The Belly Dance Survivalist

The Belly Dance Survivalist, Leyla Najma


After almost thirty years in the business I’ve been looking back and enjoying the view, remembering the road less traveled that became a rite of passage. In some ways surviving certain lessons became just as important as acing others. Perhaps the word survivalist seems a little harsh but in reality sometimes I have felt I was in a boot camp for hips.

As you all may have noticed, I took many months off from dance even my blog for many reasons. Healing my arm became a priority that wasn’t foreseen in any crystal ball and because I did my own physical therapy, I reminded myself how much dance really has to do with healing. Now, I knew belly dance helped the spiritual heart breaks and pains but I gained a greater insight on the fact that  fish hands, wrist twists and the lotus flower all work well with gaining strength back and building up muscle. I can now add in something new to my resume.

Another reason for the hiatus was more of a personal nature and with this particular change came a new address, a new perspective on my life and pretty much everything that goes into starting back to square one. But even before these changes started I was feeling burned out with belly dance. There were many reasons but the most obvious was that I was a bit bored. I can only imagine what your inner voices are saying at this point, maybe nothing at all but for a life long dancer to say she’s bored…that’s, well to put it mildly, weird and unthinkable to most dancers. Belly Dancer Leyla Najma and Belly Dance Students, Leyal Najma's Belly  Dance Blog

I wasn’t bored because belly dance stopped offering me interesting opportunities or because my schedule was bare. No, I was lucky, so the question remains what was I bored with…so I’ll get right to it. I saw many beautiful faces, costumes and figures but everybody’s dance including my own became a mixed blur of the same moves to the same music with the same props being added for visual effect.  Being the rebel that I am, I’m always looking for the new dancer on the block bringing in some sort of change. And I looked within myself for changes to occur as well but my reservoir was dry. Even Martha Graham understood the need for change; she had quite an assemblage of dancers who took her techniques and curriculum to new heights.

I may get into trouble here so hopefully I’ll be able to explain as I go along. A time long ago, I was apart of a local show and helped get a theater for a holiday hafla. We had a performer who was invited to dance and by all expectations we knew it was a no brainer that she would entertain the crowd. That particular night, she decided to show up late, paid no attention to the line up besides disappearing for a good 15 minutes before she was to go on. We had dancers looking for her everywhere, disgruntled and exasperated because she had mere minutes before she was to go on. Add insult to injury she performed way over the allotted time given and made the show longer which was a problem for the theater staff. By the end of the night I was ready to tell this dancer to hang up her costume and retire. Ground hog day was getting pretty old, especially the repeat offenders that just don’t get it.  The Diva attitude was predictable and predictability has a tendency to become laborious and boring. Add in other experiences like this one and you can imagine I was beyond the breaking point of disillusionment.

Ignoring the needs of others because of self importance only brings about dissidence that effects the common good of the community.

Leyla Najma    

At what point and to what age does a dancer exit performing? What is a good healthy age for a dancer to retire or start directing troupes and solo performers to dance in his or her stead? This has nothing to do with body type, weight or the sage floundering under the maiden image but perhaps more the egomaniac taking over the exalted professional.  Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh here because egomania is not bound by age alone but that doesn’t stop the question, what do we do with dancers who are overcome by their own celebrity? I have enough friends who keep me in my place besides my sister and daughter. If I get a balloon head, they either pop it or deflate it but either way I gracefully fall down or land on my derriere.

Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years”.

Martha Graham

In a way I was tired of attitudes and the small talk that happens when your back is turned. It’s a human phenomenon but one that can get old, really quickly. I was tired more then bored of dance relationships becoming high stakes because of unspoken issues. The excuses became comical as to why I wasn’t invited to this show or that hafla and quite frankly as Clark Gable so eloquently put it, “Didn’t give a damn,” anymore.

And oftentimes excusing of a fault doth make the fault the worse by the excuse.

William Shakespeare

I talked to amazing women, who inspired me like, Mezdulene, Selena Kareena, Morwenna, Sakti Rinek, but something just didn’t click anymore inside me and I decided to back away for awhile. I also think that when life’s foundation is being restructured, it’s necessary to close up shop for awhile.

The world that resides inside us needs to be addressed first before the world outside us can change with us. To put it in other words, it sure does feel good to wake up in the morning, and not think about the underbelly of dance but other things that have absolutely nothing to do with it. A new direction I’m ensuing is research on Big Foot. I met the foremost author and lecturer on Sasquatch, Kewaunee Lapseritis in Monroe, Washington last month and plan to ensue whatever adventures come my way in this exciting phenomenon. I’ve met with my mentor Ana Beluchi who is guiding me back to my Medicine Woman roots. With the Native American teachings along with researchers in the field, I hope to write another book on “Manifesting the Feminine”. RainbowSaktiSantaFe

More so then not there does come a time in ones life when even the passionate, resounding call to dance goes off key a bit and sounds like a Banshee howling. I actually heard a Banshee a few years ago while visiting my mentor Ana Beluchi in Taos. The following day a close friend of hers died and I always wondered why I was the one to hear this shrieking (which was right by a window close to where I was sleeping!!!)  I think more was being said or should I say screamed at me then the obvious warning of death but perhaps a metaphysical wake up call as to where my life was heading. But I have to say, when you hear something from the other side of this reality, it is the eeriest and creepiest sound you can ever imagine or want to imagine hearing. I hope that was my first and last visit. I’m a scarty cat at heart!

