Art/ Dance Academy

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


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Posted by [email protected] on July 23, 2020 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)




Part 2


Here is Part 2 as promised. I hope these articles are of help to you. They are the basis of all great dancing. You need all of them to be a good dncer. Do not leave any out. Be the best you can be. While we are all on this lockdown called COVID-19 spen your time wisely. These are the building blocks of dance.


5. BALANCE: Balance is concerned with more than balancing on one leg. Your aim is to achieve and constantly maintain an inner balance of the whole body. It is tension of mutual support among all parts that brings the whole together in a new way. It is an inner relationship between all the points of your body which you hold in your awareness. It is not something you do once in awhile. It is constant. A sense of balance whether you are moving or standing. In the actual act of balancing, if you can find inner balance , you are nearly there. If you are aware internally the need for the sensation of balance, you should be able to get it. * Remember, balancing in both states is an active state.



Finding rhythm is largely a matter of paying attention. It is something everybody has, though, some people are not as aware or sensitive to it. Our hearts beat to a rhythm, our lungs breathe to another. Rhythm is essential for a dancer. Pay attention! Generally the beat is carried by the drum. Make sure you are right on the beat, not slightly late. All the work going into making a beat has already been completed by the time you hear it. In fact to get it right, you have to anticipate the beat slightly. Feel as if you are making the beat with your body as well as hearing it. Try to be at one with it, rather than dancing to it. It is the rhythm and the beat of the dance that form the "threads" which allow you to memorize the structure of the dance.



You need to be as aware of the space around you as a cat. You have to move with care and awareness, gauging the space. Space is not just empty air but a tangible element that you move through. Consider the space an area you must go through. Consciously go through space. Feel your accomplishment as a journey through space. You will express thoughts and emotions. Actually press your feelings out through your torso and limbs in such a way as to show other people how we are feeling and to satisfy our desire of movement. Our muscles feel better when they are used, and once we get used to moving them, the whole body will respond by working in harmony with itself; to dance.



Breathing is crucial to dance. Not only does it bring oxygen to the body but it also gives your movement fluency and harmony. It is an expressive tool. Calm slow breathing suggests a certain degree of self-control. It denotes a specific quality of movement. Also a movement with breath has a controlled and considered extension of time. A clear beginning and end no matter how fast or slow the phrase. A phrase without breath looks stiff and mechanical. It is important to learn how to do two or three things at the same time. You frequently have to divide your attention while dancing. You must learn to breathe deeply expanding your ribs at the back of the body rather than from the front. This will also give a more emotional, organic look.

Here then are the elements of dance which make up the word TECHNIQUE. This is a dirty word in a lot of circles. This is the sum total of the tools of DANCE.. Makes no difference whether you ar doing improvisation or choreography.







Morwenna Assaf

Walid Assaf

Art/Dance Academy


Cedar Productions




Posted by [email protected] on July 15, 2020 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)




Based on works by Robert Cohan "The Dance Workshop"

Part 1

This is a multiple part article to help you while in the doldrums of COVID-19.  Digest these four and next time, the 3rd week in July, we will give you the next four. Hope this gives you something to think about and digest. Here is to a better dance in the down days of 2020.

When you start dancing, it is important to recognize the tools a dancer needs. There are eight (8) elements in dance that are most vital. As you progress your understanding will change as you discover what they mean to your body. The total sum of these elements is what is meant by your body. The total sum of these elements is what is meant by technique.


This is fundamental to your ability to dance well. This is maintaining a sense of your own body center that holds you together as you move. It allows you to move gracefully and freely. This means you have to have the ability to move, to hold, to organize yourself around your own physical body. If you are centered you can eventually learn how to do anything. If you are not centered you may develop beautiful looking arms and legs but never be able to move well. Liken your center to home. If you don’t have a sense of home you will probably get lost every time you go out. Your body needs to be balanced like a see-saw. Position fluctuates between individuals. Center for Middle Eastern Dance is in the solar plexus. Every movement has to go through this center. This is what makes it Orientale or eastern! Your natural base is approximately just below the navel but the movements for this dance form come from the solar plexus or above the naval. Everything emanates from there. Start by feeling how your arms and legs work from the same central point in the back. Moving from your center will make movements easier to control.



