My 2 Most Influential Dance Teachers in 2019

Gratitude in Prose

As we move into the new year, I, like many others, have been reflecting on how much has happened in 2019. My life now looks very different than from a year ago: I took bold steps to live closer to my truth, felt old identifies melt away into new ones, traveled, met wonderful new people, became closer to families and artists I love and value, deepened my understanding of the cultures whose dance I am learning and representing, as well pushed beyond my comfort zone in creating and presenting my art.

There were many factors that went into making all of this happen. However, I want to express immense gratitude to 2 instructors who had a pivotal effect on my growth this past year: Khadijah and Kamala Almanzar. I had the opportunity to take workshops from Khadijah and Kamala in 2019, but did not study beyond that with either of them (yet). Still, each in their unique way opened the door to my deeper creative exploration and cultural understanding. 

I would like to emphasize that these are not reviews, but essentially my gratitude list in prose. The reason I’m doing this publicly is because I want to share what I’ve learned in the hopes that you, too, will take the opportunity to learn from these amazing artists should you ever get the chance. 


Group photo from Khadijah’s workshop weekend, March 2019

Khadijah is a Denver, CO based dance artist who came to Portland in 2019 to teach a weekend on khaleeji dance technique, cultural mannerisms, and musicality. Her khaleeji workshops were beyond phenomenal as she wove detail after detail regarding Gulf geography, overview of Islam, cultural etiquette, dance movements, her top 10 khaleeji rhythms to know (yes there’s more than just one), and more into the most culturally comprehensive course on khaleeji dance as I have ever seen or heard of.

Khadijah doesn’t rely solely on her Gulf upbringing as her source of knowledge, but has put countless hours into researching khaleeji dance and music in the Gulf. She also brought in much needed discourse regarding the history of racism in Arabic music.

During the movement workshops, I really valued how much joy Khadijah feels in her movements. She’s earthy, relaxed, and created an atmosphere where we could be, too. Dancing with Khadijah makes you feel like she’s your neighbor or bff who invited you to over to jam out and dance. 

More info about Khadijah can be found here:

Kamala Almanzar

Kamala with Raqs Ayana (Henna, Kate Soleil, Emilie Lauren, and Shaunti Fera), June 2019

Based in Southern California, Kamala has been called a “living legend”, “icon”, and “an inspiration” in the Middle Eastern dance community. What I loved most about learning Kamala in 2019 was, for a short time, immersing myself in her incredibly unique movement style which is at once fresh and inventive yet strongly anchored in classic American Cabaret style.

The opportunity to learn from Kamala was very synchronistic as for a long time I’ve been struggling to find breath and air in my movement vocabulary; upper body expression has never been a strength of mine. I routinely feel upward moving energy becoming blocked in my chest, unable to flow beyond some invisible barrier to finish my movements outward through my arms and upper body. However, moving through one of Kamala’s choreographies helped something click; her movements feel like the most blissful, meditative combination of earth and air which really opened my body and creative expression to greater possibilities. 

Find out more about Kamala on her website:

Kate Soleil

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Ovation: Gala featuring Kamala Almanzar

Ovation Gala

I am very excited that the Raqs Ayana Dance Collective is hosting Kamala Almanzar in Portland, OR for a day of workshops and an evening gala, Ovation! We’ve all been dreaming of producing a theater show for some time and are excited to see that dream come to reality. Besides of lovely featured instructor, we will have many Pacific Northwest artists performing flamenco, fusion, Saudi gulf dance, American Tribal style, and more. Click here to get your tickets!


Oriental Dance Kamala Style!
11:15 – 1:15 p.m.
Kamala has been admired for her smooth moves & intricate choreographies. Her style has developed over 40 years, from a Ballet & Jazz foundation, dancing in Arabic Nightclubs with Egyptian Orchestras, to working with Farida Fahmy of the Reda Troupe & studies with Middle Eastern dance luminaries. Kamala’s main objective as a teacher is to give away everything she knows, blending old style with modern, and a few special signature moves. Click here for more information or to sign up!

Graceful Combinations
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Add some Egyptian Elegance to your repertoire with Kamala Almanzar, combining original Reda Troupe combinations with Reda inspired modern movement. Stylish traveling steps, fluid turns and graceful arms. Beautiful for Oriental solos, stage and troupe performances. Click here for more information or to sign up!

Kamala Almanzar

Kamala has been called a “living legend”, “icon”, and “an inspiration” in the Middle Eastern dance community. Throughout her 40 year career, Kamala keeps up to date with the latest dance trends, while keeping a solid foundation in the classic styles. Kamala is known for her unique choreographies, and for coaching competition champions. She continues her education by visiting Egypt, and attending and sponsoring workshops with masters from around the world.

Kamala has worked with the tops in the field, including “Arabesque Dance Company”, directed by “Reda Troupe” principal dancer Farida Fahmy, alongside Sahra Saeeda. She was Assistant Artistic Director of “The Flowers of the Desert”, innovators of experimental styles, with a prestigious dance roster. She has performed for dignitaries and celebrities, including the Saudi royal family, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Liz Taylor, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, to name a few.

Currently Kamala’s focus is choreography for professional dance companies, and producing theater. Kamala’s productions of “Choreographers’ Collective”, “Choreographers’ Eclectic” and “Shaabi Chic”, featured luminaries Sahra Kent, Zahra Zuhair, Jillina Carlano, Mandala Dance Worlds, Tamra-henna, and Hungary’s Katalin Schaefer. Kamala produces and choreographs for the evening gala at LA’s largest festival – “Cairo ShimmyQuake”, featuring world class performers including Tito, Aziza of Cairo, Sadie, and Kami Liddle.

Kamala is on staff at Dance GardenLA, California’s most prestigious studio, and travels as a workshop teachers. She was the first teacher to be named “Teacher of the Year” in 2017 by BDUC (Bellydancer of the Universe”), and is a master instructor at “Legends of LA Bellydance”.

Find out more about Kamala on her website:

Check out more about the workshops and show on facebook.

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