New PE article February 2008














San Jacinto kids learn belly dancing

08:06 AM PST on Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The Press-Enterprise

Five-year-old Isabella Brown participates in an unusual activity at Valley Wide Recreation Center in San Jacinto every Monday. Instead of putting on a tutu for ballet or carrying a bat for softball, the San Jacinto girl knots a colorful sash around her hip and gets ready for a lesson in belly dancing. Isabella is one of the kids in the San Jacinto Valley who have chosen belly dancing as an after-school activity.
"When I started teaching the kids/' class, there were only two kids -- my kid and someone else's kid," said Nika Feyrouz 36, of Hemet. Four years have passed, and Feyrouz's class has grown. Now, it attracts five to 15 students per session. The girls and boys in the class range from 4 years old to high school age. Each session usually begins with a review of basic dance steps and ends with a set of dance moves that Feyrouz has choreographed.
During a recent class, the kids swayed from side to side and sashayed from the front of the room to the back. Bollywood music blasted from the stereo and the bells from each student's sash jingled to the rhythm. "I like everything about it," said 9-year-old Yessenia Medrano, of San Jacinto, who has been taking the class for almost a year. "I like the music and doing all the moves." Yessenia attends the class on Mondays and she has advanced to taking the adult class every Wednesday night. The key to teaching children, according to Feyrouz, is to connect with them on their level. Instead of using obscure dance terminology, Feyrouz uses words kids can understand. For example, she calls a dance move "the ostrich" and another one "the chipmunk." To capture the young students' short attention spans, Feyrouz also plays games she calls "Belly Dance Simon Says" or "Belly Dance Tag" to get students to practice the dance moves repeatedly.
Though the children have a blast in the class, some are concerned that belly dancing, with its shimmies and shakes, can be too risqué for young kids.
But Feyrouz said that the class is completely child-friendly. Instead of gossamer tops that bare midriffs, the students are always covered up. Parents sit in the classroom while their students dance so they know exactly what's going on. "I teach sassy, not sexy," Feyrouz said. "It's a way to bring them out of their shells and become more comfortable with their bodies."
Rajes Dorairaj , 32, of Hemet, enrolled her 5- and 7-year-old daughters in the class for that reason. "They were very shy," Dorairaj said. "I wanted them take the class and mix with other kids to be less shy." Now Dorairaj's two daughters are brave enough to show off their new moves in class and they even teach Dorairaj some new steps at home.
Amelia Meyer, 7, of Hemet, started her first belly dancing class recently. She liked it because there was not a lot of conformity like the ballet and tap lessons she had previously taken.
"It's my favorite so far," Amelia said. "I will definitely be back every Monday."


Erica Shen / The Press-Enterprise
Nika Feyrouz incorporates colorful shawls in her belly dancing class.

Belly dance class set in San Jacinto

10:35 AM PDT on Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Press-Enterprise

The music is both eerie and entrancing Saturday morning dance class in San Jacinto -- and the dancers are as eclectic as the dance.

Belly dancing, as instructor Nika Feyrouz demonstrates, comes from everywhere -- the stomach, the hips, the arms and the soul. Her morning class at Valley-Wide Recreation Center, which includes a preteen and a 70-plus dancer, responds and sashays with her every movement.

"It's such a wonderful workout for the body and mind," Feyrouz said.

Feyrouz also dances with a professional group called The Dancing Belly, which has performed throughout Southern California.

Sara Hellam of Hemet heard about the class and came as a visitor Saturday morning. Midway through the class, she was dancing.

"I was observing to see if I wanted to join and the verdict is definitely yes," Hellan said. "Just watching, it's so amazing. And it looks like a very good abdominal workout."

For more information, contact Feyrouz at 909-908-0927 or

Check out the Video on The Press Enterprize Website...


Art form can aid figure

San Jacinto woman tells her class about the history, benefits of belly dancing

11:55 PM PDT on Wednesday, April 14, 2004

By MARILEE REYES / The Press-Enterprise

SAN JACINTO - Belly dancing is a cultural art form, San Jacinto resident Nika Feyrouz explains as she talks about her new class on Monday evenings.

Not only is it an art form, it's good exercise for men, women and children, says the dark-haired woman professionally known as Nika Feyrouz.

"Belly dancing has more than a 2,000-year history, starting in Persia and Egypt, although there are different cultural interpretations of the steps and movements," she said.

To illustrate, she demonstrates those differences starting with the classical, sedate Egyptian movement, through the more countrified and active Turkish and American. Most Americans are more familiar with the flashier cabaret style that gives the impression it's solely for entertainment, a misinterpretation of the dance, Nika said.

Each interpretation is unique, she said. In addition to being a cultural expression, belly dancing is a way to train young women to have healthier bodies. Nika teaches the class as an art form, but notes that people can take it for the exercise.

"I just tell people if it hurts, don't do it," Nika said. "Some people will be (physically) able to do all the movements and others will be more restricted, but that's fine."

Her assistant teacher, Brightrose, reiterates that concept.

Brightrose said she was told when she was 18 that, due to a degenerative spinal disc disorder, she would probably be in a wheelchair by 21.

"I'm 29 now and I know the dancing has helped me," Brightrose said by phone. "I feel fine. You know, you need to have good stomach muscles to support your back."

All are welcome in the class at Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District's Esplanade Avenue location in San Jacinto.

Nika, a featured dancer at the Olympia in Rancho Mirage, also appears at the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival and the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. She has been entertaining all her life, starting in Seal Beach where she grew up doing tap, ballet and jazz dancing, and later playing in the Marine Corps Band.

As a musician in Japan, she had her first belly dancing lesson. She began dancing professionally four years ago. She began teaching privately two years ago. The class has been meeting for several weeks, but newcomers can start any time because sessions repeat previous lessons.

Information: (909) 908-0927, or the park district, (909) 654-1505. Reach Marilee Reyes at (909) 763-3473 or

Where: Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District, 901 W. Esplanade Ave., San Jacinto


Ed Crisostomo / The Press-Enterprise
Nika Feyrouz, center, her daughter Shanti, 7, and Brightrose, practice belly dancing as a cultural experience. Nika, has started a belly dancing class at Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District

© 2005 The Dancing Belly by Nikkal Feyrouz Inland Empire, Ca (909) 908-0927