Bellydance arm drill: the secret sauce for elegant arms

Copy of Express belldance cool down(1)

So what part of your dance would you like to work on today?

Whenever I ask my students this question I can bet my bottom dollar that arms will be a popular topic. I’ve even come to notice that my arm tutorials are among some of the most popular!

So in today’s blog post I thought we could work on arms.

The only thing is, there are gazillions of (really good) tutorials on arm technique out there in youtube-land. So, rather than add to those, I’m going to change the focus and get you to start working on achieving perfectly timed and placed arm positions. Why is this important? Because it’s how we can begin to figure out that ethereal thing called musicality.

We often think the key to achieving graceful supple arms is just about drilling technique. To a great extent it is, but I believe that dancers with seamlessly integrated rhythmical interpretation in their armwork are the ones that really stand out.

And I want you to stand out too! So today’s express class features a short drill to get you thinking about musicality with a focus on rhythm and timing, not just technique. I’ve been using this in class and seen some great results with my students.

I know you’re busy and possibly short on space, so I’ve kept it quick and compact (you’re welcome ;-))

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog, if you did I’d be so grateful if you were to use the share button below and let your bellydance pals know about it! And of course give me a thumbs up and even a comment :)

Would you like to start your bellydance journey with me? Now you don’t have to live local to the mothership here in Reading, UK! Go to to join my online bellydance studio where you’ll find all sorts of video classes and tutorials.

One last thing before I go. If you’re starting or thinking of starting to teach bellydance, you might like to check out a series I was interviewed for recently about Growing Your Teaching. It’s by Nara Nemer and she asked me specifically about how to sustain your teaching, go here to check it out.

Thanks for reading and watching! Until next time … love and shimmies,

Helen xx

How to look after your bellydance body like a pro

Express belldance cool down

I’d love to know, when did you start bellydancing? And tell me, at what age do you plan on stopping bellydancing?

The first question is part of the usual kind of conversation dancers have all the time. The second question is kind of weird and not something we find ourselves asking each other as we don our hipscarves before class.

Personally, I plan on bellydancing into my 90s and beyond! Whether or not my body will play ball with that plan is another matter.

I believe that getting older is a privilege and something to celebrate. So as we get blessed with another day, week, month and year with the joy of bellydancing, let’s remember to care for our bodies as though they are a precious, sparking gem.

It’s time treat your body the same way as a pro dancer would. That way, you’ll be dancing for … as long as you want to!

What am I talking about here? Of course, it’s bellydance “after care” or cool down as we commonly know it.

Whilst drills and moves are great, it’s the tlc you give your body afterwards that will serve you well in the long run.

So for today’s blog post, I’m giving you a short cool down routine that you can add on to any practice session. Or you can even do it after your regular class when you get home.

Take a deep breath, here we go …

I hope I’ve helped you embrace the road to bellydance longevity. My aim is to bring spirit, soul and sparkle into your life – for as long as possible!

Be sure to give me a thumbs up on youtube so I know you dig my videos (and want more!) And I’d be so happy if you were to leave a comment too :) If you feel the need to share the love, just hit one of the share buttons below.

Before I go, I’ll use maximum restraint from hitting the caps lock button (I’ll keep it to bold) when I say: the Santa Maria Bellydance Online sale continues! Get 50% off your first month when you use the promo code: SHIMMY2018. Go here to get started with me now!

In my online studio you’ll find a selection of warm ups, drills, combos, movement sequences, choreography, improvisation workshops and of course – cool downs.

Thank you so much for reading,

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx

Ps. 2018 Year Planner is shaping up nicely! Check out the events that I’m involved with below – perhaps I’ll see you there?

