Belly Dance Classes in Toronto

So excited to be teaching with the beautiful and talented Alexandra!  She will be teaching Introduction To Bellydance Tuesdays at 8pm.
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Alexandra is a Middle Eastern Dance Artist and Instructor based in Toronto, Canada.

Alexandra enrolled in her first bellydance classes with Ilana Salazar in the summer of 2003 as a way to balance out student life. It ended up being love at the first shimmy.

In 2005, Alexandra started training with the wonderfully artistic Hannan Sultan. In 2006, she joined Hannan’s newly formed troupe, The Sultanettes. As a senior member with the troupe, she performed at various community and charity events under the artisitic direction of both Hannan Sultan and Maha.

In 2007, Alexandra joined the Rhythm of the Nile Dance Company, directed by Nada El Masriya. She performed in the company’s two productions: “Rhythm of the Nile” (2008) and “Ayyam Zaman” (2009).

Also as part of her training, Alexandra has taken classes and/or workshops with the following dancers and instructors: Abigail, Robyn, Zahira, Aziza, Jillina, Petite Jamila, Jim Boz, Tamalyn Dallal, Randa Kamal, Denise Enan, Caroline Labrie, Cassandra Shore, and Yasmina Ramzy.

Alexandra has studied with Hadia since 2008. She has completed all three levels of Hadia’s Certificate of Teacher Training in Middle Eastern Dance. Her classes and workshops are all based on Hadia’s “Body Logic” techniques and principles.Alexandra is committed to providing safe and efficient technique, as well as an encouraging, friendly and fun learning environment.

Turkish Rom Summer Classes

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Summer Specialty Topic – TURKISH ROM July 13-August 24th

Learn Steps, Costuming, Music, and Cultural aspects of the Turkish Roman. Also known as “Gypsy Style”, Turkish Rom is a fun, earthy, powerful dance that is characterized by a 9/8 rhythm.

Saturdays 12pm-1pm

Street Dance Academy – 160 Spadina Ave, second floor (Queen & Spadina)

Register before July 6th & SAVE!

Before July 6th: $96

After July 6th: $108

Drop In Specialty Topic: $25

To Register:

www.mahabellydance.com/#learn

647-654-6242

maha@mahabellydance.com

Summer Belly Dance Classes in Toronto

New Location & MORE Classes! Summer Session July 13 – Aug 24 2013

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Register by July 6th and SAVE!

Tuesdays: Beginner 6pm, Intermediate 7pm, Intro to Bellydance 8pm, Advanced 9pm.

Location: Dovercourt House 805 Dovercourt Rd, main floor (Bloor St W & Dovercourt)

Saturdays: Beginner 11am, Specialty Topic Turkish ROM 12pm.

Location: Street Dance Academy 160 Spadina Ave, second floor (Queen St W & Spadina)

For more information visit: www.mahabellydance.com/#learn

Spring Session for Bellydance Classes in Toronto!

Bellydance class toronto

Spring Session:

Spring Session – March 16 – April 27 (no classes Easter Long Weekend)

6 classes – $108 (HST Included)

Drop-In: $22 per class(HST Included)

Location: Street Dance Academy. 160 Spadina Ave, second floor (Queen St W & Spadina)

Bellydance Classes

Learn Egyptian style bellydance. Learning an artform is a journey starting with a beginner level, intermediate, advanced, then professional. In each level, movements are broken down into their simplest components for easy aquisition. Movements are then practiced with repitition and variation, then put into sequences and choreographies, to get you really dancing! History & cultural aspects are covered. Students learn both Oriental and folkloric styles, props, music, improvisation techniques, and have opportunities to perform in student settings.

Time

Saturdays 11:15am

Bellyfit Fitness Class

Bellyfit is the holistic fitness experience for women that blends the power and wisdom of ancient cultures with the research, technology and trends of the modern world. Designed exclusively for the female body, mind and spirit, Bellyfit offers a full body, full of spirit, extraordinary exercise experience in a safe, effective, intelligent group fitness format guaranteed to satisfy women’s desire to feel beautiful, strong and healthy.

In the first half hour of the class, burn mega calories, relieve stress and get the sweat flowing with fun, easy to learn cardio moves infused with the ancient and beautiful fundamentals of Belly Dance, Bollywood and African Dance. During the second half of the class, enjoy sculpting, toning and tightening with Pilates inspired core work, a deep yet relaxing Yoga inspired stretch and mindful Mudra Meditation.

