Photo of Shira



PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Learning to Belly Dance from
Books & Web Sites

by Shira


The very best way to learn belly dancing is with a teacher who can show you the movements from different angles, correct your mistakes, and guide you through putting them together into a finished dance.

However, not everybody can find a class. If you have tried, but haven't been able to find one, first try reading my article How to Find a Belly Dancing Class in Your Community for ideas on how to find a teacher. If that doesn't help, or if you simply refuse to consider going to a class, whatever your reasons, read on!

This article is Part 2 of two parts. In Part 1, my focus was on how to use videos to study belly dance. Here in Part 2, I'll talk about web sites and books that may help.

If you can't find a teacher, I urge you to try videos. They're better than books and web sites because they show you how each move looks in motion. Even a talented writer and photographer can't convey the movement as effectively as a video can that lets you see it being executed by a skilled instructor.

Still, written descriptions of dance steps do have a valid place in our toolbox. Maybe you already know what a move looks like, but you don't know exactly how to do it. Maybe you do take classes, but your teacher explained it poorly. In such cases, reading someone else's words explaining that move may offer needed insights.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.


Whatever your reasons, if you aren't finding what you need in the form of local classes and good videos, this article will take you on a tour of web sites and books that may help.



How to Structure Your Study Sessions

I suggest allowing one hour for each study session. This allows time to:

  • Warm up.
  • Review what you already know.
  • Study new material.
  • Practice putting the new moves into your dance.
  • Cool down.

See How to Structure a Belly Dance Study/Practice Session at Home elsewhere on this web site for details on how to do all these things.

When I teach my weekly belly dance classes, they last for one hour and contain all of the above components. In a typical one-hour class, I start with reviewing the ones I taught the previous week, and then I teach no more than 4-5 new moves. I find that most people can't retain more than 4-5 new things from a single class because the brain starts to become fatigued.



Suggested Web Sites

There aren't very many web sites that provide instruction on how to belly dance, and the ones that do provide information don't have a lot of it. It's easy enough to understand why - in the first place, video is a much better tool than a web page for teaching dance because it enables you to see a real human being performing the moves. In the second place, it's very time-consuming to create a web site that explains how to do moves and includes pictures or video clips. Most teachers don't see a lot of value in putting so much time into a lonely activity that won't earn them any money - they'd rather go out and teach classes in person.

Still, for a list of the ones I know about, please see my Links page under the category How to Dance.




At the beginning of this article, I made several comments suggesting that books aren't a very good tool for learning to dance. But there is one thing I like using books for: they provide written explanations for moves that many teachers don't describe very well. For example, when I was a belly dancing student, my teachers did a terrible job of teaching stomach rolls. They demonstrated it, then asked us to copy it. That was not helpful. So I turned to books for alternate explanations, and that's where I found the help I needed to learn the move. Now, as a teacher myself, I still go back to my book collection for ideas on what words to use in describing the moves I want to teach.

Try looking in your local library for books on how to belly dance. They might have acquired some of the original books from the 1970's and 1980's. If you're a teen-ager, you may be more successful finding these books in your city's public library rather than your school's library.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.



"How-To" Books Still in Print

I'm aware of only five books available on the market today that use text and pictures to describe how to do belly dance moves. These include:

  • Belly Dancing for Health and Relaxation. Written by Tina Hobin. Originally published in 1982, the most recent printing done in 1998.
  • Nefertiti Presents: Belly Dancing, "The Basics". Written by Sherry Jeffries.
  • Belly Dancing Basics. ISBN 978-1402710780. Written by Laura Cooper with photographs by Sarah Skinner. Published in 2004 by Sterling.
  • Quality of Belly Dancing. No ISBN number. Written by Véda Sereem. Originally published in 1977. Self-published. To order it, write to her at VĂ©da Sereem, 19125 Lake Drive, Leonardtown MD 20650, U.S.A., United States, or telephone her at (+1) (301) 994-3151.
  • Intermediate Bellydancing. Written by Vicki Corona. Published by Earth Dance International Publishing Company.


"How to Belly Dance" Books No Longer in Print

A number of books written by other dancers that were published in the 1970's and 1980's are no longer in print. Once video became available as a belly dance learning tool, most of these "how to belly dance" books were discontinued because most students prefer video over books.

Here are a couple that you might look for through used-book sources and libraries:

  • The Art of Belly Dancing. By Dahlena and Dona Z. Meilach. This is my favorite of the old out-of-print books because the text explains things quite well. Published by Bantam Books in 1975.
  • The Belly Dance Book. By Serena and Alan Wilson. Published by McGraw-Hill Book Company in 1983. ISBN 0-07-070811-8.


Other Instructional Books

In addition to looking for books that teach dance moves, you may want to look for other books related to belly dancing that provide costuming instructions, finger cymbal instruction, dance history, and information about Middle Eastern culture. Here are some suggestions:

Finger Cymbal Instruction

  • Mastering Finger Cymbals. By Mary Ellen Donald. Detailed information about Middle Eastern rhythms and instructions on playing finger cymbals

Costuming Instruction



In Conclusion

Take a belly dancing class from a live teacher if you can. But if you find that she doesn't explain things well, then books, videos, and web sites may provide alternative descriptions for the move you're trying to learn, and maybe one of these other resources will prove helpful to you.



Copyright Notice

This entire web site is copyrighted. All rights reserved.

All articles, images, forms, scripts, directories, and product reviews on this web site are the property of Shira unless a different author/artist is identified. Material from this web site may not be posted on any other web site unless permission is first obtained from Shira.

Academic papers for school purposes may use information from this site only if the paper properly identifies the original article on using appropriate citations (footnotes, end notes, etc.) and bibliography. Consult your instructor for instructions on how to do this.

If you wish to translate articles from into a language other than English, Shira will be happy to post your translation here on along with a note identifying you as the translator. This could include your photo and biography if you want it to. Contact Shira for more information. You may not post translations of Shira's articles on anybody else's web site, not even your own.

If you are a teacher, performer, or student of Middle Eastern dance, you may link directly to any page on this web site from either your blog or your own web site without first obtaining Shira's permission. Click here for link buttons and other information on how to link.



Explore more belly dance info:

Top >
Belly Dancing >
Index to Belly Dance Advice Section


Share this page!

On Facebook


  Top > Belly Dancing > Index to Belly Dance Advice Section

| Contact Shira | Links | Search this Site |