This is the force that holds you to the earth. It is a force you have to work with because it constantly inhibits movement. Try to become aware of the pulls in your own body. What points are taking the most weight? When you push on these points can you feel a rise-up from them? You should be holding yourself better. When you dance you want to feel as if someone is pushing you under your buttocks and the base of your spine and directing the energy up hrough your breastbone. It is a two- way stretch.


To achieve this element you need to change your perception of your body, there is often a wide discrepancy between what feels right and what looks right. Dancers work all their dance lives on their posture, also called alignment. It is the key to balance and movement. Your posture not only reveals your feelings but can also reveal feelings in you. Learn how to stand properly. You will actually feel lighter, brighter, and more aware.



The gesture involves using the body as an expressive instrument to communicate feelings and ideas in patterns of movement. With subtle gestures and postural attitudes, we show cooperation, give confidence to friends, or display aggression to enemies. Arms crossed over the chest are a protective wall. Hands-on hips mean "show me", fists on hips is even more challenging. Anger patterns are depicted very differently form joy or sadness. Weight on one hip -waiting. Hands out in front you are ready to give or receive. Raising shoulders is a gesture of not knowing or caring. Shoulders forward express pain. Tapping foot boredom. Observe! Recognize what the body is saying.

A good beginning to dancing. Learn and enjoy it!

by Morwenna Assaf,



Posted by [email protected] on July 1, 2020 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)


by Morwenna Assaf, Director

"The basics you need to look and perform your best."

Before you get into performance you need to hone your skills in class and practice. The skills are the same. It is all one working curve. To perform well in any area of your life you need to develop these qualities.

You will use these qualities whether you are cleaning house, performing or whatever. You will look better and feel better. Whether you are a beginner, professional or anywhere in between develop the essentials for having it all. They will help you build a strong, balanced body, which not only looks good but functions better. Think of them as the alphabet. You will never read well if you don’t learn the alphabet first.

These skills will help you acquire all the skills you need in life in the order that you need them. Make them a habit. Do it right!

Balance: The foundation of the qualities. Required for everything you do from walking to performing.

Coordination: This point allows you to have control over your body and makes you less likely to get injured.

Flexibility: Makes you look young and graceful through efficient movement.

Endurance: Allows you to keep going. You cannot live without this.

Speed: This isn’t about moving fast. It is about how fast you move and react. The one thing that will give you an edge.

Strength: Without strength you cannot help yourself or help others. You cannot survive without this point either.

These are the six points of achievement that all need to strive for, especially dancers. To achieve this you need to workout a minimum of 30-minutes 3-4 times per week. Plus extra strength training 2-3 times per week is recommended.

Step 1: Warm -Up—Do a 5-10 minute low intensity total body movement. Breathe deeply from the diaphragm.

Step 2: The Workout—Make sure you work right and left side. Do your moves at three speeds. Vary the moves at these different speeds. Use a slow pace to learn movements. This helps integrate various muscle fibers and increases coordination, balance and power.

Step 3: Cool Down—Stretch all major muscle groups.

Technique is the dancer’s "home base". Technique is the dancer’s main tool for accomplishment. Technique should not work on but through a dancer’s body. Technique arises from the necessity of knowing how to do something. Express through movement both physically and expressively. Sometimes we need more than just plain technique. We need something in dance called "somatics". According to the dictionary this means relating to or affecting the psyche.

How do we do this? Here is just a few key phrases to set you thinking.

Be aware of the subtlety of movement. Movement does not have to be big and bold. Over working leads to injury. Decreased body connectedness can lead to impaired emotional content. Know from where a movement starts, follows through and finishes.

Develop skills of self observation.

Learn how to learn.

Maintain a flexible mind-body map. Be kind to yourself.

Learn a balance of use and rest.

Discuss with others where and how you are. This is what teachers and peers are for.

Build a vocabulary of dance and kinesthetic sensations. Learn how to move mechanically, physically and expressively.

Build a support system - if not with others, with yourself.

Have fun. Play with the dance.

Just keep dancing.

Hope this gives you something to ponder for the next month or so. Dance is the one field where there is always something new to research and learn.

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

Do You Want To Dance Forever? Here Is How!

Posted by [email protected] on May 15, 2020 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Do You Want to Dance Forever? Here is How!