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves?

Friedrich Nietzsche

Interestingly enough, I had accomplished so much and more then I ever dreamed of in this dance. I had danced for famous Egyptologists, Saudi Royalty, Diplomats and musicians like the Gypsy Kings. I ran my own studio which helped me establish my curriculum, Hip Physlosphy. I met my icons in belly dance and became good friends with a few. So what could I possibly be bored with…it came down to one thing. I didn’t maintain and keep up all aspects of my life so my fire trickled down to less then a flicker. There were no matches conveniently around to relight a fire that became a chore. I didn’t have the interest anymore to talk belly dance because it was too much a part of my life. My life was only belly dance and I forgot the rest of the world around me. When I re-discovered life, belly dance went on the back burner.

Today I see my dance career as a revelation that exposes the good, the bad and the ugly. Now, as I sit on my rock of contemplation I can at least appreciate how I got here, all the roads less traveled and even the ones that became traffic jams.

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

Robert Frost

Remember everybody,I have two books out now, “The Divine Unrest-My Stories and Personal Views on Belly Dance” and “Leyla Najma’s Belly Dance Choreography and Combos for the Perplexed Choreographer” They are available on Amazon. Here’s a hint…the choreography book works great with my instructional videos!

Also on there will be a new video coming out of Sakti Rinek’s exciting life as a professional dancer. She is in the die hard group who made their living as dancers traveling the globe!

Making a Little Whimsy

 Leyla Spring 2

Okay, I’ll be honest here…I can whine about a lot of stuff but I really do enjoy life and her magical ways. So I thought I would write a bit about the whimsy of women considering we really do make the world more colorful, visually beautiful and vibrant!  Sometimes it’s taking a siesta and enjoying the sunshine encircling you like a blanket or it’s the wind swinging the hammock, either way the point is, there’s always something to appreciate about life. So if any of you are feeling the blues…let’s make a little whimsy!

Now and then we all need to make a splash, make some noise so we can feel alive. If the winter blues occasionally take hold of me, making me feel blah inside, every once in a while for whimsy sake; I wear my hip scarf with my gypsy skirts and walk around the grocery store making a jingling noise saying out loud, “here I am!”  We are entertainers after all and it’s only natural that when we aren’t on stage, we still want to be the center of attention or maybe it’s me because I’m a Gemini but I doubt this…

Day in and day out we can get stuck in the same clothes, jeans or pajama bottoms…comfy clothes that can be thrown on in a moments notice. Winter can make goose bumps a fact of life and because of this, why would anyone even want to wear something that could expose an inch of flesh? With this being said, come on girls, if we don’t occasionally dress up we’ll set ourselves up for those middle of the week blues, Sunday blues or whatever blues. I have a red velvet top that I can pair up with a couple skirts and I feel like a sexy vixen every time I wear. I’ll share a secret with you too, it’s even gotten me out of a few tickets so it’s Dan’s favorite top!

Coming out of winter can be comparative to a car running on empty. Getting to the gas station can be a bit daunting when you’re running on fumes. I highly recommend getting whimsical with a banana split, hot fudge sundae or your favorite ice cream to wake you up from your winter slumber. Yes I know what some of you health food enthusiasts might say, but I’m only recommending this for every once in a while especially now that we are getting out of winter. Ice cream takes me back to my childhood and along with it are those amazing memories of  laughing, licking my ice cream before it melted on my dress then playing in the park. All three of those memories go together like a milkshake so it doesn’t hurt to start a good mind set for the beginning of Spring in order to get our inspiration and creative ideas flowing. barbie and me 2

Lipstick is my whimsical signature mark that finishes off my make up, almost like an artists final stroke that finishes off a painting. Red lipstick is the sign of rose blossoms, poetry, sensuality and some saucy fantasies. Pink lipstick reminds me of ice tea, garden parties and running barefoot in the house. Purple is the color of wine, song and laughter and I like to wear a combination of pink and purple for no other reason than I just like to. It’s the color of the Sandia Mountains here at home when the sun is setting on them, lighting them in all their glory. I guess like all artists I like to imitate nature at her finest. My burgundy lipstick is for those special occasions when I go out for the evening and feel like a million bucks! I have a variety of shades of this particular color that I save for those special moments when I feel the evening will be like a fairy book romance. After all, as women we have to occasionally feel like the heroine in a novel that is swept away by her hero.  As a result of my chameleon ability I recommend to all my friends to  wear a color that isn’t normal for them or one that they usually don’t wear at that time of the day.  I think we should all wear colors we  normally don’t wear. All we have to do is smile our beautiful smiles and believe me, people will wonder what we’re up to.

