Our Teachers

DanceGardenLA is home to some of the top instructors in Middle Eastern and music.  As well as top instructors in Brazillian Samba, Bollywood and more... 

DeVilla

 

Elegance, grace and beautifully executed Middle Eastern Dance with an old Hollywood flair are the benchmarks of this Los Angeles based dancer. DeVilla’s performances are dynamic, mixing contemporary Raqs Sharqi innovation with classical inspiration.

Devilla is an accomplished dancer in classical Egyptian and folkloric styles of Middle Eastern dance, having studied extensively with world-renowned teachers in the U.S. and Egypt, and performs and teaches in LA and nationally as a soloist and with Sekhmet Dance Company, for whom she functions as Artistic Director. 

An award-winning Dance Artist and Emmy nominated professional Make-Up Artist, DeVilla is equally at home on stage and behind the scenes, as she seamlessly integrates her two full-time careers. She has produced and co-produced many shows in Los Angeles and has most recently performed in the gala shows of AEOMED, Jillina’s BDExperience “The Wizard of Oz”, Fahtiem’s Oasis Dance Magic and Cairo Shimmy Quake--Los Angeles’s biggest Middle Eastern dance event.

For more info go to: www.DeVillaRaks.com

Fahtiem

 

Fahtiem is a multi-award winning choreographer, master instructor and international superstar performer, highly renowned in the world of Middle Eastern Dance for her magical style and elegance. Fahtiem has many publications, TV and video credits. She is the director and choreographer of the award-winning Sultan’s Delites.

 

She produces and is the director of an annual convention and highly acclaimed stage production, “Oasis Dance Magic.” Fahtiem has produced 5 CDs in which she does the vocals. Fahtiem’s DVD series, “Belly Dance Bootcamp with Fahtiem,” is shaping up the dance world! Listed in International Who’s Who of Professional & Business Women, she is highly recognized in her field. Some of her awards include International Cultural Diploma of Honor; Woman of the Year; The International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance Awards (Dancer of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, nominated Choreographer of the Year, Teacher of the year). Dance Magazine Awards (Teacher of the Year, Dancer of the Year.) American Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (New York) award: Hall of Fame - Lifetime Achievement, MECDA Hall of Fame, just to name a few.

 

Fahtiem is in great demand, traveling extensively worldwide, sharing her vast knowledge and passion for this beautiful art form while maintaining a full teaching schedule in Los Angeles, California, including college-level dance courses. She has been honored to teach and perform globally throughout her career, including Egypt at the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival for five years. Fahtiem had the honor of being the choreographer and dancer for a piece at Carnegie Hall in January 2011. Fahtiem, an L.A. legend, most recently has been honored to be part of two documentaries, The Fez Documentary and American Belly Dance Icons, premiering this year 2020.  

For more info go to: www.fahtiem.com 

Hannah Lily

 

Hannah Lily is a versatile bellydance artist, performing frequently as a soloist and in collaboration with other dancers, musicians, and variety acts. Hannah has danced with several productions as a core member including Zoe Jakes’ (Beats Antique) theatrical dance experience House of Tarot, Ben Woods’ (Flametal) flamenco/metal ensemble Heavy Mellow, as well as the lush, jazz-age inspired show Le Kat’s Boudoir Rouge Extravaganza. Hannah is also a co-director and choreographer for the Hollywood-based flapper bellydance company Les Petites Bonbons.

 

A dedicated student of bellydance, Hannah focuses much of her studies in the Tribal Fusion and Fusion Bellydance styles, often traveling to study extensively with many of today’s innovators and her most influential teachers such as Amy Sigil, April Rose, Heather Shoopman, Mira Betz, Rachel Brice, Sherri Wheatley, Super Kate, and Zoe Jakes. Hannah has completed Diamonds and Spades in Zoe Jakes’ DanceCraft program, is a graduate of Carolena Nericcio’s (FatChanceBellyDance®) ATS® General Skills and Teacher Training, and is a certified Datura Style teacher in Rachel Brice’s 8 Elements program. 

 

Whether teaching or attending class, Hannah loves the bright energy and camaraderie that flourishes in the dance studio. 

