Theatrical Bellydance Conference | New York City

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We wish to bring people together, to allow diverse artists to find common ground and interests. This is an environment where dancers of all bellydance styles can work together in classes, learn together and learn from each other. The instructors, who come from a variety of bellydance genres and backgrounds of experience, will be offering workshops that will have something for everyone; not just focused on genre-specific bellydance technique, but more on universals that everyone can feel a part of, and that you can apply to your own work.

Our 2013 Conference Directorial Team

  • Anasma Co-Director Anasma is a performance arts dancer, teacher, choreographer, and artistic director. With Ranya Renee, she co-directs the Theatrical Bellydance Project. To her, dance is an expression of the self and of the soul that enables each dancer to share their deepest emotions and to be in the Now. Drawing from her cross-training in multiple arts forms (bellydance, hip hop, acting, miming, yoga, gymnastics, salsa, wushu, flamenco, modern jazz, contemporary Simonson technique, African, ballet…), Anasma focuses on making dance meaningful and touching through storytelling, character development, and aesthetic powerful movement.Half Tunisian and Vietnamese, living between Paris and New York City, Anasma was naturally drawn to mixing art forms to express who she is through performance and teaching. Thus her World Dance fusions(Hip Hop Bellydance Liquid fusion, wushu bellydance, salsa bellydance …) are a mix between the ethnic and the urban components of her personal background and her present life.Seen in five continents and more than 30 countries, Anasma currently tours Europe, North and South America, and Asia to teach and perform. Anasma is featured in numerous performance DVDs, instructional DVDs, and a CD: “Bellydance Hip Hop Liquid Fusion,” “Wave Explosion,” “Bellydance Experience,” “Bellydance NYC: the Ultimate Fusion Experience,” “Fantasy Bellydance,” “Tarot Bellydance,” and “40 days and 1001 Nights,” and Pete List’s album “Songs for Kassar.” In 2012, she wrote, sang, recorded and released her first album, “Chance is Back,” produced by Blastermind. Since 1997, Anasma has performed and taught in dance festivals, intensives, theater shows, TV shows and concerts. From 2006 to 2009, Anasma worked with Bellyqueen as one of their principal dancers. In 2008, Anasma co-founded and co-directs the New York Theatrical Bellydance Conference with Ranya Renee. The project is presented in NYC, Paris, Stockholm … In 2009, Anasma created the interactive dance show “On Your Marks, Get Set, Dance!”/ “Avanti, Danziamo!”/”A vos boitiers, prets, dansez!” where the audience suggests themes for the performers to improvise to. It is presented in Paris, Rome, NYC, and Milan. In 2011, she teamed up with Zoe Anwar to create a new interactive show called “Animal City.” In 2010, Anasma founded WORLD CITIZEN DANCE, her production company.Join Anasma on Facebook.
  • Ranya Renée Co-Director Ranya has trained in Arabic language and music for many years, produces live music and dance workshops and concerts, and conducts original research in the Middle East. A protégée of New York’s Yousry Sharif, Ranya also studies with other Egyptian masters including Mahmoud Reda, Mona El Said, Raqia Hassan, Aida Nour, and others. Ranya performs and teaches internationally, with past engagements in Japan, Taiwan, Canada, France, Italy, Norway, Honduras, Israel, and Tunisia. In New York City and around North America, she has danced at museums and cultural festivals as well as in large stage shows. She has been featured twice at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festval with virtuoso Simon Shaheen’s Near East Music Ensemble. The Tunisian cultural minister for dance commissioned her solo danse orientale performance early in her professional career, accompanied by the Tunisian Troupe Nationale orchestra, for a large gala event in Tunis. Ranya has also performed dance presentations at Central Park Summerstage, the United Nations, the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum, universities, and Arabic clubs and cultural functions, including weddings. As a dancer-actress, she performed with Alessandra Belloni in the Passion opera as Mary Magdalena at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. Television appearances include Good Morning America and programs in Europe, Central America, and the Middle East. Ranya has been interviewed on women’s fitness by Self Magazine and Fox News Online. The New York Times’ Weekend section featured Ranya on its cover in August 1998. The New York Press said of her show: “Ranya is a vision…you can’t take your eyes off her.” In reviewing her August 2001 Lincoln Center performance, the Village Voice praised the “classy, poetic fluidity of her gestures and isolations.” Respected dance master Elena Lentini has called her dancing “luxurious.” Ranya brings her decades of theatrical experience as an actor, director, and acting coach to her work with dancers, and identifies links between physical, energetic, and emotional aspects of the dance in giving feedback to performers who train with her. Ranya’s “Breathwork for Performance” techniques, which she has been developing since 1996, help dancers build confidence in themselves and build a relationship with audiences. She has trained dancers all over the world in these techniques, and has presented related research and teaching material at the Second International Conference on Middle Eastern Dance (California) and at the International Bellydance Conference of Canada (Toronto). Ranya directs professional and student ensembles (including her company Maqamikaze), and has contributed to off-Broadway and independent productions and performing groups in this capacity as well. Ranya has also served as curator for the “Dance at Alwan” series at the Alwan for the Arts Arab cultural center in Lower Manhattan. Visit for more about Ranya’s work.
  • Blanca Associate Director, education and curriculum Born in Mexico and based in New York City, Blanca is a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and workshop leader. She incorporates metaphysical elements into her work and infuses her students with pure self-confidence. Blanca sees belly dance as a tool for communication, a performing art, and a compelling storytelling device all in one. She likens it to a yoga practice, something that can lead students to a different kind of enlightenment and awareness. Blanca appears in a dance scene in the movie Sex and the City 2 and has been featured in 11 DVDs, including Sensual Bellydance, which features her technique and dance style. Blanca has performed onstage with Alabina and Gogol Bordello. She has appeared with famous burlesque and film star Dita Von Teese. Her television credits include the Bollywood Music Awards (aired worldwide) as well as multiple appearances on Spanish television networks Univision and Telemundo, Fox, and BBC. She has performed at venues as diverse as Trump’s Taj Mahal, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Lincoln Center. She is a faculty member at the 92Y and teaches weekly classes at Serena Studios. Blanca has led workshops across the USA (including the Rakkasah East Festival) and Mexico. Upcoming workshops include Festival Isis in the Dominican Republic. Other credits include: Rolling Stone, Universal Pictures, MTV, and Disney. Over the past few years she performed, choreographed and produced in a variety of shows and workshops with her previous dance collectives Venus Uprising and