Time

Saturdays 10:15am

FAQ for Hiring Maha

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Thinking of hiring me? Here are some FAQ’s that I commonly get:

How much does a bellydance performance cost?

All prices are listed on my website and are based on location of the event: www.mahabellydance.com > Hire

Is this your best price?

Yes.

How long is the show?

The best length of time for a show is 20 mins; however, depending on the event, the show may be lengthened or shortened. Much time beyond 20mins may be over kill and wont be appreciated by your guests. If your event requires a longer performance, please call for a consultation. Adding a second show in the evening is another option to consider if you would like more entertainment.

I’m having a Bachelor party/guys night out, how much will you charge?

Sorry, but neither myself or any dancers I know perform at all male events – ever.

I’m having a bachelorette/bridal shower, what is involved in your show for something like this? How much does it cost?

Some times I do a regular 20-25min show. Commonly for all women events like these I do a brief performance followed by a fun bellydance lesson. In this case, I enter with a dazzling performance to start off, then we do a 30-45min lesson. I can bring some coin hip scarves for your guests to borrow. The whole performance/lesson combo takes 45min to 1 hour in total.

There are a few things to consider in advance if this is something that you would like to add to your event:

    • Space - you will likely need more than 100 square feet depending how many participants you have
    • Room Temperature - this is an important one! Although the class is not meant to be physically intense and more “fun”, dance involves movement and participants will get heated up a bit. If they are all in dressy dresses and heels, this isn’t going to be as fun for them if they happen to sweat. If the the room is on the warm side, it could cause some discomfort and it may be better to shorten the lesson.
    • A decent sound system - music should be loud enough to be heard over all the giggling girls and teacher’s voice :)

How much does the performance & lesson combination cost?

The same as a 20-25 minute show which is based on the location of your event and are listed here:www.mahabellydance.com/ > Hire

Why is it the same price if we only want to you for 15mins or 30mins?

Regardless of how long we perform, the time spent consulting and preparing for the performance is the same. Once we are there – 90% of the work has been done so if we stay a little bit longer it is really about the same effort. I have a longer response to this question if you would like to read it: http://www.bellydancertoronto.com/?p=12

Can we see you perform before we hire you?

Sure! There are two ways to do this.

View my performance Videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/mahadances?feature=watch

Come watch a show: If you visit the About page on my website you will see the restaurants and events that are open to the public to come and watch a show:http://www.mahabellydance.com. If you let me know you are coming I can confirm that I will be there and make sure I say hello after I am finished changing after the performance. Because these are mostly in restaurants, it is advisable to make a reservation in advance.

Can you wear that red/blue/purple costume?

Probably :) I rotate my costumes so they get even wear and sometimes they get pulled out of rotation for cleaning and repairs. I also buy and sell them frequently so I may not have the one you see on my website, but I likely have another similar. Music and props used are also deciding factors on which costumes are chosen for that night.

Do you dance with props?

Yes, each of my shows feature a prop – sometimes two. Entrances are done with a veil and if room permits, Isis wings. I can perform with zills, cane, shamadan, and sword. Too many props in one show can be overkill so I generally keep it to one or two. Shamadan and sword tend to be danced to slower tempos so keep this mind if you are wanting a really upbeat performance.

Do you bring your music?

Yes, music can be brought on cd, iPod, or USB. Dancers do not provide stereo equipment. Ideally a good sound system should be in place. Boom boxes are rarely acceptable (and not always friendly with Arabic music). If the volume is too low, it can bring the energy of the show down as people are trying to be really quiet straining to hear the music.

Will it be you that is coming?

Yes! Maha Bellydance is a one person operation. I do work with other dancers if you would like to have more than one performer, but I will always be dancing if you are hiring me. I am not an agency (and don’t care to be one!). In a very rare situation, if I was unable to come due to injury or illness, I will recommend a dancer as a replacement and arrange for them to come.

How to charge for gigs

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Recently I’ve been asked about how to charge for gigs. Great question! I’m happy to share what I’ve learned about this, to not only save you from ever getting burned but also in the knowledge that sticking by high standards is good for all of us!

