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Sahra Saeeda’s Oriental Dance Level I Reviewed, by Bahiya

To register for an upcoming workshop, please visit Najia’s Workshop page.

I could not resist signing up when I saw that Sahra Saeeda was offering a certificate in Egyptian style dance. Not only is Sahra a talented performer, but she is a wonderful teacher, and has gentle giving spirit. Sahra knows Egyptian dance because she worked in Cairo headlining her own show in the ‘90s and travels there frequently as a dancer and Cultural Anthropologist. Her teacher was Farida Fahmy (, a well known soloist from the Reda Troupe. Her classes come with tons of information that appeals to my inner geek.

“Sahra Saeeda's Certification programs for belly dancers are not only informative & transformational but they are also fun. Here Sahra presents a certificate to Julia from Delaware."

During the four days, we learned how to make Egyptian style entrances, dance internal taxism, and construct an Egyptian style drum solo. We also had to explore what we were trying to say to the audience as dancers about ourselves. We would not be learning a choreography, but we would be learning performance techniques and how to move in an Egyptian style. This was so much more than the typical workshop. During the process, we would be video taped for feedback from Sahra. Additionally, there would be peer feedback. I can hear the collective gasp now. This is the point where it starts sounding kinda scary right?

"Yes we all know how to walk or do we? A belly dancers walk is distinctive and commands a certain presence. Sahra taught us endless ways to achieve the most important part of the dance -Ent rances- where in the first 20 seconds your audience decides who you are and if they want to continue watching."

The video feedback is a major reason I took the course. (Well, that and I really enjoy taking Sahra’s classes.) My poor husband has to deal with my insecure queries about “how was I” after every performance he attends. It really puts him in a bad position. What’s he going to say? He’s my husband and aside from that he’s a wonderful, sweet man who loves and supports me. (I was comforted to know that a close friend, who is also a dancer, confessed that she does the same thing. By the end of the workshop, I found out we’re far from alone.) I don’t want cruelty and I don’t want sugar coating, I really just have a strong desire to find out what my performance vibe is for other people so I can try to improve and become an entertaining and engaging dancer.

"Belly dancer Donna from Ardmore hams it up for the camera to make the most of her experience. The feedback she received from her peers (joy, happiness, belly dancing goddess, was part of the One Page technique introduced by Sahra."

After the warm up on the first day, the video feedback began. One by one, we all took our turn performing a solo entrance to music we had never heard in our own style. Everyone, no matter the experience level, said their heart was pounding. Its hard for a dancer to perform for a crowd of dancers. After this, Sahra began to teach us the techniques that make a good entrance. We would learn steps and combinations along with information about ways to connect to the audience and how to make it look Egyptian. What do their arms look like? What gestures do they use? Do they use chest accents? All of these questions would be answered and more. The next day, we were taped again and our peers would respond in writing to our dances. This process will repeat for the takism and then finally for the drum solo.

"The course atmosphere in the Cairo belly dance style is fun, warm and friendly. Students who are nervous about being videotaped soon realize that their fellow classmates are encouraging and supportive."

We spent two days on entrances. The material was endless. Who knew you could spend so much time on one facet? On day three, we began the taksim. We were taught stretching exercises to prepare our bodies and how to get our minds engaged into the activity, as well. In case you don’t know, it’s a piece of music where an instrument does a solo with no rhythm instruments. Common instruments are accordion, nay (flute), rebaba, saxophone, and violin. The movements are usually very fluid and often its an internal dance. The last day, we worked on drum solo. All throughout the class, Sahra told us the structures behind what we were learning in such a way that it would allow a dancer to more easily construct an Egyptian style choreography.

"Bahiya, Penny and Danielle demonstrate their interpretation of internal takism"

The certification class was kept small, about 20 participants. This was nice because you got to know your classmates a little better than at the average three hour workshop and you weren’t lost in the sauce. By the end of the second day, you really begin to feel much more comfortable at solo time. On the outside I did not always show that because on the inside I had all kinds of anxiety about my own dancing and what I could do to entertain other dancers. The sponsor, Najia never fails to supply a hospitality basket with snacks, tea, a tea kettle, menus for local restaurants, and information about places to stay. She is a wonderful hostess.

"A wonderful belly dancer from Doylestown area, who studies privately with Najia, Daliya Amira works on her entrances with veil. Sahra gave us a number of different steps to work with that were simple and effective. The most useful was how we used our energy. Were we pushing forward or holding center or back. What is so useful is she has us work through our issues in the workshop until we are getting it. The intimate class size also lends to the transformational process"

On the last day, we received both feedback from Sahra and our peers. It was the single most useful thing I have ever done in a class. At last, I found the information I needed to know. The response was exactly the sort of stuff I was looking for to be able to improve my skills. I would not trade this class for any other. The Level I course may repeat in November, if you are interested in taking it. Sahra is also teaching a number of workshops this summer. The classes will be held from July 24 – 26. Don’t worry, if you solos and feedback aren’t your cup of tea, you should know that these are conventional workshops that lead up to the concepts that she teaches in the Level 1 Certificate. Register. It will change your dancing. Najia’s site can be found if you search, Najia The Magic of Bellydance. The studio is in the Ardmore area of Philadelphia near Villanova and Bryn Mawr. Here’s a direct link to the workshops you can paste in your browser:

"Belly dancer Bahiya from Maryland (pictured in front) really loves the intimate class sizes and Najia's hospitality in her certification programs with Sahra Saeeda offered in her Havertown and Ardmore studios in Pennsylvania."

"Yes the 20 hours is not only physically intensive but mentally. who could expect so much information on such focused few topics. Actually the material was endless. We all agreed the takism technique itself deserves it's own 20 hour belly dance course."


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