 

www.hannahlilybellydance.com

Heather Shoopman

 

Heather Shoopman is a dancer with a background in theatre and the healing arts. She began creating choreographies at a very young age. She has studied various dance styles and has been belly dancing since 2000. Shoop’s presence has been strong in the tribal fusion community, gracing spaces all over the world. Her unique background reflects in her strong, zany style both in the classroom and onstage. 

 

Shoop fell in love with the process and experience of group improvisation in tribal belly dance. She has studied various formats and strives to continue developing a unique fresh language that reflects the background of each dancer present. 

 

Shoop’s work as a self care specialist and yoga teacher is evident in her classes. In addition to the technical and historical info, you may also learn about muscle groups, chakra, moon or planetary correspondences. Her classes are known to be fun, welcoming and a wildcard musically.

Helena Vlahos

 

Helena Vlahos is a precise, energetic performer & instructor with a wealth of knowledge to share! She is a legendary belly dancers who is well known for her “Nine Quarter and Dollar Bill Act” of which she is in the Guinness Book of World Records for Unique Abdominal Dexterity. Helena teaches improvisation and choreography, zills, veil, cane, arms, hip articulations, upper body, belly work (with quarter & dollars), and rhythms with zills.

 

Helena started her dance career in Los Angeles, California in the mid 1960’s. She moved to Texas in 1971, where she performed at various Greek nightclubs. While there, she ran and operated two belly dance schools.

Helena moved back to Los Angeles in 1978 and was invited to perform her unique act on television shows such as “AM Los Angeles”, “That’s Incredible”, “Spectacular World of Guinness Records” and many more.

 

In 1990 Helena moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where she taught classes at numerous colleges, dance studios and resorts. She also found time to perform at the Bacchanal Greek Restaurant.

 

Currently, she is on the Executive Panel of Judges for Tonya and Atlantis’ Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition every February in Anaheim, California. Helena has mentored dancers who have gone to win titles in competitions including BDUC.

 

Helena’s finger cymbals can be heard on Damon the Gypsy’s original (1969) and re-mastered (2009) album “Song of a Gypsy” and his new re-mixed album “Gypsy Eyes”. Damon has a new DVD “Dance Little Gypsy” where Helena has a featured part.

Helena moved back to Los Angeles in the fall of 2011, where she teaches and performs when not traveling for master workshops.

Irani DaSilva

 

Irani DaSilva, a Brazilian native, is a choreographer/performer/instructor.   She is the Director/ Choreographer for the Sambarinas Dance Co. based in LA. She has been featured in various music videos including Shakira's "Waka Waka", Nelly's "Flap Your Wings"; Super Bowl commercial with Terry Crews, T- Mobile with Shakira, Choreographed and danced for Janelle Monae, to name a few.  

 In her classes, Irani teaches technique, musicality, freestyle, and choreography using rhythms from pop samba to the roots of samba de roda.  #sambawithIrani

Jenna

 

Star of internationally best-selling bellydance DVDs, protégée of the legendary Serena, and founder of LA's premiere bellydance studio,  DanceGardenLA, Jenna shares the art of bellydance through her captivating performances and accessible teaching style in Southern California and around the world. Many recognize her from her appearance as a bellydance instructor on Sex and the City - but Jenna counts dancing live on stage with Gogol Bordello in NYC and LA among her favorite performances. She began her dance training at the age of four with ballet classes and in 1991,  turned her attention to middle-eastern dance.

 

In New York City, Jenna intensified her study of belly dance at Anahid Sofian Studios with Andrea Anwar, and then further enhanced her training at Serena Studios where she taught from 1998 through 2004. That year, Jenna was selected to form the trio Bellyqueen: Danse Orientale, with whom she created and performed original choreographies until 2002. 

 

Jenna's professional, heartfelt performances have taken her to Beijing, Dallas, Miami, and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, a 6-month contract had her dancing in the production show at Desert Passage on the strip where she performed daily, for all ages, with such esteemed musicians as Bachir Abdel-Al on nay, Amir Sofi on darbuka, and Fouad Jarcheh on violin. 

 

Additional credits include: the role of "Yasmine" in NYPACO's production of "Banat Al Amir", "Ballet Exotiqa", The Tyra Banks Show, MadTV, Aarti Party, The Help, DVDs: "The Golden Apple", "Heartbeat of Bellydance". "Basics & Beyond" and "Belly Dance: The Next Level".

