The Copycat


Imagine this… you have a great idea, one that you have been thinking about for quite awhile. You’re excited about it and you feel it’s a good idea and one that will succeed. You mention it to one or two friends and before you know it, the Copycat took your idea, ran with it and now it’s a production, show or dance play in the making and you are given no credit. Read more

A Choreography State of Mind

belly dancer leyla najmaThe other day I was talking to my students Julie and Amy and I told them that this one combination came to me in the shower of all places. But another student Judy inspired the combination but why the heck did it evolve in the shower? Another group of dynamic turns came to me in a dream but I woke up before I figured out how I did them. I remember saying to myself  in the dream that I had to remember the turns and I woke up actually talking to myself.

That was a little creepy having a conversation with myself and than answering myself!  The other morning lying in bed I worked out a 6 week course curriculum and figured out how to make each class lead into the next.  Is creativity possessing me through choreography?  If so it is the kind of possession that never leaves you alone and can turn you into an eccentric old dancer who toots her own horn even if nobody is listening.

A wonderful quote says: Read more

My Mixed Bag of Thoughts on Choreography

Thoughts on Belly Dance Choreography, Leyla Najmas Belly Dance BlogWorking with many students has given me an inside look at the ins and outs of structuring an inspired thought into movement. It’s not always easy to place movement into the body the way we see it in our heads. Head to body is the key here and sometimes they don’t get along.

I have often wondered why dancers who are solo performers dance to music with In the Box choreography. As a soloist there are so many things we can get away with on stage that a troupe can’t. We can change up our choreography at a moments notice with no one the wiser. We can pull out of ourselves those questionable moves and make them look like poetic motion. We can engage the audience in a way that allows for them to participate in our show and become part to the choreography.

I have done In the Box choreography in my beginning years and I always felt trapped within my own moves. In fact I remember a private party  I danced at years ago where I totally forgot my choreography making me improvise on the spot for the first time. Even though I bombed it felt pretty good and that experience changed my dancing forever. From then on I was the Spontaneous Choreography Queen and never looked back.

I understand why troupes and duets work with In the Box choreography but I always wondered why troupe directors would have their dancers start on the same hip. I would mix everybody up and have half going one way and the other half going another. I enjoy troupe performances but sometimes after seeing 3 or 4 troupe performances one after another, it’s hard to remember one from the other. I mean this goes for soloists too, after awhile we all want to see someone on stage that not only brings their moves to life but gives us something we have never seen.

The first rule of thumb is be original to yourself. I think its okay to watch videos of dancers but more often then not dancers become dependant on ideas from other dancers. If you believe enough in yourself trust in your own ideas. A good way to start is to see what your favorite moves are and put them on paper. Put on a favorite song and see what moves work best. You’ll start to see little bits and pieces of the choreographer in you emerge. Just trust in what you come up with.

Impersonating other dancers is what young/beginner dancers do which is natural because dancers usually want to copy what inspires them. But I have found that if this goes on too long that the end result will be a dancer with no individuality. Eventually as a dancer you have to understand that this dance is about how you live life. Your life’s path is not your teachers and it’s best to realize what makes you inspired but then remember you have to transform what you’ve learned into your own understanding which translates into your own movement.

“Do you not realize that the dance is the pure act of metamorphosis?”

I watched an old video that I have of Zohair Zaki and the one thing that was clear was the fact that when she was on stage, she commanded attention and her orchestra played for her not the audience. Seeing legendary dancers like her made me realize that if dancers don’t understand why they are on stage then they won’t understand the root essence of this dance form. It’s always been about feminine empowerment that tells a story in a way only women can that attracts the masses and keeps them coming back for more.

Taking the first steps even if they are baby steps are necessary to getting started on figuring out what inspired thought moves you to dance it. Maybe it’s a simple move but if you feel it let it be your way of feeling not someone else’s. The lasting impression on any stage should be that of a dancer who not only motivates her audience but leaves them wanting more. The survival of this dance is based on the breathless dancer who knows she is leaving her audience wanting more yet making them wait for the next show. It’s always about the next show!






