Category: Studio

Mission Statement

The mission of Shambling Shimmies Dance Company is to create an integrated belly dance school serving the Gainesville area.  In addition to dance classes themselves, we focus on running classes that are directly supportive of dance by assisting students in building the skills, strength, and flexibility that they need to dance their best, as well as restorative exercises to avoid injury.  The school is neutral, and everyone is welcome to participate in dance classes regardless of their beliefs, lifestyle, or views.  Bodies are treated with respect, while dance is most definitely exercise, our top focus is learning and growing.  As a dance school, we hope that our product is joy in music and movement.

In the past, though sadly not so much today, it was not uncommon to have a full belly dance show performed at a restaurant or nightclub. These shows generally followed a set progression that still influences how belly dance shows are laid out today. Today we’re going to talk briefly about that show structure, and about a new project we are about to start at the Shambling Shimmies School of Belly Dance.

The show structure commonly used in the 60s and 70s for restaurant dancing in the United States was a 7 part show.  Shira has a good article on her site [link] for further reading, but I’ll very briefly list the 7 parts here:

1. Entrance, to greet the audience.
2. Slow, flowing music with veil (previously wrapped and tucked).
3. Fast or medium-speed song to keep the show moving.
4. Floorwork, sword/tray balancing, or standing taqsim (slow).
5. Fast or medium-speed song to bring the energy back up.
6. Drum solo.
7. Finale.

In a 7 part show, each section is a full song. Currently, it’s less common for a dancer to be hired for such a long show, so she will often use a variation on the 7 part format, taking 3 or 5 of the parts, which still gives her the opportunity to present variety and an interesting progression, in the reduced amount of time more commonly available today.

While it’s rare, especially in Gainesville, to see a professional belly dancer hired for solo shows in a restaurant or nightclub, this totally still happens in larger cities. Today, it’s more common to see belly dance performed at a hafla (hafla means party, and is commonly used in the US to describe a party or similar event where there will be belly dancing).

At most haflas there will be multiple dancers, most likely with different skill levels and presenting different styles of belly dance. Haflas are huge fun because they provide a great opportunity for belly dancers to get together to support and enjoy each others’ dancing, and they also provide performance opportunities for students that are ready to begin getting practice performing for an audience. As an audience member, seeing belly dance performed in a club or restaurant show is different from seeing it at a hafla, and even more different from seeing it in a stage show.

When planning a hafla’s performance lineup, the organizer will often take into consideration the style of belly dance each dancer plans to perform, props they plan to use, or the music they plan to use, in order to lay out a pleasing and interesting progression for the audience. When possible, the classic 7 part show may influence the ordering of the acts.

Harkening back to this era in belly dance history, we’re about to start a new project at the studio. In our belly dance sampler class (currently on Mondays), we’re going to go through a 5 part show!

We’ll be including choreographies for:

1. Entrance
2. Veil
3. Uptempo (with Zills)
4. Taqsim (with Optional Floorwork)
5. Drum Solo

We’ll actually be going through them in reverse order (so that the pieces which will require the most practice are learned earlier in the series). When all 5 pieces have been taught, the group that is ready to perform will get a full set at the monthly Student Showcase! (Dancers do not need to commit to learn and perform all 5 pieces, students who have learned at least one choreography to a performance level will be eligible to participate.)

We’ll also be going through much shorter and simpler ‘tastes’ of all 7 parts in the belly dance party jam class on Thursday nights!

The belly dance stylization we’ll be using for this project is something that is perhaps best described as American Vintage – heavily inspired by Jamila Salimpour, the style includes a variety of movements from multiple middle eastern dance genres. We still call the stylization American because it came about in the United States when immigrants from many cultures came to the U.S. and people began to share their own music and dance with one another. Jamila Salimpour is a pioneer in the field that codified many movements and preserved a format that is still in use today. Though she’s very well known for her Bal Anat performances at Renaissance fairs, which used a tribal stylization and presentation (including a chorus or backline and featured dancers, still used today in both ATS and ITS), it may be less known that at the time, those same dancers changed costumes and performed the same movements to different music in shows at nightclubs and restaurants in the evenings.

Hope to see you in class!



