Art/ Dance Academy

  Keep the Culture in Arabic Dance. Open Borders for ALL Movement!


Identity Crisis! To Be Or NotTo Be

Posted by [email protected] on August 28, 2019 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)


After being a professional dancer and instructor for over 40 years I realized the pain that I had been feeling for the past 5 years was not going away. I had been ignoring the signs of an aging dancer. I had never stopped dancing. Had never taken time off. In fact even vacations were always dance vacations. Then it dawned on me that this is the beginning of the end of my dance career. At some point in our lives all dancers face this in one form or another.




So, I cut back. Started just coaching instead of teaching classes. Cut back on teaching workshops when I broke my right big toe 3 days before a workshop in San Diego. Taught the first day in excruciating pain. The next day it was a no can do. My husband ended up running the class for me. Figured a rest and healing of my foot would take care of it. Guess what? I was wrong! The pain did get better with rest of both the foot and the Periphiral Neuropathy. I did learn that I was overdoing things and that by letting up some the pain eased off.




Our lives are intertwined forever. In life, in love and in our careersMorwenna & Walid




At first it was nice, no pressure but then I realized things were not getting done. I really had no idea what to do with myself. I felt lonely. I was terrified! Who am I? I felt like I had lost everything. I did not know who I was. I was losing everything. Or at least anything that meant anything to me. Although unplanned, it made me think seriously about my career and what I really wanted out of life at this time of my life. It has left me in a situation where I am dealing with insurance, doctors, and unable to pay bills. I realize I am not a kid anymore. Had my 79th birthday last week. So I have had to ask, what do I really want?




These are all questions that need to be answered.




  1. What do I do with myself? - What other dance related things can I do? Movement classes like Pilates, Somatics or Yoga. Nutrition has always been a thing I was interested in. Writing dance books and blogging. learn podcasting and video casting. Prepare for retirement show in Ct next April
  2. Give yourself space to rest. - Get healthy again.
  3. Stay involved with dance in other ways? Writing is one way. Running things on line. Taking a trip to Lebanon again to do research. Help husband set up his side of the business. Talk to other dancers.
  4. Remove yourself entirely? - This is not an option for me. How about you?
  5. Stay on a schedule - As a dancer and teacher our lives are very regimented. Structure your days. This helps combat symptoms of depression.
  6. Celebrate small victories? - Mentally maintain a sense of momentum. Somatics are my main source of exercises which keeps me sane. I need to move and it is healthy for me.
  7. Find other creative outlets? - Write, blog, paint, podcast, sing. Use the same amount of energy you used in the dance
  8. Cross-train? - Do something physical. Again somatics, pilates or yoga. Look for ways to keep your body in shape and moving forward. Use it or lose it!
  9. Find a group? Do not allow yourself to get isolated. Find a friend or group that holds your interest. Even a book club.
  10. Take advantage of the time off. - Take classes, socialize Build other parts of your personality regardless of age.







Yes, this is my future plan for my retirement. No more classes. Coaching instead. I am done running from state to state teaching. Yes, even country to country. I have loved every moment of it but now it is too exhausting. I look at what is written above and realize I have so many choices to make and still be in the dance I love so. I have had a wonderful career and do not regret one moment of it. It is time for family and loved ones. I thank God for my love of this dance form, my talent and the people it has brought into my life. It will always be a part of me.




So anyone who is going through a similar situation. Sit down and ask yourself the above questions. Turn yourself around and see where you can be aiming. By being calm and rational you can find the answers. Yes, sometimes one has to dig deep. But, the answers are there, inside you. The only thing I ask is that you treat dance with respect. There is a time when we each have to step aside and leave the stage and classroom to the younger ones we have trained. We leave its destiny in their hands. Our job is done. I have done my best and hope you have too. That is all that is important. Yes, I am still a dancer at heart.







