Biographies

Members | Associate Members

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Members Biographies

Members | Associate Members


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Anne Benveniste (HSc)

Anne Benveniste was born in France, to a family of Egyptian Jewish origin. Her childhood was immersed in the sounds and flavours of the Mediterranean and its cultures. She has a true passion for Raqs Sharqi, which forms a link between her and the ‘unknown’ Egypt of her forbears.

She has taught Raqs Sharqi for 13 years in Paris and other countries and acquired the Hilal School of Raqs Sharqi teaching certificate in 1998. For the last 11 years, she has trained intensively with the Tunisian teacher Hassan Bengharbia; a contemporary dancer who has effectively integrated Middle Eastern influences into his movement. His method makes use of in depth body-work as a preparation for dance. Anne is aware that the fluidity of the dance comes through the transformation of the body. She integrates a specific technique adapted to Raqs Sharqi based on floor work, which enables the structure of the back to be reinforced to gain flexibility and power. Her work is now well known in France and abroad and many people come to her for this work which assures inner strengh, therefore allowing more freedom in the movements. For Anne it is important not to impose a fixed style, but to let it evolve from the creativity and inspiration of the body, always coming from and going back to the traditional forms of Egyptian dance.

The fruits of many years of work researching the Middle Eastern vocabulary of the dance, have resulted in a variety of possibilities for improvisation. Anne has been performing for many years and choreographs her own shows. In 2007 she performed "Terres Mélées de l'Andalousie à l'Egypte" at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, working with the producer Bernard Abitbol to create a meeting of Raqs Sharqi and Flamenco with live music.

En Français

D'une famille d'origine juive égyptienne, Anne Benveniste est née en France. Les accents de la méditerranée bercent son enfance. Elle se découvre une véritable passion pour le raqs sharqi qui la ramène sans cesse à cette Egypte qu'elle n'a pas connue. Elle enseigne la danse depuis 1992 et obtient le diplôme de la Hilal school of Raq Sharqi en 1998.

Depuis 11 ans elle suit une formation intensive à Paris avec un danseur, Hassan Bengharbia, dont elle retransmet la méthode. Sa technique exigeante et de haut niveau est basée sur un travail du corps en profondeur qui mène à la danse. Anne prend conscience que la fluidité dans la danse passe par une transformation du corps. Elle intègre une technique spécifique adaptée au Raqs Sharqi, basée sur un travail au sol qui permet de sculpter le dos tout en le renforçant et de gagner ainsi en souplesse.

Son travail est maintenant reconnu en France et à l'étranger et beaucoup de personnes viennent la voir pour sa spécificité qui assure au corps une excellente tenue donc plus de puissance et d’aisance dans le mouvement. Il est important pour Anne de ne pas figer la danse égyptienne dans une forme imposée, de la laisser évoluer au gré de l'inspiration et de la créativité, tout en partant et en revenant à la source même de la tradition. Puiser dans le mouvement oriental en variant ses possibilités d'improvisation sont le fruit de ses nombreuses années de travail.

Anne se produit aussi en spectacle depuis plusieurs années. Sa dernière création "Terres Mélées" a pour influences musicales l'Andalousie et l'Egypte. Le prochain spectacle aura lieu à l'institut du Monde Arabe les 2 et 3 novembre 2007 avec 8 musiciens et aura pour thème la rencontre complice du Raqs Sharqi et du Flamenco.

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Juliana Brustik (HSc)

Juliana’s interest in dance and the visual arts began at an early age. She started formal training in dance as a student in Germany and continued these studies while living in the USA and Amsterdam. Settled in Britain from 1980, Juliana attended classes taught by Suraya Hilal. She studied and later worked with Suraya, also co-managing the Hilal School of Raqs Sharqi with other senior teachers until the mid-1990s. Alongside her studies of Raqs Sharqi she took a 3 year degree course in Contemporary Dance, Performance Skills, Choreography and the Visual Arts.

Since 1988 Juliana has worked full time as a professional dance teacher, performer and choreographer and since 1997 she has co-managed the Raqs Sharqi Society. She was one of the co-ordinators and teachers of the Society’s Teacher Training Foundation course and has initiated and/or co-organised many other study and performance events for the Society.