Preparing for Spring is something I think all women should do and the best way to prepare is to get a massage, facial, pedicure or manicure. Working out the slow months with a massage can rejuvenate any dancer and doing the prepping and primping is the natural telltale of womanhood. We know that our skin needs to be soft to the touch and our hair shiny and healthy just like we need meditation for our soul so we can wake up the muse within ourselves who inspires us to dance and create  great choreographies . Pampering is a must for dancers and entertainers alike because we are more physical than the average person and working with our bodies. Bottom line is, for whimsy sake, take care of your body and enjoy the fruits of your labor in a body that glows.

Because of the mundane schedules of today’s working woman, I feel it is imperative that dance be required at the most inopportune times for all belly dancers! Dance around your desk at work, the hall to the copy machine, a wiggle in the break room and a twirl around corners. Dance to your car and blast your favorite song as you go to lunch or head home. Let the world know that under those work close a belly dancer is alive and ready to burst forth dancing. After all the belly dancer in us never sleeps, she waits for the seasons of creativity to come and go like the cycles of mother moon. Finger cymbals, drum music and a favorite song that gets the blood flowing is a way we show the world we are not mortal women but belly dancers through and through.Leyla Spring 3

One thing my daughter and I do that always makes us feel good is to go see a good movie on the big screen. Popcorn, candy, hotdogs and let’s not forget the pickle, is like being a kid again. I’m a pickle junkie and for some reason pickles and movies just go together for me. The whimsy in me feels it’s good to take a break from reality and enjoy being taken away and entertained. This is especially important for people who are in their own right, entertainers because being a constant muse can exhaust even the stalwart of dancers. Taking a break just adds more fuel to the creative fire and  I always find that ideas come to me that I wouldn’t think of otherwise if I didn’t take a couple hours break.

Whimsy isn’t just a word that means dream, desire or fancy, it’s also a way of living life so that we don’t get bombarded with reality. Whimsy is chocolate in all its sugary, rich and decadent glory that reminds us one mouthful of delight at a time that life is to be tasted, savored and enjoyed even if the alarm clocks of our lives can’t be ignored.



Jareeda Belly Dance magazine’s next issue is Health and I know there are many of you wondering how to stay healthy during this flu season or maybe you’ve always wondered about your shakras and how they relate to your belly dancing and so much more…if so find out by subscribing to:

My book, “The Divine Unrest-My Stories and Views on Belly Dance” is now available on paperback. It’s only $12.99 so if you have a birthday coming up get my book as a gift.

I’m finishing up on the choreography book and we will send out a special announcement when it’s available. I’m hoping it will be a good companion with “The Divine Unrest,” and my videos that are out already. Remember to check out my membership site,

Falling off the Wagon


Sometimes I think I’m falling off the wagon…okay the belly dance wagon.  This phrase actually came from prohibition times when as a rule women would go from town to town on a wagon and preach against drinking. If they could get a drunk to ride around with them and get him sober they felt it helped their cause. Even though our wagon is different, sometimes an unexpected bump in the road causes me to fall off the wagon wondering how the heck to get back on or sometimes wondering if I even want to get back on. Read more

Interpretive Belly Dance – The Right to be”You”

Interpretive Belly Dance – The Right to be “You”

Every year represents something that each of us holds dearly to our hearts. There are even those experiences that we let go of like dust in the wind. This year I decided to get back to my roots and talk about why I started belly dancing and what intrigued me about it in the first place. I know I stated in my bio that I saw belly dancing at age 6 and fell in love with it, that’s a given. But as I got older there was something else about it that caught my attention. I saw a chance to achieve my individual freedom to move and dance my way and be accepted for it. In my early years the women who stood out in my mind, understood their own unique style. They gave a different take on choreography and dance interpretation. These women have stayed with me all these years because they taught me it was okay to be me. Read more

It’s All In The Company We Keep

Fulfillling Your Belly Dance Journey - Leyla Najma's Belly Dance Blog

I wanted to write a bit about the belly dance journey and to let you all know that every once in awhile the rose colored glasses come off and reality starts to set in even for us belly dancers. Sometimes women think that self fulfillment will happen magically with this dance and to be honest with you it takes work. But it’s the kind of work that feels more like an entrepreneurial quest. We make the journey what it is, a success or a spiraling drama. At times they kind of go hand in hand but how much really depends on you. Read more