Friday, July 22, 2016

FUN Finger Cymbal Workshop!!!

Beginner Finger Cymbal Workshop with Willow!!!

Sunday - August 7, 2016
Noon - 2:00 p.m.

$20 per person - payable at the door

Finger cymbals allow belly dancers the ability to add their own flavor of musicality and percussion to their dance. They are a beautiful accent to many songs and an exciting addition to performances!

  • Learn how to dance and play finger cymbals from the count of 1!
  • Learn basic finger cymbal patterns while standing in place, and then coordinating with basic foot patterns and belly dance moves.
  • Basic patterns include 3's, 7's and 5's.
  • Cymbal patterns for beledi, chifte telli and masmoudi rhythms, as well!
  • This workshop assumes you have a foundation of basic belly dance moves and foot patterns.

You must have your own finger cymbals for this workshop!

Recommended Cymbals:
Turquoise International size EB (2 1/4" diameter) or size B (2 1/2" diameter)
Order from:

Please e-mail Willow to reserve your spot now!


Ed Dempsey Tattoo Studio
92 Mill Hill Road
Woodstock, NY 12498

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mixed Level Belly Dance Classes

Mixed Level Belly Dance Classes - Woodstock, New York


Wednesday - 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Weekly On-Going Classes


Ed Dempsey Tattoo Studio
92 Mill Hill Road - upstairs
Woodstock, NY  12498


$50 - 4-class card - good for 2 months from date of purchase
$15 - Drop-In

Class Description - Mixed Level Belly Dance
Advanced Beginner through Intermediate

This class will incorporate dance specific warm-up and stretches, strengthening exercises, belly dance technique drills and dance movement vocabulary along with dance combinations and follow-along improvisation, to give students a full understanding of how to combine belly dance moves and use them in various contexts, as well as musicality and expression.

Technique and combinations will be geared towards the level of dancers present. Modifications for beginner and advanced level dancers will be given as needed.

Finger cymbal technique will also be covered in this class as appropriate to student level.

Lecture material will be presented in every class, in context of the dance material being presented that week. Topics will include various styles of belly dance, music theory, rhythms, finger cymbal theory, history of belly dance in the US, teachers and dancers who have influenced belly dance as it is performed in the US today.

It is recommended that students have a minimum of one year of beginner bellydance classes before entering the mixed level class.

For more information about belly dance classes in the Hudson Valley, contact Willow at (845) 594-8673 or e-mail

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Beginner Belly Dance Classes in Woodstock, New York

Beginner Belly Dance Classes in Woodstock, New York
are currently suspended.

Please join my mailing list to be notified of upcoming class sessions!

Class Description - Beginner Belly Dance

This class will cover the basic moves and foot patterns of belly dance, as well as drum rhythms and common musical styles in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. This class is appropriate for all ages and fitness levels.

  • Strength conditioning for dance and bellydance technique will be introduced at the beginner level.
  • Focus on proper posture and alignment is very important.
  • Foot patterns and dance movement will be taught separately from belly dance movement, and combined as student abilities improve.
  • Combinations will be taught to introduce students to the concepts of musicality as well as putting moves together and transitioning from one move into another.  
  • As students get more proficient with the beginner format, more advanced material will be added - on an individual basis - to prepare students for higher level classes.
It is required that students have a minimum of one to two years of beginner bellydance classes before moving up to the intermediate level class.

All Bellydance Classes...

... will help develop core body awareness while building strength and stamina, and toning and strengthening the different muscle groups of the body. Students will learn to isolate their glutes, hips, abs, pelvis, ribcage, shoulders, arms and head while dancing to hypnotic and rhythmic Middle Eastern music. Bellydance will raise your heart rate, so be prepared to sweat a little. This class is low-impact and appropriate for women of all ages and fitness levels. Modifications for all skill levels can be made with awareness of student ability and level. Each student will receive personal attention and direction appropriate to their skill level. For more information about belly dance classes in the Hudson Valley, contact Willow at (845) 594-8673 or e-mail

If you know anyone who would be interested in this information, please feel free to SHARE this information with them! Thank you!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Willow Performs with ISHTAR in Kingston, NY - August 2015

Here is a new video of me performing with the fabulous band ISHTAR in Kingston, NY - August 2015.

This was such a great show, we all had so much fun!
I hope you enjoy the performance!

