Art/ Dance Academy

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



Posted by [email protected] on November 13, 2020 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)


As s instructors we have to help students to hear, understand and show the music when dancing. What does that all mean? Not all dancers are musically inclined. Some dancers even have trouble keeping or even hearing the beat. They need basic training in the music. Most of us did not grow up with an education in Arabic music and dance so we all have to learn. Without a basic understanding of the music those dancers will never understand the what and why of their dancing. But, they can can develop musicality. There are strategies to help students find the beat, recognize the rhythms, and better reflect their dancing.

Teach them how to count the music and where the accents are. This is a basic understanding. Most Arabic music at a student level is counted in 8s. Learn to recognize what a beledi, masmoudi etc rhythms are. There is only so many rhythms we use to dance. Start at the beginning. Always make sure your movements are centered. Always step on the down beat of 1. Using different music in class will help keep students engaged so they do not zone out.

Bring a drummer in. Let them hear the music live. Live music vibrates differently in the body than recorded music. Canned music is predictable as it is always the same but a live musician helps produce the right response to the muscles. As a beginner it is always the rhythm that students have to hook onto. Have students listen and stamp to the music with one foot or clap. I usually start with just one count like #1.

Always count 5,6,7, 8 before going across the floor. Then they know that is a down beat. I also use straight 4/4 music of different speeds. Then I have them practice a short combination. I never teach just steps after an 6 week Intro class. They need to think in terms of music not steps. Make a combination , then count it. They need to understand where the down beat is and that it is stronger than the other beats. If you do not explain it they do not understand it. Listen to the music, it tells you what to do. Learn how to play the derbecki.

Once all this has settled in, the dancer then needs to move into the melody and instrumentation. The melody gives you the feeling. But the instrumentation tells you which part of the body to move and . One simple step can be done in a hundred different ways to evoke the feeling needed. Finally there is staging. Most club dancers do not think of staging as they just play to the audience. But, any other types of setting you need it.

You need to make patterns on the floor for a reason. Otherwise it all becomes mundane. Choreograph a theater piece and you will see what I mean. There has to be a reason in why you are going where you do. You need advanced training. Not just average training. When you choreograph you have to listen to the music. Do a viral show on camera and then critique it. Or better still have someone else, in the know, do it. You cannot just stare at the camera. That is like dancing for 1.

So get with the program. Do your students and yourself a favor. Learn about Arabic music.

Morwenna Assaf = Author, Choreographer & Educator

Walid Assaf = Percussionist, & Educator

Art/Dance Academy, USA 760-715-2276 [email protected]



Posted by [email protected] on October 15, 2020 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)



Some dancers seem to stand out beyond the others. They have it all. They have mastered what is needed to be a great dancer. What is this? How do you get it? No, it does not happen overnight. It is hard work. Getting someone to coach you is so very important. You need someone to guide you. A general studio teacher can give you a head start but is not necessarily the one who can make your rise to the top. Find a dance coach to help you be it in the studio or as so many are doing today find someone virtually. Do not stop your regular classes as they are important. Invest the time and the money into something special which is you. Here are some hints to help you until you find that special person

Dance Outside Your Comfort Zone: If you love Orientale, fine! Now work on Folklore. Folklore is people. There are so many different styles. You might find you like it. It will had depth and distinction to your dance. Pick dances you find difficult. Learn how to be comfortable there so you can express what the dances mean and be part of that tribe.

Push for Tougher Choreography: Work on dance that is above your level. Work on those extra turns etc. That is what class is all about. Work beyond your comfort zone. Yes, you have to be comfortable when performing. But, in class and practice, if you do not extend yourself you will never grow.

Analyze Every Step: Not only steps but every single movement you make, in every way, shape or form. Make sure you are using the right muscles. This is the way you get longevity in dance. Clean up arm placement, yes. Then look at every step. Look at all the details. Ask yourself am I using my back to support my arms and and overall alignment Then, do this to translate everything you do.

