ZAHIRA, Artistic Director, Choreographer, Lead Dancer
Zahira has dedicated her life to the art of bellydance. Having found bellydance almost by accident in 2002, her love for Middle Eastern & Mediterranean history and culture as well as for music and dance extend way beyond that, to her early childhood. Her love for art, culture and history led her to acquire a BA in Art History, followed by an MA also in Art History (UofT) and to become a PhD candidate in Medieval Studies (ABD, UofT). A natural performer with a deep musical ear, she studied music as a teenager and drama in her early adulthood. Her connection to bellydance, to its music and movement vocabulary was instant and became a growing source of joy, magic and wellness as her skills grew and her knowledge deepened. A source of pride for her teachers and mentors she rapidly became a "star" student. Always eager to learn more she developed an impressive CV of dance training under some of the most recognized international luminaries. Possessing brilliant technique, engaging charisma and powerful stage presence Zahira quickly became a sought after performer in the GTA. As an instructor, her commanding yet nurturing persona make her a beloved and effective teacher; with a friendly approach she is supportive of her students and looks to help them achieve their full potential.
As Dragonfly Dance Company artistic director, Zahira aims to bring the art of bellydance to all audiences in a way that puts forth the vocabulary of bellydance as a movement language in its own right, as an art form with many facets, colors and shades, from the traditional to the avant-garde; with deep respect for the art form and the cultures that saw its birth and embracing its international resonance, the ripples of creativity and experimental richness it can and has inspired.
As a choreographer Zahira demands a lot from herself and her dancers with brilliant results, from deep feeling to technical prowess to prop mastery; she looks to create movement poetry with every piece, where the group shines as a unit without obscuring each dancer in her unique and magical individuality. Unity & synchronicity full of personality and organic cohesion.
Dragonfly Dance Company
RUYAH, Rehearsal Coach, Guest Choreographer, Lead Dancer
With brilliant technique, innate musicality and delightful presence, Ruyah is a gorgeous bellydance artist and caring teacher. Zahira’s personal protege, Ruyah is co-owner and Managing Director of Dragonfly Bellydance, former member and rehearsal coach for Dragonfly Student Troupe and founding member of the Dragonfly Dance Company, the Dragonettes and the Airship Pirate Project. She performs regularly at public and private events around the GTA bringing exceptional elegance, grace and prowess to all her performances. In addition she often collaborates with Mirage.
The beauty of Middle Eastern dance mesmerized Ruyah at first glance and she has been dedicated to learning and perfecting this timeless art form ever since. She is grateful to have been able to study intensively and continuously with Zahira over the years as well as attend many workshops with notable and influential instructors such as Jillina, Luna of Cairo, Hannan Sultan, Sashar Zarif, Samantha Emmanuel, Hadia, April Rose, Nath Keo, Sadie and Paola Blanton.
Bellydance has been a blessing that has led her on an amazing journey of enrichment and self-discovery and she is looking forward to sharing her passion for this beautiful and inspiring art form with others through her classes and performances.
“Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances.” ~ Maya Angelou
CAROLINA, Lead Dancer
A charismatic dancer, Carolina is well known for her expressive dancing as well as her fun and upbeat classes. As a teenager, she was enthralled by the beauty of oriental dancing, and began formal instruction in the summer of 2003. Along with belly dance (Egyptian Oriental and Folkloric Dance), she studied various styles of Latin dances, Brazilian dancing and swing dancing. Carolina received her essential Bellydance training from Instructor Mayada and has continued studying with her mentors Anuka and Zahira. She also had the pleasure to study with Hannan Sultan for several years, and has taken classes with Roula Said, Denise Mireau, and other Toronto teachers and has taken workshops and classes with world-class instructors (Aziza, Aida Nour, Tito, Jillina, Hadia, Nath Keo).
Carolina has performed with an eclectic variety of ensembles including Latin dance groups Tropicaliente and Deusas Do Samba as well as Middle Eastern dance ensembles Mirage, Cairo Ala Nar and Banat El Sharq. She also performs regularly with Dragonfly's larger productions, and is a member of the Dragonfly’s Steampunk Ensemble, The Dragonettes, as well as a lead dancer in Dragonfly Dance Company.
