Drumroll Please...

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The 100th copy of The Improvisation Toolkit Volume 1 has sold!

I wish I had my video camera with me, so I could show you the Happy Dance I did when I heard the news.

I can't think of a better way to end the year. Thank you all so much for your tremendous response to this project, and for your support and encouragement.

I'd especially like to thank Julie Ann Eason of The Belly Dance Business Academy, my coach. She gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get started, and when I was asking myself "who am I to make a video", she asked me who I am NOT to make it and withhold this information from the belly dance community. Check out the BDBA site; she has some great articles full of marketing tips.

Coming soon in the new year:
- a clearance sale on Taktaba podcast DVDs (they're moving to Amazon!)
- the Improv Toolkit in PAL format
- Improv Toolkit Volume 2: filming starts in January!

I've also got Volume 3 on the horizon, another podcast episode (I'll get it out this year, really I will!), and not one but TWO mystery projects...

Computer Geeks: Give Taktaba as a Gift - For Free!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Taktaba podcast is made available to you for free under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No-Derivative-Works license. i.e., you have my permission and encouragement to share it, as long as you distribute it in it's entirety, credit me as the creator and copyright holder, and make no profit of any kind.

What does that mean to you? Well, if you're handy with a computer, that means some valuable, but inexpensive, holiday gifts for your dancer friends.

If you burned all three episodes, you'd be giving the lucky recipient two hours and forty minutes of unique instructional content. That's a $30 value (which is a steal anyway), but all it will cost you is a dollar or so for the blank DVDs and some of your time. (Okay, and the cost of some nice wrapping materials.)

Not bad, huh?

If you'd rather have me make the DVDs for you (along with nice DVD packaging), I'm offering them (as well as the Improv Toolkit) with free standard shipping if you order by noon on December 18th. (That's the latest I can ship and be confident it would arrive by the 24th.) Visit my order page for more details and ordering information.

But please feel completely free to make your own, if you can!

Two important caveats:

1) I can't provide instructions or help with this process.

Unfortunately, there are many different software packages for making DVDs, and I'm only familiar with one of them. Plus, I'm busy with my own holiday preparations (not to mention my next video). So I only recommend this route for those of you who have burned video DVDs before, who have someone in your life who can help you (friends, kids, partners), or who are adventurous computer users.

If you want to try it on your own, a good place to start would be with these tutorials for iLife on Macs or Windows Movie Maker on Windows, or DVD Styler for Windows/Linux (check out this video tutorial by Chris Pirillo.

Alternatively, you can read the user guide for the program of your choice: iLife on the Mac, or Roxio Toast or Easy DVD Creator or Windows Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker on the PC, or whichever package you like best. Usually, they have handy tutorials.

2) Please don't duplicate my non-shared work.
My blessing-to-burn only covers burning the Taktaba Podcast from scratch from the podcast's movie file. The CC license only covers the movie content of the Taktaba podcast. Please don't duplicate the commercial DVDs of the podcast that I made for sale or the Improvisation Toolkit DVD.

(Cute santa cat image courtesy of Sean D'Souza from Psychotactics)

Update: Early Bird Pricing Extended to Sunday

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hi everybody,

(Apologies to anybody who already got this on my mailing list!)

Just a quick note to let you know that I'm extending the deadline for the pre-order discount for Improvisation Toolkit Volume 1.

My graphic designer is delayed with the cover art, so I can't order my pre-order batch from the printer until Monday, instead of tomorrow as planned.

Don't worry - I'm going to get rush processing, so I will still get them in time to ship on the 24th as promised. However, since the volume discount that I get by ordering in one big batch is what makes the early bird pricing possible, and I'm not placing that order until first thing Monday morning, there's no reason to charge full price to anybody who joins that order in the meantime. The new deadline is 9pm EST this Sunday, October 19th.

You can pre-order (as well as find details and the trailer) at:


We Interrupt This Podcast: Pre-Order the Improvisation Toolkit DVD and Save

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Volume 1 of my DVD series, The Improvisation Toolkit, is now available to pre-order.