  • Aszmara Associate Director, curated performance programs “Dance is emotion in motion” describes accurately the quality of Aszmara’s dance. Performing and teaching workshops regularly in the USA and Europe, she is one of New York’s best interpreters of the ethnic dance. She impresses through her expressive stage presence and interprets the music with her own blend of modern and ethnic Arab and Turkish dance. The New York Timesdescribes her dance as “intense.”Throughout her over three decade career as a teacher and performer, Aszmara’s performances range from pure cabaret entertainment to full concert stage, creating themed concert events as well as innovative dances. Her choreography has graced many New Rochelle Opera Companies productions (currently working on Turandot) as well as many New York city dancers. As a master teacher she teaches master and beginner’s classes with the same enthusiasm. Her deep love of the dance and teaching shines out to all in her classes, bringing out the expressive passion in her students. A wonderfully clear, down-to-earth, funny, good-natured teacher, she transports you to new levels of intensity and focus. Her workshops, thus, are highly appreciated both by professional dancers as well as by beginners. Proudly, she is an adjunct professor since 2002 at the College of New Rochelle as well as the advisor for their step team, Black Ice. Aszmara’s instructional DVD, Belly Dance … The Secret Desire, won high praise from Habibimagazine for its educational value.In 1988, Aszmara with Roberta Koch co-founded SaZ Dance Theatre, a groundbreaking multi-cultural dance company. Classical Indian, Spanish, Afro-Haitian, Cuban, and Middle Eastern techniques were blended with modern movements to create an exciting and eclectic dance form. NYC productions were at The Knitting Factory, The Moving Company, Movements Afoot, Evolving Arts Theatre at Dance Space, SounDance Repertory, and in 1993 and 1996 had two weeklong runs at SoHo’s Ohio Theatre, where Jack Anderson of The New York Times wrote their production of “Out of Time”was “explicitly dramatic” and “a fascinating assortment of brief pieces.”Oriental Images was formed in the mid 1980’s along with Carmen Evan and Majda Mudell Fisher with the idea to educate and entertain audiences with the rich culture of the Middle East. For 15 years they produced yearly events which were highly regarded in the Middle Eastern Dance community with workshops and concerts presenting folkloric and classic Oriental dance for the theater stage. In 1997, Oriental Images received the AAMEDHall of Fame award.Since 1989, she has toured yearly in Switzerland with the ethnic/jazz fusion music group Transition with master musicians Haig Manoukian, Souren Baronian, and Cornelia Kraft,who blend traditional music from Armenia & the Middle East with jazz. Aszmara has been teaching weeklong dance workshops in Switzerland once a year since 1991 as well as weeklong dance & drumming workshops along with drumming instructor Cornelia Kraft since 1999.Aszmara embodies theatrical passion. Her performances delve deeply into the soul of the music and demand the audience’s attention. Her passionate connection to the music and her informed teaching are truly unforgettable with an electric excitement of music and dance created in the space between choreography and improvisation. Visit
  • Meet Our Fantastic 2013 Conference Staff