Written by Morwenna Assaf, owner/Choreographer and Producer of Art/Dance Academy-El Fen, being located in Jefferson County, TN., Oceanside, CA & South Eastern MA and Rhode Island. 760-715-2276
[email protected] [email protected] [email protected]



Posted by [email protected] on July 19, 2019 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)


I am a firm believer that dance classes at all levels should really be held in person. The student and instructor need to be together in the same room. Yet, on the other hand there are times and situations where this is impossible. So, yes, there is a need for on line coaching and classes. As time goes by and as I have moved from a city where cultural development was everywhere to a location where culture might as well be a foreign word. Today, I see a need for online teaching. While not a replacement for studio training, Online classes gain a particular following.

Musicians can learn from a sore but dancers have always learned from person to person. The true work of dancers still remains solidly in the studio. A dance student needs personal feedback. It is the older generation of students not the kids who go for online classes. They are far less experienced and confident in their abilities but are fascinated by dance. So the appeal is there, especially for beginners. It suits their timetable, their level and held in the comfort and privacy of their own home.

These particular students find that they may make fools of themselves in a dance classroom. At home there is little risk of embarrassment. Afterwards they might sign up for an in studio class. These aging students are realizing a new consciousness of exercise, nutrition, and fitness. An adult beginner class is a big seller. For a lot of adults a beginner class in a studio is too advanced. Classes need to be developed for these people

There are also adults who want to learn how to dance, but many of them do not have access to a studio who offers these classes for adults. It takes a lot from the instructor who already has to have the knowledge to teach good classes in technique and knows how to work with adults and not children and teens. An instructor needs to start posting instructional videos, teaching herself how to film, edit and post material. These classes need to be paid for. They need to be in an interactive format, where you can see the student and she can see the instructor. It needs to be a a completely judgment-free zone for the student. The instructor does not want the student/students to feel self-conscious or that they have to be perfect before even starting.

Classes can be run on Skype or Zoom depending on the preference. Chat boxes are great where students can ask questions, get answers and then can be saved saved to website so students in different time zones can watch later. Classes can be offered from 30 minutes to 1 & 1/2 hrs. I offer coaching sessions that work this way. Classes can be scheduled from weekly to anything the teacher decides.

Dance classes of all types are offered. Everything from Ballet, Yoga, and Pilates. International dance styles like Flamenco, Arabic Style/Belly Dance, Folk styles, and Hula etc. can all be found. Plus anything else you might be interested in. The technology can be frustrating at times but it connects with a global audience which is a bonus.

There are also platforms that offer on line systems. Research places like Yes Course, Teachable, Thinkific and Course Craft. Do your home work and decide from there if teaching this way or taking classes this way is for you. My studio is called Art/Dance Academy. I offer a variety of classes that are designed just for the student. YOU! I do coaching for students of any level on Skype or Zoom. My classes on a platform are based on my books. So, everything from playing Finger Cymbals to Choreography or Improvisation and everything in between. Contact [email protected] for information. Check our website at https://Art/DanceAcademy-El Call us at 760-715-2276 or 865-375-0446. Please leave a message. We are always expanding our services. Arabic Drumming and Musicality will be offered the autumn of 2019.



Posted by [email protected] on June 6, 2019 at 6:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Using Your Upper Body in Dance


Epaulement should be a natural part of your dancing. This term epaulement actually means shouldering in French. This is in fact a fallacy as it has nothing to do with the shoulders per se. Using epaulement can elevate your technical proficiency. It can be a be subtle dynamic and exciting. It is the punctuation at the end of a sentence. The head and eyes are the exclamation point.


Epaulement gives gives a third dimension to the dance. It shades what you are doing and gives it depth and color. It creates energy from the inside out. Yes, the shoulders move. But it is movement that involves the rib cage upwards. The whole upper body is utilized – ribs, shoulders, neck, head, arms, hands and even the eyes. Look a beautiful statue (say Venus) and flatten out the front, remove the angling of the torso and shoulders. Now it is just plain uninteresting!