Juliana’s teaching and performance work has taken her all over the UK and to other European countries. Over the years she has directed many performance groups, dance events and created a variety of pieces for groups of dancers. Her strong interest in choreography has led her to develop an acclaimed choreography course for advanced dancers for the Society’s Summer School 2003.

Her wide knowledge of other dance forms and body awareness methods informs Juliana’s teaching. Her aim is to give her students a thorough technical grounding, confidence in musical interpretation, a basic understanding of choreography and body awareness. Over the years many of her students have gained independence and developed into teachers and performers in their own right.

With Judy Hammond Juliana has developed Performance Skills courses with live music for advanced dancers. These courses have given dancers a space in which to push boundaries and delve more deeply into the physical, emotional and aesthetic possibilities of the dance.

At present Juliana is concentrating on her own performance work . After completing her second year of studies Juliana is now qualified to run Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes.

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Sylvianne Capell (RSS)

Sylvianne fell in love with Raqs Sharqi in 1993. From there on she studied the dance with Suraya Hilal and other teachers of the Hilal School of Raqs Sharqi. In 2000 she graduated from the Raqs Sharqi Society Teacher Training Course.

She has a degree in East European history and Russian literature, but having finished her studies in 1998 she decided to follow her love for the dance and started giving classes in Freiburg.

Since 2000 Sylvianne has been living in Hamburg, where she regularly gives classes and workshops in Raqs Sharqi and Pilates. Since 2004 she has her own dance studio "Ala Nar", which means "close to fire".

A wide knowledge in disciplines like Pilates, Alexander Technique, Bioenergetics, Yoga, Body Awareness and other dance forms such as Modern and New Dance gave her a good understanding of the deep connection of body and soul in Raqs Sharqi. She integrates this understanding in her dancing and in her teaching. Since 2006 she gives also workshops for women's inner development together with the dance therapist Betuel Licht.

Sylvianne performes in several programmes with arab musiciens and other dancers from different cultures.

Deutsch

Sylvianne Capell ist ausgebildete Lehrerin der Raqs Sharqi Society in London und langjährige Schülerin von Suraya Hilal, Liza Wedgwood und anderen Lehrerinnen der ehemaligen Hilal School of Raqs Sharqi. Weiterbildungen in Alexandertechnik, New Dance, Yoga und Pilates sowie Erfahrungen mit Core Energetics gaben ihr ein tiefes Verständnis für die Verbindung von Körper und Seele. Sylvianne entwickelte einen eigenen Unterrichtsstil, der jede Schülerin dazu ermutigt, die kraftvollen und anmutigen Bewegungen des Raqs Sharqi aus ihrer eigenen Mitte heraus zu tanzen. Seit Juni 2004 leitet sie das Tanzstudio Ala Nar (arab. "am Feuer") in Hamburg Eimsbüttel/ Eppendorf. Aufritte in Hamburg mit der Musiker-Gruppe "Al Samar" und europaweit in verschiedenen Tanz- und Theater-Programmen.

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Aurora Gercke (RSS)

Born in Italy and educated at Rome, Paris and Cambridge Universities Aurora has behind her many years of work as a professional linguist before embarking on a parallel successful career as a dancer and movement specialist.

Aurora's first encounter with Arabic dance and music started in her teens while studying in Rome, when she had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East, where her interest grew, together with the deepening of her understanding of Arabic culture. In Great Britain since 1985, Aurora completed the Raqs Sharqi Society teacher training foundation course graduating in 2003.

Aurora has been performing Raqs Sharqi since 1995 and has developed an understanding of choreography and group directing, although her passion is the solo Baladi performance. She has organised live music events, working with musicians such as Ibrahim and Ali El Miniawy, Sheikh Taha, Tim Garside and Guy Schalom.

While studying dance, Aurora has qualified in the Pilates Method of exercise with the Body Control Pilates Association in 2001. Many other bodywork qualifications have followed: Lower Back Specialist, Otago and Postural Stability Instructor.

