Nisaa provides online lectures on a variety of cultural and historical topics related to Middle Eastern dance. Check out the sample lecture to the right! Please review the information below, and If you have any additional questions that are not answered here, please e-mail or call 314.599.0506.
Online Lectures with Nisaa
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$30 per lecture
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From Café Chantant to Casino Opera:
The Evolution of Theatrical Performance Space for Belly Dance
Description: Most aficionados of Egyptian belly dance are aware of Badia Masabni and her famous night clubs, and without a doubt, Badia’s clubs occupy an important place in the history of raqs sharqi. However, Badia’s clubs were neither the first nor the only venues of their kind. In reality, clubs like Badia’s grand Casino Opera were the culmination of a trend in Egyptian entertainment venues beginning in the late nineteenth century, and the transformation of awalim and ghawazi dance into raqs sharqi was already underway in the earlier, lesser-known cafés chantants or salat of Azbakiyah and Imad ad-Din Street. This lecture explores how developments in popular entertainment and performance space in Cairo impacted the evolution of belly dance and ultimately gave rise to what we now recognize as raqs sharqi. Special attention will be paid to the sala El Dorado, one of the better-documented entertainment halls from the pre-Badia Masabni era.
Description: The awalim and the ghawazi are Egypt’s original professional “belly dancers.” Long before the emergence of theatrical raqs sharqi at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the singing and dancing of these women brought joy and delight to important social occasions. Even after the rise of raqs sharqi, the awalim and the ghawazi would persist in Egyptian life, even into the modern day. This lecture traces the complicated history of Egypt’s awalim and ghawazi. Nisaa discusses the various sociocultural, political, and economic circumstances that have impacted the fortunes of these women from the late eighteenth century to the present day, and she explores how their dance styles, including associated music and costuming, have evolved over the centuries.
The History Behind the Spectacle of One of Egypt's Most Unusual Dances
Description: One of the most spectacular traditional dances of Egypt is raqs shamadan, the candelabdum dance. In raqs shamadan, the entire dance, often including an array of extraordinary acrobatic feats, is performed while balancing a shamadan (candelabrum) on the head. In this lecture, Nisaa traces the history of this remarkable and unusual dance, from its earliest appearances among Egypt’s awalim and ghawazi, to its current role in the Egyptian dance repertoire. Special attention will be paid to famous dancers often associated with this dance form, including Shafiqah al-Qibtiyyah, Zubah al-Klubatiyyah, and Nazlah al-Adil.
A Guide for Finding the Roots of Raqs Sharqi in Modern Cairo
Description: The Egyptian concert dance now known as raqs sharqi emerged at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in the urban centers of Cairo and Alexandria. The bustling entertainment halls of central Cairo provided particularly fertile ground for the development of this new, innovative dance style from earlier, traditional dance forms. In this lecture, Nisaa takes participants on a guided "tour" of the streets and neighborhoods that nurtured the emergence of raqs sharqi at the turn of the century, from Azbakiyah to Imad al-Din Street and beyond. By comparing the modern Cairo landscape with late 19th and early 20th century sources, Nisaa illustrates the location of numerous venues of tremendous importance to the emergence and development of early raqs sharqi, even though some of the original structures have long since vanished. A great primer for belly dance historians planning a future trip to Cairo! All purchasers receive both a link to download the lecture AND a link to download a PDF map of Cairo illustrating the locations discussed in the lecture!
The Evolution of Egyptian Belly Dance Costuming from the Late 18th Century to the Early 20th Century
Description: The badlah (Arabic for “suit”) has been the Egyptian belly dancer’s uniform since at least the mid-1930s. Generally consisting of a bra, a belt, and a skirt, usually with the midriff bare, this ensemble is widely recognized as the typical costuming for Egyptian belly dance. However, this wasn’t always the standard belly dance costume. In this lecture, Nisaa traces the history of Egyptian belly dance costuming from the late 18th century through the early 20th century. Nisaa illustrates how specific elements emerged in the mid-19th century that began to differentiate a professional dance costume from everyday attire. Further, she problematizes the idea of “Western influence” on the eventual development of the badlah. Current evidence suggests that the Egyptian badlah evolved from an indigenous (though Ottoman-influenced) costuming style, while absorbing foreign innovations, such as stockings, fashionable European shoes, and new fabric choices and design elements. This hybridization of costuming at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was consistent with a broader trend of adapting and integrating foreign ideas and influences into a native Egyptian aesthetic.
Egyptian Belly Dance in Social and Historical Context
Description: The dance form known in the West as “belly dance” occupies an ambiguous – even contradictory – position in the Egyptian consciousness. While the dance is widely beloved – and participated in – by ordinary Egyptians at festive occasions like weddings, professional practitioners of the art are generally stigmatized in mainstream society and viewed as “fallen women.” This lecture traces the history of the dance from the eighteenth century to the present and explores the complex role of belly dance and its professional practitioners in Egyptian society.
A Consideration of the Historical Role of Sexuality and Eroticism in Egyptian Belly Dance
Description: “Belly dance is sensual, not sexual.” This statement is made frequently by belly dance instructors and practitioners outside of Egypt, in what is generally a well-meaning attempt to stress the artistic merit of the dance. Yet, statements such as this are counter to historical reality. The historical record reveals that sexuality and eroticism have been part of belly dance in Egypt throughout the course of its existence. While the presence or absence of sexual elements depends on a variety of factors, including individual performers’ personalities and choices, performance context, and social class of both performer and audience, the fact is that sexuality and eroticism can be an important feature of Egyptian belly dance performance. In this lecture, Nisaa offers a frank consideration of this side of Egyptian belly dance, demonstrating the role that sexuality and eroticism have played in the dance through history, and illustrating how this side of the dance has parallels in other traditional Egyptian entertainment forms.