Choo Choo Shimmy Challenge! Can you keep up?

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Do you have a competitive streak? Even just a tiny bit?

Well, I want to tap into it today to help you smash your choo choo shimmies out of the park. My aim is to turn the choo choo from a move you dread into a move you love!

In today’s blog, I  invite you to join me for a 3 minute choo choo drill. Nice and simple, all you need is a small space and no interruptions for 3 minutes.

Join me now and let’s get started!

We’re all at different places with our fitness, strength and health, so do as much or as little of it as you like :-)

Be sure to leave me comment on youtube and let me know how you get on. Imagine if you did it every day for 30 days!

Would you like some step by step help on how to achieve a strong, consistent choo choo shimmy? My new Choo Choo Masterclass is now live at SMB Online, yay! (a few of you have asked for this)

This is where I take you through some prep work with strength and conditioning exercises, an in depth technique session with oodles of tips, hints and visualisations, then some good old drills to let the move sink into your body ready for you to draw on any time you need a choo choo.Never dread choo choos again!

I hope today’s video helps you to build your confidence when it comes to choo choo shimmies. Keep on practicing regularly alongside me and enjoy seeing your choo choos get stronger and stronger.

Thank you for reading, love and (choo choo) shimmies to you,

Helen xxx

Ps. Here’s a sneak peek at my Choo Choo Shimmy Mastercass, now available within my extensive class library at SMB Online.


Superstar interviews with Helen Santa Maria: Ozgen!

Helen Santa Maria interviews Ozgen

Get ready for piece of blog post joy. A week or so ago I had the pleasure of sitting down to interview international dance artist, Ozgen and hearing him talk beautifully openly and honestly about his life as a dancer, his real feelings about being a “male bellydancer” (whatever that means!) and lots more. Warning: we went deep!

The only topic that was off limits was … nothing. Ozgen was happy to answer absolutely any questions I had, what a gem.

So get your self a cuppa, settle in, and enjoy.

Thanks so much for being here and watching/listening to this week’s blog! I hope I’ve bought a little more soul, spirit and sparkle to your life with this insight into Ozgen’s life as a dancer and his thoughts and philosophies on dance, dancers (and life!) in general.

If you want to keep in the loop with Ozgen, be sure to follow him on instagram and join him on facebook.

If you enjoyed it, why not share it with your bellydance buddies? And be sure to give a thumbs up over at Youtube so I know you enjoy this kind of thing. You can even leave a comment if any of what we chatted about resonated with you.

Katie(1)I was all prepped to promote my upcoming Vintage Style Bellydance workshop in this space. However, I’ve been bowled over by the response as it sold out within a day! Sorry if you missed out on a spot, please do contact me to be added to the waiting list. The good news is that it looks like I’ll be hitting the road with the workshop so keep a look out for that. (It’s not often that I leave the mothership here in Reading!)

Now, if you’re looking to expand your bellydance repertoire and rise to the top of the class, you need regular, consistent practice that you can weave into your lifestyle. Santa Maria Bellydance Online is open 24/7 anywhere you have an internet connection. There you’ll find hours of my classes, drills, exercises, choreography sequences, combinations, technique tutorials, improvisation workshops and much more.

You even get to try the first 3 days for free to see if you dig it before you pay. Check it out here! I’m happy to say that I’ve reached students as far as the US, Germany, Norway, Italy and even Kuwait! I’d love you to join them too.

Until next time, love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Ps. Here’s a peek at the latest workshop to join Santa Maria Bellydance Online. Are you ready to rise to the top of the class?

Photo by BKB Photography

10 Songs Every Bellydancer Should Know

Photo by BKB Photography

I take my blog highly seriously, so I was thinking carefully about what to offer you at this time of year before I sign off for the Summer.

Then, just as I was sending out some resouces to my students, it seemed blindingly obvious what to assign you this time .

It’s the perfect time to sit back with a gin and tonic (or mocktail if you prefer) and connect with some beautiful, heart-stopping bellydance music.

If you’ve never researched bellydance music for yourself before, don’t worry, we all have to start somewhere! Even if you’ve been bellydanicng for a long time, it’s never too late to start exploring.

You might be wondering: where do I start?

Well, I suggest getting on the google! It’s as easy as typing in “songs every bellydancer should know”. You’ll find plenty of teachers and bloggers who have very helpfully shared their essential bellydance playlist.

In today’s blog post I’m giving you my very own Top 10 Songs Every Bellydancer Should Know.