Teaching bodywork through simple mat-based, or even standing exercises, specifically tailored to the needs of each individual and by really getting to know her clients and their lifestyles, Aurora can create an ongoing programme that pinpoints specific needs and goals, with the ultimate goal of making people simply feel better about themselves and learn to work better with their bodies. Aurora has a particular interest and experience in teaching older people – to help them make more of their mature years - and pregnant women, to help them prepare for birth and enjoy their pregnancy. But being such a flexible form of exercise, Aurora’s bodywork is suited to almost any type of person. The simplicity of Aurora’s approach, starting with a focus on postural stability, correct breathing, and proper bodily alignment means everyone who learns with her will soon see real benefits in their own lives.

In her words: “When I get to know the person I can see what joy increased freedom of movement can bring them”.

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Judy Hammond (HSc)

Judy completed Raqs Sharqi teacher training with Suraya Hilal in 1990, having begun dancing Raqs Sharqi in 1984 with Anne Ashcroft in London and later with Liza Wedgwood in Hertfordshire. She danced Suraya's choreographies in performances at Theatro Technis and the Lillian Bayliss Theatre, and directed many Winchester and London student performances for the Hilal School of Raqs Sharqi.

Following Suraya's move to Italy Judy was one of the team that founded and managed the Raqs Sharqi Society, and helped to create and deliver the Society's first teacher training course, where staff included nationally and internationally renowned teachers of Raqs Sharqi, Alexander Technique, Pilates and anatomy.

For many years Judy taught several weekly classes in Hertfordshire plus weekend workshops and longer residential courses in the UK, Italy and Greece. She produced and/or directed many community performances, and danced in a professional performance which appeared in four UK cities including London.

As well as holding a deep and ever growing love for Egyptian music and dance, Judy is a lifelong dancer and mover, beginning with ballet in childhood and moving on to contemporary dance in early adulthood, studying with several internationally recognised teachers and performers. In the early 1980s she gained a ballet teaching qualification and a Cert. Ed and then a B.Ed (English and psychology), and began to study T'ai Chi and Pilates - both ongoing passions, as is yoga –Judy is intending to do a yoga teacher training course when time permits!

In 1986 Judy qualified as a teacher of Alexander Technique after training for five years at ATA, an exciting and eclectic training school where the staff included representatives from all three major lineages of AT (Carrington, Barlow and McDonald), and as well as the standard AT syllabus there was a strong performance aspect with movement and voice. Subsequently Judy taught regularly for some years as a guest teacher at Fellside Alexander School in Kendal, helping to train several generations of teachers under the guidance of the extraordinarily gifted director Don Burton.

Over the past ten years Judy has been developing Moving Mindfully, an inclusive approach to the teaching of movement based on the principles of Alexander Technique, T’ai Chi and Pilates and including movement material from those disciplines plus yoga and dance.

She currently teaches four weekly classes in Alexander Technique and Moving Mindfully at the Letchworth Centre for Healthy Living (recently awarded Best UK Complementary Health Centre www.letchworthcentre.com) where she has been on the teaching staff for twenty years. Her Raqs Sharqi teaching is now focused on workshops and residential courses in the UK, Italy and the beautiful Greek island of Skyros (www.skyros.com).

One of Judy's particular interests is in finding anatomically sound and emotionally comfortable ways to facilitate the learning of the movement language of Raqs Sharqi, and then creating a learning environment in which dancers can feel, engage with and embody the layers of mood and emotion in the music, in ways that foster joy and satisfaction, authenticity and confidence.

