Friday, August 7, 2015

Beginner Belly Dance Classes in Woodstock, New York

Next Beginner Belly Dance Class Session Starts October 28, 2015


Wednesdays - 7:00 - 8:15 p.m.

Session #2 - 7 weeks - Enroll Now!!!

October 28 - December 16
No Class November 25
This session is limited to 10 participants and there are no drop-ins for this session.


$80 - 7-Week Session
Class fees are non-refundable

Enrollment for Session #2 is now closed.

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


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

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 recommended that students have a minimum of one year of beginner bellydance classes before entering 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!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Intermediate Belly Dance Classes

Intermediate Belly Dance Classes - Woodstock, New York


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


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


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

Class Description - Intermediate Belly Dance

This class will incorporate dance specific warm-up and stretches, strengthening excercises, 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.

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 intermediate level class.

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

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!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bellydance video tapes and DVD's for sale

I have dozens of bellydance VHS tapes and DVD's for sale. Tapes $5 each - DVD's $10 each. Shipping $5 per order, for as many titles as you want.

I have been collecting these titles for almost 20 years and have been influenced by all of these beautiful dancers in some way.

I would love to share these videos with others so they can benefit from these amazing dancers as I have.

Please see available titles in my Facebook Photo Album - Videos and DVD's Available.

Please contact me at "bellydancewillow (at) gmail (dot) com" if you are interested in purchasing any of these titles.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September 2010 Newsletter

View this newsletter as a web page.

It's been some time since I sent out a newsletter. I hope you have been enjoying this beautiful summer as much as I have. I've been very busy with many dance and non-dance related activities.

On the dance front…

The Ranya Renee workshop in June was very well attended and fantastic as always. Ranya has such a fun way of teaching and explaining thing. She brought in Egyptian bellydance technique and combinations that were interesting and challenging, and everyone who attended enjoyed the workshop immensely! I hope to *possibly* be bringing Ranya with another amazing teacher, Roula Said, to Kingston for workshops sometime later this fall.

I had the pleasure of attending the Theatrical Bellydance Conference in New York City in July, hosted by Ranya Renee and Anasma. The two of them organized an amazing 3 days of workshops and shows with fantastic instructors from around from around the country, as well as Canada. The workshops not only complemented and built upon each other throughout each day, but each workshop was another puzzle piece in my ever expanding knowledge of bellydance and how to incorporate theatricality into performance, class and personal dance practice. The workshops were very well presented and touched on deep subjects that left the attendees inspired and emotionally charged. For weeks after the Conference, I felt the effects of having my mind and heart opened by the unique content and generosity of the instructors.

In addition to the workshops, I attended several of the shows in conjunction with the Conference. The dinner shows at Je'Bon were full of fantastic music played by Scott Wilson and friends on Friday night and Beatbox Guitar on Saturday night. The calibre of dancing by the performers from around the world was very high and I enjoyed every minute of every performance! The curated theatrical shows at the DNA Theater were exceptional and awe-inspiring. Each performance captured the audience with deeply portrayed emotions and story line that I've not seen much elsewhere within the bellydance community.

I am already looking forward to the 2011 Theatrical Bellydance Conference. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in going deeper into dance beyond just the study and practice of technique and choreography. All of the instructors at the conference have either a strong background in theater arts or a lifetime of practice and refinement of their art, as well as a strong professional bellydance career.

I also had the privilege of attending a couple of intensive workshops with Donna Mejia of Smith College over the Summer. Jenny Cohen hosted her in a hafla and workshop in late June and I attended an intensive workshop with her in Massachusetts this past weekend.

Donna teaches more than just bellydance technique. Her workshops begin with an intensely muscular yoga and stretching warm-up, followed by dance combinations and technique drills that take you into a level of dance and movement we rarely enter within the confines of bellydance. She is truly a fusion teacher who has decades of dance training and a deep sensitivity to the subtle nuances of body movement and kinesthetics. I have included a video of Donna Mejia in performance for your viewing pleasure.

Other than dance, I've been spending the summer swimming in beautiful Catskill Mountain swimming holes, bicycling, motorcycling, camping, attending festivals and just spending quality time with family and friends.

Whew, the hardest part of writing this newsletter for me is the editorial. It's what takes me so long to get them out. I never know what to write. But it's done! Now on to the shameless promotion, without which no one would know what was going on or how to find out… ;)~

Much Love,


RAKKASAH - The biggest bellydance festival on the East Coast - is almost here! Running from October 4-10, Rakkasah host many top-notch instructors from across the country in a week of workshops followed by 3 days of performances by bellydancers of all levels and styles!

There are vendors selling everything from practice clothing to costumes, jewelry, accessories, CD's, DVD's, and musical instruments. Anything and everything relating to bellydance can be found at Rakkasah.

Crimson Gypsy Designs is pleased to announce we will be vending our line of BDYWear at Rakkasah! We have a vending space in the SIDE VENDING ROOM, which is down the hallway on the right if you are facing the stage. We will be selling all of our popular styles of tops and pants, as well as a couple of new styles of shrugs and cute skirts to wear over your pants! Come check out our booth and make sure you bring lots of $$$, because you won't be able to resist our clothes!

If there is something you would like to have made for you to be picked up at Rakkasah, please contact us ASAP, as we are in heavy production at this very moment!