While Carolina does perform solos occasionally, her true love is performing in a group. She loves the energy shared with other dancers on stage, the beauty of various bodies moving together, and the emotional connectivity achieved by dancing as a group. In love with the music, grace, costume and culture of belly dance, Carolina believes that this dance form provides a therapeutic connection between body, mind, breath and soul.
Aside from dance, Carolina is registered with the College of Psychologists of Ontario. She balances her love for dance with her private psychological practice, rock climbing and yoga.
AIMEE, Lead Dancer
Aimée is a fiery, passionate dancer who loves to draw audiences in with her powerful presence. She fell in love with bellydancing in 2006, when she first began training under Katy of Hannan's Bellydance Studio.
She soon after began training under Zahira, who continues to be Aimée`s biggest influence and inspiration.
Aimée was a member of the former Sultanettes and is especially inspired by the dramatic, vivacious dancers Aziza, Daria Mitskevich, and Saida. She is also a musician, and you can see her playing with her band The Dirty Fix in rock venues around Toronto.
Aimee is also part of The Dragonettes, Dragonfly’s own Steamfusions emsemble, and she became a professional soloist under Dragonfly’s Mentorship program. In 2014 she was invited as a member of Dragonfly Dance Company and is one of Dragonfly Agency's soloists.
SORAYYA, Lead Dancer
Sorayya’s love affair with music began at a very early age, as she has been singing as soon as she could speak. Although she always enjoyed dancing, it wasn’t until she was inspired by her cousin that she enrolled in bellydance classes in early 2007. She quickly excelled at her classes under the tutelage of Zahira and has since learned much about various styles of bellydance. She immediately fell in love when she discovered Steam Fusions at Dragonfly Bellydance Studio. Sorayya performed regularly with the Dragonfly Student Troupe since its inception in January 2011 until 2014 when she was invited to become a lead dancer with Dragonfly Dance Company. Sorayya is also a founding member of Dragonfly’s Steampunk troupe the Dragonettes. She has collaborated with Mirage and with Zahira’s larger projects and she performs solos and duets in several events.
RIANNAGH, Lead Dancer
An award winning, elegant dancer known for her heartfelt performances, Riannagh began bellydancing with Zahira at Hannan’s Bellydance Studio in 2006. She followed Zahira, her mentor, to Dragonfly Bellydance where she blossomed from a founding member of the studio, through lead dancer of the award-winning Dragonfly Student Troupe, to a proud member of the Dragonfly Faculty.
Riannagh has a background in Celtic and Modern dance. She is furthering her Bellydance education through classes and workshops with internationally-acclaimed instructors. What fascinates her about Bellydance is the depth of musical expression possible through this art form – intricate isolations that allow for seamless communication between body, music, and spirit. Riannagh's performance repertoire includes veil, zills, fan veils, isis wings, cane, sword, and shamadan. She often likes to explore different characters through fusion choreographies to any music that calls for experimentation. Riannagh performs anywhere from stages to street festivals, at private and public events across Toronto.
Riannagh teaches Beginner and Beyond Beginner Bellydance classes at Dragonfly. She brings an infectious joy of dance to every class, sharing with students an expansive vocabulary of movement in a fun and accessible manner. As a teacher, she aims to help develop each student’s musicality with special focus on body awareness and brain-teaser combinations.
Riannagh was thrilled to be a part of Dragonfly Dance Company, sharing a profound love of Bellydance with fellow dancers and dance enthusiasts alike.
She currently performs and competes in Europe.
LISA, Guest Choreographer, Lead Dancer
Lisa is best known for her original, sensuous, captivating style and her passionate, powerful stage presence. Her performances take the audience on an exciting journey as she tells her story through unique audio/visual performances, emotions, and a powerful show of body movement through dance.