  • Jessenia was born and raised in NYC, with a Nicaraguan heritage. Growing up, she watched cartoons and classic comedians obsessively, leading to a love for comedy and the vintage. Ten years ago, she discovered bellydance and later joined her college’s bellydance club, where she choreographed performances with a comedic or tragic theatrical flair.
  • Nisreen was introduced to Middle Eastern dance in New York City in 2004, and has been shimmying ever since! Her travels around the country have brought her together with great teachers in Minnesota, Ohio, and Texas; now that she’s back in NYC, she is working with her primary teacher, Ranya Renée, to coordinate projects including the monthly Arabic Night series at Jebon.
  • Eris Bisal is the founder of Tribe Integrate, a dance troupe that embellishes the ancient art of bellydance with modern dance techniques for an exciting twist. She teaches tribal fusion style bellydance.
  • Kai-Ti Kao, stage manager, was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, and moved to Seattle in 2000 to begin her training in theater with Dr. Tawnya Pettiford-Wates. Since moving to New York in 2002, Ms. Kao has been involved in the theatre in many different capacities. She co-directed and performed in Mango Tribe’s The Creation Mythology Project and also served as the co-director for YaliniDream’s Strange Rain at the first National Asian American Theater Festival. As an original founding member of The Conciliation Project, she strives to use the performing arts as a platform to bridge the gap between cultures, genders, races, and classes. This is her second time working with the wonderful members at the Theatrical Bellydance Conference.
  • Sophia Ma, operations manager at the Museum of Chinese in America, was born in Guangzhou, China. After moving to New York in 1995, Sophia studied art and art history at The City College of New York, where she was introduced to bellydance in a school club. She went on to study and perform as a bellydancer under Alchemy Dance Theater’s student troupe with Sarah Locke and Irina Akulenko, and to meet great dancers in the field, such as Kaeshi Chai, Ranya Renée, and Anasma Vuong. Utilizing her talent for organization and management, these directors of dance companies gave Sophia stage management opportunities. This is the second time she is working with the Theatrical Bellydance Conference.
  • Kelley McKinnon , is thrilled to join up with the Theatrical Bellydance Conference. She has Directed, Assistant Directed and Stage Managed for the American Globe Theater and the American Shakespeare Center in addition to new works with the Turnip Festival in NYC.
  • Tara-Marie Mahootian (“Tee”Marie) is a devoTee of the Sacred Feminine (-its beauty, grace, spirit, power and sensuality-) as manifested in multivariate forms in all cultures, across time, and in both genders. She is a Brooklyn resident, cancer survivor and mother of three. Licensed as a Clinical Social Worker in 4 states, she has worked in various mental health agencies and maintained a private practice of analytic and transpersonal psychotherapy along the Georgetown waterfront in Wash., D.C. for many years. She cultivates an interest in middle eastern dance and music with a “whole”-istic psychology of mind-body balance and integration. She conducts a personal and scholarly pursuit of the melding of pre-cognitive, primordial dimensions of the body & psyche through various media as a portal to shared archetypal, interpersonal, transcendent experience. She is a former member of the Washington Area Middle Eastern Dance Assn (WAMEDA) and has danced professionally in the Washington Metropolitan area. She also enjoys playing percussion with her husband, Farzad.
  • Farzad Mahootian has enjoyed middle eastern dance since he was in utero. At NYU he teaches the intertwined global history of ideas, as captured by various cultures through their sacred texts and other great works of literature, art and spirit. Formally trained in philosophy and chemistry, his personal interests center on the art-science interface where metaphor, myth, poetry and technology activate creativity. He enjoys all forms of music and dance, especially fusions of traditional and modern cultures, and plays congas and djembe with Park Slope’s Fifth Street band.
  • Amina (Wendellyn Ladapo) Director of Zazzua Dance Company has studied dance 18 years within the North African Diaspora and 10 years specifically dedicated to belly dance technique. She has studied Classical/Modern Oriental, Folkoric Egyptian, Turkish and American Tribal Style (ATS) belly dance. Amina has studied and received certification under Carolina Nerricio within the American Tribal Style-Fat Chance Belly Dance format (Jan 2010). She has trained under Megha of Devyani, Yousry Sharif Prodigy- Mary Gaston, Anasma of World Citizen Dance/ Co-Director of New York Theatrical Belly Dance Conference, Samara Choreographer and New York Raqs Sharqi Artist and Mira Betz. Other influences and training include Yousry Sharif, Mohammed Shahin, and Aszmara of AMMED Award Winning Middle Eastern Dance Company and many more!

