When the Choreographer is Born

leyla najmas belly dance blog - when the choreographer is born

The individual choreographer goes through so much in order to dance her inspiration; it’s almost a daily ritual of trial and error that places her into the realm of the artiste. The first telltale signs that a choreographer is born is when he or she braves the stage performance after performance, knowing that it’s only for a few brief moments each time. It’s not the end result of the applause so much as it is the freedom to express an individual inspiration from beginning to end…their way.

Sometimes I listen to a song over and over again and wait for it to give me subliminal images and ideas for various combinations and hip movements. I have always felt music must be heard in a way that allows it to whisper directly into the ear of the artiste. Combinations and hip articulation work together but to me, they aren’t necessarily one and the same. Layering for example isn’t always brought in on accents because sometimes the melody can call for movement that is the visual beacon that becomes familiar to the audience because it’s repeated. Since the melody can be the poetic expressive part of the music, it’s not always about traveling or hip work. So in order to understand music, I think we have to understand the culture that it comes from.

So when I put together combinations especially for my students, I try to put together different ideas that call to them and inspires them to change them up, their way. The choreographer is born not so much from dancing to someone else’s choreography but from understanding how to feel movement to music in the way they hear it. The hard part for beginners to beginner/intermediates is having the courage to create an individually inspired dance that tells the world how they hear the music. I remember my first choreographed dance emotionally was between a victorious triumph and a horrific nightmare. It was the first time I was responsible for what I performed and if it didn’t pan out or if the audience showed disappointment there was no teacher to hide behind, it was all mine.

The naked feeling on stage is the hardest part to get used to because in the end it’s really about how your body moves to music; it’s your interpretation of how the music inspires you. This is the part of choreography that isn’t easy to discuss because it has to be experienced first hand to understand it. I have told my students the various emotions they might feel with their first debut performance but nothing I ever say compares to what they tell me afterwards. I have found this is because they experience life through their own understanding of fear, elation and for each one; there can be a million meanings to life. The completion and success of dreams that come true, always shows in their eyes but it’s their story of how it all happened. This to me is the reward for being a teacher and the reason for teaching.

So with the joy of remembering my student’s who became choreographers born and dancers in their own right and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m going to share a combination with all of you. Take it and mix it up to your hearts delight and enjoy.

 Thanksgiving Combo:

Right Hip Maya/Backward Stomach Roll/Left Hip Side Thrust/Right Hip Side Thrust/Right Side Forward-Side-Back/3 Step Turn/Right Hip Down-Up-Out/Left Side Thrust/Right Side Thrust

Left Hip Maya/Backward Stomach Roll/Right Hip Side Thrust/ Left Hip Side Thrust/Left Side Forward-Side-Back/3 Step Turn/Left Hip Down-Up-Out/Right Side Thrust/Left Side Thrust


Photo by the Amazing Vivien Skrupskis


Remember that the Divine Unrest is almost available for the Holidays so don’t forget to contact Daniel at [email protected] or me at [email protected] for more information.  

Free Belly Dance Choreography Video


PS: You can find a free 25 minute choreography belly dance video and wake up your inner choreographer



Let’s Duet

movie-trailer-screenshot-gentleman-prefer-blondersAs a newbie duet member I decided I would go check out one of the most well marketed most popular local dance troupes perform in my area this week.  It was the first time I really studied the technical movements of other dancers instead of watching just for the pure entertainment value of it.

People were scattered sporadically around but when the belly dancers emerge to perform, the crowds cluster in closely almost magnetically.  I could hear Leyla Najma’s voice in my head, “When you’re out there performing you will be watched and critiqued by other dancers.” as I was taking mental notes.  There were a few lessons Leyla had been very adamant about that I became very aware of during the performance.

First, the duet is very difficult to choreograph for because it is hard to get 2 people who compliment each other and if they don’t it just looks wrong.  Second, if someone was trained in another style of dance previous to belly dancing it shows.  Third, layering is key and if you do too many of the same moves it becomes very boring.  And forth, chicken arms are the devil! Read more

Signature Moves with Personality

Signature Moves with Personality - Leyla Najma's Belly Dance BlogYears ago when I first saw belly dancing the dancers who stood out the most were the ones who understood where “their” dance moves came from. Nothing was forced and they glided, gracefully across the stage and than all of a sudden out of nowhere a sharp combination or soft accent would appear and take your breath away.
As a novice I could see that this would be necessary to understand and incorporate into my dance. Now, I didn’t understand at that time how to go about doing it so I spent many years researching this so I could pass it along to my students.

What is a signature move you may ask? It is your personality and style that brings life into a group of combinations. It is you in a move and your dancing is done with your life experiences expressed through each gesture of the hand, arm, walk or turn. You are up on that stage 100%, therefore there is no carbon copy of another dancer only you. So as a dancer performs she has a select few moves that are combined and put together her way that reflect her view of the world. This view is only hers and as a consequence a signature move is born.

This year started out with a bang in signature moves. Currently I am working with a fantastic singer Kymberlyann Lopez who has just finished her new cd that will be released this year. We are working on belly dance moves that she will be incorporating into her dance along with her hiphop, breakdancing and jazz moves. Read more

Sharing Some Text and Combo Ideas

Sharing Some Text and Combo Ideas - Leyla Najma's Belly Dance Blog

I went through my archives and wanted to share some of the combinations that I have put together for students and dance enthusiasts through out the years. I have so much that I decided that I must share it and hopefully give some of you ideas for new moves and combos that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of.

If any of you have any questions regarding this text feel free to write me. I am always more then happy to be able to talk about dance, combos and ideas for a variety of songs etc. So enjoy the text and happy dancing!



PS: If you like these combinations you at the bottom is a PDF document for you to download and print.

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The Fall Roundup


This blog will be more news of what’s coming up then my melodramas. Actually no drama’s to speak of so life is movin and groovin right along.

Ready, Set, Action!

We just bought a new camera and of course Daniel has big plans for doing a live broadcast which at this point I don’t know exactly what the theme will be but as soon as we get the camera we’ll let you know. We decided that with the changes in classes with adding Belly Stretch-Thrust and Roll and the regular Hip Phylosophy curriculum that we needed an upgrade. Plus I might include another class if I see how these all go. We might as well keep the dance classes going through out the week. Who knows, it might be props, history of belly dance or my talk radio show……. Read more