Posted on May 13, 2020 by Tales1001 Edit

At any level of dance there are certain thing you should know. You should include cardio and and weight training to prepare you for the demands of dance. This is true, no matter the style. This will make you stronger, have more endurance and better technique. You will not gain bulk but will have more developed muscles for what comes in your dance training. Do not stop your other activities. Have outside activities, than just dance. Try a yoga class, Somatics, or Pilates class. People who do keep healthier and can help make you a better dancer. So, have a life! Early retirement is no longer a given. Caring properly for your body will ensure that you can dance as long as you want.

If you are very supple, take heed. You must control your range of motion to prevent injury. If you are tight you have to be careful too. You are the other end of the spectrum. It is all about control. Be patient and focus on good technique! No one wants an injury. Always warm up before you dance. Dance training can become very repetitious. Do not let it become mundane. Listen to your body. Learn the difference between soreness that comes from working hard and getting stronger and pain from overdoing. There is a difference. Recognize it! Overdoing will affect your ability to perform and limit your future. Do not be afraid to try new things. Investigate any injuries. Do not ignore them. Plan your recovery. Ask yourself how you feel in your body every day. If not up to it, do not go to class. “Experience gives you more choices” says Risa Steinberg, so find them. Remember flexibility declines as you get older. Be prepared. Be realistic on how you need to adapt without losing your technique.

Make sure you eat properly. You need the energy. Under-nutrition can affect dancers of all levels. It creates a hormonal imbalance and a slow healing from injuries due to low bone density. Make the necessary adjustments to your classes. As you get older it is harder to dance with no discomfort. Make sure you are breathing properly. Breathe fully and think of moving with less force. Use your emotions and feelings while maintaining your technique. Make sure you have a health care team that understand your needs. Maybe, seek advice from a dietician. Maintain your body. Take two days a week off from dancing. Sleep at least 8 hours a night. Dancers usually have busy schedules. As you age you might want or should cut back. Be extra vigilant to rest and recover. Work with your body, do not ignore it.

Remember experience gives you more choices. Your years of study and good technique are there to support you. Rather than focusing on things you may not be able to do anymore, listen to your instincts and use other moves and feelings. “Play the instrument you have” says Gus Solomon. Remember when you first learned to do improvisation? Get that feeling back. Create! We are performing Middle Easter Dance of one form or another so pace yourself. We are always dancing! There really is no stopping. Follow your dream but just be sensible.

Morwenna Assaf

[email protected]

760-715-2276/865-375-0446 Morwenna & Walid Assaf




Sawt Al-Wadi

Posted by [email protected] on February 27, 2020 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)


Sawt al-Wadi

Posted on February 27, 2020 by Tales1001 Edit


SAWT AL-WADI = Voice from the Valley


Another momentous occasion at the Rose Center in Morristown, TN. The one spot you can find culture in Eastern TN outside of the little in Knoxville. The Rose Center presented am Arabic musical group. They were from UT. (University of TN). The concert was one of a kind. It just happens to be led by someone we had met before several times at UT functions. This is the incomparable Lillie Gordon a former professor at UT.


I remember her telling me a few years ago that she wanted to start a musical group of Arabic musicians. By this, I mean that all the music performed would be from the Middle Eastern/Arabic countries. Well, she has done exactly that! What a feat! Most of the musicians were Americans. They were trained well. The singers were amazing. Notably, the three women, who had very different voices. All excellent with true Arabic sound and feel. No


We invited some friends to be exposed to the real thing. There were six of us. I was afraid we might be the only ones in the room. The auditorium was filled. Out of curiosity, I believe! Most people in this area have no idea about the people or culture of the Middle East. Let alone the musical history. What is this Arab music? Aren’t they all terrorists? The room was filled and set up with tables. We had a center table reserved for us. We were obviously the only table with inside knowledge of the music and the traits of the people. There were several tables that came in from the Appalachian


Lillie made everyone feel welcome by explaining the instruments, and the type of music being played, the maqams and which country each piece came from. Everyone felt comfortable and understood. Lillie herself, besides singing, also played the violin and the oud. She also did all the announcing and explaining. She introduced each member. It was a spot of Middle Eastern graciousness. It was like being in a Middle Eastern home. Wonderful! The variety of of different areas was amazing.


Walid and I knew most of the music. Made me realize how much I miss the community and hearing the music live. It was like coming home for us. Even I, could sing along and I do not speak Arabic. It brought tears to my eyes. Thought of the days in Boston when we were out every day engulfed in this wonderful life of music and dance. Gone are the days of that Arabic connection that is so rich and tasteful. Even the big names in the ME do not get to come to America these days.


