Belly dancer workshops set the beat on Salt Spring

“You can feel your femininity,” she said. “You get a good feeling.”

October 23, 2014

Every day as part of my morning exercises, I do a tad of belly dancing.

Years ago, I discovered when I belly danced outside in a secluded area of a Winnipeg park that I could soar into a place of spiritual high if I kept doing an infinity-style belly dance step over and over again. There is nothing like inducing a natural high in oneself. This– as far as I am concerned — is a form of pure love.

It was in the months after I birthed my son that I decided to take a belly dance workshop. My body had changed so much and I hoped I would get back in touch with it through the Middle Eastern dance. Belly dance did the trick.

I also learned that the tradition is for women to teach their girls about the nature of sex through experiencing belly dance. It is also a form of support to women who are giving birth. It made me proud that it came from my Arabic background as my ancestry on my father’s maternal side of the family is of Lebanese descent.

The woman who taught the class was from Germany of all places. She told me that people attended belly dance performances in droves and packed huge theatres in her home country. “German are very thorough about anything we do,” she explained. To practice the basis belly dance moves over and over again — the repetition — is something Germans do very well, according to her.

On Salt Spring Island, in the late 1990s, I became friends with a woman from Germany. And, guess what? Her children’s father was a belly dance instructor who she decided to invite to do workshops on the island. One of the first articles I wrote for the Driftwood, when I was hired as a reporter, was about this upcoming event.
Read on:

Gulf Islands Driftwood
September 29, 1999
Belly dancer workshops set to beat on Salt Spring
by Tanya Lester

Hips will sway to the beat of authentic belly dance music when renowned Egyptian instructor, choreographer and musician Samy Abdo leads a series of workshops in Mahon Hall from October 12 to 15.

Abdo, who now resides in Munich, has taught dance throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. He has also appeared on television, and many of the dancers he has taught have become professionals.

Renate Jung, the Salt Spring Island spokeswoman for Abdo, said participants will learn body coordination; isolated muscular movement; to step to the rhythm and beat of the music; and to use those steps in free dance.

“You can feel your femininity,” she said. “You get a good feeling.”

Jung said Abdo believes one of his major accomplishments was working with a woman who could only crawl when he first met her after she suffered severe leg injuries. After three months she started to improve and was dancing in a year. Today she is a professional dancer.

In Europe, when Abdo begins drummung for his dancers, a hush falls over the audience, Jung said. This is unusual as belly dance is often only background music in restaurants and night clubs.

Abdo began drumming when he was four years old. When he first heard the sound of the drums he spent over an hour searching for the source of its beat. After he found the man who played it, Abdo sat on his doorstep until the drummer came home, asking him if he could learn to play the instrument.

At six years old, he was drumming in the school music group. This was followed by performances at weddings and street festivals, and Abdo was improvising with street musicians by age 11.

As a young adult Abdo worked in the desert as a meteorologist. He took advantage of the three days on, four days off work schedule to play in the big bands with professional singers and dancers.

After travelling throughout the Middle East and Europe, Abdo moved to Germany where he met his first wife.

In his 30s he was playing in a nightclub. When the Arabic belly dancer became ill, he asked a woman who always came to watch the dance if she would be interested in learning. After he taught her the minimal movements, she began to perform. When people asked about who had taught her, Abdo started instructing others.

According to Jung, this opened up a “treasure within him” in which he discovered that he was a talented teacher. She attributes this to instinct as well as his many years of observing and absorbing belly dance.

Abdo’s goal when he comes to Salt Spring is to increase the number of belly dancers and drummers here. “With his clear teaching and his use of rules, belly dancers will have a richer experience,” Jung said….

To read the first posts in this blog, go to
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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or go to the author and title name (to read the first few pages and buy it) at
Tanya Lester’s other books are Friends I Never Knew, Dreams & Tricksters and Women Rights/Writes. They are available in some libraries and at the Provincial Legislative Library of Manitoba.


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