I typically do 3-7 gigs a week here in Toronto. I dance regularly at 4 different restaurants, two of which are Arabic nightclubs. In addition I appear at many parties & weddings. I’ve had the honor to have many wonderful clients and to be a part of so many wonderful memories. These clients make up most of my business. My article is a bit tongue & cheek and certainly not intended to be a reflection of all the clients that contact me.

How to charge for gigs:

Lets start by breaking down the clients perspective of what they are paying for. They see you for the duration of your show, and that’s usually it unless there has been a meeting in advance. From their perspective they are paying you for the 15-30mins that you are there for. Fair enough.

What most experienced bellydancers will know is that the 15-30mins that you are doing the actual performance is the least amount of work in the whole process.

Lets keep in mind what it took to get to the point where a client may make initial contact. You have hopefully spent many years and $$$ learning how to bellydance and have taken a professional course, have acquired some professional costumes ($300 – +$1000 each), have all the additional props (silk veils, isis wings, canes, shamadan, sword) and have invested in some marketing & business materials (website + SEO, business cards, terminal to accept debit & credit card payment, etc).

Here are your set up costs to begin your business and these efforts have brought the client to you.

From here, the gig booking process begins with the initial contact by a prospective client. This is time spent via emails or on the phone to listen and answer questions from the client. Here you will ask your set of questions and explain your booking process.

1. You require a deposit to secure the booking.

I take a 25% deposit on all bookings. This tells you the client knows they want you there and will not change their mind at the last minute. You can confidently book this into your schedule so that when someone else phones, you’re booked and won’t be upset knowing you could have done the other gig if the first one bails. You are valuable and so is your time.

2. You will provide a Contract/Terms of Agreement
This document should outline the details of the gig (Client name, contact info, event type, address, etc) and your terms. You can view a copy of my standard contract here:www.mahabellydance.com/BLANKContract.pdf

*I actually don’t require a signature unless meeting in person. An email acknowldgeing that they have read it is sufficient for me.

If someone is not willing to give a deposit or agree to your contract, great. You know that they are wasting your time and you have successfully weeded them out. If you are professional with a great website, photos, costumes, & contract people will take you seriously and will feel confident giving you a deposit. This also assures the client that you will show up!

The next part of the process is preparation for the gig. This includes: choosing an appropriate set of music, getting ready, and getting yourself to the event. For me this is a two hour + process. My image when I arrive is very important to my branding as a bellydancer. I’m ready from head to toe: my nails are always done, hair, outfit, everything. You have to be making efforts to be the best most glamorous version of yourself. This means hair, nails, lashes, buffing, pro makeup – the works. Decide what your budget can allow and remember this all takes time & $$ going to your appointments.

Getting there. You have to be on time and consider your mode of transport; are you hiring a driver or do you have your own car?

All these things considered, once you are there and doing your show, 90% of the effort is done.

I hope this all gives you a perspective on what exactly you are charging for your gigs.

How to price yourself:

There are a few considerations at this point:

1. What are other professionals charging in your area.

This will give you your base. Don’t undercut – you will be shooting yourself in the foot and bringing everyone else down with you.

2. Is this an event or weekly/monthly restaurant gig.

You can see my breakdown of prices here:mahabellydance.com/hire.php#prices

Events include weddings and parties. They are a one time event though you may have clients who will hire you a few times a year in this category.

Weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly restaurant shows allow the dancers constant exposure to potential clients and will produce more gigs. Also, for clients who wish to see you perform in advance, this is where they can come watch you. For this reason, a reduced rate is appropriate.

*Auditions:
Don’t ever audition for free. Unless it is 3pm in the afternoon and the only people there are the owners and some staff. You should have video available on your website. I’ve had clients come to the studio to watch a demo when I was dancing in a duet. This is rare and they paid for the rental and an additional fee for our time.

3. The location of the event.

You should charge more for travel time. Firstly because of the additional expense of getting there, but also the extra travel time will mean you may not be able to book a second or third gig in an evening.

4. Charging for a second show

For me, I will charge half for a second show IF there is no more than 30mins wait in between shows.
For restaurants, the price is NOT reduced for a second show. You are already giving a reduced rate. Don’t do a discount on top of a discount.