What a wonderful evening. It was exhilarating and amazing. I thank Lillie Gordon for her excellence in training these people. The male singer we enjoyed the most was Lebanese. He is a student getting his MD at UT. His name was Karim. Then there was Sumer a Palestinian girl with an amazing voice. Of course, then there was Lillie who was amazing. She played the oud, violin and sang. What an amazing treat. The music covered the areas of Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Sephardic Jewish, Iranian and Lebanese. A great blend of new and old from the areas.


I certainly hope that they will be back in our area. This corner of the world needs to feel the presence of people from other areas of the world. Or, even other areas of North America. It educates so people understand all people are human. Not to be afraid of people who think or play music a little differently Brings us all together as one family of humanity.


Until the next concert, we will support The Rose Center and the musicians and artists who frequent the center. It is a little piece of heaven for us in this place we call home after traveling the world. We have settled here and but so enjoy the culture of others.


Morwenna & Walid Assaf

[email protected]

760-715-2276 or 760-715-2220

Next concert at The Rose Center will be Fri, February 28th 7pm. Free and open to the public. Help us support the artists.

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The Rose Center "Author"


Little Christmas in Eastern TN "Educator"


So Many Drums, So Little Time "Arabic Dance"

Categories: Arabic Music, Author, Dance, Educator, Egyptian Dance, Events, Music & Rhythm, Orientale Dance and Folklore, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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Getting Out of A Dance Rut

Posted by [email protected] on February 12, 2020 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)



No matter what your situation or your level of dance, this is inevitable at any stage of your career. Maybe you just got a job? It has been fine so far but you do not feel like you are growing as an artist. You are in a rut! These slumps hit hard no matter at what level you are. They are difficult to shake but with the correct mindset you can and will find your love for dance again.


The way of a dancer’s life


Why does this happen? Maybe you are focusing on the things you have given up for dance and not focusing on your accomplishments. At first you are really excited, then at some point you lose momentum. You start looking at what you left behind and not on what you have accomplished. It can be frustrating. You feel stagnant. You are in a motivational hole.


Initially you are grateful but then the excitement wears off. The mind-set changes. You want more out of this life. It is a natural part of the developmental process. Dancers need the tools but also the strength to be able to face all the challenges that come with the territory. You have to be more independent to be successful. It is part of the education and journey. Sometimes you will feel invisible but that does not mean you are doing something wrong. You are just not the main topic of conversation. At times you need help adjusting to a move or a situation. At other times you do not.




With practice you can overcome this set back and get back on track.


1. Set Reasonable and productive goals:

Focus on what you put into your work. Not, what you get out of it. Goals should be centered on things you can control: Applying corrections. Etc. Work on it.


2. Sit in on rehearsals and classes:

See shows – you need to be inspired. Look for other inspirational outlets. Take a class in another style. Another teacher maybe. But, make sure you take classes.


3. Expand your horizons:

Most people start dance as a hobby but then it becomes work, the joyful escape is gone. Find something else for a hobby. I happen to write.


4. Do not forget your value:

Realize you are needed where you are. You are valued.


Hopefully, these suggestions will help you. Even after 40 plus years in this business I have my days. After a week or so of doing nothing, I realize I am here for the long haul and will always be a part of the dance world. It is who I am!


A working artist at that!


Morwenna Assaf



[email protected]


865-375-0446 or760-715-2276

Categories: Author, Belly Dance, Dance, Dance Coaching for ME Dancers, Educator, Egyptian Dance, Ethnic Dance, Events, Health, Intensive Classes, Lebanese Dance, Middle Eastern Dance, Music & Rhythm, Orientale Dance and Folklore, Uncategorized, Workshops, Zills | Leave a

Little Christmas in Eastern TN

Posted by [email protected] on January 23, 2020 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Little Christmas in Eastern TN

In San Diego it was an annual event that every Christmas Eve  we would have an open house and invite any and all involved with the dance studio etcetera. People were invited to come to our house . Basically the idea was to invite everyone who had migrated to Southern CA and had no family with which to clebrate Christmas. We became a family. We did that for 17 years and loved evey minute of it.

