Photo: Rockwell Images

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Shimmy Chic Fitness with Gina of Emerald Coast Belly Dance!
Shimmy-Chic Fitness is an energetic and fun program based on the ancient art of bellydance but with a modern twist! This class provides both calorie-burning cardio and muscle- toning moves, along with increased flexibility, grace, and sense of self. This is a low impact workout. The main goal is to sweat and have fun!  No dance experience necessary.  Please wear comfortable workout clothes.  Bare feet appropriate. 
January 11 – March 1 Thursdays 12:00PM – 1:00PM
$80 for 8-week session or $12 / Drop In
Breathe Yoga Scenic
3101 E. Cervantes Street
Pensacola, FL  32503
To register, please visit and click on the schedule at Breathe Scenic.  It will take you to the Mindbody site and walk you through the signup steps.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thank You

Thank you, Emerald Coast Belly Dancers!  I appreciate your dedication and commitment this session.  Great performance last night at The Mahabhuta Yoga Festival; I had fun dancing with you!  I wish you all a peaceful holiday season and I look forward to dancing with you again in the New Year!!  (Classes resume the week of January 8!)

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Belly Dance Classes are currently on break and will resume in January. 
All classes are taught by Gina Nolan of Emerald Coast Belly Dance.  
EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT:  Emerald Coast Belly Dance is moving to Breathe Yoga Scenic January 2018!   

8 week Beginner Belly Dance:
Mondays 7:30 - 9:00PM January 8 - February 26  / $80

For registration information, please visit:

8 week Belly Dance Fitness Class (MORE INFO COMING SOON!):
Thursdays 12:00 - 1:00PM January 11 - February 26 / $80

For registration information, please visit:

8 week Intermediate/Advanced Belly Dance (by invitation only):
Thursdays 7:30 - 9:00PM January 11 - March 1 / $80

To register for Intermediate/Advanced class, simply send class fee via PayPal to:
Please contact Gina at for class placement assessment if you are unsure.

Breathe Yoga Scenic is located at 3101 E Cervantes St, Pensacola, FL 32503.  It's on the left-hand corner of the strip mall with Arrow Salon and Subway. 


It's November (can you believe it?), which reminds me of all God's blessings for which I am thankful.  
As I write today, on Veterans Day, I thank you Veterans for your service.
I thank you Emerald Coast Belly Dance Student Troupe for your tremendous work and fabulous performance at the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival!  
I am thankful for so many things, one of which is the opportunity and the health to dance.  We get to dance!! 
Speaking of the opportunity to dance, Emerald Coast Belly Dance will appear as a surprise performance at the Mahabhuta Yoga Festival on Saturday, November 18, before the HuDost concert from 6:10 - 6:20PM.  The Mahabhuta Yoga Festival is located at the Sanders Beach Community Center on 913 South I Street, Pensacola, Florida 32502.  I am offering one free Beginner Belly Dance session at the Silent Auction, so tell all your Yogi Friends!  :-D  Mahabhuta Yoga Festival website here:

Friday, July 14, 2017

EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT: The Third Annual Spring Raqs Pensacola Workshop & Showcase takes place April 28, 2018 featuring the Fabulous TARIFA SALEM! 

"Classical Oriental with Veil & Sagat": 10AM - 12PM
This exciting little choreography which utilizes simple veil work and basic sagat patterns was choreographed specifically to showcase traditional movement sequences rich in "danse orientale" vocabulary, much of which has remained consistent over hundreds of years. Though the dance has evolved somewhat through modernization and acculturation, Oriental Dance has remained constant in its mystique and its ability to convey all the shades and tones of the eastern music into projections of theatricality. Whether performing on stage or in a nightclub the use of music that is representative of traditional Middle Eastern rhythms and instrumentation requires an understanding of that vocabulary so that one could easily modify choreography with improvisational sections or variations of the components of space, time and force. As always, Tarifa choreographs in the style of her mentor, Ibrahim Farrah as it is so ingrained in the depths of her being.
Workshop protocol is as follows:
Center floor warm-up which will include isolations, undulations, soft arms, and fall/recovery exercises to warm up the spine.
Short movement sequences and a mild stretch to prepare the body for more dynamic movements.
Execution of travel steps which will include short segments of the choreography (with and without veil)
Simple finger cymbal drills which will be used in the second part of the choreography
Putting it all together (choreography)
*Please bring a 7 to 8-foot-long veil and sagat (finger cymbals).

