Our wonderful dance teachers for 2016!

Devi Mamak


Devi Mamak, member and artistic director of Ghawazi Caravan, is based in The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney and is one of Australia’s premier ATS® dancers, teachers and choreographers. Devi has studied a variety of different dance styles including Classical & Folkloric Egyptian, Odissi, Flamenco and Ballet but has largely turned her focus to ATS® since the late nineties. Devi began her training with Carolena Nericcio in 1999 and was the first in the southern hemisphere to become a sister studio. Devi has also been invited to be part of major government funded projects such as “The Firebird”, “Unmasked” and produced Ghawazi Caravan’s unique production, “Intertwine”. These projects gave Devi the opportunity to work with many of Australia’s top dancers and musicians who are skilled in a variety of different dance and musical styles. This has all helped to develop Devi’s unique and diverse approach to dance, all of which she passes onto her students. In 2014 Devi was invited by Jillina Carlando of the Bellydance Superstars to perform as a special guest in her international production “Dark Side of the Crown”, where she performed alongside some of the worlds best and most renowned dancers in Bellydance. Devi is renowned throughout Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Europe for her creative, thorough and approachable teaching style and her beautiful, commanding stage presence. Devi has co taught Carolena’s General Skills certificate on several occasions with several of her own steps being accepted into the ATS® syllabus. Devi is also a classical pianist, teacher and composer and a mother of two.

Päivi Mielikäinen

Paivi by Alma 2Päivi has been dancing for twenty-five years and teaching for twenty years. She specialises in the Egyptian style, technique and folklore and uses the Modern Egyptian Technique in her classes to help her students achieve the relaxed, centred and elegant style of dancing that is the trademark of the Egyptian dancers. Päivi started dancing in Finland and has studied with many of the top teachers of the world’s Middle Eastern Dance scene, the main influences and inspirations being the Egyptian dance pioneers Mahmoud Reda and Farida Fahmy, the top innovators of the Egyptian dance Yousry Sharif and Madame Raqia Hassan, and Egypt’s top performer of today, Dina. In Finland she ran the national Middle Eastern Dance association ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ where she founded the first annual Middle Eastern Dance Summer Festival and the Teachers’ Education Program. Now in Australia, she teaches weekly classes in Lake Macquarie, monthly classes for Farrah in Sydney and weekend workshops and private classes on request. She also triumphantly returns to Finland to do workshops. In 2003, Päivi and her students founded “Farrah – Fananat al Raks al Masri”, Sydney’s first and only Folkloric Dance Troupe. Farrah has successfully performed and promoted Egyptian Dance at numerous festivals, special functions and auspicious occasions.

Michelle Ridsdale

MichelleMichelle loves all forms of dancing and has been bellydancing for over 10 years. She has travelled to Egypt, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and has trained with a variety of master teachers in order to expand and develop her knowledge and technique. Michelle particularly enjoys exploring the unique regional styles of the Silk Road from the Middle East into Central Asia and beyond. Michelle regularly teaches Bellydance and Bollywood, and has taught at WAMED festival since 2012. Michelle is a polished performer with an infectious energy who has been placed in many competitions both nationally and in Asia. Michelle is a regular performer in Perth and a member of Raks Harissa. She is founder of the popular Bollywood Dhamaka! performance troupe known for high energy entertainment.

Al Zayton Palestinian Dabke

Rasheed_HollySameerAl Zayton on Facebook

Rasheed Abu Hamda, Sameer Ellagta and Holly Wodetzki are united by their incredible passion for dancing and sharing the infectious joy of dabke with the wider community. Al Zayton Palestinian Dabke troupe was established in 2014, and performs regularly at events & festivals around Brisbane and annually at the Woodford Folk Festival. Honouring the cultural roots of Palestine through the strength of their rhythmic stomping, dynamic energy and expressive spirit, these lively performers won’t keep you in the audience for long… Tighten your shoes and be ready as Al Zayton is known for getting huge crowds up dancing and holding hands when their dabke line takes off with full force to celebrate life. Dabke is a traditional dance for celebrations and combining invigorating sounds of the Levant and the strong exhilarating movements synchronised by dancers forming a line to connect with each other and the spirit of the heartfelt folk melodies.


