Friday, 26 February 2016


I distinctly remember the moment I fell in love. It was at the Glastonbury Festival, during the Summer after I had finished my degree, over 20 years ago now. I was wearing doctor martin boots, green combat trousers and a black vest top. I was standing in front and to the left of a stage when a Belly Dancer in a white costume glided on balancing a single candle on her head. I simultaneously felt my jaw drop in awe and my hips twitch of their own accord to the previously unheard and yet so familiar music. I felt at home. My desire to be onstage and be the belly dancer was so powerful I don't think the sensation has ever quite left me. In that moment I fell in love with belly dancing and the love affair has deepened and grown over the years. At times it has been all consuming and my desire to dance so overwhelming that like anyone deeply in love, I have taken senseless risks to experience the joy of surrender to my passion. I have danced through injury and physical pain and further damaged my body. I have danced when my heart and soul have been broken and found sanctuary. I have danced with love and joy and felt every fibre of my being to be alive and tingling with magic sparkles. Come what may, I have always danced and dance is the backdrop of my life st are my beloved Isis wings. I was one of the first dancers to import and perform with Isis wings in this country. The wow in the room of mesmerised baited breath was almost tangible!!!!!

The picture above shows my beloved Isis wings. I was one of the first dancers to import and perform with Isis wings in this country. The wow in the room of mesmerised baited breath was almost tangible!!!!!

This is a Balady style costume. Balady means 'my country', the music & dance is the unsophisticated style of the countryside. It became popular as people moved from the countryside to the city for work and is often tinged with a sad nostalgia at the beginning for the old life, which is soon forgotten and replaced with a let's party and live for today attitude. When I dance Balady, I feel whole. I think the key to it for me is it's like Abba music or the songs from your youth that take you right back to your carefree student days.

I was 5 months pregnant in this photo! This is a modern oriental style costume. The music is Orchestral. I feel graceful and beautiful when I dance Oriental. Kind of like radiating something from inside. People have told me I dance from my soul.

This is a Shamadan dance.Shams means candle or light. Here I am dancing at a wedding to bring light and blessings into the marriage. It is also the dancer's job to bring the spirit of the party into the room. I used to get booked for loads of weddings.

Possibly my favourite ever costume. I am 5 weeks pregnant in this photo and I didn't know yet! I look at this now and I see a woman glowing with beauty, allure, confidence and control. None of these things I knew I had at the time!!! I remember feeling a bit of an idiot laying on the bar, but I really wanted the photo.

From a recent photoshoot, I felt very glamorous and beautiful this day.

More Balady photos, these express the earthy, connectedness of the style.

Balady again! I like this one because it's dominant and matriarchal, a character Egyptians love to see portrayed onstage. I look like I am about to slam my foot on the floor, but actually I'm not. I'd seriously damaged my knee and could barely walk, but I was determine to dance so I did the whole piece on one leg. Stupid, gutsy & determine take your pick, but I had to dance that night, I had to overcome the obstacles and be me.
There have been many times in my life where the only place I have felt like myself and safe is onstage.

Dancing with Doug in my belly.

Reclaiming my dance and my belly after child birth. This I was the first time I performed without a body stocking and bared my stretch marks. Up until this point I would have felt too exposed, but I went for it and felt great!

This is my favourite dress, made for me in Egypt by the amazing designer Iman Zaki. I am dancing at the harbourside festival in Bristol, a real highlight of my dance career. I was fit, strong and my dance was amazing, I know because I can remember the feeling. It was like flying above the crowds and I was watching them rather than them watching me. An incredibly powerful moment and yet again I had no idea how special it was or how my dancing was referred and admired. At the time I thought my thighs were too fat to be a dancer, but I did it anyway. My God look at that leg how strong, slim and beautiful it is!!!! I wish I had the confidence I have now at 42 & 3/4s at 27, I would now have the world at my feet! I think that's why I've recently taken up Burlesque to celebrate finding me and my confidence.

I love this one because it's a moment in time. My drummer is waiting for me and is about to play the music we have worked out together. The audience are a garden party and they are cheering for me to start as they spot me coming. I feel so delighted to be about to dance. I think I look bronzed and beautiful, again I never noticed at the time, I just got on with it!

Arabella has been performing and teaching professional Belly Dance in Bristol and beyond since 2002. Her love affair with the dance has developed into a deep connection with the music to express the intricate layers of feeling, passion and quarter tone notes. A born entertainer, Arabella draws the uninitiated audience into the magical world of fantasy Arabian Nights and takes the discerning audience deeper on a mesmerising and uplifting journey through her experiences of dance in Cairo and across the Middle East. She has a particular affinity for the Golden era of Belly Dance in the 1940s & 50s and Balady. You can contact Arabella at Her weekly class is in the Swan in Thornbury on Tuesday evenings 8.00pm.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos! About 15 years ago, my female partner and I learned an Egyptian balady dance from a woman we know who teaches it. For several reasons, we had to stop, but I loved the dance so much that I wrote down a description of the moves so I could remember them later. The teacher said I had a good shimmy. :) We need to find the time to pick this up again.