Tricks of the Trade:

1. Do a combination with a fan. This will give you the feeling of having to lift chest, shoulders and head in opposition. The pretend you have a fan and do the same combination.

2. Do not overturn your body to the corner. It makes you look like a washing machine, throwing yourself from side to side. Why? Because there is no opposition.

3. Do not let your movement end at the neck. Energy needs to run through your complete torso, lengthened waist, lifted chest, swan neck, and eyes that look and see.

4. Do not forget epaulement in fast work. This makes your work even more exciting.

5. Do not sacrifice epaulement for height in extensions. See where the head and arms should be. Put these in your muscle memory. Now extend!

6. Do not let your collarbone be parallel to the floor. Strive for it to be on a diagonal. This comes from having life in the waist, back and chest.

7. Do not overturn your chin to your downstage shoulder when on a diagonal/croise. Turn your face ahead, then tilt the head allowing the jaw to move in space as the chest lifts simultaneously.


It Is The Little Things That Count

Posted by [email protected] on March 20, 2019 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

To begin dancers are told to not work so hard. Make it look effortless. What does that mean? How do you achieve this? Dancing with efficiency helps you conserve energy and minimize wear and tear on the body. It allows you to achieve big impressions out of little moments and creates last memories to the viewer. Mastering the art of effortless movement requires a new perspective. "Less is More" is often the term we hear. This equals priorities towards simplicity and ease.


Use rehearsals to determine when to step on the gas and when to coast. Giving 100% all the time wears you out physically and mentally. It makes it impossible to keep going. Each time you repeat a sequence you are recording it physically and connecting with the sensation. Movements have sweet spots. Pause, ask yourself how much force you are using? You will usually find you have some to spare. Pull it back! It is all about following through. The idea of release is not collapse. It is actually poise! Then, you are a magnet for the audience to focus on your dance. Not, trying to capture the audience's attention. Small details can have a big impact.


Think what you admire about other performers.. Never mind the tricks. What makes them sparkle? You are performing not a machine. The artistry can make or break a performance. Build the sense of anticipation by playing with the timing and musicality. During transitions make sure you shift weight with a softness of the knees (slight plie). Thinking about arm placement to maintain control. The audience sees all! Hands are the most expressive part of the body. Be aware of hands from the spine, the shoulder blades, through bicep, tricep and elbow. Let your arms and hands talk.


Back to Focus: Sternum needs to be lifted and eye level just above the horizon. When dancing in a group make contact with the dancer next to you. Focus all the time.. Think about what kind of energy you should be expressing. Is it soft, intense or some where in between?


In your entrance you often do running or walking steps. This again is all about transfer of weight. Make it seamless. Use your shoulders and back. I like to say "have the wind at your back" Move through the space. Stay in character throughout. The piece is not over until it is over. Thoroughly rehearse bows. Be thankful for your audience. Define your finish. Leave it all onstage.

Dance has been with us forever.

NOW! What Is Ethnic Dance

Posted by [email protected] on March 7, 2019 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

NOW WHAT IS ETHNIC DANCE - As Americans we are made up of a combination of cultures and nations. With the dance you can visit the culture without leaving your home town. Deciding what class to take is often much easier than finding a good teacher. Most cultures in a community have ethnic festivals. Go to the local Greek festival or Lebanese Festival etc. Some are run through Colleges and Universities. Others are run through the local churches. Everyone wants to run an International Festival. In New England every Lebanese church runs one and in San Diego we are lucky enough to have the Houses of Nations at Balboa Park. Every weekend another House is represented and there is often wonderful entertainment. Some polite inquiries could easily provide you with the names of instructors etc. The local Tourist center might be a place to check also.

Bedouin Performers Lebanon

Ethnic restaurants can also be a good source. If they have entertainment, ask the dancer who her teacher is and where she/he is located? Musicians are a good source for finding teachers as they work with them. Good, working musicians are at a premium. This is a great idea if you are in a big city that has ethnic clubs with good music. Everybody knows everybody in this business that is for sure. Then of course, let us not forget, the internet. Google Belly Dance Teacher in your city or area. That should come up with some leads. If all else fails contact me and I will help you. I know just about everyone in this business.


