Belly Dance: A Global Phenomena

Local belly dance collective Shakti’s Den is hosting award-winning San Francisco tribal fusion belly dance founder Jill Parker for a series of workshops in Honolulu. Parker also will put on a show featuring additional performances by Oahu dancers and Neighbor Island guests.

We’ve all seen the sensual swaying, jeweled adornment and side-eyed glances indicative of belly dancing, but what exactly is belly dancing? Kalae Kaina, director of Honolulu’s first tribal fusion belly dance company, Shakti Dance Movement, weighs in:


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Kalae Kaina directs Hawaii’s tribal fusion belly dance company Shakti Dance Movement. Photo courtesy Kalae Kaina

“Belly dance has a long history in the Middle East, but reliable evidence of its origins are scarce. It’s originally a folk dance, and unlike ballet, jazz or other classical dance forms, belly dance has no codified universal repertoire of movements. People today believe its lineage can be traced back to a tribe from Rajasthan in Northern India.”

That tribe, says Kaina, is connected to the gypsies or Roma people who migrated through Europe, Russia, North Africa and Egypt in the 14th century. Wherever they traveled, varieties of Roma dance and musical expression took root.

“Yet each form of Roma expression retains some common threads,” says Kaina. “These include a knack for improvisation, unabashed self-expression, playfulness, wit and themes of persecution. The dance incorporates fancy leg movement, quick and rhythmic footwork, playing with the skirt, coy facial expressions and arms held high.”

The modern, American incarnation of this dance is called tribal fusion belly dance and combines Egyptian cabaret-style belly dance with elements of hip hop, breakdance, the classical Indian dance form called Odissi, as well as borrowing from the folkloric dance forms of flamenco, and India’s Kathak and Bhangra.

“Similarly,” notes Kaina, “the music employs a mash-up of modern sounds and rhythms influenced by the electronic music movement coupled with a melodic sensibility that harkens back to the classic Egyptian style.”

Kaina teaches ongoing classes (, but for novices interested in learning the basics or for experts interested in perfecting their skills, Parker’s workshops will be held July 20-21 ( at Ballet Hawaii (777 S. Hotel St., Suite 1).

“Belly dance is for everyone – women and men of all shapes, sizes and ages. Yes, men belly dance too,” notes Kaina. “I have seen my students grow and blossom through the dance. It has an amazing transformational ability to help people overcome self-consciousness and poor body image.

“I love belly dance because it nurtures my connection to the divine feminine,” adds Kaina, as the majority of dancers still tend to be women. “I feel as if I am connected to an amazing lineage of women who have danced this dance as a celebration, a connection to the earth and a link to their ancestors. Dancing with a group of women on a regular basis is like having a super supportive extended family. When we dance together, we are a tribe.”

the TICKET stub

When: July 21, 7 p.m.
Where: The Venue (1144 Bethel St.)
Cost: $15 presale, $20 at the door
More Info: 358-2571,


How many ways are there to show big waves on the silver screen and keep it interesting? At least 24, given the showings at this year’s Surf Film Festival at Doris Duke Theatre (through Aug. 1, There’s something about that mammoth, gyrating wall of water rising higher and higher before pitching and plunging, while that eensy man or woman shoots down the face of it and manages to stay in one piece, that never ceases to make the viewer’s blood pump faster and eyes widen. Key themes in the mix are history and journey.

While Zero to 100 (July 23) has a wholesome teen romp vibe following upcoming female surfer Lakey Peterson to competitions around the globe, Endless Winter (July 30) tracks British surfing history (yes, the land of bleak weather has waves and fanatics who brave them) and members of the surf community as they catch the world’s longest wave down a river and turn incredibly frigid sessions in the murky sea into something to smile about. The feature intersperses Monty Python-style historical tidbits, including a segment about Princess Kaiulani stripping off her victorian clothes in front of Queen Victoria for some wave tumbling. A couple of thoroughly transfixing films are Discovering Mavericks (July 18) and Isolated (July 19 and 30). Mavericks documents the story of the pioneer surfers and the recent young-blood daredevils who frequent California’s legendary and deadly wave that Chasing Mavericks is based on. No matter how many times that behemoth wave rolls down the screen, the result is electrifying.

Isolated isn’t as much about the big waves as is it about the proverbial journey. A group of “feral” or lone-wolf surfers set out to West Papua New Guinea looking for the best waves on the planet’s most isolated beaches. They get caught in the political volatility of the region and find themselves unlikely activists for a people and land that have embraced them. Producer Geoff Clark will attend the screening, with other celebrity folks associated with the films attending various screenings, most of which are Hawaii premieres.