One thing to say before you read on – there are dozens and dozens of songs that could have made it onto the list! There is plenty of music that I don’t know and every teacher will make different choices about what to include on this kind of list. But I think that’s a good thing!

My list below is meant as a starting point to get you off the ground. I’ve linked the songs to youtube to help you track them down( then I urge you to purchase them). In no particular order:

1. Shik Shak Shok by Hassan Abou Seoud

2. Habibi Ya Eini by George Yazbek, popular modern version sung by Nourhane

3. Enta Omri by Mohammed Abdel Wahab famously sung by Om Khalthoum (the Hossam Ramzy version part 3 that we used in some classes)

4. Zeina by Mohammed Abdel Wahab

5. West Naima by Hossam Ramzy

6. Alf Leyla Wa Leyla by Baligh Hamdi sung by Om Khalthoum (Cairo Orchestra version)

7. Bint El Sultan by Ahmed Adaweyya

8. Ah Ya Zein by Mohamed Abdel Wahab (modern version)

9. Akhasmak Ah sung by Nancy Ajram

10. Ana Fintizarek by Zakaria Ahmed sung by Om Khalsoum (Hossam Ramzy version)

So there you have it! I wish you happy listening this Summer as you take a break from regular classes.

Thank you for reading, I really appreciate you taking them time to check out my top 10.

Are you ready to embrace the bling and dip your toe in the glittery bellydance water? Then your next step is to join us and start your bellydance journey at a beginner taster session this Summer in July and August!

Choose your Bellydance Taster Session and book here.

(If you’ve had a break from dancing and want to ease back in, one of the sessions could be great for you too).

Places for our new Beginner course and full school timetable are now open! We have everything from Golden Age glamour to shaabi, Bollywood Fusion to Persian veil and drum solo and Malaya Leff. It’s a real hot pot of authentic bellydance this time and we’d love you to be part of it.

Places on courses are limited so be sure to snap up your spot soon! Go here to book your place for bellydance gorgeousness this Autumn.

If you’re looking for some one off, high level bellydance training then be sure to snap up one of the last remaining places on the Serena Ramzy workshops on September 10th!  Go here to grab one of the remaining places.

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Ps. I am beyond excited to let you know that Ozgen will be coming to teach some workshops for us! Yesssss! Here’s your chance to learn with one of the most sought after teachers and performers on the planet. Ozgen workshops will be happening in Reading on Saturday 28th October. Stay tuned to hear more about bookings opening.

Pps. Check out my latest release on Santa Maria Bellydance Online, it’s a goodie …

Helen Santa Maria Bellydancer

What every aspiring bellydance performer should do before a show (are you doing it?)

Can I ask you an honest question? Have you ever performed in a bellydance show and felt a little bummed out by your performance?

Me too.

It might not be as obvious as making a mistake or forgetting your routine. Instead, perhaps you just didn’t give it everything you’ve got and shine the way you wanted to.

If, like me, you’re not naturally massively exuberant when you dance it can take a bit of work and preparation to get yourself, emotionally, to the right place to be able to really shine on stage.

I take your dancing seriously and I believe that it’s worth bringing everything you’ve got to your performance. Why? Because having a rich and emotionally connected dance experience feeds yours and your audience’s souls in a really positive way.

Dancing with this approach taps into core feelings, expressions and emotions that our daily life, increasingly, don’t allow us space for.

Feeling confident and secure in expressing yourself when you dance is what we all wish for. But it comes more easily to some than others.

We all have some level of confidence, which goes through peaks and troughs. So how can we induce, increase and protect that precious gem of self-confidence? (Naturally, that is – we’re not talking about the use of banned substances here!)

In today’s express class I’ll give you one highly effective (and fun) strategy that can help you fire up your moxie and smash your next dance performance out of the park.

Here is this week’s express class

Are you ready to embrace the bling and dip your toe in the glittery bellydance water? Then your next step is to Join us and start your bellydance journey at one of our beginner taster sessions this Summer in July and August!

Choose your Taster Session and book here.

(If you’ve had a break from dancing and want to ease back in, one of the sessions could be great for you too).

If you’re looking for high level bellydance training then be sure to snap up one of the last remaining places on the Serena Ramzy workshops on September 10th! Conveniently for our local dancers, the workshops are being held in Twyford, Berkshire. Go here to grab one of the remaining places.

Thanks so much for reading.