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Sara Kahan (HSc)

Sara’s involvement with dance dates from childhood, starting with ballet, and expressionist improvised dance, which she studied with Lilian Harmel until her late teens.
In her late twenties, Sara came across Suraya Hilal’s classes quite by chance in London and was captivated by her dance style. She subsequently became a member of Suraya’s company The Dance Theatre of Egypt and performed with them at the WOMAD Festival (World Music and Dance) with Les Musiciens du Nil, at The Almeida Theatre and The Purcell Room. Sara was a founder member of the Hilal School of Raqs Sharqi and started the Raqs Sharqi Summer School in the late 1980’s.
She has been teaching in Britain and Europe for over twenty five years, including a summer school which she taught in Utrecht, Holland for a number of years and now teaches regular classes in London as well as workshops in Britain and abroad.
Music is an important inspiration for many of Sara’s projects. with an earlier career as a singer/songwriter that culminated in a tour supporting Steeleye Span. Maddy Prior recorded one of Sara’s songs and she has composed musical scores for drama.
In 2005, with Guy Schalom and Chrystelle Benkhelil, Sara founded Raqs Wa Musica Al Masraya (RWM), a company devoted to producing performances of Egyptian dance with live music. In 2006 RWM produced 'Bint Al Balad' at Jackson's Lane Theatre: five dancers and five musicians performed 'Baladi' the ‘urban blues' of Egypt. The company also produced workshops and performances for university dance and music departments and various community and arts projects.
Sarah is interested in exploring the dance possibilities of a wide range of music including Classical Arabic, Egyptian Baladi, Andalousian/Arabic fusion and the music of the Sephardic Jews.  She likes to introduce an eclectic range of music into classes and performances while still maintaining the integrity of authentic, Egyptian, Raqs Sharqi dance.
“As a teacher I’m interested in developing individual creativity and ease in improvising and working with live music. As a performer I’m interested in working with musicians and developing Raqs Sharqi music and dance in a theatrical context.”

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Lillian Malki (HSc)

Lillian Malki was born in the United States to Middle Eastern parents (Assyrians from Lebanon and Jordan) and spent part of her childhood in Lebanon – years which were to have a profound influence on her. When Lillian started learning Middle Eastern dance in 1986, it was like coming home to her roots, to something that resonated deep within her.

After studying oriental dance with several teachers in Paris, Lillian discovered Raqs Sharqi in 1992. Three years later she began teacher training with Suraya Hilal and completed her training in 1997. Lillian began performing professionally in 1998, beginning with the former Awalem troupe. She has also danced with Anne Benveniste and others in the show “Terre Melee”. For 11 years she directed and choreographed an annual theatre performance with her students, and is now working on a larger production.

Lillian lives in Paris where, along with a job as a broadcast journalist, she teaches Raqs Sharqi classes and gives workshops in France and abroad. She has a fine knowledge of Arabic and a deep understanding of Middle Eastern culture, customs and expression ingrained in her from her family heritage and her early years spent in Lebanon.

In her teaching methods, Lillian tries to impart her fine musical sensitivity and her knowledge of Arabic culture to her students. She enjoys teaching in a way that brings out both the theatrical aspect of the dance, as well as the fun and lightheartedness. Her love and devotion to the dance have led Lillian to explore such disciplines as yoga, Feldenkrais and Pilates. She has also been training for several years in body alignment and oriental movement with the Tunisian-born dancer Hassan Ben-Gharbia. This work has helped her acquire a greater comprehension of the concept of fluidity, and enabled her to expand her repertoire.

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Katrina Robinson (HSc)

 Katrina is a co-founder and senior teacher of the Raqs Sharqi Society and graduate of the former Hilal School. She has taught in community dance and professional contexts for 25 years and writes about and reviews dance.

In addition to Raqs Sharqi Society Dances of Egypt, Katrina is interested in other highly codified dance forms from an anthropology perspective. These include Indian classical forms, Spanish dance and Flamenco, traditional and modern Hula and classical ballet.

“I find it really exciting to learn as much as I can about these very different forms – about their history and development, philosophical underpinnings, texts and musical structures – in order to understand more about these movement languages as forms of cultural expression. And there’s no substitute for going to classes!”

Although taking a sabbatical from Raqs Sharqi teaching until 2016, Katrina has expanded other aspects of her dance training and practice, especially in the area of dance for older people and projects in the context of mental health.