"Raks Assaya": 1PM - 3PM
The “Raks al-Assaya” is truly an Egyptian Dance that researchers believe originated in what is known as the “Saiid” or “Upper Egypt” which is actually in the southern part of Egypt between Luxor and Aswan. “Assaya” signifies a stalk of bamboo which is used by Saiidi men in a combat dance called “Raks Tahteeb”, from where the “cane” dance supposedly originates. The cane/stick had multiple uses in ancient Middle Eastern cultures, for example it is known to have been used in a martial art type combat, to exhibit dexterity skills and physical prowess, a tool used in herding and agriculture and to symbolize fertility or to ward off evil. Many believe the cane dance originated with the shepherd inhabitants of Egypt. When the cane (stick) is taken up by the woman, it becomes an exhibition of feminism to delight and charm the onlooker, even as they humorously mimic their male counterparts or the herders flock who stubbornly responds to the prodding of the stick. Tarifa's choreography was developed for the 2013 "Celebrating the Life and Work of Ibrahim Farrah", therefore she made a conscious effort to include steps that she was exposed to as a protege of Mr. Farrah. It has been modified to be more dynamic on stage for groups and was debuted as a group number by her students at Anais Belly Dance Studio last December at their annual recital.
Workshop protocol is as follows:
complete warm-up including center floor barre, isolations and dynamic stretching which will prepare you to challenge yourself without risk of injury
Traditional steps and short sequences typical of Saiidi style
Technique on use of the cane including but not limited to grips, poses, framing while isolating head, shoulders or hips, twirling & floor slaps
Putting it all together (choreography)
Total Body Cool-Down with Eastern Reverence
*Please bring canes and a long head scarf which can be twisted and knotted on the top of the head.

Spring Raqs Pensacola Showcase 2018: 5PM - 7PM
Workshop participants invited to perform in the show. First come, first serve sign-up. 5-minute time limit for soloists; 7 minutes for troupes. Please email Gina at if you are interested in performing. Light hors d’oeuvres, water, and soft drinks will be served during the break; nearby restaurants are also available.

Vendors welcome! Please email Gina at for registration information.

EARLY BIRD (Ends 3/31/2018)
Full Package: $85. Includes both 2-hour workshop classes and one free Showcase ticket.
A La Carte: $55 for one 2-hour workshop class.
REGULAR PRICING (4/1/2018 - 4/28/2018)
Full Package: $100. Includes both 2-hour workshop classes and one free Showcase ticket.
A La Carte: $75 for one 2-hour workshop class.

Preferred method of payment is via Paypal to: (either click or copy/paste the link into your browser).

A check or money order will be accepted but must be received by March 31, 2018. Please make it out to GINA NOLAN and mail to:
6271 Lake Charlene Drive
Pensacola, FL 32506

*Cash or Credit ONLY will be accepted the day of the event!


Tarifa “Donna” Salem, Eastern Dance Artist, was exposed to the music and dance of the Middle East her entire life. She was born into a traditional Lebanese family, on March 30, 1956, and raised in a community in western Pennsylvania that had a large Lebanese population. Both maternal and paternal grandparents immigrated from Amioun, Lebanon and maintained the traditions of the Middle East throughout their lives. Her family stayed with the Farrahs, her maternal grandparents, for the first several months of her life. Her grandmother, Abla Nassar Farrah exposed all of her children and grandchildren to the traditional music and dances of the Middle East. Jacob N. Salem, her paternal grandfather was a chanter in the Eastern Orthodox church her family went to. He practiced these beautiful arabic phrases so typically sung in the Eastern “quarter tone” scale constantly. Family activities revolved around church events. Haflas, picnics, weddings and other celebrations were never without Middle Eastern music and dance. This is how the dance styles were handed down from generation to generation. Mimicking the adults who danced at these events was a form of entertainment as well as first hand exposure to the art. Tarifa’s uncle, Middle Eastern Dance Artist, Ibrahim (Bobby) Farrah, and her maternal aunt, Margaret “Peggy”Farrah were well known within the Lebanese community as exciting dancers. They were enthusiastically encouraged to perform at functions that featured live Arabic music. At Farrah family functions, Tarifa and her siblings were treated to private performances, lessons on how to do the “Arabic” dance and, often, how NOT to dance with several comedic renditions starring her two uncles, “Bobby” (Ibrahim Farrah) and “Sonny” (Jay Farrah) both of who were quite adept at mimicking less talented acquaintances. All in all dance and music represented joy, love and laughter in her life.