Then, we moved to Eastern TN. There was no need for this event as everyone had family locally. This worked well thill this last Christmas-2019. This was the year we had sickness and there was no real clebrating. Health was getting better but no one had the energy to plan, cook or celebrate. So many people just wanted to relax. In January 2019 we had invited a couple we consider close friends with a friend we had met through them and their son. The date happened to be "The 12th Ninght of Christmas which fell on Jan 6th. The Feast of the Epiphany. No one here celebrates 12th Night. Most people have their Christmas trees down on the latest the day after Christmas which to me is Boxing Day.

Yes, we are different . I was raised between England and Montreal, Canada. In our family a tree was not put up till Christmas Eve and stayed up through 12th Night. Plus, my Lebanese husband and the 6th of January is a big day of celebration. So, this year we decided to invite those same friends form last year plus a couple more friends that are dear to us- Marlayne and Maggie! So, with us there was eight people in all. A small but wonderful group. Walid cooked all day. This was to be a treat. Something we will repeat every year.

Our guests arrived at 6:30pm We had a wonderful dinner. Conversation was great! Our friend Doctor John had just  retired so this was something to clebrate. He was a professor at UT for 34 years. Also, this year he got his Phd from UT Something else to elebrate. Laurie a friend of John & Sharon's had just graduated with her BS. Go, Laurie. Her son, Jonathon, a special needs person of 17 graduated from highschool. Walid, gave him a derbecki. (Lebanese hand drum as a gift. He was elated. He was a happy camper. Our friend Marlayne had just turned 70 a few months ago. So that was her milestone.  Maggie got a divorce and has a new lease on life. She is going to Europe for the first time in a few months. Walid and I were celebrating our good health and the good health of a close family member. So much to be thankful for. We all had so much to share and celebrate.

After dinner we all went downstairs to the dance and music studio. The music started, the keyboard and drums were brought out. The music started. Someone played the keyboard and others played drums including Jonathon on his new drum  Everyone was dancing. The party was on.

This was OUR Little Christmas in Eastern TN. What a great time of celebrating with good, good, no great company. A tradition is started.  Maybe not the original idea of the Epiphany  but definitely a day to remember for the second year in a row. We all realize good friends are few and far between.The date for next year is set. So remember January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany or 12th NIght, if you like.And, yes, that is why we have Christmas lights outside till after 12th night. The Three Kings need to follow the light.

NB: Sorry no pictures this year. Will make up for it I promise.

Morwenna Assaf
[email protected]

The Rose Center

Posted by [email protected] on January 8, 2020 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

What a beautiful name for an absolutely fabulous place. As I was perusing my emails back in the week before Christmas, I came across an advertisement for a FREE concert. This sparked my interest. I had no idea what to expect. We decided to go as we live in an area where the arts and culture is next to nothing.


The Rose Center is located in Morristown, TN about 15 miles from where we live. The function was called “Java Jive”. We got there about 6:30. Found our way to the theater which is actually a dual purpose room. It was set up banquet style. A beautiful room that was decorated for Christmas.


At 7pm sharp the musicians entered the room. We were in for a treat. The show was called “Christmas With the Collective” The leader of the group was Antonio Gomez. There was an excellent guitarist, drummer and a female singer. They were a jazz group. Now, Jazz is not my favorite thing but they were so good and so professional that we enjoyed the whole thing. I was mesmerized. I am hooked on these concerts.


We are totally hooked. We spent considerable time talking to the artists. Plus the director of the Rose Center and people in the audience. These monthly concerts are open to the public and sponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission. You can bring snacks and beverages in. Everyone is so cordial. We will be going back. This week is a concert by a guitarist. I will be sure to take pictures.


If you are interested in the arts or just music. Add their schedule to yours. The artists they bring are so talented. You will have an evening out with great people. Will not cost you a dime unless you want to donate. They do pass the hat. There is no pressure. Support the arts commission by attending. This also supports the artists from the area. There is something for everyone’s taste. The Rose Center is downtown Morristown. There is plenty of parking. Enjoy the evening and listening to music. See you there.