Arts Society of Kingston -

Friday, February 26, 2016

Hudson Valley Spring Student/Teacher Belly Dance Showcase

Spring Student/Teacher Belly Dance Showcase - hosted by Willow and Angelique

Featuring student groups from several area teachers as well as solos by select dancers.


Saturday, April 9, 2016 - 7:00 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m. and seating is limited)


ASK - Art Society of Kingston
97 Broadway, Kingston, NY 12401
Parking across the street behind the police station.


Tickets are $10 in advance and will be $12 at the door SPACE PERMITTING.
See your favorite Hudson Valley belly dance student or teacher for tickets!

For more information, please contact Willow @

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Response to "The Ballet-ification of Bellydance"

I recently read an article on the Gilded Serpent website entitled The Ballet-ification of Bellydance by Sausan, who is an Egyptian-style performer and instructor out in California. I wrote a response to the editor that was very long, and probably won't make it into the "Letters to the Editor" section. It is full of information and I want it to be read. So, without further ado, I present it here for your consideration... Please feel free to read the above referenced article so you know where I am drawing my references from.

Dear Editor,

I have been a longtime reader of Gilded Serpent Magazine, as well as an avid student, performer and teacher of Middle Eastern Dance for almost 20 years. I felt compelled to respond to the questions Sausan posed in her article "The Ballet-ification of Bellydance".

Sausan ended her article with this question: "Why not study the dance form itself and only by itself, along with all that it has to offer in the way of its elements like the music, culture, and artists? " Essentially she is questioning why anyone would ever study any dance form other than bellydance.

I will give several reasons why I personally study other dance forms in addition to my most beloved bellydance. But let me add a few comments to the brief history of bellydance that Sausan provided.

In the 1940's, Russian ballet choreographers were brought into Egypt to assist professionally performing bellydancers who were acting in movies with their form and lines. Since bellydance essentially evolved isolated from influences in the Western world until the late 1700's, it developed purely as folk dance. While there were professional performers of this dance form, it was primarily done by the people - regular people who did not have a care for lines, form or professional technique. It is my understanding that bellydance was also performed in courts in the times of the Ottoman Empire and before that.

Enter the Western influence and bellydance began being performed for affluent Western audiences. Bellydance probably became more of a performance art than it had ever been through the 1800's into the 1900's, where it became popular in Egyptian nightclubs and movies.

With the inclusion of bellydance in Egyptian movies in the 20th century, I would assume directors were looking for a more refined and elegant line in the arms and legs of their dancers, as well as a somewhat broader vocabulary of dance movements than the beautiful and charming, but repetitive, moves of the baladi, or dance of the people.

Mahmoud Reda began putting the folk dances in large staged venues. He simply could not feature the dances as they were done by the common people, but absolutely had to choreograph the dances being performed for the variety and entertainment value they had to offer, or I would suspect that these dances might not have appealed to audiences quite as much. Sometimes it way more fun to do an activity than to watch it being done. But the addition of choreography, and ballet training in the performers, absolutely added to the performance value, and hence success, of the shows being staged.

Today, dancers study ballet in addition to many other dance forms that include Middle Eastern Dance, African Dance, Latin Dance, Ballroom, Jazz and many other forms too numerous to mention. Many dancers want to be educated in different forms of dance for their own technical enrichment, enjoyment and performance opportunities.

Ballet is a very refined, graceful and elegant dance form (whether you care for it or not), that has a lot to lend practitioners of Middle Eastern Dance. Ballet teaches good posture, elegant arm and leg lines, beautiful, lifted and balanced turns and a much broader vocabulary of movement and foot patterns than the common folk dances of the any single ethnic group of people. I personally feel that BECAUSE Ballet and Middle Eastern Dance are so opposite is why then complement each other so well.

Dancers do not have to include the jumps, kicks, pirouettes and all sorts of extreme Ballet moves in their bellydance. But what they can take from Ballet are beautiful lines, lifted and graceful turns, gorgeous and elegant arms and hands with interesting patterns, beautifully pointed feet rather than the relaxed or flexed feet of folk dance, ronde de jamb, tendu and degage, grapevines, chasse', pad de bourre', and many other foot patterns that lend beautiful technical execution, variety and grace to a performance. Since so many of these moves are already used in classical Middle Eastern Dance, why not call them by their classical dance names. It helps make teaching dance easier to have a common vocabulary of names that many people know and relate to across different genre's of dance. I have found so many similar moves and foot patterns between other ethnic and classical dance forms that are too numerous to mention. No one dance form has a monopoly in a three-step turn, or a brush-kick.