“Over the years Oxford Dance Forum has run a wide range of interesting training courses and links to innovative programmes such as English National Ballet’s ‘Dance for Parkinsons’ as well as encouraging academic research/performance projects such as ‘Ancient Dance/Modern Dancers’. I found Roehampton University’s Summer Course ‘Dance and Psychotherapy’ helpful in my other areas of dance practice.”

As a committee member of Dance Mania-Moving for Change Katrina was closely involved in an 18 month arts project funded by Time to Change that set out to challenge stigma and discrimination around mental health as part of a national campaign.

“The most exciting part of this project was commissioning a 20 minute contemporary piece from choreographer John Darvell (Artistic Director, nocturn dance). ‘The tipping point’ was developed over a 5 week period and performed by City of Oxford College dance students in March 2015. Structuring the research was an intense, challenging and powerful experience shared with these young dancers – one I’d very much like to repeat in future”.

 www.drishtidance.com
 www.nocturndance.co.uk www.ballet.org.uk/learning/dance-parkinsons www.oxforddancewriters.wordpress.com/reviews
www.torch.ox.ac.uk/ancientdance

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Anne White (HSc)

Anne has wide experience as a teacher and performer. She qualified as a Hilal School teacher in 1990 and obtained a City and Guilds 7303 certificate in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector in 2007.

She has taught since 1992, privately and in Adult Education and has been funded by numerous bodies including The Arts Council, Millenium Fund and the Big Lottery. She also works in schools with a National Dance Agency.

In 2006 Anne began working with Health Professionals, sponsored by The Big Lottery, on a project to quantify the health benefits of exercise. She has also worked with Television Production companies, Sports and Development Teams and fitness centres. She has taught men, children and women of different ages and cultural backgrounds and always enjoys teaching students with special needs.

Anne has over 15 years experience as a performer, some of this at major London venues such as The Hackney Empire, The Bloomsbury Theatre and Alexandra Palace, and has toured East Anglian theatres as part of her Arts Council funding. Other performances, with Planet Egypt - include Egyptian Dance Parties with singers and live music, and she also performs at Arab weddings and parties. Anne visits Arabic nightclubs regularly:

I have been privileged to witness, experience and accompany the best Arab singers and musicians that the UK has to offer. Anne has organised, choreographed, directed and produced a number of Raqs Sharqi theatre performances from 1992 to 2006.

Recently she has taken part in major dance events: Brighton Orient 2006, and in 2007 Majma, Raqs Brittania and an International Festival in Hungary. In 2005 she hosted the Egyptian pop singer Hakim in London in recognition of her skills as a presenter and community builder. Her aim is to build a dance community that is diverse, independent and welcoming.

Anne is also involved in Oriental dance and established Planet Egypt in 2002 to promote popular Arabic music, dance and culture and work closely with dancers from other Oriental disciplines - sometimes with singers and live music.

We have monthly events and are supported by celebrities and leading exponents from the wider dance community.These events aim topromote awareness and understanding of different dance disciplines and elevate the artistic side of our dancing. More importantly they have built a dance community where all are welcomed and accepted and are completely non-political.

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Associate Members Biographies

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Ellie Atkinson

Ellie has been dancing since the turn of the millennium. First she studied with Aliya Burch, who introduced her to the wider dance community and has subsequently studied the dance with respected teachers of many different styles. Collaboration and study with teachers and musicians in both Europe and Egypt has informed her dance as well as giving her cultural insights. She enjoys visiting Egypt, learning more about the country and culture with each visit.

Ellie began performing with Aliya, culminating in 'Dances of the Nile 2002/2003'. She has also appeared in the Raqs Sharqi Society Showcases 2003 and 2008. Recently she has worked with Diane Petty, as 'Raqs Sharqi Dorset' on a number of fundraising performance events, 'Leyla Kebyra' 2006, 'Ayoum Saeeda' 2008 and 'The Characters of the Moulid!' 2010, which to date have raised over £3000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and other charities.

Ellie also produced and appeared in Béatrice Grognard's 'Dream of an Egyptian Night' theatrical show when it came to the UK for two dates in 2011.