Shambling Shimmies Dance Company Core Values

Several months ago we were blessed with additional instructors joining us at the school, and as they set about designing their classes, we wanted to try to define our philosophy and the values that drive us so that we could strive together toward a common goal – running an excellent belly dance school in Gainesville that participates in and contributes to the local dance community.  If you’ve stumbled across this post because you are looking for belly dance classes in Gainesville, Florida, I hope that this information tells you more about who we are, why we dance, and what we have to offer.

Our mission is to create an integrated belly dance school serving the Gainesville area – where every class we offer adds to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.  As we add classes and instructors to our team, we add more perspectives and viewpoints on the dance.  We believe this is valuable as it helps us and our students become better dancers, and a better community.  We want to bring together, learn about, and share the many types and styles of movement that contribute to belly dance today, rather than creating divisions between them.

We are a dance school.  We don’t run classes on material that isn’t directly supportive of dance, building the skills/strength/flexibility needed to perform dance, restorative exercises to keep our bodies able to dance, and so on.  We don’t want to be a multi-purpose training facility with a collection of separate classes going on, and we do not want to be a fitness-focused facility.  We are and will continue to be a dance school.  Improved fitness may be a byproduct, because dance is a physical activity, but fitness is not our goal as a school.

This of course does not mean that people seeking fitness are not welcome – you’ll certainly get exercise in class – and hopefully you’ll have a good time as well while you learn to dance.  Belly dance is generally a low impact activity executed with careful attention to posture to avoid injury, so practicing it can impart many benefits, both physically and emotionally, depending on what you are seeking and what you put into your practice.  Dance (of any style, I suspect) is all about using your body as an instrument to express the music and the feelings the music evokes.  As instructors, our primary goal is to help you equip yourself with an excellent arsenal of movements and information that you can call up when you need them.

The school is neutral.  The school does not espouse or endorse any particular political, spiritual, or religious views, and does not include them in course content.  Bringing people together to enjoy belly dance is what is important to us.  Everything in our classes is presented as a primarily physical practice to help achieve some dance-related goal.  Everyone is welcome, no matter what views or beliefs you have.  (At the same time, there is an expectation of basic decorum and courtesy as would be expected in any other place of learning.  No student has the right to infringe upon the classroom experience of others.)

Bodies are treated with respect.  We are not selling weight loss, muscle tone, or having the body you’ve always wanted.  We aren’t selling looking or feeling sexy.  You may receive those benefits, or you may not (you may not even view them as benefits, that’s up to you).  Everybody (and every body) is different and that’s awesome.  We’re a dance school, what we want to do is guide people as they build the physical and mental skills necessary to dance their best, and hope that we can make it fun and nourishing for them.  We hope that our product is joy in music and movement.

These are the core values that we try to guide ourselves by as we select and structure classes at the studio.  Students may happen to find spiritual fulfillment, emotional solace, better abs, or any of a variety of things as they learn and practice belly dance, but those things are not our focus.  Our focus is simply on dancing well, improving our dance continually, and being joyful in it while we help our students do the same.

So that’s it – we sell happiness.  Or at least, what makes us happy.  We hope that you’ll come and visit us, and that you’ll enjoy it as much as we do.

New Studio Move-In Date!

The move-in date for the new studio has been set! As of Monday, December, 10, 2012, all classes will be held at our new location:

4131 NW 13th St., Suite 202

Gainesville, FL

We look forward to seeing you all there at the brand new studio!!




In an effort to make the studio feel a little homier until we can get the proper curtains made and hung, I’ve hung some decorative scarves and a nice big piece of silk around the studio. A couple of our mirrors (salvaged/recycled thank you very much) had little chips on the corners, which are taped for safety, and the fabric helps obscure them from view and assists in further dampening sound from zills and whatnot.



And there’s Ryan, nonchalantly in the mirror, as per standard.

Studio Update

The studio has been gradually progressing! We still have curtains and a bit of decor to do, and I need to get the rest of ‘the office’ set up in the closet, but all the big stuff is done. Come visit us!

Foam panels on the ceiling to help muffle zill echoes:


Some comfy cushions, yoga mats, and a couple drums:


The display case and class stuff corner:


One side of our freshly cleaned out storage closet:


I’m excited about that mini fridge – it’ll save us having to run next door for drinks or snacks on longer days.


Classes start in the new studio tomorrow!




Studio Progress

We managed to get a few more things done Today!