I would also like to address the use of the word "style". While several modern "styles" of bellydance that are being performed as "fusions" were mentioned, Ballet is not a "style" of dance. Ballet is a complete dance form. It is independent of bellydance in every way, while most of the "styles" that were mentioned are actually different aesthetic elements that are not complete dance forms unto themselves, but branches off of the bellydance tree. So, to say that fusing ballet with bellydance is like "American Tribal Style", "Gypsy" or "Gothic" bellydance is quite inaccurate and misleading.

Another reason to include ballet in a dancer's repertoire is to cross-train. Athletes and fitness buffs have long known that cross-training is an excellent way to stay on top of your game while improving strength, agility, stamina and skill. Wasn't it Joe Namath, the famous football player from the 1960's. who studied ballet to improve his game? If you do one movement form as your only activity - be it a sport or dance form - your body gets used to those moves, and you will plateau and stop improving your health and fitness level. As a certified personal trainer, I was taught that the way to keep making your body stronger and improving your cardiovascular and pulmonary health are to continually change things up. Do not do the same exercises every day or every week even, but do different types of activities such as aerobic dance, bicycling, jogging, free weights, nautilus-type machines, various dance forms, yoga, and keep your muscles always moving in different ways, to prevent falling into a routine that's always the same.

Bellydance is a living art form. It will always evolve with every what new person brings to it. Everyone who passes the art of Middle Eastern Dance on will pass it on with their own flavor - whether it be classical Egyptian, Turkish, Lebanese, American Cabaret, Gothic, American Tribal Style, Jazz Fusion, Modern Fusion, or any myriad form of bellydance, it will always have the influence of the practitioner on it - that person's interpretation of the music, costuming, the way they specifically do any number of traditional bellydance moves, as well as the influences that person carries with them from the rest of their life. People will pass the dance on with their own emotional expression, their own joys and heartaches, the baggage and issues each of us has. Bellydance - and any and all dance forms for that matter - will always be evolving as long as new people are joining in. To say "Why would we want to contaminate that with Ballet?", is to say that nothing other than a Middle Eastern derived influence should ever taint the sacred and untouchable bellydance. Today, bellydance is accepted and performed world-wide, and it's going to pick up influences and it's going to change and acclimate to whoever and wherever it is being studied and performed.

It would simply be impossible to isolate Middle Eastern Dance from any other worldly influence, including ballet, and keep it the same as it was hundreds of years ago, before the world started getting smaller, and all sorts of cultures started integrating.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Christine Dempsey/"Willow"
Bellydancing with Willow

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bellydance Homework

Here are a few drills and combinations I wrote on my Bellydance Willow Facebook page ( All notation is written out and abbreviated in SS Format.

All Students - Work on isolating the upper and lower abdominal muscles separately. Just the upper - contract and release. Just the lower - contract and release. Then work on alternating the contractions between the upper and lower abdominal muscles, eventually smoothing it out into a belly roll.

B1 Students - Begin walking quarter time (1/4t) downbeat Right. Add alternating glute squeezes half time (1/2t) downbeat Right (DbR). You will do two glute squeezes (R L) for every step. When you are ready, increase the walking tempo to half time (1/2t) and the glute squeezes to full time (1/1t).

B2 Students - Walk 3 counts, Low Jazz Passe' on 4 (Walk23 Passe') Half Time (1/2t) downbeat right (DbR). Alternating glute squeezes full time (1/1t) downbeat right (DbR). Finger Cymbals 3's. When you feel comfortable with the alternating glute squeezes, change the bellydance move to twists. Everything else stays the same.

Layer Drill - Pas de Bourre' full time (1/1t) downbeat right (DbR). Twists full time (1/1t) downbeat left (DbL). Undulation Up to Down (UtD) half time (1/2t) downbeat upper back (DbUB). Finger Cymbals - 4 5 5.

Interval training is more effective than steady state aerobic activity. Short bursts of high intensity activity followed by short intervals of low intensity activity/recovery, rinse, repeat. Start incorporating bursts of Double Time Glute Squeezes with Double Time Footwork aka Running Shimmies, into your daily routine. You will develop your shimmies, glute and leg strength and increase your cardiovascular health!