During their partnership, Ellie and Diane have continued to promote Raqs Sharqi and the Society in the Dorset area. Their parties and workshops now draw large numbers of local dancers, from all different styles of Middle Eastern Dance. They are also often invited to appear at local events and performances, organised by teachers of other styles, which continues to promote Raqs Sharqi to new audiences as well as fostering good relations with other dance professionals.

During their work together, Ellie and Diane have taken responsibility for all the creative and organisational work, learning enormously together whilst remaining firm friends. Ellie enjoys creating events, because it gives enormous satisfaction to put her creative ideas into reality and working with Diane is incredibly rewarding.

In 2012 Ellie took a break from dancing as she was studying for a post graduate qualification in her day job as a feline veterinary surgeon and was also busy getting married. 

Currently, Ellie is renewing her love of the dance and researching other movement forms such as contact improvisation and yoga. Ellie plans to continue performing and teaching when the opportunity arises. In her dance, Ellie’s interests are how to unite contemporary and traditional forms, and she enjoys experimenting with dance. She is also interested in the mind-body connection, and how this affects our lives and our dance

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Antoinette Debrit

My interest in Oriental dance began in 1996 when I attended workshops in Switzerland that led me later to the MagicaDance Studio in Milan and its many distinguished guest teachers.

Among those who had a great influence on me were Yusri Sharif, Leila Haddad, Liza Wedgwood and Judy Hammond. I was especiallyfascinated by the Raqs Sharqi style taught by Liza and Judy- and so found the Raqs Sharqi Society's spring and summer residential schools in Winchester, which I attended for many years from 1998 onwards.

I also attended Juliana Brustik's 2 yearly workshops in Switzerland as well as workshops by Anna Rimbotti, Beatrice Grognard , Judy Hammond, Anne Ashcroft and Anne White.

The yearly intensive residentials for advanced dancers run by Juliana Brustik and
Judy Hammond in Haileybury College, featuring top musicians and specially designed bodywork had an immense influence on my own development as a performer and teacher.

By the end of 2009 I was teaching 10 weekly classes and organising annual performances in my studio in Lugano and elsewhere. From 2011 decided to take a break from teaching dance to devote more time to my family and studying yoga. Currently I continue to teach 2 weekly Raqs Sharqi dance classes, 3 yoga classes and also work as a Tetra healer.

I continue attending advanced level weekends with the Society's leading teachers. The residentials  in Haileybury have really helped me connect to my inner self and find my own personal expression in the dance.

As a teacher I love sharing my knowledge with other women and helping them to find their own creativity in the dance.

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Tamsin Elbourn

Tamsin was born and raised in the UK and is currently based in Cambridge. Always having had a passion for dance she started Egyptian dance classes at the age of ten. Throughout her teenage years she was taught by Anji Jackson-Main, Pauline Sayhi, Judy Hammond and Liza Wedgwood and became increasingly enamoured with the joyous, empowering and soulful form of Raqs Sharqi. The history and cultural variations of the dance – among them sharqi, baladi and shaabi – has always fascinated her.

In particular, her love for the classical form of the dance ‘sharqi’ grew and she performed her first solo rendition of ‘Tamra Henna’ at the Raqs Sharqi Society Showcase performance in London at the age of 14.

Tamsin joined Tabeeya Dance Company shortly afterwards and has choreographed and performed with them ever since. She studied dance for GCSE and A Level where she gained contemporary experience and performed her final exam piece in the Raqs Sharqi form – which the examiners had never seen before. She has also trained with Juliana Brustik, Beatrice Grognard, Sara Kahan and has recently attended Suraya Hilal’s classes. Her dancing has been described as vibrant and skilful, which is translated into every movement and expression, and a joy to watch.

Additionally, whilst reading History at the University of Leeds, Tamsin also found her love for Brazilian samba and now performs with the London School of Samba on a regular basis, finding that, in many respects, the two dance forms complement one another. She continues to develop and explore her knowledge of world dance.

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Anita Epstein

Anita was born in South Africa and lives in the UK. She is based in West Hertfordshire and London.
 