Love and shimmies to you,

Helen xx

Ps. Not local to Reading UK? Perhaps you’re based in one of the other 25 countries my blog gets emailed to :-)  If you’d like to learn bellydance with me you still can! At Santa Maria Bellydance Online I have an entire library of classes for you to enjoy. “See” you in class.

Santa Maria Bellydance Online

What every bellydancer should know about hands

Full Bellydance Warm Up(2)

Summer is here! Just like the gorgeous flowers that are emerging all around us, it’s time for you to blossom and sparkle. And, as ever, I’m on a mission to help you bring out your feminine side by teaching you to bellydance, step by step.

Before I dive into this week’s express class, I want to give the heads up to any local dancers (to Reading, UK) about an amazing opportunity to take some training with top international performer and teacher Serena Ramzy on 10th September 2017.

If you are an advancing dancer then it’s no exaggeration to say that this an unmissable opportunity to take some high level training. (You’ll find the link for further details and booking at the bottom of this post).

Are you just starting out on your bellydance journey? Or perhaps you’ve been on an extended break from bellydance? Then come along to one of our Beginner Bellydance Taster Sessions!

Dip your to in the glittery bellydance water with a one hour taster session this Summer. Find all the details and online booking here.

Now on to today’s express class.

In this episode I’ll give you 3 more speedy tips to stop you looking like a beginner and start you looking like an advanced dancer.

This time, the focus is on hands. Are you making one of  these 3 ham-fisted mistakes? Check out this week’s class to get it fixed in double quick time.

Now you’ve watched the class, I’d love to know what you think! Be sure to leave a comment on youtube and of course you’re always welcome to message me.

Thank you, as always, for reading and watching.

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Ps. Go here to book your place for training with Serena Ramzy (hint: there’s an early bird deal!). Link takes you to a different site.


How to stop looking like a beginner

Full Bellydance Warm Up(1)

We all have to start somewhere on our bellydance journey and that somewhere is a beginner class.

It’s heartening to think that even great bellydancers were beginners once. But, let’s face it, none of us want to be a beginner for longer than we have to! The moves feel awkward and we have that “beginner look” which marks us out as an inexperienced dancer.

Firstly, before we dive into this week’s tutorial, I want to say that this awkward feeling is completely normal! Secondly, it takes time, patience and regular tuition to master bellydance.

However, there are a few tell-tale “beginner” signs that, I believe, can be kicked to the kerb in a cinch.

Here is the first in my short series of “how to stop looking like a beginner” tutorials. In each snappy class I’ll home in on a certain dance element or body part. This time I’ll give you my 3 tips in relation to one culprit which will instantly help you blossom into your new dance persona!

Click the video find out what we’re going to focus on this week:

Now you’ve taken a look at today’s class, I’d love to know what you thought! Was it helpful? Do you have any tips to add that helped you shed your beginner bellydance identity? Be sure to comment under the youtube video.

Along our bellydance journey there are several landmark skills that mark our arrival into the next phase. One of the most challenging of these is, without doubt, feeling confident about improvising or choreographing your own dance.

So here at SMBA we’ll be offering a one off 6 week course focusing on advancing these more nuanced bellydance skills.

Don’t be scared, you’ll be taken through my specially developed exercises step by step, you won’t have to figure it all out on your own.

We’ll also expand your knowledge of bellydance music with an overall course theme of 10 Songs Every Bellydancer Should Know.

Go here to book your place, don’t take too long as we only have a few places left and we start next week!

Thanks for reading :)

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Ps. Are you in the loop? Subscribe for blog updates with bellydance tips to get on track and stay inspired. Plus receive my free online class! Go here to get yours.

How to do a single hip figure 8 (looks difficult, is easy)

Full Bellydance Warm Up

In today’s class I have a super cool move to teach you and the best part is – it’s not  that difficult!

It’s a cheeky little figure called a single hip figure 8. The good news is that you can dig out when you’re improvising, or use in a choreography if you’re looking for a new move.

In this session I’ll give you the technique plus some tips along the way to make sure you look as fabulous as possible :)

Once you’ve taken the class, I’d love to know what you think: did you find it easy? or was it trickier than I imagined?  Be sure to leave a comment on youtube!

Let’s get started!

If you have bellydance pals who would enjoy this class, I’d be so grateful if you were to share it on your fave social media platforms. You never know, it could be just what someone’s looking for!

Thanks so much for reading.