As an instructor Lisa understands that belly dancing is a mind, body, and soul experience. She knows that women and men start their journey in Middle Eastern dance for a variety of reasons, and she accepts them all with compassion, patience and a sincerity to share this empowering art form. From fun and fitness, to gaining self awareness and confidence – Lisa can help each student achieve their goal. She combines her passion for fitness and this dance art form to get the full physical benefits from belly dancing for overall health, assisting in child birth, improving muscle tone, its cardiovascular benefits and above all strengthening the spiritual connection between the mind and body through movement. In her quest to perfect her dance, she also includes weight training which helps to increase stamina, endurance and muscle controlled isolations. Her teaching technique is clear and concise, fun and engaging.
Lisa has studied belly dancing at one of Toronto's premier studios led by Hannan Sultan and she is mentored by Zahira. She has also enriched her training through classes with local instructors Nada Krysko, tribal fusion artist Audra Simmons and workshops with renowned international artists Aziza, Ranya Renee, Jim Boz, Ariellah, and Mira Betz. She is also a former member of The Sultanettes troupe.
One of her favourite inspirational quotes is,
“Dancing can reveal all the mystery that music conceals.” ~Charles Baudelaire
PAST MEMBERS / ON LEAVE
FEATURED in "LUMINESCENCE" 2015
MERYEM, Apprentice Dancer
Meryem was first introduced to belly dancing by her father. She fondly remembers sitting in her room one night when he called her over to show her a video of who became her inspiration, Turkish famous bellydancer Didem. A couple of months later with lots of joy and excitement Meryem started dancing at Dragonfly Bellydance where she met her mentors Zahira and Anuka (in her words: “the most beautiful dancers that take my breath away every time... They have taught me absolutely everything I know about belly dancing!”). She started belly dancing in the year of 2012, knowing from the moment she walked onto the dance floor that she was there to stay for a very long time. For Meryem belly dancing isn’t only one more type of dance, but one of the most beautiful arts without which she feels empty. She was honoured to be part of Dragonfly Student Troupe from 2013 to 2016 which had been a dream of hers and one step ahead in achieving her lifetime goal of becoming a professional belly dancer one day. Meryem was invited to be an apprentice with Dragonfly Dance Company and to Dragonfly's Mentorship program in 2016.
With lots of twirling around her living room, practicing for performances, belly dance has changed her life.
KYLAH, Apprentice Dancer
Kylah often says that she forgets who she is when she isn’t bellydancing. She took to the art form immediately, starting as a child in her aunt Susan’s basement and later training under Astra and Auni Boghassian in Mississauga. After graduating from conservatory theatre school training at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College and moving to Toronto, Kylah discovered and knew immediately that she wanted to train with Zahira, one of the fiercest and most beautiful dancers she had ever seen. Kylah began at Dragonfly Bellydance Studio during fall of 2012, devoted herself to training extensively with Zahira and Anuka, and began to understand the importance of bellydance and her growing passion for it. Becoming a member of the Dragonfly Student Troupe in 2013 the troupe was source of both inspiration and encouragement for Kylah and she looked forward to following in the footsteps of the great dancers she admires. In the summer of 2016 Kylah was invited to Dragonfly's Mentorship program and tobecome an apprentice with Dragonfly Dance Company.
To paraphrase a quotation by George Balanchine, which she keeps close to her heart, “I don’t dance because I want to. I dance because I have to.”
DIANA, Apprentice Dancer
Diana discovered belly dance during the summer of 2013 when she was looking for a fun, fitness alternative. In the welcoming environment of the studio, and with the inspiration and support from her instructors Zahira, Anuka and Riannagh, she quickly found a home at Dragonfly. She became enamoured with this graceful, strong and expressive art form and loves the diverse variety of music and styles from folklore to fusion that she has had the opportunity to study. Although she has no previous formal dance training, Diana has always felt music in her heart and dancing in her soul. She can’t help but dance with a smile on her face and tries to channel the joy and passion that this dance inspires in her into her performances.
Diana was thrilled to be invited to join the Dragonfly Student Troupe in the summer of 2015 further developing her technique and gaining performance experience. In the Spring of 2017, she was invited to apprentice with Dragonfly Dance Company.
"There are shortcuts to happiness and dancing is one of them." – Vicki Baum