    Amina began studying belly dance under the instruction of Julie Downum of Urban Tribal and Andrea Perkins at Zanzibar Studio in Chattanooga, TN in 2004. She took a Mother/Daughter belly dance class at the invitation of a friend since she was unable to continue with Modern dance classes due to lack of adult classes. Amina instantly fell in love with the art form and has studied extensively ever since. Amina has expanded her knowledge of the belly dance art form known as Raqs Sharqi under the direction of Mary Gaston of Love Lotus. These forms include Classical and Modern Oriental, traditional Egyptian and Turkish.
    Zazzua under the direction of Amina offers the unique ability to combine singing, dancing and theater for special events. Performances include public and private venues throughout the Southeast/Eastern United States. We have been featured on stage in Chattanooga’s annual 14 day event “Riverbend”, “Skyfest Regional Show & Expo” in Rockmart, GA, West Kentucky Rootsworker Festival, Chattanooga Culturefest, the Chattanooga Zoo Annual Fundraiser the “Banana Ball”, Bessie Smith Cultural Holiday Event and the University of Tennessee Culturefest. Zazzua has also produced and participated in other theatrical productions most recently “The Silk Road”, “Cairo Blues Yesterday and Today”, “Night of the Oasis”, “Collaboration and Creation: The Edge of Music and Dance”.

  • Jenny is co-founder of World Belly Dance Alliance, an Atlanta based organization dedicated to the preservation and betterment of the dance community. With a diverse background including dance, martial arts, personal training, event planning, marketing, and public relations, she teaches and performs a fusion style of belly dance incorporating other dance genres.
    In addition to WBDA projects, Jenny can be found collaborating and working with other dancers and musicians. She recently returned from touring with Aviva and the Flying Penguins, an Atlanta based band, and is currently working on a dance theater production.
    World Belly Dance Alliance was created as a way to give back to a community Jenny feels has given her so much. Jenny believes everyone should do what they love – frequently and intensely!

  • A lifelong dancer, Nabila has been performing dance and theater with her signature dynamic flair in the New York area for more than 15 years. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, she has extensive studies in several dance forms. She began studying Middle Eastern dance with the legendary Serena Wilson and went on to study with Azza Amon, Ranya Renée, Anahid Sofian, Dalia Carella, and Elena Lentini, among others.

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