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Festival of Oriental Dance text.
General Info | Schedule | Workshops | Free Events | Bios | Performances | Registration
  Afifa Benwahoud    


Afifa is from the Moroccan city of Meknes, though her family is originally from nearby Fez. She studied international trade and applied management in Morocco, and came to Minnesota ten years ago. She is the Coordinator of Multicultural Life at Macalester College, and is on the board of the Arab American Cultural Institute. Afifa says tradition influences her daily life, such as the way she conceives of her relationships, the way she manages her household and celebrates religious holidays.

Discussion: Remembering and Re-imagining Our Traditions (Saturday 4:00–6:00)



Amel Tafsout    
 Image of Amel Tafsout.
Photo by Denisa Marino



Born in Algeria, Amel is a respected dancer, teacher and choreographer. She strives to break down the barriers between the East and West, drawing on ritual and traditional dances from the Maghreb, Middle East, Africa, and Cuba. She conveys the spiritual nature of dance to her audiences and students.See her dance (at 2:36) or visit her website.

Nuba: A Dance Journey Through the Maghreb (Thursday 1:30–3:30)
Sufi Workshop: Sound Healing and Trance
(Friday 3:45–5:45)
Andalusian Dance: Andalusian Style to
Ya Raya (Sunday 11:15–1:15)

  Andrea Deagon    
Image of Andrea Deagon.    

Andrea is an Associate Professor teaching Classical Studies and Women's Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She has done a lot of writing about dance; many of her articles have been published in Habibi Magazine. Andrea gave the Keynote speech at the First International Conference of Middle Eastern Dance, and organized the academic sessions for the second. She is at work on a general history of belly dance, from antiquity through the 1970's. She has a great deal of wonderful information on her website.

Oriental Dance in France and the Path to Raqs Sharqi (Friday 3:00–4:45)
Belly Dance in Patriarchy: Escaping the Switzerland of the Soul (Sunday 10:00–11:45)

    Angelina bint Dahlena    

Dahlena will be accompanied by her daughter, Angelina, who has been dancing Middle Eastern, tap, jazz, ballet, and Flamenco since she was a child. Her performing career began with Dahlena's dance company and she continues to perform as a soloist and with her own troupe. Angelina is performing in The Stars Shine on Friday and Saturday nights. You can see her at her website.

   Ava Fleming    
Image of Ava Fleming.    

Ava's dynamic performances captivate audiences worldwide, while her talent and skill in both the academic and performance arenas have made her a regular guest presenter in five continents. Ava has been a traveling professional for over 15 years where she has grown and evolved the traditional “belly dance” into a fusion art that melds Western dance and stage theory with Eastern concepts. In addition to her active traveling career, Ava currently teaches accredited Raqs Sharqi courses at Arizona colleges and owns al Moro Studio in Phoenix. Ava was "Belly Dancer of the Universe" Champion, People's Choice & Miss Congeniality. See her dance or visit her website.

Drum Solo with Cymbals (Thursday 9:00–11:00)
Jazz-Infused Combinations
(Friday 11:15–1:15)
Belly Dance Technique and Combinations (Saturday 3:45–5:45)

Photo of Cassandra.    

Cassandra began performing Middle Eastern dance in 1975 and has since made over 15 research trips to the Middle East. Her studies began in San Francisco with the legendary performer, Jamila Salimpour. She has studied with some of the finest teachers and choreographers of Middle Eastern dance, notably including Mahmoud Reda, Mohammed Khalil, Raqia Hassan, and the late Ibrahim Farrah. In 1989, she formed Jawaahir Dance Company, which has since been recognized for its ground-breaking repertory of traditional, modern, and fusion works of Middle Eastern and contemporary dance. Today, Cassandra is known as a master teacher, star performer, and creative artist in the field of Middle Eastern dance. See her dance! or visit her wbsite.

Spicing Up your Troupe Choreography (Saturday 1:30–3:30)

  Colette Illarde    
Colette Illarde photo.    

Originally from Chicago, Colette began ballet at an early age with Edward Parish and at the Boitsov School. She discovered flamenco with the Ensemble Español, and after moving to Minneapolis in 1996 she formed FUEGO Flamenco, igniting audiences with the passion of flamenco.

Dancer, teacher, performer, choreographer, advocate, and community builder, Colette has received numerous grants and awards for her work including the prestigious McKnight Fellowship for Dance. She has danced with many flamenco groups, locally and as far away as Abu Dhabi. She travels to Spain regularly to bring back the most current flamenco expression for her students and audiences alike. She was most recently seen with Zorongo Flamenco and Ballet of the Doll's (Dali's Cookbook) and as invited solo dancer with the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet.