 

Sharing her knowledge of belly dance is a joy for Jenna, so she dedicates herself to teaching private and group classes as well as international workshops.  For her full bio visit: www.BeyondBellydance.com

Kamala Almanzar

 

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

In 1977, Kamala left a ballet company to pursue her passion for Middle Eastern dance. She performed in the mega Arabic nightclubs in Hollywood, Mexico, London & places in between. Kamala was John Belezikjian’s featured dancer for many years. Kamala’s 1970s and ‘80s TV & movie film clips have garnered millions of fans over the decades.

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, Elizabeth Taylor & Mikhail Baryshnikov.

With a 25-year teaching career, many professional dancers in LA & beyond consider Kamala their “Dance Mama”. Kamala has trained and coached many dancers who have won titles in Belly Dance competitions around the world.

Currently, Kamala’s focus is teaching, choreography for professional dance companies, & producing theater. Kamala’s productions of “Choreographers’ Collective”, “Choreographers’ Eclectic”, “Shaabi Chic” & “Raks Rhapsody”, featured Middle Eastern & Fusion luminaries presenting original group choreographies. Kamala produces, & choreographs for the evening galas at LA’s largest festival - “Cairo ShimmyQuake”, featuring world-class performers.

Kamala is on staff at Dance GardenLA, California’s most prestigious studio, and travels as a workshop teacher. 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”.

Laura Leyl

 

Laura Leyl is an award-winning professional bellydancer based in Los Angeles. She currently holds the title of Ms. Belly Dancer USA 2019.  Laura is a protégé of the legendary American Cabaret belly dancer, Alexandra King. She has continued her studies with Egyptian-style belly dance master instructor, Zahra Zuhair.  Laura recently starred as Glinda in the Los Angeles debut of Jillina's BDEx: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. See Laura perform Saturday nights at Babouch Restaurant in San Pedro. Laura loves to share the joy of belly dance with her students and audience. 

 

To learn more, visit lauraleylbellydance.com or search for Laura Leyl Bellydance online and on social media.

Nasila

 

Nasila began dancing at the age of five, and honed her stage skills during several years of performance show choir.  She was introduced to Middle Eastern dance in 2002 by Zahra Zuhair, and was instantly smitten. She co-founded the LARaqs website as a resource for Southern California dancers, and has enjoyed countless hours in classes, rehearsals, and performances. Nasila’s choreographies have appeared in local productions, and she's appeared as a soloist before local dignitaries and international dance stars. Nasila has traveled to Egypt and the Near East to gain insights into the culture, and continues to research and expand her experiences in Middle Eastern dance.  

Princess Farhana

 

 Internationally acclaimed dance star Princess Farhana has performed, taught, researched and written about belly dance since1990, and burlesque since 1995.  She’s performed and taught all over the globe, and her multi-layered, detailed approach to dance (and performance in general ) has lead to a long and varied career, in person, on videos, television shows, motion pictures, and documentary films. She’s appeared in several music videos, including Madonna’s “What It Feels Like For A Girl” and Margaret Cho’s “My Puss” and “Anna Nicole”. She’s been featured in 26 instructional/performance dance DVDs. Since 2017, she’s co-produced and the popular monthly occult burlesque show “Belle, Book, And Candle in Los Angeles as well as directing the dark fusion show “Mystique” as the opening show for Cairo Shimmy Quake Festival.

 

 She is the author of the memoir “Showgirl Confidential” and “The Belly Dance Handbook: A  Companion For The Serious Dancer”, widely considered to be one of the foremost belly dance resource/ reference books. 

 An artistic chameleon and a boundary-pushing pioneer, she performs many styles of dance with ease, from ultra traditional  MENAT folklore to neoclassic Egyptian and contemporary and dark fusion. The Princess is known for her high-concept, innovative performances,  historical recreations, dramatic stage presence, and incredible abdominal work. Her warmth, enthusiasm, extensive knowledge and her adventurous spirit -both on and off stage- captivates audiences worldwide.

 

WWW.PRINCESSFARHANA.COM

WWW.PRINCESSRAQS.BLOGSPOT.COM

Sabah

Sabah has decades of experience in classical, modern, and folk styles of dance.  In her teenage and young adult years, Sabah focused on ballet. She has worked with, Chicago’s Festival Ballet, Ballet Chicago, and the Alabama Ballet.  All while she is also doing summer intensives with Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and Pacific Northwest where she received a full scholarship.  She also has explored modern dance with Momenta Dance Company, folk dances of the Middle East with troupe Aman Aman, and solo dancing focusing on Raqs Sharqi.  