While I did not get a specific performance spot in the initial call-in, I will be putting my name on the stand-by list if a performance spot opens up. Hopefully I will get to perform at Rakkasah and share the love I have for this dance with all of you once again!


My bellydance classes have been going strong all summer and I am very blessed to have such a loyal following of beautiful and inspiring women who study bellydance with me.

This week, September 1, we will begin another 8-week series from the basic moves through more complex compound moves. We will incorporate foot patterns that we will drill in our warm-up, as well as beautiful arm patterns and expression. As always, the B2/Intermediate class will continue to work on finger cymbal patterns in conjunction with bellydance moves and footwork.

At the end of the 8-week series, new students will have a good foundation of the basic and beyond-basic moves that are applicable to any style of bellydance. Continuing students will delve deeper into the moves they've been working on, and will be able to use them with more depth of creativity and expression in their own dance.

Please see my class schedule on the side bar or visit my website for more information about my classes.


Effective September 1, class fees will increase slightly. Here is the new schedule of fees for Bellydance Classes with Willow in Kingston, NY:

Drop-In - $15
Drop-In Two Classes/OneNight - $25
Monthly Card - $50
Monthly Two Classes/One Night - $90
Please note that if you pay the monthly rate, this is for the full month of classes whether you are able to attend every class or not.

These increases are slight and I feel they are reasonable. However, if you wish to attend bellydance class and there is a financial difficulty, please contact me to see if we can work something out. I'd rather have you in class than not due to financial problems.


As promised, here is a performance video by the wonderful Donna Mejia. I hope you enjoy it!

You can find more performance videos by searching for Donna Mejia on Youtube.


Word of mouth is the best advertising in these tough economic times.

If you know anyone who might like the contents of this newsletter, please forward it to them using the links at the top or bottom of this page!

And remember, I never want to be anyone's spam. If you are not interested in receiving this newsletter, please use one of the unsubscribe links at the top or bottom of this page.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

2010 - My Year in Dance Thus Far

What a year in dance this has been for me so far. I certainly can't blog about the whole past 6 months, but here are some of the highlights from the first part of 2010 in dance for me.

  • Learning Angelique's Cheetah choreographies for "The ZOO" show was a crazy experience. We began the choreographies in January and I barely felt ready to perform by the middle of April. "Ampersandstorm" was the fastest and most athletic choreography I'd ever done. Drum solos are always fun and I think the Angelique Bellydance Collective performed the choreographies most excellently. Every new choreography that Angie gives us is a whole new set of challenges and an intense, deeply involved learning experience.
  • Performing in "The ZOO" was quite an experience. Performance here. It was so much fun being included in such a beautifully and professionally produced show in NYC. Performing with the Angelique Bellydance Collective is a privilege and honor. The talent and creativity of everyone involved was absolutely inspiring. I've wanted to be in a Venus Uprising show since the first one I saw a few years ago. So I was thrilled to be involved with a group that was invited to perform in one. At the end, though, we were all so totally wiped out from driving in and out of NYC and the adventures involved in that and performing for three days in a row.
  • Spring Caravan in May is always a lot of fun! It's really my favorite bellydance festival. Vending went very well. I loved performing with Beatbox Guitar. Pete List and Rob Mastrianni are such awesomely talented musicians. The Saturday night afterparty at Spring Caravan was insane! It was Beltane and the fire energy was crazy! The music was incredible, the energy was outrageous and seeing everyone the whole weekend was a blast!
  • In early June I hosted Ranya Renee in a Modern Egyptian-style workshop which was well attended by the local bellydance community. Ranya's teaching is full of feeling, beautiful lines, technique, footwork, choreography and such an innate sense of how to feel and interpret the Egyptian music. She is so full of knowledge, humor and a genuine desire to teach and share what she knows. It's always a pleasure to study with Ranya. I highly recommend her DVD's to everyone interested in Egyptian-style bellydance and am looking forward to the release of her new Taksim DVD! I got to see some sneak-peeks of it while she and I were discussing costume ideas for upcoming DVD's she is planning.
  • Jenny Cohen hosted Donna Mejia in New Windsor June 26-27. Donna is an extremely intelligent, thoughtful, well researched teacher who's style is compassionate, relaxed and very open to sharing her passion and everything she knows. Her performance at the Saturday night hafla was electrifying and inspiring - even though she was suffering from cat allergies! Her lecture on Sunday was eye-opening and informative. She shared very important information that I feel anyone who has a true passion about Middle Eastern or any ethnic dance, and especially teachers, should have. Her dance and movement instruction was full of a lifetime of wisdom and understanding of how the body moves and how to use it thoughtfully and effectively.
  • On-going, I just want to give a shout out to my students and say what a pleasure it is to be their teacher. Teaching bellydance is very rewarding, in that I get to share this dance that I am passionate about and I get to see the progress and share in the enjoyment of it with people who also share my passion. Every week I learn from my students and I love and cherish every one of them. I strive to always be open to learning whether I am in the role of teacher or student.
  • I also spent a lot of time at home with my husband and son in May and June. We didn't go out or do much, but it was a great time to recharge my batteries and reflect, which it seems I really needed. That lull brings me full force into July and August, which are full of activity, energy and exciting prospects!
Whew... Upcoming schedule, events and ramblings in the next post.