Anita discovered Raqs Sharqi Society Egyptian Dance in 2002 and was inspired to study its rich language to achieve her own authentic expression in movement. She has trained regularly with senior teachers and strives to progress and develop her dance training with regular practice of yoga, Pilates, Alexander Technique, swimming and country walks.

She also trains weekly in Hilal Dance, a richly holistic and integrated contemporary dance form. She is interested in the historical, social, musical and cultural contexts of Egyptian dance, and has made a number of study-trips to Egypt and other countries with strong traditional and Arabic dance traditions. These have been invaluable in her learning and provided immensely enjoyable experience in working with musicians.
 
Anita’s dance has a warm strong expressive energy and she aims to integrate her intensive training and experience in her performance and teaching work.
 
In addition to her performance work whether solo, with her student performance group Mizmara or with the Tabeeya Dance Company, Anita runs weekly classes, holds workshops and regularly presents demonstrations and short lectures for local groups. Her focus as a teacher is to provide a thorough grounding in technique, guidance on musicality and self-expression so students develop themselves as dancers and performers. As the Egyptian Dance Instructor at Champneys (Tring) Health Resort for eight years, her strong and elegant style and clear teaching skills earned the admiration and respect of the many Middle Eastern residents and guests. She continues to run special workshops there from time to time.

You can find out more about Anita’s classes in West Hertfordshire at www.yalladance.com


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Erna Frohlich

Erna Fröhlich has a long background in dance. She trained in Gymnastics as well as in Expressive and Contemporary Dance in Cologne and Munich, before she began to study Oriental Dance in 1986.

Attracted by the beauty of that dance and music, she specialised in Raqs Sharqi as taught by the teachers of the former Suraya Hilal School and particularly by Liza Wedgwood.

In 1992 she founded her studio “Taqsim” in Munich teaching regularly classes and workshops for many years now. Since then she works together with Liza Wedgwood performing several programmes on stage as well as teaching residential courses and dance holidays in Germany and Austria.

Being fascinated by the subtle bodylanguage and the soulful expression of Raqs Sharqi it is one of Ernas main interests to explore the dramatical potential of this beautiful dance on stage.

She created the programme “...while my soul was travelling elsewhere”, using motifs of the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. Other programmes followed using various possibilities of interaction between lyrics, poetry, music and dance.

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Kim Hall

Kim began her dancing career as a child studying ballet but then quickly became heavily involved in a gymnastics career spanning 10 years. During this time she was a National squad member for artistic gymnastics, became British Champion in Sports Acrobatics as a mixed pair and was a Great Britain squad member performing at the Royal Albert Hall. In the latter stages of her gymnastics career, she competed as a Rhythmic gymnast and eventually ran her own club and choreographed for many youngsters. She then qualified as a Chartered Physiotherapist and became the National Gymnastics coach for the British men’s disabilities team.

In 2000, Kim began yearning to perform again and accidently stumbled upon a belly dance summer school. Two years later she saw the work of Suraya Hilal and was completely bowled over by at last finding a great and challenging new pathway to pursue! Kim has since studied with Anji Jackson-Main, Aurora Gercke, Barbara York, Lisa Wedgwood, Suraya Hilal and Beatrice Grognard. She has also worked with the Musicians of the Nile in Belgium and Luxor, which then inspired her passion to create traditional Egyptian percussion and music with youngsters in the UK. She is the newest member of the dance company Tabeeya which she joined 3 years ago.

She currently runs her own dance, percussion and Baladi band and performance group for children ranging from 5 to 16, known as Rhythms of Egypt Drum and Dance. This group comprises 30 plus dancers and 25 young musicians. For the past two years the group has entered the Music for Youth World Music Awards and this year the dancers will perform live with tabla, dhola and the Baladi band. Especially exciting are the young group of Male Tahtib dancers who perform regularly with the group both in dance festivals and professional dance shows. Kim has also combined her teaching of Raqs Sharqi with her physiotherapy background by enabling adults with a learning disability to enjoy this fantasic way of expressing themselves often in a performance situation.