She received her degree from Columbia College Chicago majoring in Cultural Studies and minoring in dance with a year abroad at the American University in Cairo, Egypt.  There she joined the Egyptian Folkloric Company and received a contract to dance on the Nile Pharaoh cruise ship allowing her to hand-select the band and troupe of dancers.  

In 2006, she joined the international dance company Bellydance Superstars Directed by Jillina Carlano and began touring the world performing and teaching workshops highlighting her specialty of combining ballet with belly dance while wearing toe shoes.  She moved up in the company from core dancer to principal dancer and became the Artistic Director and chief choreographer in 2010. She is seen on many of the company’s DVDs including her instructional video Advance your Dance with Sabah.  

 

In 2019, Sabah relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles to become the Artistic Programs Manager for Bellydance Evolution.  She has been a contributing choreographer for Bellydance Evolution since 2012. When BDE was commissioned to produce “Le Voyage de Scheherazade” a multinational, multidisciplinary collaboration between Moroccan, European and American Oriental and ballet dancers with the Orchestra Philharmonique de Maroc, Sabah was the choreographer for all of the ballet routines. 

 

Sabah has been teaching both local and international dance and fitness classes since 2000, using her world travels and continuous curiosity in all things dance has led her to instruct and produce shows for all levels, ages, and abilities.

Shannon D'Souza

 

Shannon is a Los Angeles based Fusion dance artist, Bellydancer of the Universe Champion 2019, choreographer, instructor and is thrilled to be working with Bellydance Evolution.  She comes from a professional dance background having performed and choreographed all over the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Africa.  Initially trained in Hip Hop and Jazz, she received a BA in Dance with an emphasis in Modern and Ballet at California State University of Long Beach. She then began training with Jillina's local dance company, Sahlala dancers and immediately fell in love with middle eastern dance. While continuing her training in Fire Dance, Polynesian and Indian dance forms, her passion for all things movement has since led her to perform in countless live events for public figures such as Deepak Chopra, Sia, Dr. Dre, and John Legend among others. She has also performed with various Disney productions, Mystic India: The World Tour and Bellydance Evolution's production of Alice in Wonderland.    Currently, Shannon is continuing her training in international dance styles and is learning how to roller skate.  In her spare time, she happily eats a lot of fruit, travels, and daydreams about being a ninja.

Smita

 

Smita has been sharing the art of Bollywood in Los Angeles and abroad for over 10 years, working closely with Yogen Bhagat of Bollywood Step Dance, Hollywoods favorite Bollywood choreographer. Her experience spans across tv/film, commercial and stage. Some of her credits include the Hollywood Bowl, Disney, Dreamworks, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Debbie Allen's the Hot Chocolate nutcracker, and many more. 

 

Smita has been with the teaching staff of Dance Garden LA for 8 years. She has been enthusiastically teaching various students ranging from youngsters in their 80s to hip shaking 3 year olds, and has a track record for producing competition winning students.

 

Bring your smiles (and your bindis) and get ready to get your Bollywood hips bumping!

Donavon

 

Raised in Kentucky and Southern California, Donavon Lerman was not born into the culture of Arabic percussion, but he has made it his avocation, approaching Arabic percussion with dedication, passion and a mission to spread its power to American audiences. Donavon was introduced to the dumbek by his first teacher, Rico Orel. Donavon continued his studies with Lebanese percussionist Souhail Kaspar and Syrian master, Faisal Zedan. Donavon later formed the ensemble, Youm it Talaata - Arabic for “Tuesday” that regularly performs at parties and festivals.  

In addition to sharing his love of the drum with audiences, Donavon has developed an interest in ethnomusicology, amassing an online archive devoted to contemporary dobbat iqaa - officers of rhythm, the Arabic term for percussionists complete with information, videos and interviews with prominent players in the genre. This burgeoning library can be found at www.iqaat.com

Donavon and Faisal have traveled to Turkey together to research, interview and record drummers. He has also spent time in Egypt and Morocco and hopes to travel throughout the Arab world. Donavon is one of very few Americans in Southern California working in the Arabic style.

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