The Joy of Giving Back

One of the fun aspects of teaching students at Happy Hips Belly Dance is the chance for us to have a reason to perform together. We find ourselves practicing as a “troupe” and have a goal we are all aiming for. While there are festival and community events we perform at, one of our favourite (and least nerve racking!) performances is when we provide entertainment at a local nursing home. By donating our time and dance, we feel good at that we are bringing something a bit different to the schedule of entertainment, as well as giving us performance practice.

I am so proud of the Happy Hips Troupe for giving back to the community and doing a great job at the same time!

Here is a link to one of the dances we did recently – it was actually the debut of a new dance we had learnt with a new style and new prop! Go girls!

What skills or abilities have you got to give back to your community? Then go do it! It feels great!

School Holidays are over Sigh/Yay!

One of the topics that came up in my Mum’s Group yesterday, was whether we were happy that school was starting for term 3 (and my regular belly dance classes at and we were really in two minds.

School HolidaysAre we happy when the kids go back to school, or miss them and the freedom of a lighter timetable?

On the plus side for school starting means we can get back into routine, regular activities (and bellydance classes Yay!) a bit more time to get things done, and fewer children underfoot (and fighting with each other), plus organising activities duriing the holidays to keep them happy and occupied on the rainy days of winter is not so easy!

On the down side, we don’t see as much of our older children, we have to get up earlier (and Yay for a bit of a sleep in!) have to make lunches that the kids will eat AND is nutritious, and we have to get them up, dressed, fed and to school on time, plus ferry them back nd forth and to after school activities.

So I guess we will have to take the plus and the minus and enjoy each one as it comes!

Thanks go to my kids Jamie and Ellie – who had lots of fun during the school holidays!

Can you perform a classical Egyptian bellydance to Modern Western Music?

That is the question I am asking today. I think you can, but I will let you decide. Let me know whether you think it fits or not!

Here is a video of me performing a Classical Egyptian choreography to a modern Western song “Forever Young” by Fruit.

Belly Dance and Polynesian Dance

Polynesian dancers can shake their hips like a belly dancer!

I was at the Wachter Reserve Family Day Out today (in a Mum capacity not as a performer this time!) and had the privilege to watch the Cook Islands Royal Polynesian Dance Team perform. As I watched it, it got me thinking about how Belly Dance has similarities with many other cultural dances. They way these ladies moved their hips was very impressive, and their skirts really enhanced their moves. Great job!

As an aside, but worth a mention, also at the Festival was a very impressive band “Code One” made up of Victorian police officers. Their pint-sized female lead singer, Lerena Novoa,  really packed a full-sized punch as she belted out songs that had the whole crowd clapping and cheering. Fantastic public relations for Victoria Police, as they are awesome!

Charni from Happy Hips Belly Dance was very impressed with the Code One Police Band of Police Victoria

Ellen learns to Belly Dance

While this is obviously more for amusement value, I admire Ellen for getting up on her own show to give belly dancing a go. She even puts on an outfit (which is over the top of her normal clothes giving it an “interesting” look!) The belly dance teacher is obviously constrained by what has to happen, and can’t really do or show very much, but it’s not really the point here.

Have a look and have some fun!

If you just smile…

Let the joy on the inside show on the outside

Let the joy on the inside show on the outside

“Always remember to smile to yourself. Smiling beautifies your face, but when you bring the smile inside your heart and mind, you beautify your whole being”.
Mae-Chee Sasanee

I found this quote and it reminded me of how I feel when I am bellydancing. I smile inside my heart and mind and it is reflected on my face. Do you feel that way about something in your life?
I hope so!

Thanks to my joyful model Jamie.

The Joy of Teaching Belly Dance

As classes came to an end this term (term 1 2012) one of my students said something which made me realise that I have now been officially teaching belly dance for 9 years! Charni & her Happy Hips Belly Dance studentsTime flies when you are having fun! It got me thinking about how I came to belly dance and then teach.

I started belly dancing when I was all of 19 years old back in 1995 (you do the math!). The University I was attending in Adelaide held a short course and as I have an ‘unfashionable’ 1950’s figure of slim upper body, tiny waist, and curvy hips, I thought “with my hips, why not?” so I did. Did it all come naturally to me when I first started? Definitely not! There was a BIG learning curve involved, largely in using my hands, arms and stomach. But I found that I did have a natural ability moving my hips and isolating my upper from lower body. This was a good start! In fact I found through learning how to move my hips, I was able to have a better general posture.

