Blog attention to the magic behind the curtain...

We live, breath, love, in the intriguing world of inspirational movement and music from around the world... staff writer Shana is here to give you a 'behind the scenes' look! Enjoy the passion, breadth, and variety of what inspires us; perhaps it will inspire you, too!


The Marriage of Global Music and Dance

Whether you dance or not, we all know that three-dimensional feeling we get when we hear music from a live band versus the two-dimensional blare played through speakers: the experience of receiving the music at the very moment it is being created is organic and deeply personal. Suddenly, the listener is fully immersed in the creation of sound, melody, and rhythm as it is actually happening. The whole body feels the vibrations, and the effect is organic and can even be transcendent. Why would people pay money and travel to see live performances of their favorite bands, when they can just listen at home? Here is a personal example: For decades, this blogger listened to Cher and knew all of her songs by heart. But the moment I saw her onstage from the third row, the effect was so intimate that tears flowed freely, and I could not stop dancing.

The effect of live music is not lost to the dancer. Likewise, musicians can not only play off of each other in a live setting; they can also improvise with and reflect the...


The human inclination to party is timeless and universal. Early gatherings for purely social or celebratory reasons have been recorded around the world for thousands of years, usually for birthdays, harvests, and rites of passage. Music, rhythm, food and dancing have always been central to such gatherings and continue to be so today.

In the belly dance world, the word “hafla,” حفلة, is common to both Arabic and Hebrew and is used to generally describe an array of gatherings that primarily involve dancing and music. Its direct translation is “party” or “celebration.” There are various types, from formal showcases to a combination of formal professional dancing and live music to an impromptu get-together of friends who simply enjoy dancing with live or recorded music. In recent times, the word has also taken on a meaningful connotation: that which represents the celebration and unity in diversity of the Middle East and beyond, so that communities may grow together versus apart.

Johanna Zenobia, owner/director of Hip Expressions Dance Studio in St Petersburg, Florida,...


There’s something very exciting about committing to take a belly dance class. And last Monday, evening I did just that: I took not one, but TWO of Hip Expressions owner/director Johanna Zenobia’s most popular classes in a row: Drills and Combos and Beginner Belly Dance. For a middle-aged working mother of two like me, it felt thrilling, indulgent, and a bit scary to show up, but in the span of even just the first few minutes of class, I was liberated. Allow me to share my two hour journey from nervous to exuberant, from awkward to sensual, from self-conscious to self-celebratory.

A quick sidenote for context: I was a trained modern and jazz dancer in my teens and twenties, with a healthy dose of tap and Polynesian training along the way, but those days were long ago. Thirty decades of yoga maintained a good amount of flexibility over the years, but belly dancing is completely new to me. Attending class as a newbie to this form but with some dance experience made me keenly aware that Johanna’s compassionate and empowering teaching style is not the norm. Despite the name...

Johanna Fire Dancing.jpg

Our Fundamental Elements

Movement. Connection. Health. Motivation. Inspiration. Expression. Contentment. Ask almost any average person what they could use more of to counterbalance their busy lives, and you are likely to get a response that includes many of these basic constituents.

Ani, an administrative assistant who lives in Seminole, Florida, set a New Year’s resolution as follows: “I sit all day long, and work mainly alone. I long to move more and to connect with other people.” Raj, an in-demand heart surgeon in Tampa, states that he’s lost his inner fire: “I do my job well and I do it constantly. I know it’s important and for many years it gave me a great sense of purpose, but I’ve lost my motivation, which was the thing that inspired me to be a healer in the first place.” Indeed, movement, connection, and the inspiration to motivate our purpose are integral to our health and well-being, but our society tends to emphasize overwork and stubborn independence over ease of spirit and connection with others. Over time, that fire that once made us so...