With love and shimmies,
Helen xx

Ps. Our NEW 6 week Summer courses are coming up! Early prices are up for grabs until 10th May. Go to our classes page to check out the juicy new syllabus!

How to improvise with bellydance

how to improvise

Picture this:

It’s that part of the class where your teacher shouts those dreaded words: “now it’s your turn to improvise”. You freeze up, your mind goes blank and – despite the fact that you’ve learned oodles of bellydance steps and techniques – you have no idea what to do.

For some reason, having to improvise makes us feel super vulnerable and self-concsious. But the answer to this isn’t to try and do away with those feelings, it’s to understand that these feelings are part of the experience of improvised bellydance.

Whilst I don’t, by any means, claim to be any kind of guru on improvisation, I do have some top tips that I’ve gleaned from teaching this topic for many years.

In this episode I’ll explain:

  • what improvisation is
  • why bellydancers need it
  • how improv is different to a choreography (and why that matters)
  • how to get started
  • what pitfalls to avoid

Improvisation seems to be going out of fashion in the bellydance world (I’ll dare to say that I think we, as teachers, even avoid demanding that our students improvise for fear of putting them off coming to class. Therein a vicious circle begins). So in today’s video, I want to, gently, help give you some assurance that YOU CAN DO IT!

If the idea of improvising to a bellydance song sends you into a panic, today’s post is for you.

I’d love to know what you thought of today’s video, do leave a comment on youtube if you have any tips, experience or thoughts to add!

If you want to explore my “Preparation for Improvisation” class with studies and exercises to get you improvising with confidence, why not think about subscribing to my online studio? You’ll find that class along with oodles of a growing library of my tuition, choreography and drills videos:

Thanks for reading and watching, it’s great to be back after my maternity leave :)

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Ps. Are you in the loop? Subscribe for blog updates with bellydance tips to get on track and stay inspired. Plus receive my free online class! Go here to get yours.

Bellydancing again after childbirth – my plan

After spending much of the last 3 months at home in my PJs with a new baby, I thought I’d check in and share with you my thoughts and feelings about my journey back into dance after childbirth.

This isn’t “produced” the same way as my usual blog posts, so please forgive the rough and ready style!

See what I have to say about starting from “ground zero” (again). Maybe you can identify with how I’m feeling too :)

Are you ready to feel stronger, more at home and confident in your dancing? If you’re local to Reading, UK, then you might enjoy one of our 5 week Drills and Technique courses with which we’re kicking off 2017. It’s the perfect opportunity to focus consistently on your strength and technique for a few solid weeks.

I couldn’t be more proud of my AMAZEBALLS team of coaches! Go to our classes page to see which level and location is right for you. (I won’t personally be teaching this course, but you may see me in attendance, it’s going to be mega).

Not local to Reading, UK? Or are you a complete beginner and can’t wait to get started? Why not check out my new online studio! There you’ll find a library of classes, techniques, warm ups, cool downs, exercises, drills and choreography sequences. (You even get the first 3 days for free so you can see if you dig it before paying)

Wherever you are in the world and whoever you dance with, I wish you joyful dancing :-)

Thank you so much for reading, I really do appreciate it.


Helen xx



Bellydance drill: shoulder shimmies


Are your shoulder shimmies out of control? Or, worse still, non-existent?

Do you try your best but somehow you can’t seem to get your shoulder shimmies off the ground?

Perhaps you’re stuck in a rut with your choreography and need an injection of ideas for shoulder shimmy layers and patterns?

If you need help drilling down and getting serious about your shoulder shimmies then today’s blog post is definitely for you.

I’ve put together a short shoulder shimmy drill that you can do with me on a regular basis to get your technique looking tip top.

This time I’ve given you a “follow me” style class with no verbal tuition. It’s a bit of an experiment to see what works best for you. So please feel free to post your thoughts below the youtube video, or even drop me a message to let me know what you think. And, of course, give me a thumbs up so I know you dig this kind of thing.

So turn the phone to silent, kick off your shoes, make a little space and get started!

If you’re local to Reading, UK then you might like to check out our next term’s classes launching in Autumn 2016 (we have early bird course prices up until 13 July). I’ve just finished devising the course syllabuses with my crack team of coaches. They really are the most caring, expert and consummate teachers I have ever come across and I feel blessed to have them on the SMBA team. Go here to book your spot (limited places).

Thank you so much for checking out today’s blog, I really am grateful to “see” you here.

Until next time, love and shimmies,

Helen xx