"The beauty of belly dance is that it attracts people of all ages and all sizes,” says Amira Mor, who has brought her own modern twist to the sensual dance style. “In my classes, I have young children and 66-year-old women. I have professional dancers and absolute beginners. I have people who want to lose weight and people who want to focus on loving their bodies,” she says. Mor adds that many of her students are teachers in other styles: “Pilates and hip-hop teachers love taking my classes,” she says. “Belly dancing teaches a lot of undulation that translates to hip hop. And Pilates is all about the abs and the rib cage, just like belly dancing.”

 

An Israel native, Mor has performed in the films, Sex and the City 2 and Morning Glory, and she has worked with performers from Britney Spears to the New York City Ballet. She created two CDs and 13 instructional DVDs and teaches weekly classes at Broadway Dance Center in NYC. She is also founder and one of three instructors at the Amira Mor Performing Arts Center in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, home of the Amira Mor International Entertainment Company.

 

Her belly dance classes aren’t structured much differently from a jazz or modern class. Beginning with breathing and stretches, Mor then takes her students through a series of isolations. “We isolate every part of the body down to the knuckles of your finger,” she says. “More advanced levels will focus on coordination—moving the rib cage to the four corners while shimmying the lower body, for example.” Next, the class learns technique and choreography and ends with a fast-paced improvisation or a sensual cooldown. Here, she shares some of her favorite Middle Eastern music to help dancers in any class explore their exotic side. DT

 

Artist: Pangia

Album: Pangia: Volume 3

 

“When we’re stretching, I like my students to totally forget what happened during the day, so I use sensual, exotic music that takes them to a new realm, a foreign place. There are two songs on this album that I like. “S’agapo” is a Greek song, and the word S’agapo means ‘I love you.’ It’s very sensual. The other song is called ‘Cleo’Pat’ra.’ Most girls who belly dance feel connected to Cleopatra—very queen-like, elegant, sexy, mysterious and powerful. The title speaks for itself.”

 

Artist: Turkish Percussion Group

Album: Harem II: Time of Rhythm

 

“For body isolations, I love using percussion music with a faster tempo. Every one of these songs is amazing. They are house music, but belly dancing house. It’s very modern, so people of all ages can relate to it. And the base and the rhythm really inspire you to move.”

 

Artist: Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Album: Whirling

 

“This is traditional belly dance music that I use for choreography incorporating veiling and unveiling. When you use the veil with spiritual music like this, unveiling that sheer layer means something much deeper. You are unveiling emotional layers or baggage that you carry. I like the songs “Moment of Doubt” and “Long Wait.” One is more spiritual and one is more sensual.”

 

Artist: Murat Sakaryali

Album: My Violin

 

“Murat Sakaryali is a Turkish artist who plays experimental world music, and some of the songs can make you cry. I use it for slow motion, graceful arms or the end of class. I usually ask students if they want to end class with fast or slow music. If we’ve just done fast choreography, then we’ll end with a cooldown to music like this.”

 

Artist: Body-Shock

Album: The Bellydance Project

 

“Body-Shock is party or club music that has a great rhythm for a fast improvisation. I’ll either improvise while students follow, or they’ll improvise themselves. I really like when they need to create their own improvisation, because then they stop thinking and lose themselves in the music as if nobody’s watching.”

 

Photo: Amira Mor (by Lina Jang, courtesy of Amira Mor)

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