Dance and singing roles in high school musicals, piano lessons, ballet classes and voice lessons, occupied Tarifa’s teen years. She enrolled at West Chester State College as a voice major/piano minor. During her freshman year, she went to NYC to visit her uncle who took her to see the legendary dance artist, Jemela Omar perform at the Darvish. This had a profound affect on her. She promptly changed her major upon her return to college and enrolled in every dance elective her schedule allowed. She graduated with a BS degree in Health & Physical Education with a Dance Emphasis in 1978. Her first professional teaching job was in New York City where she taught dance and PE at the Nightingale Bamford School, an elite private girls academy. She enrolled at NYU in 1979 to further her dance studies and earned her MA Degree in Dance Education in 1982. She was a performing member of NYU based modern dance company, Kaleidoscope under the direction of Judith Schwartz. After working backstage for a year with the Ibrahim Farrah Near East Dance Group, she was accepted as a performing member during the latter part of 1979 and remained with the company until 1982 before the birth of her first child. Her most memorable performances was at Town Hall in June, 1981 where she performed “the possessed” in Mr. Farrah’s well known “Beit al Zaar, and in production numbers La Mystique Et Spirituelle (Zeffet) and Saidi Et Nawaria. International Dance Star, Nadia Gamal was the featured artist in that performance. Tarifa was able to study intensely with Ms. Gamal and to perform on the same stage with her that summer. She idolized Nadia Gamal and worked very hard to emulate her style of dance. Among other performances with the group, she enjoyed dancing at the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina in the early 80′s.

Tarifa studied Afro/Caribbean Dance with Lavinia Williams, a Dunham protégé, Flamenco Dance with Carlota Santana, African Dance with Doris Green and Bharata Natyam Technique with legendary Classical Indian Dance Artist, Indrani intensely during the early 80′s. Her Master Thesis on Moroccan Trance Dance was published in “Arabesque Magazine” as a two-part series. She was a featured dancer at several Middle Eastern Nightclubs in NYC, New Jersey and Pennsylvania during this period. Performances at special events such as the Atlantic Antic in Brooklyn, the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina and NYU affiliated performances developed her sense of artistry. She performed many club dates with Eddie “the Sheik” Kochak, another one of her mentors who taught her a great deal about the music and performance industry.

Tarifa also studied with Phaedra (Phyllis Saretta), a longtime principal dancer with the Ibrahim Farrah Near East Dance Group, who instructed her in preparation for Mr. Farrah’s advanced classes. Phaedra’s insistence on perfecting lines and proper execution of steps had a great impact on her career in regards to both performance and her ability to teach effectively. She also studied with longtime principal dancer of the Ibrahim Farrah Near East Dance Group, Jajouka (Merrill Peress). Jajouka had an astounding acuity for the rhythms of the East and an ability to convey extreme intensity and passion in her movement expression. Tarifa was mesmerized by Jajouka’s performance of the “Guedra” which greatly influenced her decision to write her Master Thesis on Moroccan Trance Dances. She frequently took classes with Elena Lentini and fellow company member, Yousry Sharif, both of whom continue to inspire her. Tarifa believes that growth is ongoing, therefore has participated in workshops of many dance artists over the years and continues to take regular ballet and modern dance classes, yet, she credits regular study with all of her mentors from the early days in her career, for any success she may have achieved.

Tarifa’s goals are to stage a repertoire of traditional Middle Eastern, East Indian and North African dance ballets, keeping in place ethnological elements of the various cultural regions. Her graduate studies at NYU in the early 1980′s inspired her to embrace cultural dance as a means to express universal human responses to the world in which we exist.

Though he passed away in 1998, her uncle, Ibrahim Farrah continues to inspire Tarifa to develop an understanding of the music and dance of various cultures and stage them without sacrificing the essence that defines the quality of movement inherent in that culture. Sharing her knowledge through teaching private and group classes in Jacksonville, Florida is quite fulfilling, however her heart’s desire is to teach more Master Classes throughout the country to share her mentor, Ibrahim Farrah’s style of Middle Eastern Dance while being true to his goal of imposing a standard of presenting the art without sacrificing its rich cultural implications.