Anne Thomas Soffee Official Site

Belly Dancing Information

Big Fat Jingling Disclaimer

A Note from Anne:

I'd like to open this section with a big fat jingling disclaimer--this is not a how-to book, an educational tome, a reference guide, or anything of that ilk. I've written a book about myself in which I happen to belly dance. My editors suggested that I include some resources for anyone who is interested in trying belly dancing after reading my book, and that's great--but--and I don't think I can say this enough times to mollify the Ethnic Police--this is not a reference book! This isn't even the Cliff's Notes. Maybe it's the Classics Illustrated comic book version. Yeah, that's probably close. That or the Mad Magazine version.

If you're looking for a real, credible, last-word-on-belly-dancing reference guide, check out Tazz Richards's book on my Reads list or Shira's site on my Links list. They're chock-full of good stuff. Me? Heck, I'm just a nerdy little hipster who happens to belly dance. Don't quote me on nothin'.

Belly Dancers | Musicians | Reads | Links | Glossary of Arabic Terms

Snake Hips by Anne Thomas Soffee: BellyDancing and How I found True Love, British Cover
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Belly Dancers

The Greats in Black-and-White

The grande dames of the dance back then:
  • Tahiya Carioca
  • Samia Gamal
  • Badia'a Masabni
  • Sohair Zaki

Kitschy Kitschy Koo

Belly dancers for the Masses, circa 1960s
  • Nejla Ates
  • Boubouka
  • Ozel Turkbas
Check out Shira's site in the Links listing for a comprehensive list of dancers here and abroad.

Modern Goddesses

Some of Them Are Still Carrying the Torch “Over There”
  • Fifi Abdou
  • Dina
  • Nagua Fouad
  • Nadia Hamdi
  • Lucy(not my teacher Lucy, but Lucy from Cairo)
  • Mona Said

From Brooklyn to the Nile

A Very Incomplete List of Big Names from Right Here at Home
  • Amaya(New Mexico)
  • Cheri Berens (Massachusetts)
  • Dalia Carella (New York)
  • Cassandra(Minnesota)
  • Delilah (Washington)
  • Fat Chance Belly Dance (California)
  • Laurel Victoria Gray (Washington, D.C.)
  • Jasmin Jahal (Illinois)
  • Mesmera (California)
  • Morocco AKA Aunty Rocky (New York)
  • Shareen el Safy (California)
  • Suhaila Salimpour (California)
  • Nourhan Sharif (New York)
  • Suzanna Del Vecchio (Colorado)
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Old School

(Straight Out of Sheva's Scratchy Stack!)
  • George Abdo
  • Farid el-Atrache
  • Mohammed el-Bakkar
  • Umm Khulthum
  • Eddie “the Sheik” Kochak
  • Gus Valli

Middle School

(Musicians Who Won't Steer You Wrong; Sturdy Stuff)
  • Anything on ARC's Best of Bellydance series of CDs
  • Chalf Hassan
  • Hossam Ramzy
  • Mostafa Sax
  • Emad Sayyah
  • Susu and the Cairo Cats

New School

Try These On If You Like It Funky)
  • Hakim
  • Hanan
  • Cheb Mami
  • The Supreme Orient Series on Sony
  • Tarkan
For my money, the best bet for upbeat Arabic pop is Pe-Ko music. Check them out in the Links list!
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The Belly Dance Book, by Tazz Richards, Backbeat Press, 2000.

A great reference on everything from history to costuming to working with a snake. A great starting place for the beginner and a must-have for any dancer's shelf. Where was this when I was an obsessed beginner?

The Compleat Belly Dancer, by Julie Russo Mishkin and Marta Schill, Doubleday, 1973.

I'm including this mainly for historical reasons. It's out of print at the moment, but rumored to be heading for a reprint. Call me a skeptic, but I don't see how you can learn belly dancing from a book. I dunno.

Looking for Little Egypt, by Donna Carlton, IDD Books, 1994.

Ahhh, the midway! Speaking to a subject near and dear to my heart, Carlton investigates the mysterious identity of the real “Little Egypt,” the dancer who caused such a stir at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. No definitive answers, but lots and lots of facts and photos.