Colette has served on the Ordway Cultural Committee, Sage dance panel, McKnight dance panel, Minneapolis Art Commission and as the Artist Liaison for Minneapolis MOSAIC, celebrating cultural diversity. Currently, she is a teaching artist at Interact Center, creating theater and dance with adult artists with disabilities. Colette has a deep commitment to community and personal empowerment through the arts.

Flamenco for Belly Dancers (Sunday 12:00–1:00)


Dahlena is a career dancer. She started in the early 60’s performing in night clubs across the U.S. and in France, Syria, and Iraq. She is one of the preeminent pioneers of national workshops. Dahlena's experience of working with some of the finest musicians and dancers from the Middle East influenced her style of dance. Today, her choreography and dance style is modern Middle Eastern, based on a solid foundation of the past. See her dance or visit her website.

Combinations and Traveling Steps (Thursday 3:45–5:45)
Stylings for an Oriental Dance Entrance
(Saturday 9:00–11:00)
Short Modern Choreography Using Classic Egyptian Dance Moves (Sunday 1:30–3:30)

  Derek Phillips    


Derek Phillips is a native of Kansas City, Missouri and a 1977 graduate of Carleton College. He began his dance career with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company as a performer, instructor, outreach coordinator and board member, and toured nationally with the Children’s Theatre Company. Derek has been a roster artist for the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Artists-in-Education Program, and continues to conduct annual residencies for the Montevideo, Minnesota public schools. He has taught as part of the Dance/Math program at Whittier Community School for the Arts in Minneapolis and instructed and performed for the City Children’s Nutcracker Project. Currently, Derek is a teaching artist for the Children’s Theatre Company’s Neighborhood Bridges and Early Bridges programs. He tours internationally with Katha Dance Theatre, explores contact improvisation with Mandance, and performs English country dances with Minnesota Traditional Morris.

Kathak, the classical dance of north India, is among the six major classical dances of India and one of the most dynamic theater arts in the world. Derek has been dancing with Katha Dance Theatre for over 15 years.

Kathak (North Indian) Dance for Belly Dancers (Sunday 5:00–6:00)

  Helen Voelker    
Jawaahir member Helen Voelker photo.    

Helen has been making herself beautiful as a member of Jawaahir since 1990. She has also performed with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company and the Continental Dance Theatre.

Stage Make-Up Demo (Friday 5:00–6:00)

  Hend al-Mansour    

Born in the world’s largest date palm oasis in eastern Saudi Arabia, at age 16, Hend joined the Medical School in Cairo University, Egypt. Although she knew that she would make art all her life, she chose to pursue a career as a doctor, which allowed personal freedom and self worth that might not be accessible otherwise. She practiced art to fulfill her desire for self-expression. In 1997, she seized an opportunity to come to the United States. Realizing that art was the one thing that fulfilled her ambitions, she recognized the value of living her life to the fullness of her dreams. She earned an MFA at MCAD, and is pursuing a Master’s in Art History at the University of St. Thomas. She is on the board of the Arab American Cultural Institute. Since moving to Minnesota, Hend has created some of the most memorable set designs for Jawaahir’s stage shows. Cultural explorations and re-imaginings are at the core of her work. Her website is www.hendalmansour.com.

Discussion: Remembering and Re-imagining Our Traditions (Saturday 4:00–6:00)

  Kay Hardy Campbell    

Kay Hardy Campbell is a writer and musician with a long-time interest in the music and folk dance arts of the Gulf region. She learned the folk dances while an eight year resident in Saudi Arabia, and has been teaching American women the folk dances of the Gulf for thirty years. She co-founded and directs the Arabic Music Retreat at Mount Holyoke College.

Kay has an article in the August 2011 issue of "Saudi Aramco World" magazine. Listening for Al-Andalus is about Spain's Eduardo Paniagua and the music of al-Andalus.

Discussion: Remembering and Re-imagining Our Traditions (Saturday 4:00–6:00)

  Laura Harada    

Laura has been studying and performing classical Arabic music since 1997, when she first met and studied with Palestinian oud and violin virtuoso, Simon Shaheen. Originally trained in western classical music, she fell in love with the rich tonal language and rhythms of Arabic music and has been pursuing further study and performance ever since. Laura has attended the Arabic Music Retreat for eight years and studied for five weeks with Simon Shaheen in NYC. In 2005, she toured the US with Youssou N’Dour as a member of Fathy Salama’s Cairo Orchestra. Laura currently performs with Mandragora Tango, Amwaaj, Music Mundial, and Batucada do Norte.