Through hard work, practice and study, and getting help from different teachers, over the years I was gradually able to work on the not so easy parts and become comfortable with them. Funnily enough, it was through this struggle that I learnt how to teach. There were some moves that were only demonstrated and not explained. So I looked at how to break these down into simple steps, building up into the faster more complicated version. When I was given the honour of choreographing several dance sequences for a show (“The Desert Song”with the Marie Clarke Singers of Tea Tree Gully), I needed to be able explain what I was doing with my body to the group of dancers needing to learn. To my surprise, they really loved the way I explained the moves and broke it down, at the same time giving them encouragement and confidence in their ability.

That wonderful troupe of dancers gave me the confidence needed to start my own belly dance school. I had moved interstate to Melbourne, so after seeking advice and training from physiotherapists on correct warm ups, cool downs and alternative moves for injuries or arthritic joints, I did exactly that! The result is as you know it:

Many, many years later, I feel extremely privileged to have had the chance to share my passion and joy with others. I love the look on a person’s face when they can do a move they never thought they could! And I especially love the increasing confidence shown in women expressing how the female form is beautiful in all its shapes, curves and wobbly bits!

Last year I also took bellydance to the world by firstly giving free belly dance eClasses and offering a chance in How to Learn Belly Dance Online, so now I am teaching people all around the world! I love it!

Thanks to all those wonderful women who have made it possible for me to call myself a “teacher”.

“You are a wonderful teacher with a beautiful, inclusive manner (not to mention a wonderful dancer)!”
Cheers – Leanne from Belgrave

Casey Kids Carnival was fun today!

Today I had the privilege to be a part of the Casey Kids Carnival, which is a yearly event held by the City of Casey Council.

I had to apply like all performers, and based it on my kids party formula; teach the kids some moves, and they learn a bit about belly dance (or Raqs Sharqi) and Egypt at the same time!

Special thanks go to Sally Bowyer for her help today with the Casey Kids Carnival, we showed a gaggle of kids how to shimmy (and played shimmy freeze), they learnt all about the animals of Egypt, and how the river floods (using a veil). They then watched me perform a double veil dance (always interesting on a windy day!).

We enjoyed doing it and had great feedback from the audience and organisers. I then got the spend the rest of the day enjoying what else there was to offer – oh and my kids did too!

I would also like to pass on my congratulations to the organising staff, they were very communicative, informative and on top of all the details every step of the way. The staff on the day was helpful, accommodating and helped me look good!

Charni and Sally (and Jamie) of Happy Hips Belly Dance after performing at the Casey Kids Carnival 2012

The Joy of Performing Belly Dance

I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to perform in a concert after learning belly dance for only 6 months. It was petrifying and exciting and I worked very hard at the parts I was in so that I could feel proud of myself. I still have a video of the concert, and although some of it is quite cringe-worthy, I still feel a great sense of pride (plus it is a great record of some choreographies I was taught).

Charni of Happy Hips Belly Dance

Charni loves performing belly dance and teaching at

Since then, I’ve been bitten by the performance bug! I perform Raqs Sharqi whenever I can and love seeing how the crowd gets into it. I especially love it when they clap along in time.

I have had people ask “how do you deal with the sleazes?”. Occasionally I have had an uncomfortable feeling and notice that it is not a cheerful gleam in the eye but a sleazy one instead. I don’t see belly dancing as sexy, I see it as celebrating how the body can move in amazing ways and the joy which comes up from the soles of your feet and pours out of every part, so it always surprises me when somebody sees it as a sexual dance. How do I deal with it? Easy, I smile straight at them and pull a bit of a face in time with the music in appropriate parts, such as at a strong percussive beat I will lift a hip and an eyebrow at the same time. Very soon, they are smiling too hard and their whole attitude changes.

I love sharing my love of belly dance with others, and consider it a very special privilege to do so. I love the feeling of being connected to the earth, feeling the rhythm go right through my body. I do set choreographies as well, but I love improvisation where I have to let the music take over my body and just go with it. My thoughts and worries melt away, I feel powerful, in control, beautiful and all woman!