How I Met My “Belly Grandma”

May 11, 2014 4 Comments

Who do you consider your “belly mama”? For many dancers, it’s their first teacher. For others, it’s their most influential teacher. That’s how it is for me. My first instruction came from a friend, then I took a group class, then I moved to another class – where I fell into the lap of the woman I consider my “belly mama”, Jazmine.

Jazmine would often talk about her own belly mama, Una. I never saw a video of her or even a photo of her. But one day something magical happened.

I was backstage at Cairo Caravan in 2013. I had just finished my set and  half naked in the dressing room I heard the emcee announce the next dancer, Una.  My first thought was of Jazmine – could this be the woman she spoke so highly of? I was in California which is where she lived most of her life before coming to Arizona. That was a good sign.  As I listed to the emcee introduce her, she spoke of her long career in belly dance. The odds were getting better and I was scrambling to put on enough clothes to stand near the door to watch from offstage.

With my "belly grandma", Una at Cairo Caravan 2013

With my “belly grandma”, Una at Cairo Caravan 2013

I had my confirmation within the first few bars of music – the exuberant zill playing,  the footwork style – it was crystal clear. Even 20+ years after leaving her belly mama’s nest, she still carries the stamp of much of her training. Of course, she has plenty of her own flair too, but the lineage was evident as much as a child that has her mother’s smile.


I was the only one in the dressing room. I felt like I was going to burst – this was so amazing and unexpected, I HAD to tell someone! I was  practically jumping out of my skin with excitement to tell her who MY teacher was and that I was her belly granddaughter.  I know that Jazmine had lost contact with her long ago.  The poor woman, I practically lunged at her while she was still breathlessly coming into the dressing room! I told her how highly Jazmine spoke of her and all the little gems of knowledge she passed on to us and credited to her. She was very gracious, and surprised – and I’m sure more than a little taken aback at my excitement. She probably tells people about the crazy dancer that accosted her backstage at Cairo Caravan!


So now it’s 2014, almost 18 years since I first started in bellydance and I guess I can consider myself a “belly mama” to a few dancers and that makes me very proud. In some, I can see some of my own style mixed in a wonderful way with who they are as dancers. This was something Jazmine always stressed. She never encouraged cookie-cutter dancing and said on more times that I can count “dance like YOU”, either literally or as the subtext of what actually was coming out of her mouth. 


Sometimes I even see bit of what I absorbed from Jazmine in my students – things I tell them or they have just internalized through learning my choreography. Things that Jazmine learned from Una.  It makes me wish I knew who Una’s belly mama was. It’s a beautiful thing.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas and all the lovely “belly mamas” and “belly grandmas” out there! Who’s YOUR belly mama and what’s the most important thing you learned from her? Tell us in the comments below…

Mahin (121 Posts)

Professional instructor and performer of Middle Eastern belly dance, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and author or the “Daily Bellydance Quickies”. Belly Dance Artrepreneur, Workshop instructor, performer, event producer, and bellydance writer.

  1. Evelyn Matthew
    May 11, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Una is such a fun and elegant dancer. I think from what I have seen of her she is kind of a reserved person. I asked her to be my friend on Facebook and she wrote back asking if I knew her and how; so she is also very thoughtful and sweet. She has such a beautiful smile as well. I loved your story about your belly grandma thanks for sharing . Evelyn

  2. Sophia Ravenna
    May 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Like you I consider my most influential teacher to be my “belly mama” which is funny because we’re about the same age 😉 But Jolie had the biggest influence on my dance style. It’s hard to choose one most important lesson from her, because she did a lot for me. She taught this die-hard improv dancer to enjoy choreography! She talked me into taking non-bellydance classes to cross-train! She showed me how to do a smoky eye! But I guess the biggest thing was helping me overcome a lot of negativity about challenges in dance, which ended up translating into being less negative in general.

  3. Zwesty Rimba
    May 11, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    I live in Indonesia where there’s not many decent belly dance teachers here. I learn from Christine Yaven, she is my second teacher (the first one didn’t really teach belly dance). At first I was treating belly dance as an escape from my burden of medical school, so ~ like she said ~ my dance looked purposeless. My movements were looked as if i was lost. Her observation through my dance (and my soul) really changed me ever since. Now I’ve graduated to be a medical doctor, and I’ve found a real passion in bellydance. Thanks my belly-mama!

  4. Nadira Jamal
    May 12, 2014 at 8:07 am

    My most influential teacher is who I consider my “belly mama”. My dance grandma, Anahid Sofian is alive and well in NYC. I haven’t met her, but I sent one of my dance students to her when she moved to that area – so she’s studying with her dance great-grandma!


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