5. Zaffa

If the contract is for a Zaffa only, it is the price of a regular show. Zaffa and a show is treated similar to two shows. I charge my regular rate for the show and $150 for the zaffa. I’m more flexible about the wait time in between shows. What often ends up happening is I will do the Zaffa, go to anther gig, and return to the wedding for the second show.

Negotiation:

People will always try to negotiate. Be patient and firm. Negotiation is embedded as a norm in many cultures so expect it. If you let yourself be pressured to taking a lower price, you have devalued yourself and wont feel good about it.

Common negotiation tactics:

1. “If you dance at my event you will get a lot of exposure and you can leave your business cards all over on all the tables.”

This could be worth it if you are provided with the name, address, telephone, and email address of ALL attending guests so you can send your marketing materials to harass them to hire you for parties or sign up for you classes. Yeah right.

Unless this is for a charity that you would like to volunteer for, they are just looking for a free or discounted show.

How about you get paid your rate and still get to leave your cards all over like at any other gig?

2. “We are just a small group can you give us a discount?”

Consider all I wrote above about the gig process. Does it really matter how many people are there? It’s same amount of effort from start to finish if it is for a dinner party of 5 or a wedding of 500.

3. “What if we only want 15mins instead of 20, 25, or 30mins?”

Again, consider all I wrote above about the gig process. It’s same amount of effort from start to finish if it is for 5mins, 10mins, 20mins, or 30mins. You still spend the same amount of time in consultation, getting ready, and getting yourself there. The whole concept of “the bellygram” for less is rediculous. The price is the price is the price if you are there for 5mins, 5000 people, or 30mins for 5 people.

4. Common one for restaurants: “You charge $150 for a weekly show? Come this week and I’ll pay you $100 then we’ll talk about it.”

Ugh. No. Here’s what may happen. They may have no intention of having you weekly. There is a special event and they want a bellydancer for that week. Chances are after the show they will say: “We are going to think about the weekly thing. We’ll call you.” They may call you months later for a single show for $100. Ugh.

You are better off to charge your gig rate the first show. Discounts apply after that based on if the show is weekly or monthly.

This one I’ve learned the hard way with a newly opened restaurant. I didn’t lower my weekly restaurant rate, but I still accepted my weekly restaurant rate on the first show as they said they wanted a weekly show. Though everything went well, they decided it wasn’t in the budget for weekly entertainment….and said they would like to start this in a month or so when things pick up.

So they knew in advance that they could not afford weekly entertainment, but they said they wanted it when they called me.

You will either be contacted by restaurants having bellydancers for the first time, or ones that have established bellydance show.

The later will likely have a set rate they pay the dancers. You can take it or leave it, or ask for what you would expect to be paid.

5. “It’s a weeknight and not prime gig time can you give me a discount?”

Ok, I’m sure you’re catching onto why not, right?

6. “We want you to come to our party. We have LOTS of family weddings coming up this summer, can you give us a deal.”

Same above as the restaurant scene…

If you conduct your business in a professional way you will be treated that way. Don’t devalue your skills or your time, ever. If you’re good at what you do, you will always have work so no need to ever feel pressure to compromise your prices.

Egyptian Music & Appreciation for Bellydancers – Book

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I have had a honor to get to know an amazing musician and person here in Toronto, Dr. George Sawa. Dr. Sawa was born in Alexandra, Egypt and is a master Qanun player. He has taught and written on various subjects in Arabic music at the University of Toronto and York University. He has also produced 2 CDs: The Art of the Early Egyptian Qanun Vol 1 & 2. Vol 1 was nominated for Juno award in 2009.

Recently, Dr. Sawa has published a book on music appreciation for Bellydancers that is the only book of it’s kind and is an excellent resource for teachers and students of Middle Eastern Dance.

The book contains chapters on the essentials that every Middle Eastern dancer should know: Rhythms, Melodic Modes, Musical Instruments, Musical forms & Maqams. In addition, 2 cds are included containing approx 33 tracks each that compliment lessons in the book. The photography is stunning featuring bellydancer Bozenka and images of Arabic instruments (all from Dr. Sawa’s collection!). I had the privilege to be a consultant (or rather guinea pig) on this project and highly recommend this excellent book.

It is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Taheya Carioca, Samia Gamal, and Naima Akef. aw :)

You can find the book here:www.georgedimitrisawa.com/buy_music.htm

The book is reviewed on the Gilded Serpant here.