Serpent of the Nile, by Wendy Buonaventura, Interlink Books, 1995.

Another must-read, though I've seen some nits picked with the accuracy of some of her facts. Gorgeous pictures and plenty of good stuff nonetheless.
I'm starting to sound like one of Sheva's skipping records, but Shira has a much more comprehensive list on her Web site. Oh, what the hell. Here you go . . .
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See the pictures Susan (AKA Zara) took the night we ate at Marrakesh! Itching to meet your own Prince Ali? You won't find him here, but if you simply must check it out, it's listed under “Chat” in the member-created message boards and it's usually full. Wait for an opening, jump in, and flirt away. <
Dancers, events and classes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Yes, Virginia, we've got male belly dancers! Asim is a renaissance man dancer, writer, instructor, costumer, historian and he's a hell of a cool guy to boot!
Even though she outbid me on half of the cool stuff I wanted on ebay, I have to admit she has a great Web site. Lots of info here.
Stay up-to-date on New York shows, workshops, and so on.
These ladies danced at some of my North Carolina signings and were real crowd pleasers. A very cool name for a very cool troupe!
Maria, the cool lady with the Bettie Page 'do, has been so kind as to catalog a list of movies that feature belly dancers!
Discussion boards, directories, and articles.
Piper and the lovely Daughters of Rhea performed at my Maryland signings. It was worth the trip just to see them dance!
This Tennessee site has everything from makeup tips to international news.
Donna was scheduled to dance at my Roanoke signing that was, unfortunately, snowed out. Bummer, because she is fantastic (and I'm not just saying that...she wins awards and stuff).
Arabic musician who starred in many movies along with Samia Gamal. A lot of nice pictures and a surreal caption contest on this site.
In February of 2003, this Maryland theatre group will stage a belly dancing play about the life of Sigmund Freud. If that makes your head spin, check out their website and see what else they've done!
A great on-line magazine with a lot of “back in the day” articles from the golden age of belly dancing.
Canadian purveyor of belly dance supplies
as they say on the website, "it's not all hockey up here!"
A lovely site by Yasmina of Arizona.
A cute website for Lebanese folks everywhere.
If you are Lebanese-American, you MUST register for this site! It's free and fantastic! Go now!
Which is populated by a lot of the dancers mentioned on the above list (yes, you can mingle with Aunty Rocky and the gang). To subscribe, send an e-mail to with “subscribe med-dance” in the body of your e-mail. Then watch the sequins fly! If you join quickly, you can probably watch yours truly get roasted over a slow fire for God knows how many inaccuracies, half-truths, and just plain belly dancer no-nos they'll find in this book. I'm gonna bring my own marshmallows!
The man, the myth, the legend!
AKA Aunty Rocky, Commander-in-Chief of the Ethnic Police.
Belly dance happenings in and around North Carolina.
For all your Arabic music needs. I was so stupid when I lived in L.A. I lived right around the corner from them and never went in! What did I know?
My life in music.
My teacher and the lady with the costumes!
Sheva's School of Dance in Richmond, Virginia. Sheva is the grande dame of belly dancing in Richmond, and her fabulous assistant Janiece has danced at a number of my signings. See the website for info on signing up for your first class!
Did you skip straight to this? You know you did. Don't worry; my feelings aren't hurt. Everything you need to know is there, not here.
The fabulous Women of Selket. Troupe member Zitana danced at one of my Richmond events and teaches wonderful classes in Richmond. She can be reached at for more info. >> Return to Top