Belly Dance Choreography Tips & Help

Free Belly Dance Choreography Video by Leyla Najma

Many women ask me how I learned how to choreograph dances and when did it make sense? I have to say for most of us this is more then a legitimate question; it’s an obstacle that until addressed, can offset a career in the making. It’s also a hard question for me to answer because I didn’t really pay attention the day I just started to create my own choreography, I just did it.

I remember one workshop in particular with Suhaila Salimpour that not only inspired me but at the same time knocked me off my rocker. I realized that with all her intricate ways of incorporating body movement, I was last woman standing because I felt like a blob learning to move her way. It was great to learn and almost accomplish the moves but I realized that this amazing and talented dancer had years on me in this dance field. Plus some of what I learned just didn’t feel good even when I could finally do it. After that particular workshop I went to Egypt and decided to go another route, one that made the dance more of a personal journey instead of going to workshop after workshop. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with going to workshops; I just wasn’t feeling my direction of inspired individuality. Here was my chance I thought to find out what I really should be doing. Little did I know there would be more choices than Carter has liver pills!

After I came home 6 months later from Egypt, I realized that I was energized and completely committed to belly dance but I still wasn’t sure how to work in movement to music. I sat on my bedroom floor so frustrated one day that tears were coming down my face. It was a turning point for me because I realized that if I couldn’t create my own unique dance then I needed to move on and do something else.  So I picked myself up and started to listen to my music. I think it was Leylet Hob and I listened to it over and over and over again until I was ready to throw the CD out the window. But then something happened and I realized that I was instinctively moving to the music because as I was listening to it I was spontaneously dancing. Then as I was looking in the mirror I saw a move come out of me and I went, “Wow,” to myself and that was the first move I put down on paper. As I went through hours of spontaneously dancing (no exaggeration, because I was a dancing fool) I would see moves I liked and I would write them down on paper. So now I had a rough draft of moves that I liked and the moves looked pretty good to the music.

From the rough draft I decided to see what move was my most favorite and from there I started to integrate more moves that came from my spontaneous dancing that fit the music. As I pieced the moves together which meant fitting them here and there and then changing it all up, a choreography was born! She looked something like a Picasso painting of a woman with an eyeball on the side of her face but at least it was my eye ball and I was a proud momma or I should say “choreographer.”

Maybe this is my way of answering the choreography question that was so hard to answer before. As a result I thought I would put together different moves to a short song and show you how I count to music. With a variety of moves I think I can show you how you can put movement to music in different ways and then pick the one that’s right for you. Hope this helps those of you who are dealing with the choreography brain freeze or fight the short circuit feeling of not being able to put together your own unique dance.

Here’s some short Text that will go along with the video:

Arms are basic out to the side for the hip work. Bring arms down when you start working in the pelvic roll/chest circle/ab sway.

Music,  Progressive Move:

Right hip twist forward and back to center 1cnt /backward stomach roll

Left hip twist forward and back to center 2cnt / backward stomach roll

Right hip twist forward and back to center 3cnt / backward stomach roll

Left hip twist forward and back to center 4cnt / backward stomach roll

Right hip twist forward and back to center 5cnt / backward stomach roll

Left hip twist forward and back to center 6cnt / backward stomach roll

Right hip twist forward and back to center 7cnt / backward stomach roll

Left hip twist forward and back to center 8cnt

Right hip twist forward and back to center 1cnt /backward stomach roll

Left hip twist forward and back to center 2cnt / backward stomach roll

Right hip twist forward and back to center 3cnt / backward stomach roll

Left hip twist forward and back to center 4cnt / backward stomach roll

In place Shimmy with a slight side thrust right to left side on 16 cnts to music.

Layering move: Do as many times as you want.

3 choices for opposition hips: 1. Move right leg behind you to start left hip. 2. Move left leg forward 3. Stay on the right hip or left hip without moving to opposite side.

Right hip down/up/out

Backward pelvic roll

Chest circle parallel to mirror

Ab sway forward/back 2xs (Faster speed than prior moves)

Left hip down/up/out

Backward pelvic roll

Chest circle parallel to mirror

Ab sway forward/back 2xs (Faster speed than prior moves)

Shoulder rolls and head spin if desired.


Get this video on DVD for free and save 50% on Choreography Basics for Beginning Choreographers set of DVDs.