Study your Transitions: This is the space between steps and timing. This helps with technique all the way around. This also helps with timing. Make sure you breathe. Make sure you plie when needed and that when you releve your placement is correct. Make sure your weight is correct when coming out of a turn.

Build Strength with Musicality: Work with the music. When the music swells make that movement juicier, this way your supporting leg will get stronger as you develope the movement. Play with the way you approach your arms. Your arms work with your movements. They are not an added flourish. port de Bras also help with upper body clarity if done correctly. This improves your total carriage and makes a full picture.

Fill In The Blanks On Your Own: If you are struggling with parts of a solo, pay extra attention to particular movements in class. Try working the combination that is giving you trouble on the opposite side. Emotionally connect to your work. Without emotion you have virtually nothing. Research the movement and get a full understanding of the work and of the movement.

Now you have a place for thought. Start here! Work on your own and in class on the above things. Find a dance partner to work with. Hopefully, someone at least on a par with you of better. Help each other. Then search for a coach. We can help you. It is what we do.For the past 20 years or so this is what we have done. We help with not only the movements in both Raks Orientale but also in different regions of Egypt and Lebanon for Folklore but also the musicality, choreography, improvisation and staging required in all forms of Arabic Style Dance. If we do not we can put you in contact with someone who is a leader in the style you want. If you are a teacher who needs help contact us. We can help!

Morwenna Assaf = Author, Choreographer & Educator

Walid Assaf = Percussionist, & Educator

Art/Dance Academy, USA 760-715-2276 [email protected]


Posted by [email protected] on September 9, 2020 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)



This piece is written to help the average dancer at any level understand the use of rhythm and musicality in the dance. Today more than before most dancers learn choreography. But you have to be able to make it yours. You are not a puppet on a string. If you are lucky enough to be able to work with musicians or even work in a club doing long solo shows then you might be doing improvisation. Either way you need this information.


You have to listen to a piece over and over again before you can choreograph or improvise to it. Absorb every piece you want to dance to so you can translate it. Sit sown and let the music be your focus. Try to open a sense of awareness to the sound. Study, the different rhythms that are used and the instrumentation. Is it a keyboard, derbecki, tambourine , tar or tubl beledi giving you the rhythm? If you are unsure of the instrument etc try the following ideas.


1. Find a role model: Look for someone who knows more than you. In class find that person to go across the floor with. Make it a project to improve your timing.

2. Research the score: Do the intellectual work. Who wrote it? Does it have a particular musical form? A 4/4, 6/8, A Beledi, A Masmoudi, Folkloric, Classical, Debke. Which country does it come from?

3. Practice dancing in silence: Find your inherent sense of phrasing is, absent of any influence. This might allow you to hear the phrasing a little differently or at least to get it right. Try it!

4. Now tap into the musicality: Pretend you are in a group, get in sync. See the space you are in. You cannot just look at the audience and hope you are doing it right. Feel the space. Here is where staging gets into the picture. Now work on becoming a more musical dancer.


Musicality like any facet of dance, can be developed and honed over time. This takes dedicated and detailed practice. It is absolutely respect for the music. Music is your partner. Or consider it a marriage. It is an interpretation of the score. It is executing on the right note and with the right accent. If the dancer feels the music, you know it. She also interprets the music with her body. That is probably the first thing you would notice. It is about a dancer's ability to dissect the rhythm.


1. Do not let your back history with music dictate to you: Exercise restraint. Otherwise, you might rush, or just fall to a flat-line beat that you think you hear.

2. Do not over rely on the counts: Try just doing it. It is not just the counts. There is such a thing as movement phrases. Sing or hum the melody to figure out how the phrases fit. This helps you interpret the music.

3. Forget the in-between moments: Ignoring the space in-between would lead to a monotonous quality in your dance. You have to breathe. Find your internal song.

4. Think about musicality last:You cannot add it on later. Has to part and parcel of your piece. You have to start though by listening to the music and paying attention to the rhythm. Now you can work on the musicality.