Introduction to Arabic Music for Dancers (Friday 11:00–1:00)

  Peg Deppe    
Jawaahir member Peg Deppe photo.    

Margaret (Peg) Deppe, PhD, is a dress and textile history scholar, with an emphasis on historic and contemporary clothing, textiles, and needlework from North Africa and the Levant. Her dissertation examined the relationship between dress and identity among students in Middle Eastern dance classes.

Peg has been a student of Middle Eastern dance for more than 20 years. She has traveled to Turkey, Egypt, and Morocco to study raqs sharqi and folkloric dance styles, as well as the evolution and adaptation of ethnic dress for dance performance.

Dressing a Dancer: Class Dress and Identity (Saturday 10:00–11:45)

  Ruby Beh    
Image of Ruby Beh.    

With a background in American Classic Bellydance, Kung Fu and Turkish Oriental styling, Ruby Beh takes the stage with playfulness and power. Her love of Turkish culture and dance has drawn her to head straight for the source, and study extensively in Istanbul. She is widely recognized for a raw, untamed, and passionate dance style. In addition to being a multi-award winning performer, Ruby is a certified Pilates instructor and is featured on several instructional and performance bellydance DVDs including her own full length instructionals: "Flawless Floorwork" and "Totally Turkish." She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada. See her dance or visit her website.

Swifty Chifte: Fast Turkish Chiftetelli (Thursday 11:15–1:15)
All About Arms: Frames and Flourishes for Better Bellydance
(Friday 1:30–3:30)
Explorations in Improvisation
(Sunday 9:00–11:00)

  Sandi Ball    

Image of Sandi.
Photo by Kristine Adams


Sandi has been studying and dancing with FatChanceBellyDance since 1998. It has been a rewarding journey of discovery, commitment, and maturation from being a student, to a performer, to a troupe member, to a teacher, to a mentor. She has been teaching since 2005 and is also the lead mentor for the student troupe, BlueDiamonds. When not at the studio, Sandi is a bindi and jewelry designer and also takes hula classes. See her dance! or visit her website.

Fun-da-mentals (Friday 9:00–11:00)
Fun-da-mentals Review and Shimmy + Variations
(Saturday 11:15–1:15)
Fun-da-mentals Review and Forming Formations
(Sunday 3:45–5:45)


Photo by Pixie Vision

Shira is known worldwide for her work as a researcher, author, lecturer, and publisher of information on Middle Eastern dance, music, and culture. She has been interviewed by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for stories on Middle Eastern dance, and is highly sought after as a contributor to magazines centered on this art form. Her web site, shira.net, is the most comprehensive and most linked-to Oriental dance web site in the world. Shira serves as a staff writer for three publications focused on Middle Eastern dance, including Jareeda, Gilded Serpent, and Zaghareet.

Hares in the Harem and Fantasies of Seduction (Thursday 11:15–1:00)
Dance in Egyptian Cinema
(Sunday 3:00–4:45)

  Tim O'Keefe    
Image of Tim O'Keefe.    

Tim is renowned as one of the top percussionists in the Twin Cities. He has performed in music festivals in the Middle East in Jerash, Bethlehem, and Bir Zeit. Tim performs with top artists in Arabic, Persian, and Kurdish music including Simon Shaheen’s Al-Qantra, Settar, Morteza, Sussan, and Sivan Perwar. Tim was on the percussion staff of the 2005 Arabic Music Retreat. Locally, he performs with Saharan Nights, Amwaaj, Brasamba, Xibaba, and Music Mundial and co-directs Batucada do Norte. Recently he recorded “The Passionate Voice of the Oud” with Sakher Hattar, Jordanian oud master. Tim composes and performs with many local theater and dance productions. He is teaching three drum classes at The Cassandra School.

Introduction to Arabic Music for Dancers (Friday 11:00–1:00)
Introduction to Frame Drum and Arabic Tambourine (Riq) (Saturday 12:00-1:00)

  Toha (Sarah Jones-Larson)    
Jawaahir member Sarah Jonesp-Larson photo.    

Toha performed internationally as a child with Philadelphia's Ballet Des Jeunes and New York's Ecos De Espana. Locally, she performed with Zorongo Flamenco and Theatre de la Jeune Lune before joining Jawaahir in 1994. She learned Zambra Mora from Mercedes Lois in New York, and has been dancing it since she was 15. http://mideasterndance.com/about-toha.htm.

Zambra Mora for Belly Dancers (Thursday 3:00–4:00)


Jawaahir Dance Company & The Cassandra School - 1940 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403    612-872-6050    | Contact Us |