey goes as far back into the past. We were fortunate to visit the revered Ataturk's Mausoleum on Nov 14th, the anniversary of his death, and share this commemoration with hundreds of thousands of Turks. Our group felt emotional and patriotic even without a drop of Turkish blood in our veins. Totally beautiful and powerful.
2) The food! Wow. I love Turkish food. Even those little "pit" stops can have the most amazing lentil soups, shish kabobs, and yogurt! Try goat mild yogurt with poppy seeds!. And the pastries... A delight for the tastebuds. I soon got used to cucumber and tomatoes with yogurt for breakfast and miss it already. And did I mention the PASTRIES???
3) And of course, music and dance. Read Below.

MUSIC AND DANCEThese were the magnets that drew me to Turkey to begin with. Dance has been my motivation for traveling for several decades, and this time was no different. This time I was focused in exploring, observing and learning. I did not attend the 5 star clubs as we did last year, so I didn't see any of the super famous dancers, because I had other plans for this trip.
In my quest to hear Turkish Arabesk music in its natural environment, I searched obscure night spots, all alone, often spending a fortune on taxis, but I was able to actually see it performed live in the manner described in the "books": smoky bars, some people drinking Raki, and a melancholic and melodic singer's voice on the microphone. My most authentic setting was in a little club in Instanbul, populated by only a few customers (it was a Thursday night). A group of young men invited me to dance Halay with them, so we made a friendship of sorts and I was brave enough to dance with them during other renditions. I made a lot of notes about how people react to Turkish Arabesk music, which was the purpose of my personal research. Being in that smoky environment, surrounded by the deep raspy sound of the lovely female singer was my perfect welcome to Turkey.
At each town and city along the way, I managed to find a night spot where I could go and listen to live music, and invariably I got "adopted" by a group of people with whom I danced or just sat together and listened to music. Even when language was a barrier, we smiled and gestured a lot and managed to have a great time. I danced a lot to all kinds of music genres from karsilama (social style) to folkloric, to pop, and the patrons, often much younger than I were always delighted to show me moves, and delighted and surprised when I showed them some moves of my own. I learned SO MUCH from these encounters.
As for formal lesson, I had the great honor of taking a private lesson with Reyhan Tuzsuz in Romany dance. Since this is the only style she teaches, this experience was like getting water from an original spring, totally untouched by fusion. She is a bundle of warmth, enthusiasm, and pride of her heritage and background. I had the lesson in a small studio in her house, in her own neighborhood (which is vanishing because the government is demolishing the houses gradually to make room for other construction projects), and met her beautiful family. This lesson was arranged by one of her students, Jennet, an American young lady studying dance and Turkish language there. Jennet plans to bring Reyhan and her husband (an accomplished violinist) on a tour in the US next year. Keep your eyes open and if they come near you, make every effort to attend. She teaches by the "follow me" method, so you should know what to expect. But she repeats the movements and gestures often enough that you will be able to learn considerably. If I can learn under these conditions, everyone can :-). Just observing her expressions and demeanor while she dances, how all those movements we learn in workshops come together from someone who grew up doing them is totally worth the time and money. This lesson was definetely one of the main highlights of the trip for me, and one to which I had looked forward to for months and was not disappointed.