Morwenna Assaf = Author, Choreographer & Educator

Walid Assaf = Percussionist, & Educator

Art/Dance Academy, USA


[email protected]

Morwenna Assaf = Author, Choreographer & Educator

Walid Assaf = Percussionist, & Educator

Art/Dance Academy, USA


[email protected]


Posted by [email protected] on August 14, 2020 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)




Consistency is key for building knowledge and improvement in any activity you undertake. All adult students, and we are all students of something, across all aspects of classes. This will set them apart and put them on a success path. In this article I am referring to dance or movement classes but can be used for anything you are interested in.

ATTENDANCE: - Attendance is the most obvious way that consistency will make a difference in your work. Turning up every day is so important for learning and retaining knowledge. It also means that skills can be continued and be honed, which means you will enjoy your classes or practices so much more.. Being consistent means there is more opportunity for self expression and less scrambling to keep up. Now I am speaking of just dance technique as technique is the basis for dance quality. Having consistency means your technique is constantly being refined. It gives you the freedom to dance your heart out.

APPROACH:- So now you attend every week. Now, we will turn your attention to how you approach your class. This can swing from being very easy on a good day to very difficult on a day you are having a bad day. Often class is the silver lining- to an average day. But, what happens when it is not that simple?

Consistency in approach can help. Promote a routine for when you arrive. This will put you in the right frame of mind for class. This helps your teacher as well. It might be sitting quietly for a few moments, taking a couple of deep breaths to become centered in the space. It might be instigating a related chat before the warm up. However every approach should incorporate a solid warm up. Warming up is physical and mental preparation, and should not be underestimated. If you can achieve this every time you attend class, you will be perfectly prepared for what ever you get in the studio. 363


Do It Right. Borrow a move from ballet for a beautiful lower body. It is no secret we would all love to have well toned buns and inner thighs. Ballet dancers know how to do this. A turned out second position plie. It is a variation on a squat that also works out your inner thighs. This utilizes the muscles of the buttocks, back of thighs, front of thighs, and inner thighs. All of these muscles control the movement of the body. You do not have to overdo the turn-out. Your feet are in a turned out position. The degree of turnout varies with each person. Do not let your feet turn out past your knees. Weight is evenly distributed.

Only lower to the point where your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep abdominal muscles tight and upper back lifted. Go straight down with back in natural curve. Tail bone moves straight down and up. Do not allow weight to sit in butt. Hold weight in mid section. Lower only as far as is comfortable.


Morwenna Assaf, Educator and Choreographer of Arabic Style Dance

[email protected] https://ArtDance

760-715-2276 El Fen = OnLine Studio

Walid Assaf, Rhythm Master, Musical Director

Music To Die For

Posted by [email protected] on June 9, 2020 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)



Mitchell Kaltsunas is a very special person that Walid worked with for many years in the New England scene. He stands out among all the other musicians because of his interesting background and how he has made a name for himself and is still one of the most talented and in demand performers in New England.


Are you missing Arabic music during this trying time in our history? If so, I have the perfect solution! Give yourself a welcome break on Sundays from 6-8pm. Watch Mitchell Kaltunas on FaceBook Live. Mitchell plays the oud and sings all of your favorite pieces be they classical pieces or just songs. It is pure joy and FREE!


Mitchell started by playing derbecki as a child. Then added voice. Later he decided to learn the oud. Which, by the way, he has done extremely well. He is serious about his music and has devoted his life to being as good as he can be at what he does. He is one of the greats of our time. Save Sunday 6-8pm for your music fix. Enjoy his music and voice. You will not be disappointed. If you appreciate good Arabic music make sure you are there.


Why does he do these shows? Mitchell says, “My short term goals have never really changed. I want to continue to play music, to sing, and make people happy. Even if it is only for a few hours, I have helped them forget their problems and troubles. If this happens, I have accomplished my goal! I hope everyone just feels the music and enjoys it.”


TUNE IN: Facebook Live

Every Sunday 6-8pm

Mitchell Kaltsunas Live