Fadi el Saadi. Ranin CD


MORE QUALIFICATIONS – Ethnic dance is much more than just learning steps and movements. You cannot take the history out of the dance, nor can you take the dance out of the history. The class should be so much more than just movement. The instructor has to be knowledgeable in much more than steps but also as to the origin and significance to the culture. The history and the ritual behind each dance is what gives it uniqueness and substance that needs to be passed on during instruction from teacher to student is a priceless legacy.


Folklore Scene San Diego C

Authentic costuming should be introduced. The real thing if possible! If not, then at least by pictures and DVDs or other visual aids. Musical instruments need to be recognized for the sound and the look. In the Boston area it was easy to get people to go to the local restaurant or club to see and hear the instrumentation. But in Southern CA and Eastern TennesseeI have had to resort to other means. Now a word about props Finger cymbals should be learned. I wait about six weeks to introduce them. Before that people have enough to grasp the steps to straight 4/4 music. If you wait longer it gets too hard to add them as they are locked in to what they are doing. Right now finger cymbals or zills are not so much in vogue. That does not mean you should not learn how to use them. Not only are they added to a show but they help with rhythm and counting. The same goes for castanets for Flamenco or Ipo gourds etc fro Polynesian. Plus a few weeks down the road you will be introduced to the different rhythms that make up belly dancing. Other props that can be used are scarves, shawls, veils, canes Isis wings, shamadan ( candelabrum) swords (American idea)and various other props come into play


On stage in Beirut Lebanon Amani in Druze costume


As for music, let me say. The instructor should make every attempt to use native music for their classes. It is plentiful and beautiful. Something for everyone! Of course, the music must relate to the dance being covered. Commercial Arabic music is great for warm-ups and fun stuff but not for a full solo performance. You need something with more structure and fullness

So now you have an idea as to what to look for. Now go out there and dance! Enjoy and learn all you can about the dance of the Middle and Near East countries or any other country you are interested in.



Morwenna Southern CA


So, You Think You Can't Dance?

Posted by [email protected] on February 23, 2019 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)


Think again! You certainly can and should by joining a a dance class that is accessible, vibrant and a lot of fun. It is all about moving. So let us get busy. Age makes no difference. Even if you have never taken up dance before. This is the first time. That is ok. Haven't danced in years but want to start again, then let's go. You will fit in, have fun and maybe even learn to love dancing.

It is like working out without the feeling of actually working out because it is artistic. You can go at your own pace. Stop if you want. Sit down and dance while sitting. Or just sit back and watch. Listen until you are ready to jump back in again.

Our bodies get set in our ways from repeated, habitual ways of doing things. You will gain flexibility, balance, stability in a short while. Dance can really change your posture and give you overall strength. It is about moving. Life is moving. You do not need a certain type of body or look a certain way, be a certain age or flexibility.

Relieve tension and keep muscles limber:

1. Morning = Lower-back stretch. Sit o floor or bed with one leg extended and the other drawn into upper thigh. Lean over straight leg with straight back, with both hands. Reach as far as you can. Alternate legs. Prevents pain from sitting too long.

2. Midday = Calf-Stretch. Place both hands on a wall or countertop. Place one leg forward with knee bent. Stretch back leg. Keep the full foot on the floor. Alternate legs. This limbers calf muscles and is beneficial before and after dancing, walking or running.

3. Evening = Shoulder & Neck Stretch. Get a towel and place over your shoulder. With the other hand grab the towel from behind. Pull gently in opposite directions while bending your head and neck away from the side the towel is on. Switch sides. This relieves neck tension.

When On Down -Time re-examine your alignment. Down time habits can directly impact our bodies and if left unchecked and can cause problems. A few simple adjustments could save you from injury.