Glossary of Arabic Terms

"Yes!" Sometimes used as an exclamation of appreciation, as when seeing a particularly pretty girl or engaging dancer.
akh laa
"Oh, no!" A cry of dismay.
baba ghanouj
A dip made from eggplant and sesame paste. The name means "Old Spoiled Daddy;" ostensibly it refers to a toothless old baba whose daughter mashed his eggplant for him since he couldn't chew.
A folksy, improvisational type of music. The term itself means "country," and balady (or beledi) can refer to the style or the specific beat of the music.
The traditional cabaret costume of a bra, fringed belt, bare midriff, and skirt or harem pants. Singular or plural; bedlah is bedlah.
beledi dress
The covered garment worn for certain Middle Eastern dances--usually the ones done in--you got it--beledi style.
bris milahs
In the Jewish faith, the circumcision ritual and gathering/reception.
Moroccan pie with chicken, nuts, and pastry.
A beat used in Middle Eastern music. Often refers to the part of the show where some floor work might happen.
A long-sleeved midriff-baring top worn in tribal-style dance (also a traditional Indian garment).
danse orientale
The Ethnic Police's preferred term for belly dancing.
Traditional folk dance of Lebanon. A basic line dance that's easy to pick up from those around you, it's frequently seen at weddings and family gatherings.
What my family has always called a doumbek.
A Middle Eastern hand drum. What my family has always called a derbickie.
Interpretation of Islamic law.
A meat-filled pie, folded into an origami-like triangle and baked.
An Egyptian peasant.
A dancing tribe of Egypt that flourished in the eighteenth century.
"Baby" or "sweetheart."
Party. Also called hafli, or, in my family's always questionable pronunciation, huffly.
Forbidden. This is where the term harem originated, as it was haram for men to enter the womens' quarters.
The loose clothing and head coverings worn by some Muslim women. Might, but does not necessarily, involve a face veil (niqab); hijab translates as "modest covering."
A dip made from sesame paste, chick peas, and garlic.
A recognized teacher or spiritual leader in Islam.
"If Allah wishes it." Used the same way my aunts always use "God willing."
"Gulf"; that is, from the Persian Gulf area.
kibbe nayee
A Lebanese raw meat dish, traditionally made from lamb (at my house, beef), cracked wheat, and spices. At my house it's made with beef.
A cookie filled with mashed dates, figs, or nuts. The date ones are extra tasty.
"Hello," "welcome."
A Lebanese Catholic religion founded in the fifth century by Saint Maroun.
A dish made of lentils, rice, and onions.
The person who makes the call to prayer for Muslims.
Muslim religious police.
A stringed instrument played in Middle Eastern music. Looks kind of like a pregnant banjo.
A thin lentil-flour wafer served with Indian food.
Dance inspired by Egyptian paintings--very stylized, often with lighted globes in hands.
Raks Sharki
Belly dancing.
Raqsat Shemadan
Egyptian wedding dance performed with elaborate candelabra worn on the head.
Upper Egyptian folk dance done with a stick or cane.
A woman of ill repute, whore.
The headpiece used in Raqsat Shemadan.
Freestanding water pipe used to smoke fruity tobacco mixture through a tube. The smoking of the shisha is a social affair.
A marketplace.
"Eat up!"
A salad made with finely chopped vegetables and cracked wheat.
The snaky slow part of the music or the dance. The term actually means "improvisation."
A long, loose garment worn in the Gulf area.
vegetable biryani
A traditional Indian rice dish.
"Dude" in chatroomese. It's an Indian greeting, but over at "Arab Chat" it just seems to mean, well, "Dude."
The layer of grease that forms on top of the yuknhee.
ya'ha sit'ti
Loose translation: "May his future be brighter." Looser translation: "That piece of shit!" I've never heard anyone but my Uncle Ronnie use this one, so who really knows.
"Let's go!" Often used as an exclamation along the lines of the Ramones' "Hey, ho, let's go!"
A Jewish person. Probably not the most politically correct term, but then again it must not be too bad judging from the traffic on
A meat and vegetable stew--it's almost got a pot roast thing happening; it's just enormous chunks of meat, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes.
The high-pitched ululating sound made by wagging the tongue quickly back and forth while shrieking. Right now there's a lot of debate on whether or not its use as an audience appreciation sound is appropriate; some factions of the Ethnic Police hold that it's strictly a wedding thing.
Ceremonial trance dance of North Africa. Involves a lot of head swinging and a really sore neck the next day. My zar hangover feels exactly like my old Morbid Angel concert hangover used to feel, but the Zar head motion is swirlier and less headbangy than the heavy metal one.
Finger cymbals (also zagat, sagat).
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