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


Express bellydance class: How to do a reverse camel

13321815_10153528312991857_8778267634966787494_nA recent selfie taken during some filming!

Let me ask you a quick Q: what’s your “nemesis” step?

I.e. the one that makes you want to stamp your foot toddler style and throw your hipscarf out the window.

When I was a relatively new bellydance student I was super frustrated about not being able to get the hang of reverse camels. I would watch other dancers impressively rolling their tummies so easily and effortlessly, quite frankly I was pretty jealous!

Can you relate to this?

After a few months of serious practice with a good dose of patience and determination and I was rolling away no problem.

So this week I set myself a challenge: how swiftly and concisely can I teach the technique for reverse camel?

The result was an express 2 and a half minute bellydance tutorial on reverse camel technique with a full breakdown of the actions and how to put it all together. How successful it is will be up to you to decide!

Why not come on over and join me in the class now, it will only take just over 2 mins:

If you liked today’s blog post then I’d be so grateful if you were to leave me a comment on youtube. And of course, be sure to share it with your friends, it might be just what somebody needs :)

Thanks for reading, with lots of love,

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.

12 schoolgirl mistakes to avoid when buying a bellydance costume

DSCF2756.120037Some of our stunning successful exam candidates looking gorgeous!

Do you have an upcoming hafla or showcase? Are you thinking of investing in some bellydance bling? Then today’s blog post is essential reading for you if you want to avoid some common pitfalls.

This week I’ve put together my 12 essential tips for ensuring you only ever invest in costuming that makes you feel and look utterly divine.

Don’t even think about buying your next cossie before you check out this week’s blog! Notepad and pen ready? Let’s get started …

  • Beware of the Cinderella Syndrome

You’ve seen your dream fairy-tale costume, it’s absolutely perfect and you just know you’ll transform into an exquisite goddess the moment you put it on. Or, you end up buying a costume that doesn’t quite fit just because you’ve fallen in love with the design.

Some costumes can easily be altered or adjusted, but many require expertise that is beyond most of us. Sometimes you just have to accept that it wasn’t meant to be. This leads me on to point 2 …

  • Be honest about your “side-boob”

I’ve done it, perhaps you’ve done it too. That is, had an emperor’s-new-clothes-moment when you tried on a gorgeous bra top and convinced yourself that it fits properly, despite the fact that you were clearly trying to wedge those puppies into a space way too small. You realize that you’re essentially playing the kid’s game Whack a Mole where you squash one down but another one pops up the other side. That’s not what I want for you.

It might be gutting to admit it (and no, you probably can’t drape or sew some material over to make it look like it fits, it’s a structural issue) and I mean these words with love: it doesn’t fit and you’ll have to find another, bigger, one.

  • Avoid always buying the same colour

It can be comforting and reassuring to know what suits you, however don’t be afraid to try something completely different and get out of your comfort zone. If you need some imagination, try asking your friends what you think might suit you (small caveat, ask friends whose sense of style and eye for colour you admire).

If you have the budget to get your costume made, get ideas from the designer as to what might suit you. Try not to be resistant to all the suggestions, especially if they come from a professional designer, they know what they’re talking about and you may be surprised at what you’re able to wear. If I hadn’t listened to Hoda Zaki many years ago telling me I should try green I would probably still only be wearing navy blue costumes.

* Think outside the box and consider prints, patterns, styles and fabrics that you wouldn’t normally choose. Dig deep into your confidence and go for it – if it helps to hear it: permission granted.

  • Don’t put all your pennies in one basket

If you are on a budget or you want to build up your bellydance wardrobe quickly with a few different costumes, don’t go for costumes where the belt is sewn all in one into the skirt. Rather, go for separate bra, belt and skirt sets so you can mix and match different skirts and harem pants and get several different looks out of just a couple of costumes. Then you can build up your collection of skirts and easily (and affordably) get a fresh look. Buying a super distinctive costume is great but it won’t leave you with many options.

  • Give body stockings a chance

Not all of us want to bare our tummies and that’s absolutely fine, you don’t have to. Though if deep down you’d love to wear a two piece but feel a little shy, try using a gorgeous sparkly body stocking underneath to ease you into it. If it helps to hear it: permission granted.

  • Think about combining things that you already have in the wardrobe

Be creative and combine different colour bedlahs and skirts. If you’re scared about doing this a great way to start is with a gold or silver bedlah that you can mix and match with different skirts, trousers and layer up with belts and other embellishments.

  • Consider what you’re letting yourself in for when buying general size costumes.

Although it can be cost-saving and practical, there are many hidden horrors when buying a one-size-fits-all outfit. Buying your costume isn’t the end of the story. You will have to double check the fit (especially if you’ve bought it online) and how if shifts about when you dance. Is it too long? Will you trip over? Is the skirt loose? Do you need to reinforce it with elastic? Will is slide down? Does the bra need padding out? Is it see-through?

As a rule of thumb: don’t expect anything you order online to fit you properly and always be prepared to invest some extra time in making it fit you properly.