1. SITTING SLUMPED OVER A SCREEN:- Many of us decompress by curling up with a phone , lap-top or watching tv. Then we look down at the screen. These are some of the worst things we can do for our bodies. Why? Because we let go of all our postural support and strength. Instead: Minimize your time sitting in one position.

2. STRETCHING COLD MUSCLES:-Holding muscles muscles when you are cold can damage muscle fibers. This reduces the power and strength of a muscle. Instead: Save for after dancing. Before warm up well.

3. WALKING TURNED IN OR OUT:- Instead: Turn feet to parallel. Actively practice muscle engagement. Hold up ankles. Develop muscles evenly.

4. WEARING FIP-FLOPS:- Wearing these makes you grip with your toes to keep them on. This can lead to shin splints. Plus without support you are likely to roll in, putting pressure on the tendons on the inside of the ankle. This can change the alignment of the knees and hips. Instead: Choose shoes that have arch support and room for the toes to stay wide. When buying, put shoes on. and go into a deep knee bend. If toes can stretch and Achilles tendon says long- you should be good.

5. LUGGING AROUND A HEAVY BAG OR A BABY:- Carrying excessive weight on one side can give you functional scoliosis. The muscles and joints get imbalanced and cause skeletal injuries. It can also change your walking pattern to contribute to having a weaker side. Instead: Clean out your bag. Only keep what you really need. Invest in a back-pack etc. A stroller for the baby. Or at least alternate shoulders.




Posted by [email protected] on February 10, 2019 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)


Dance in general is a performing type of movement. But where did it come from and why is it so important? Here we will start to find out about the thread that ties us all together. The information I share here is twofold. One, from what I have personally studied and learned in my career and life in dance. Secondly from what I have researched and gleaned from the wonderful people I have been fortunate enough to have befriended over the years. Those like La Meri, Ibrahim (Bobby) Farrah, Mariano Parra and the master Mahmoud Reda. Dancers it seems seem to love to talk and share about the art they love so much. So, here is to dance and a few things to share.

The dance is, undoubtedly, the oldest of the arts as rhythm is the oldest element of music and was created for and with the dance. That dance is an art, as such needs no defense. What does the word “art” mean? The dictionary says, “skill in performance acquired by experience, study or observation; application of skill and taste to production according to aesthetic principles”. This is the cold way of looking at it. Others have said 1. “the active, practical exercise of self-discipline.” 2. “concerned more or less with the unconscious creation of beauty”. 3. “having aesthetics principles”. 4. “the creation of beauty”. So, dance is therefore an art form.

In the beginning the dance was life. Science and legend agree that the cosmos moves in a rhythmic beat. Aesthetics is the theory or philosophy of taste; the sense of the beautiful.” The philosophic appreciation of any or all the arts, its discovery and contemplation.” Art therefore is creative and reflective. Rhythmic movement is always an art. Sometimes the state of beauty goes asunder due to man’s stupidity. But as God created the world by his art, so true art will never die while this world exists.

Ârt is not beauty an artist wants or needs to portray, but truth. Truth as it is seen through the temperament of the creative artist. The function of technique is only to stimulate the original emotion which gives birth to the work. The work of art is to excite the imagination of the spectator to the emotion of beauty. The audience is half of any art form. Without the receiver, no matter how perfect, all is lost in a void. From the beginning, the inspiration of art has been religion. Think of the immortal statues of Greek gods and religious subjects in Oriental dances.If beauty is sought, and only lies in truth then then do we need to understand the means through which it is expressed? If the task is to see the beauty then the task is to wipe away all that is ugly, distasteful or crude.

By no means the least of the maladies of the art of dance is the semi-artist. These are dancers who have not the humility to seek the truth nor the sincerity to seek it. Artistry is a quality of the soul, not a matter of public position. The true artist does not set out to create beauty for the applause of the masses. This is called by greed. This person works and only thinks of him/herself. This does not mean the artist is indifferent to appreciation and understanding. The semi-artist who brings sensationalism to society is a very real menace. He/she copies the greats, follows the fashion of the moment, looks for the easiest route, licks up compliments, spends money on a few lessons, expensive costumes and a chic presentation. He is content with the little circle around him/her and basks in empty smiles. This person will not last long, he will retire in a snit the moment something goes wrong or there is discouragement. There is always knowledge to attain, culture of mind and infinite training of the body.