Kim is more usually known as” the double stick dancer,” where her gymnastics background enables her to perform an exciting Ghawazee style of the dance, mostly performed whilst improvising to live music from Sheikh Taha, Tim Garside, Ibrahim and Ali El Minyawi, Guy Schalom, El Gamal Accordi and Emile Bassili (and more recently by a young talented 13 year old tabla player Miss Poppy Hall, her own resident drummer!)

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Federica Lanfranchi

My love of Middle Eastern music began during long childhood summers spent with my  family in Greece and Turkey. It led me to discover the dance in 1998 in Milan, when I met Silvia Bigi, my first Egyptian dance and flamenco teacher and student of Suraya Hilal.

In 2004 I attended Judy Hammond's Raqs Sharqi Society-style workshop in Milan. Her deep body work and Moving Mindfully Technique completely won me over! That workshop was decisive for my future training and I felt I had found the form of dance I wanted to study.

Since 2007 I have attended the Spring School at Haileybury College, Hertfordshire, every year. This residential for advanced dancers and teachers features live music and is taught by Judy Hammond and Juliana Brustik, whose workshops I also attended in Florence and Lugano.

In 2008 I began to attend Béatrice Grognard's annual workshops -  in Florence and in 2010 in Luxor, with live music by the Musicians of the Nile. I took part in 2012 and 2013 in Béatrice's show “Oum Kalthoum: Danced Story of a Myth” dedicated to the life and great voice of the Middle East, a multi-media project of Alessandro Puliti of the El Hayat Association of Florence.

From 2008 to 2010 I attended Anna Rimbotti's monthly master class for teachers in Florence and have also attended Society workshops and events with Anne Benveniste, Anne White, Lillian Malki and Sarah Kahan.  Live music with renowned musicians was a feature at these events.

In 2014, I began to study with Assala Ibrahim, another inspiring teacher who works with a Raqs Sharqi/Tribal Fusion.I began teaching Egyptian dance to promote the Raqs Sharqi style, offering weekly classes in Milan. Currently with my friend Angela who teaches tango, we are creating “SpaziOasi”, a new space in the center of Milan dedicated to dance and body disciplines such as pilates, yoga, Feldenkreis and NiaÒ.

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Diane Petty

I began studying Egyptian dance in 1994 and was lucky enough to be introduced to the earthy and grounded style of the then Hilal School of Raqs Sharqi and regularly attended Anne Ashcrofts workshops in Portsmouth and later Juliana Brustiks. 

I also attended as many Workshops and Residentials with Senior teachers as I could, including Terri Hardy and Katrina Robinson. In recent years I have also studied with Beatrice Grognard, Sara Kahan and Anne White. Aliya Burch was another knowledgeable and encouraging teacher. I performed with her in “Dances of the Nile” 2002 and 2003. I`ve visited Egypt many times and love the culture and music and also had lessons with well known Cairo dancers. 

I`ve performed and taught workshops at numerous dance events throughout the years  In 2006 Ellie Atkinson and I formed a partnership to further our creative skills and ideas. Our aims are to raise the profile of Egyptian Dance in Dorset, foster good relations with other styles of Middle Easter Dance and bring guest Raqs Sharqi style teachers to Dorset. We have our own website: www.raqssharqidorset.co.uk we also have a You Tube channel www.youtube.com/user/raqsdorset 

We have performed at many local events, arranged Haflas and workshops, but or biggest achievements to date have been our very successful shows “ Of Egyptian Dance” that we have co-produced and directed.  These were LEYLA KEBYRA in 2007, AYOUM SAEEDA 2008 performed in both Dorset and Portsmouth areas, and CHARACTERS of the MOULID performed in Dorchester and Portsmouth in 2010.  We have raised over £4000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer from show proceeds and also from DVDs of the shows.
I really enjoy working on  “creating”  a show, including choreography, set design and also designing and making the costumes. Working with Ellie on these projects has been incredibly rewarding. I still continue to work on my dancing and really enjoy the opportunity to attend workshops with musicians.

Recently I have been performing and choreographing dances for local events, shows and Haflas, and continue to promote the Raqs Sharqi style of dancing.


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Sabrina Sartori

Biography To Follow
















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