Upcoming workshops and events

* Vintage Style Bellydance Choreography Workshop with Helen: A Tribute to Katy Voutsaki – Sold out
Saturday 3rd February 2018, Reading, 11.00-1.30

* Vintage Style Bellydance Choreography Workshop with Helen Saturday 24th March 2018, 2.00-4.00pm, Redditch, £20 – Sold out email Emma at to be added to the waiting list

* Vintage Style Bellydance Choreography Workshop with Helen places available Saturday 28th April 2.00-4.00pm, Gloucester, £25 Contact Penny at for bookings and info

* Casbah Cabaret the bellydance showcase for aspiring bellydance students and enthusiastic bellydance fans! Sunday 22 April, 7.00pm-10.00pm, doors open at 6.00pm,The Outlook
76-78A Kings Road, RG1 3BJ Reading. Performance slots are open now, go here to apply to perform. Go here for tickets.

* Ozgen will be returning to Reading! Bookings will be open soon so stay tuned. In the meantime, save the dates 26th and 27th May 2018


100 hip drops bellydance challenge! Can you keep up?


Happy New Year! Welcome to my first blog post of 2018, thank you so much for being here.

Do you find January a tough month? I know how you feel, the idea of hibernating under a blanket in front of the TV with a nice cuppa and a biscuit has its appeal.

That’s why I always think that one of the best things about learning bellydance is being in a group of awesome people – it’s not a lone sport! If anything can get me (willingly) out of the house in January it’s the chance to teach a group of funny and fabulous people and dance together. Yes, I believe that bellydance classes can help us through what can otherwise be a grueling month.

So in this tutorial, I invite you to join me and some of our gorgeous students for my “Helen’s 100s” drill. A short, sweet, super simple drill that only lasts 2 minutes. 100 hips drops on each hip – deep breath, let’s go!

Imagine if you did this once a day for a week, that would be 1400 hip drops!

Would you like to join us for more bellydance drills, technique and choreography? Our Winter 2018 term starts next week! I’m blessed to have a cracking team of talented, creative coaches and between us we offer courses from beginner to advanced levels. Visit our classes page to find the right course for you and book your place.

Would you like to rise to the top of the class? Or do you live to far away to join our live classes? Well, I have great news for you! I’m embracing the spirit of January sales and offering you a whole month of full access to Santa Maria Bellydance Online for half price!

That means you can take drills, technique, movement and choreography classes with me anytime you have internet connection for a bargainous £7.50 for a whole month when you join up for a monthly subscription in January 2018. Just enter the voucher code SHIMMY2018 to get your first months discount.

Thanks for joining me again for another blog episode, happy dancing :)

Love and shimmies,

Helen xx


Bellydance doesn’t get more meaningful than this

Bellydance for Joy

This conversation was a massive eye-opener for me.  Both as a bellydance teacher and as a human being.

How can bellydance be life changing? Even life saving?

I asked Charlotte Desorgher about the Bellydance For Joy project she is leading which brings bellydance classes to women who have experienced the terror of violence and abuse.

We touched on some really interesting points and I was surprised by some of the challenges from a teaching point of view.

Just to give you a heads up, we won’t be shying away from the topic today. We’ll be hearing about women who have been through terrifying and traumatic experiences. It’s a tough listen in parts, but well worth hearing about the unexpected ways that bellydance has helped victims of violence and abuse.

The power of bellydance never ceases to amaze me. Do you know of a project or organization that is using bellydance in interesting and healing ways? Feel free to share in the Youtube comments and let us know about it!

Here’s how you can find out more and contribute towards Bellydance For Joy:

Bellydance for victims of abuse, rape and slavery:… Bellydance for Hospices (in memory of Yvette Cowles):…

Find our more about Charlotte:

Company of Dreams website: Facebook:…
Twitter: @companyofdreams Instagram: @companyofdreamsdance

Thank you so much for reading and watching this week’s blog.

Love and shimmies to you,

Helen xx

Ps. Are you ready to get your sparkle on in 2018? Early bird bookings are now open! Visit our classes page to see all our courses and book your place.

Choo Choo Shimmy Challenge! Can you keep up?

new documents created

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.