Morwenna Assaf, New Market, TN

[email protected]

How Does Appreciation Become Appropriation

Posted by [email protected] on December 8, 2019 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)


How Does Appreciation Become Appropriation

Posted on December 8, 2019 by Tales1001 Edit


After being in the business of Arabic Dance styles for over 45 years this business of appropriation has become a huge subject. It puzzles me. When I started it was not even suggested. I lived in a primarily Lebanese community and danced in every club in the Boston/Rhode Island/New Hampshire area. They were clubs where the Middle Eastern people attended any night of the week. I was never accused by the natives of Lebanon as appropriating their culture. They helped me in every way. Even after moving away across country in 1996 we are still friends. I am British by birth and my husband is Lebanese and a percussionist. I believe that no one of our era in the area ever got accused of this. Today it is everywhere by native dancers and non-native dancers. In those days we were a community. We were all one.

Onstage Beirut LebanonYes, I still have friends who are of the culture who are dancers. We all respected each other. So, now I have delved into this subject I will try to unravel it. Let us start with hip hop. This dance form has made global impact and a voice for so many around the world. Yes, sometimes it is used in ways the culture does not benefit from it. This includes marketing, including products, music, videos, classes to sell an attitude. It has become an energy that has been stripped of its history and significance. It is sprinkled in everything including Broadway shows to fashion and even spices. Sound familiar?

People think all they have to do is have certain steps, wear certain costumes, dance to certain music and that makes it a cultural dance. Donning toe shoes, and a tutu and dancing to Swan Lake music does not make one a ballet dancer. This is a disconnect from the origins of the culture and the people who created the style. This is problematic.

This shallow aesthetic of borrowing and disconnect is “cultural appropriation”. It has a long history in dance. Ballets like L Bayadere, Le Cosaire, tap in vaudeville. Even Ruth St Denis who found inspiration in Egyptian and Indian cultures. Cultural appropriation is taking the external trappings of cultural traditions and using them for decorations on your own history without developing mutually supporting relationships in the community that you are taking from.


It is not a matter of ethnic dances as all dance forms are an ethnic dance form. This includes ballet, modern and jazz. What matters is the power of dynamics. It should not be from a position of privilege to just borrow from a marginalized community. That is imperialism! One has to enter a cultural identity in a respectful way.


There has been a history of America appropriating cultural forms of dance and then enacting cultural imperialism. One has to study not only the movement but the culture around the movement and to build relationships in that culture. Even if you cannot move abroad, visiting a dance country’s roots is important. Go and experience the country and learn from different teachers so you understand what the culture is all about. Gain first hand exposure to the culture. Have continuous recognition of the dance forms pioneers and the teachers that have guided you. Always give recognition to to where dances come from and where you learned it.


Crediting teachers and trail blazers on social media, in program notes, and in interviews is a way of acknowledging a lineage of the culture and gratitude and humility. This is often a step people miss and it leads to conflict that is not intended. But immersion and recognition is not always enough. Often it is the entertainment business, cultural institutions, and private dance studios that do not uphold high enough standards for incoming and upcoming dancers.

Study with teachers who know the culture and the dance. Study with those willing to share the culture and the knowledge. Not just the pretty young girl at the local club. What is her history? Just taking a few classes or being born into it is not enough. One has to understand dance, the culture, the costuming, the mannerisms and the music.


I hope this article helps in some way. When I started we were committed to all of the above. We know we had to keep on learning and striving. This has to be a way of life. Not just a fun excursion. We are missing a big piece of the equation if we do not have better intent. Think about what you are creating and the audience/students you wish to attract.


ROOTS: The story line has to change. When on stage we have to get rid of the stereotypical style of a exotic body .

Ancient Phoenician Dancers


CHANGE OF NARRATIVE: Encourage productive discussions for everyone including instructors, staff and students.


TRUST THE NEXT GENERATION: Let new dancers have an enhanced vocabulary. The training and teaching of dancers is not the same as what we brought with us when we came as immigrants. We are all valued.


I am appalled at the lack of knowledge that the average student get from their instructors. This is a complex business. We need to know the culture the dance and more. We have let people with no background in any of these areas. A few lessons with a teacher who knows no more than they do. Workshops are not studying. This is exposure to something. This is wrong. We need to raise the barre and keep it high or this beloved dance form will die away.

Morwenna Assaf has run Art/Dance Academy for almost 40 years. She is married to Walid Assaf one of the finest percussionists in the USA. She studied in NYC for 20 years under the tutelage of Ibrahim “Bobby” Farrah. She has taught internationally in Canada, Mexico and Lebanon plus across the USA. C

Contact information = [email protected]

Morwenna Assaf = 760-715-2276 Walid Assaf = 760-715-2220

Art/Dance Academy = 865-375-0446