Today we are sadly lacking in humility. Audience, critic and dancer alike! Art is composed of three substances-Truth, Labor and Humility. Let artists teach aesthetics through peace. It is not conquering, but teaching, that is our responsibility, that lies before us now.

Petite Pilates

Posted by [email protected] on December 12, 2018 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)


Easy Routines For All Ages

1. Improve flexibility.

2. Strengthen and tone muscles.

3. Reduce stress.

4. Look and feel younger.

5. 5 Eliminate aches and pains.

Joseph Pilates was the founder of the Pilates method of exercise. He started by trying to strengthen his own body. You do not need weights or machinery to get or stay fit. You need regular functional exercise like stretching and flexing muscles, balancing and using your own body weight as resistance. Until fairly recently, it was one of the world’s best kept secrets for getting and keeping strong and supple. Now, it is popular everywhere and people all over the world are enjoying its benefits.

Pilates is a unique form of simple, precise and affective exercises. It is gentle on the body but offers amazing benefits-focusing as it does on deep the deep muscles responsible for your body’s core strength and stability. The exercises require a mental focus that helps you develop a greater understanding of how the body works. When you understand this, you can make it work more efficiently. In due time the correct movements will become automatic and you will sit, stand and move well all through the day.

The main aim is to improve posture by strengthening the stabilizing muscles of the torso. Your posture has a profound affect on your well-being. Imbalances in the spine can cause serious injury and lead to early aging. Start by leaving your preconceptions behind and be patient. Understand the new principles and allow your mind and body to adjust. Pilates is suitable for all levels of fitness at any age and is great for those with back pain or injury to the spine.

Here are some plus points in Pilates. 1. Better posture and improved coordination. 2. Ability to move well and freely. 3. Improved mental focus. 4. Automatic use of correct, efficient body movements and prevents strains and pains.

5. Increased muscular strength and flexibility. 6. Good fitness level and muscle tone. 7. Firm, flattened abdominal muscles. 8. A body that looks and feels younger.


In this day, and age, we are sedentary people who sit at desks to work all day. Before the coming of computers and yes typewriters we were all more active and out bodies had to work harder. We walked to work, rode a bike or took a bus or train. Today we just get in our car. Most of us have sedentary jobs and hectic lifestyles. We live with increasing amounts of stress. Excessive, amounts of stress, combined with long periods of physical inactivity can have a very bad effect on your health and well-being.

A sedentary lifestyle can result in muscles that are weak. Weak muscles can lead to poor posture, ill health, organ related diseases like heart disease and respiratory problems. Too often these things are put down to the result of increasing age, but this is wrong, and avoidable. Increased stress levels can lead to tight, aching muscles and untold strain on internal organs.

Pilates fits a busy lifestyle. It is not expensive. Does not require a lot of space. It can be done at home. Movements are slow and controlled. This minimizes the possibility of injury. So, all ages and all levels of fitness can do it. It includes deep breathing helps to reduce stress and calms the body and mind. Improve your core stability and you will maintain good posture, improved balance and have coordinated youthful movements.

The exercises are based on standing, lying, kneeling or sitting. You learn the poses and then they can be adapted for personal use. This workout takes15-20 minutes and will leave you feeling stretched, energized and alive! Practice it regularly, at least, 2 or 3 times a week. You will achieve a flatter stomach, a better alignment, more elegant posture and increased strength and flexibility. In time, your body will look longer and leaner.

You do not need any special clothing or equipment. Just choose clothes that allow you to move freely. An exercise mat with a nonslip surface is useful to protect you from a hard, cold floor. It helps keep your feet and hands in position. You might want a cushion or towel for certain exercise.