Watching Over Ansuya’s Temple

May 16, 2023
Ansuya and Samira

When I was a new bellydance student, my instructor at the time gave the class an assignment.  We were given a list of the golden era greats to look up videos of, to research, choose a favorite, and be able to explain why.  This created a deep respect for the dancers who came before us, and I learned that I adored Fifi Abdou.  I loved her glamor, grace, and musicality.  I also love that she was a bit of a rebel.



We came back to class, shared our new found love of historical bellydancers like a big show and tell, getting excited for the things we loved and could critique about each other’s research.  Then, we were given a new assignment.  We were told to go on YouTube and research modern day popular dancers, choose a favorite, and be able to explain why.  The same as we did their black and white movie predecessors. 


Now you have to understand, I took my first bellydance class knowing nothing, nothing about the art.  I just had a friend who wanted to go to a class and didn’t want to go alone.  She bailed on me the day off, and I went anyway. I had literally never even seen a bellydancer perform.  So, I was surprised to find that I was immediately enthralled with this new-to-me art form.  I couldn’t get enough.  I watched hundreds of videos that week, but one dancer in particular stood out way above the rest - Ansuya. 



I loved how she danced like a wild woman, yet fully in control, perfectly striking her zills with her hair cascading in the air around her.  My jaw dropped watching her mesmerizing floor work.  I knew I wanted to learn more about her style.  All I really knew at that time was folkloric and upright Egyptian postures.  This was different.  


I wanted more of this.  It’s what truly hooked me to this dance.  I wanted desperately to study with her, but she was living in Hawaii, and that may have been Mars for me as a struggling college student.  


So, I did the next best thing.  I started going to shows, both in theaters and local stages.  I started studying with multiple instructors and going to any local workshop I could swing.  I had officially got bit by the bug.  All I wanted to do was dance.  


Then one day, I heard Ansuya was coming to Indianapolis, just 3 hours north of me!  I grabbed my best friend Nora and we took off for a weekend road trip.  I felt like I had been training for this for years.  I was ready to finally learn about her wild and beautiful technique.  

Me and my bestie Nora

We did a weekend intensive that was full of extremely valuable information.  We learned how to do a firecracker opening, veil, sword, fan veils, how to improvise to a drum solo, and she taught finger cymbals in a way I could FINALLY wrap my head around.  It was just enough to make me realize I needed way more of this in my life.  I confidently raised my hand and asked how often she traveled to the Midwest.  She said not often, but she was working on a big project to be more attainable.  A virtual classroom called GypsyNet.  I got on the mailing list and when the site launched, I enrolled immediately.  I’ve been a student ever since.


These days, I’ve joined Team Ansuya Productions as a marketing assistant, a fellow dancer, and a friend.  When Ansuya planned a family vacation to Hawaii with a stop in Los Angeles for a big performance, she called me and asked if I could house sit for her at her home in Naples, FL.  I would be there to take care of her beloved pets, water the plants, and substitute teach classes.  I work remote, so I can do my job from anywhere.  I was thrilled to be asked, and to get to spend 2 weeks on the Gulf.


Her home has an amazing, exotic energy.  I felt like I had stepped into a Moroccan harem (Don’t get too racy! “Harem” is just the women's section of the home).  There were bright colors, lamps, pillows galore, tiny tables, jewelry, little boxes and fans, and oh! the dance space, right in the center of it all!  She has always taught the importance of sacred space, and it truly was.  

We spent 2 evenings with me going behind the scenes on her dance classes, and a day of learning the routine before we said our goodbyes.  She was off for Hawaii, and I was in Florida.  Paradise for us both.  


I was tickled to be trusted as a substitute for her Zoom classes and delighted in chatting with her kind students.  I realized how truly influential she has been in my dancing and had to really think what I could teach that would be different than what her girls might already know.


We started with the Tuesday classes.  It is normally Bellydance Empowerment followed by Bellydance Vision Quest.  


