Shimmy in Hawaii

The Hawaii Belly Dance Convention attracts dancers and teachers from around the globe.

Dancers at the Hawaii Belly Dance Convention

Briefly clad dancers with hips swaying under the palms are iconic images entwined in the history of the Hawaiian Islands. While hula may be the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people, another feminine artform takes center stage when Middle Eastern practitioners from around the world gather in Honolulu this month for the 10th annual Hawaii Belly Dance Convention.

The convention is a labor of love and brainchild of dancer and producer Malia Delapenia. Born and raised in the islands studying everything from ballet, hula and martial arts, she found that a belly dance class with mentor Shakti Sundae Merrick stole her heart. “It was so woman-empowering,” says Delapenia. “I fell in love.”

She has traversed the world teaching her particular style—“Malia Delapenia,” a mix of the Saidi, Ghawazee, folkloric, American cabaret, Egyptian, tribal and fusion styles she has studied. Her impetus to create the belly dance convention was to bring the various practitioners she’d encountered to the islands to teach, and to expose Hawaii to the artform. By introducing one ancient culture to another, Delapenia is doing her part as cultural ambassador. “It is one big crazy celebration,” she says. “The whole thing feels like putting on a wedding each year.”

Begun as a one-day event, the convention is now five days of classes, with performances, showcases, lectures, a pop-up marketplace, social gatherings and plenty of opportunities to admire the natural beauty of the islands and taste local flavors. The “Belly Dancers Gone Bad” catamaran cruise off Waikiki and hike to Maunawili Falls are highlights. Delapenia curates opening night “Shimmy Showcases,” which take place at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, stringing together many styles and choreographies geared toward entertaining and educating her audiences. “This year we have decided to produce a two-show format, so performers and audience have the space to explore both sides of the artform,” she says. “Essence will showcase traditional movements, and The Unveiling will be a more modern and sensual exploration of the dance.”

On day two of the convention, hundreds of students will participate in “Shimmy with Aloha” workshops and lectures, held at the Neal S. Blaisdell Convention center. Classes titled “Tight Locks and Luscious Layers,” “Fingers Cymbals the Ambidextrous Method!” and “Egyptian Spice” are taught by Ashley Lopez, Shahrzad, Amira and the convention’s first male teacher, a pioneer of tribal fusion belly dance, Frank Farinaro.

The convention takes place October 10–14. DT

For more:

Rachel Berman is a former dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company and an educator, manager, fundraiser and freelance writer.

Photo courtesy of Hawaii Belly Dance Convention; map ©Thinkstock

Teaching Tips
Justin Boccitto teaches a hybrid class. Photo courtesy Boccitto

Just as teachers were getting comfortable with teaching virtual classes, many studios are adding an extra challenge into the mix: in-person students learning alongside virtual students. Such hybrid classes are meant to keep class sizes down and to give students options to take class however they're comfortable.

But dividing your attention between virtual students and masked and socially distant in-person students—and giving them each a class that meets their needs—is no easy feat.

Dance Teacher asked four teachers what they've learned so far.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
All photos by Ryan Heffington

"Annnnnnnd—we're back!"

Ryan Heffington is kneeling in front of his iPhone, looking directly into the camera, smiling behind his bushy mustache. He's in his house in the desert near Joshua Tree, California, phone propped on the floor so it stays steady, his bright shorty shorts, tank top and multiple necklaces in full view. Music is already playing—imagine you're at a club—and soon he's swaying and bouncing from side to side, the beat infusing his bones.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.