Another danger of buying online: beware of see through material. That luscious, full, rich-coloured skirt you saw on ebay can sometimes turn out to be one thin flimsy layer of chiffon. This can lead to the unenviable situation of your undies being on full show; not a great look unless that’s what you’re going for.  Skimpy material isn’t necessarily a problem but you’ll have to have something waiting in the wings to layer it up with.

  • Beware of buying online when having no or little information about the company you’re buying from.

I’ll tell you straight: I’ve been burned. I bought a costume from a company abroad that I knew relatively little about and yep, my costume never showed up and there was no customer service in sight.  Stick to vendors that you know you can trust. Also, always check the sellers’ returns and refunds policy before buying.

  • Never order a costume too close to a show, especially if the seller is abroad.

It should be an exciting time when you’re building up to a show and waiting for your costume to arrive the week before can take the edge off it a bit! If you have to put in a last minute online order, try to buy from somewhere based in your home country who can offer you next day delivery.

  • Avoid choosing a costume because it looks good on somebody else.

Seeing a costume you like is a bit like falling in love: you think about it all the time, you obsess over it and you just want to HAVE it. However, if you’ve seen a costume on another dancer or model then bear in mind that you are looking at her as well as the dress. It may be a costume that you’ve seen on a top professional dancer, in which case you may have been wooed by her dancing as well as her outfit. The costume may well have been designed specifically for her, her body shape, hair colour and dance style. Think carefully and objectively about whether this costume will be right for you.

  • Think twice before buying into trends and go for a classic style. * disclaimer: unless you have pots of money or can easily whip up your own on a sewing machine

This is especially true if you want to go on to sell your costume so you can afford the next one. If you have a very specifically stylized, fashion-conscious costume then you may very quickly feel that “everybody’s seen this costume now” and you need another one. It’s also tricky to sell a costume that looks dated and out of fashion.

  • Add your own embellishments

The classic giveaway that you are a bellydancer goes something like this: you regularly buy up broken jewelry, go to charity shops to snag bargain belts, tassel shawls and jewelry, you recycle old costume jewelry to customize your costumes, your friends and family have started giving you gawdy accessories they found in the bargain bin at Primark.

* BONUS RESOURCE: check out my interview with Princess Farhana and home in at around 32min 50s  where the Princess gives us super detailed instructions on how to get a bedlah costume to fit perfectly, plus other surprizing pearls of wisdom about costuming. This really is priceless advice from one of the world’s best known bellydancers so be sure to take a look.

One final point for ambitious student dancers and fledgling professionals:

* If you are making the transition into professional performance work then you will need a professional costume that fits you perfectly. It’s not the time to cut corners when you are trying to send out the message that you want to be seen as a pro. Ideally you will either have your costume professionally made and fitted, or you will have it altered and adjusted by a professional to get it just right. It might sound harsh and a little unforgiving, but presenting yourself as a professional means putting yourself up for scrutiny from head to toe, both from your audience and from whoever is paying you. First impressions are crucial, take the time to get your costuming perfect and you’ll be sure to make an impact for all the right reasons. Be prepared to shell out a lot of money to invest in your first 3 costumes, then think of regularly selling them on and replacing them to keep your wardrobe fresh.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog, if so I’d love it if you were to share the love with your bellydance friends!

Are you a student local to the mother-ship here in Reading, UK? Then I’d like to invite you to join us for some really beautiful events that we have coming up this Summer starting with a day full of dance  on Sunday June 12th.

In the morning I’ll be teaching a sassy, shaabi-esque choreography in a punchy 90 minute workshop. It’s suitable for beginners upwards so don’t be shy! Expect plenty of drills and technique to help you polish up the routine. Go here to book your spot.

Then, in the afternoon, we have our annual BellyQueen showcase and award presentations. This is where you get to see a dazzling line up of bellydance performers including the successful exam candidates and SMBA Teaching Apprentice graduates  showcasing their Bronze, Silver and Gold routines.

I’m proud to say that BellyQueen is a charity event and all proceeds from it go to the amazing Plan UK, specifically to their Girls Fund which helps to ensure that vulnerable girls all over the world are given the opportunity to safely gain an education safely. This is a great opportunity for you to contribute to a really important and timely cause, I’d love to see you there.

If you’d like to snap up one of the remaining tickets of the workshop and/or BellyQueen, go here and book your spot.

Finally, I am suuuuuuuuper excited to say that an unmissable “Drills and Skills Workshop: Pilates for bellydance with technique drills” will be running in conjunction with SMBA in Central Reading from 7.30-9.30pm on Tuesdays 19th July (Sold out) and 26th July (just a few spaces left!). We only have a limited number of places and by popular demand we added the second session on Tuesday 26th July (hint: it’s likely to book up fast).

The workshop is hosted and part taught by SMBA’s coach Natasha. Natasha is currently one of our fantastic troupe level coach and choreographers and is known for her high energy teaching and precision technique. She’s teaming up with Caroline Rutzler, an expert in conditioning top level dancers through Pilates to deliver a 2 hour session that will really pack a punch in terms of achieving sound, isolated and safe technique. How lucky are we????

Find out exactly what to expect and book your place on Natasha’s site here (there’s an early bird price too).

Thank you for reading, I really do appreciate it, and of course remember to share it with all your bellydance friends :)

Love and shimmies,
Helen x