Bellydance Empowerment is my absolute favorite class she offers.  It’s fast, high energy, cardio fitness bellydance at its finest.  I wanted to honor her teaching style with a bit of a Samira twist.  There was a time when she offered a Caba-ribal-union Certification.  That’s short for Cabaret, Tribal, Fusion!  So, I put together combos from various styles of dance ranging from Egyptian, Turkish Romani, Folkloric, and Tribal and put them to an American song that’s all about how all types of girls are different, and they’re all so beautiful. The singer wants to just be like all of them because they’re all fabulous in their own ways.  This is exactly how I feel about dancers who study different styles.  The dance was fast, fun, and repeatable to show the girls almost a full choreography in one class.  We were all sweating in the end!


Watch the Combo Teaser - Full Recording Available to Samira Online Members (under Combos/Some Girls)


Then we moved on to Bellydance Vision Quest.  This is Ansuya’s moving meditation class, fit for a goddess.  In each class, she helps you ground, center, and set your intentions for law of attraction manifestations, while moving purposely.  I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to replicate that, so we did a Slow Flow class.  I gave the girls a series of slow, fluid movements that they could gracefully transition between in any order to create a lovely, slow dance with lots of floor patterns. 


Watch the Slow Flow Teaser - Full Recording Available to Samira Online Members (under Combos/Slow Flow Bellydance)


Wednesday, we moved into Bellydance Sound Healing with Zills.  This was Baladi rhythm week, and we worked through the chorus of a fun Middle Eastern pop song with cymbals.  


Watch the Zills Demo
 - Full Recording Available to Samira Online Members (under Finger Cymbals/Baladi Combo)


The Thursday Bellydance Performance Circle class only holds 10 students because of the very personal attention Ansuya gives her students.  They learn new technique (to different topics every 10 weeks), everyone improvises to a full cabaret while she watches, takes notes, and offers valuable critique.  Then each week a different student is highlighted to perform a solo.  The class goes around and offers constructive criticism to help the spotlight dancer understand her strong points and areas to grow.  The group is incredibly close and supportive.  It’s a truly beautiful virtual space of women lifting each other up. 


We changed Thursday up a bit.  The current topic is sword.  For the first time ever in a virtual space, I taught my fire sword technique.  We started with the basics.  How to set up a fire circle.  How to work with safety personnel.  Fire safe costuming.  What to do if something doesn’t go as planned.  Fuels, safe extinguishes, burner culture, insurance - everything I wish someone had sat me down and told me the first day.  

Watch the Fire Sword Demo - Full Recording Available to Samira Online Members (Under Fire/Fire Sword)


Then we went through all the stages of a fire sword routine and how it coincides with how much fuel has burnt off the wick.  I showed them how to use the light to frame their bodies and how to do the most effective tricks with limited access to two handed holds.  All of this information translates to an unlit sword just fine too.  I hope the girls got a lot out of it, even if they never light anything on fire.  I’m excited to see if any of the moves make it to their improv repertoire in future solos!


Then the weekend!!!!!  I spent so much time at the beach and got my first experience swimming in the ocean!  Bucket list   I also loved going to watch the sunsets over the water.  When it went down, everyone cheered.  For the sun!  How beautiful is that?  I am SO excited for the girls who get to go to Ansuya’s Tropical Goddess Retreats this summer!  They’re going to have a blast!


Speaking of tropical, the botanical gardens were beautiful!  It’s so funny, all of the botanical gardens I’ve seen in the Midwest have been indoors, because they have to be in green houses.  So, it didn’t even occur to me that, Florida, of course, it’s outside!  


Check my IG Reel of the Naples Botanical Gardens

It felt AMAZING after a long, depressing winter to soak in all the sun and vitamin D my body was lacking.  It was a complete burst of seratonin.  Even after getting toasty on my face, I would sit in the shade and stick my legs out.  I’m still super pale, but my freckles are coming back. 😆 


When Ansuya returned, I hope that she felt the good energy I added to her space with as happy as I was each day of my tropical escape.  We were able to catch up over dinner.  I heard all about her exciting show in LA with some behind the scenes goodness.  She also gave me some extremely valuable advice as a dancer.  Things you’d normally only get in her certification programs.  


As someone who fully believes that if you want to grow as a dancer, you study under multiple instructors, I have to say, If you haven’t studied with this amazing goddess yet, you absolutely should.  Her classes are super accessible regardless of where you live in the world.  Whether you study at, enroll in zoom classes, or get one on one with her in private coaching or certification programs.  


I have truly treasured this time together and feeling what it's like to live a couple weeks in the life of a Bellydance Superstar.

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