Johara is an established performer and teacher within the Sydney Arabic, Turkish and Persian communities. She has a wealth of knowledge having studied with Sydney-based teachers Paivi Mielikainen, Cynthia Tabone and Jrisi Jusakos and with International teachers Yasmina and Outi of Cairo. Always in search of new knowledge to better her performance and teaching, she keeps up to date with the latest trends in Egypt and has enjoyed intensive workshops with Master Teachers Raqia Hassan, Aida Nour, Mahmoud Reda, Dandesh, Randa Kamal and Nelly Fouad (to name a few). Johara has developed into an exotic and passionate dancer and has a unique style incorporating Classical and Modern Egyptian, folkloric elements (including saiidi, khaleegy and shamadan) along with a mix of Lebanese and Arabic Pop. She integrates fluid footwork, graceful turns and spins with dynamic Egyptian hip and belly movements. Her resume and her dancing are impressive and varied, which reflects her passion and love for the dance. She is a longstanding member of Jrisi’s Hathor Dance Troupe and a founding member of Farrah, Sydney’s one and only Egyptian Folkloric Dance troupe. Over the years she has been privileged to perform with these troupes at some of Australia’s largest bellydance events including the Farha Tour (2008), Bozenka (2011), Jillina – Live in Oz (2012) and in 2014 auditioned and was selected to perform as part of the internationally renowned Bellydance Evolution’s Dark Side of the Crown theatre show on its Sydney tour. Recently Johara has enjoyed exploring American Tribal Style dancing and Tribal Fusion attending workshops with Carolena and Megha, Collena Shakti, Deb Rubin and Rachel Brice. A regular favourite at WAMED Festival (Perth) and Newcastle Festival (NSW) Johara was invited to teach and perform at this years Fire in The Belly Festival in Albury. Johara is also looking forward to traveling to Launceston in March 2016 to teach and perform at the Tasmanian Middle Eastern Dance Festival.

Virginia Keft


Virginia Keft (NSW, Australia) is the artistic director and principal of Cinnamon Twist Belly Dance, Wollongong’s largest centre for the study of traditional Middle Eastern dance and contemporary belly dance. An experienced and dynamic performer Virginia is well known for her charismatic stage presence, fluency of style, and down to earth personality. Inspired by both the practical and theoretical aspects of the dance Virginia has dedicated the last 17 years to the study, performance, and teaching of belly dance both nationally and internationally. Virginia has a lifelong interest in dance but was immediately drawn to the earthy grace and mesmerising sensuality of Middle Eastern belly dance in early 1996. Virginia has travelled extensively to study, teach and perform the art of belly dance. Her specialities include Egyptian, Turkish and North African dance. Virginia started her professional belly dance career while studying at University. After completing two Bachelor degrees at the University of Wollongong (Australia), she was awarded a prestigious scholarship to undertake her Doctorate of Philosophy which she completed in 2005. Virginia wrote her thesis on the history of belly dance in literature and culture and has since presented numerous papers and seminars on belly dance and has published a number of works on the topic. Virginia is the founder and director of Wollongong Belly Dance Festival, held biennially on the South Coast of NSW Australia.

Margaret Cunningham

Margaret Cunningham

Margaret’s love of Middle Eastern and Romani dance is contagious! With over a decade of study, travel, performance and teaching, Margaret offers a deep insight into the cultures and contexts behind everything she teaches. Margaret has a reputation as a patient and precise instructor with an uncanny ability to break things down and get you moving in record time! Margaret conducts annual guided tours to Egypt hoping to infect as many people as possible with Egypt’s magical spirit and the essence that underpins such incredible music and dance. Her other passion is the Romani (Gypsy) dance and music traditions of the world. Not content with the diluted and fantasy-driven representations of Gypsy dance, Margaret has visited and learned from Romany communities in Turkey and Eastern Europe and brings pure, authentic Gypsy dance to her teaching and performing repertoire.

Rachel Bond

As the principal of Inspire Bellydance in Sydney, Rachel is passionate about inspiring others to find joy, expression and fulfilment through dance. Rachel is an energetic performer with an infectious smile, and a self-confessed festival junkie: she just can’t stop learning! Yasmina of Cairo and Paivi Mielikainen have been her major inspirations and mentors. Rachel’s focus is on Egyptian dance styles and adapting them to the Australian context. She loves the richness and fun of folklore, the grace of classical Oriental, and the power and expressiveness of contemporary Egyptian dance; all of which influence her performance style. Career highlights so far include major stage productions with Farrah: The Egyptian Dance Artists (2013) and Bellydance Evolution (2014), winning the People’s Choice Award at the bellydance competition in 2010 judged by Dina, studying with master teachers in Egypt, and teaching/participating at the Bahar Bayram Middle Eastern Dance Camp in 2014 and in New Zealand in 2015.


BellaDonna is a must see belly dance artist with highly energetic performances and charismatic personality. She has wowed audiences all over the world with a dance style that is truly captivating. BellaDonna has been performing and teaching for over 20 years and has acquired a wealth of experience. Belladonna has trained with Master Teachers and performers from all over the world; including Terezka Drnzik, Dr Mo Gedawi, Aida Nour and Hossam and Serena Ramzy just to name a few. During her recent overseas travels Belladonna has taught and continued her studies in Egypt, Greece, Singapore, India, Japan and New Zealand. BellaDonna has traveled through India spending time with the Gypsies of Rajasthan exploring their dance forms and also learning a variety of Indian Temple Dance styles. In 2000 BellaDonna formed her own dynamic bellydance and tribal fusion dance troupe “SnakeWeave” whose upbeat gypsy grooves and dynamic Bollywood Shows have proved a favorite at the regular Bellydance and medieval festivals. BellaDonna is also a member of the Byron Bay ATS dance troupe The Bare Foot Gypsies.