Special Early Bird Pricing for Pre-Orders

I'm offering a special early bird price of $19.95 for pre-orders. That's $10 off the list price of $29.95. Add $2 for shipping to the US and Canada. (International shipping and PAL format available - contact me for details)

IMPORTANT: to get the early bird price, you MUST order by Thursday, October 16th. This deadline is firm - I have to order all the pre-ordered DVDs in one big batch from the printer in order to get the volume pricing that makes this discount possible.

All pre-orders will be shipped by October 24th, maybe a little earlier if the printer gets them to me promptly. The DVD will go on "public" sale on the 25th, so if you pre-order you'll get yours early. :)

In case you missed it, you can find the trailer at:
- OurMedia
- YouTube
- The Improv Toolkit web page

Give-Away Still On: Now With Expanded Prize Choices

Also: the give-away for a free copy of the DVD is still on! I'll chose the winner from the members of my mailing list on October 25th, the day it goes on sale publicly.

However, I don't want to discourage anyone from taking advantage of the early bird price, so if you pre-order and win the give-away, you can have your choice of:

- a refund (so your DVD is still free)
- a set of Taktaba podcast DVDs (episodes 1-3)
- a copy of Belly Dancing for Fortune and Fame, the CD that has all the music featured on the podcast.

If you'd like to enter, you can join my mailing list using the web form in the sidebar of the podcast blog.

Improvisation Toolkit DVD Sneak Preview + Giveaway

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I finished shooting my upcoming improvisation skills video last week! Assuming all goes well with the fulfillment company, it should be available to order by mid-October.

Here's the trailer:

This is the first volume in a three-part series called the Improvisation Toolkit. Many dancers are frustrated by improv, and for good reason; most instructors teach improvisation by telling their students to "just do it" in class.

Throwing someone in the deep end of the pool may teach them to swim, but it will also teach them to hate swimming!


My series starts you off in the shallow end. We'll use practical, step-by-step exercises to develop the most fundamental (and often neglected) skills needed for improvisation:

Movement Recall (Volume 1)
Without choreography, you have to think of movements on the fly, but still leave enough of your brainpower free to focus on other aspects of your performance.

Structure and Variety (Volume 2)
Nothing bores an audience faster than scribbling! In order to keep them engaged but not overwhelmed, you need to cultivate just the right amount of variety, no more and no less. You also need to put your movements and variations together in a logical and structured way. Your audience can't appreciate your artistry if they can't follow your train of thought!

Musical Interpretation (Volume 3)
It is often said that the dancer should be the visual embodiment of the music, but that can be a tall order. When working with unfamiliar or live music, you must analyze and respond to the music on the fly.

For more details, visit the Improvisation Toolkit project website.

To be notified when Volume 1 is released, join the Taktaba mailing list. This list is only for notifications about the Taktaba podcast and Improvisation Toolkit project. Your information won't be shared, and you can remove yourself at any time.


Plus, one lucky list member will receive a copy of Volume One. I'll choose the winner at random from the members of my mailing list on the day the video is made available for sale. As always, this is NOT limited to US residents; I'm happy to ship it anywhere USPS/UPS/Fedex can deliver it.

Boston-Area Classes in Karsilama and Beginner Technique

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

For those of you in the Boston area:

The next 8-week session of my beginner class starts this Wednesday, August 6th, and runs from 6:30-7:30pm at Third Life Studio in Union Square, Somerville. This is an ongoing class, suitable for complete newbies through advanced beginners.

I'm also offering an 8-week series on Karsilama, which will run from 7:30-8:30 (immediately after the technique class).

Not familiar with karsilama? Check out this performance, which includes elements of American-style karsilama, a taste of the more folkloric Romani style, and a hefty dose of Dalia Carella's Dunyavi style:

We'll focus on stylings for American traditional style belly dance, but we'll also include some elements of the more folkloric Romani style. We'll be covering both skirtwork and skirtless karsilama, so you'll need a full circle skirt by the third class. (I'll have some loaners, but not enough for everybody, so please bring your own if possible.) We'll cover zils if the class composition permits, but they are not required.

No prior experience is necessary, but the Karsilama class will require some technical foundation, so you should also be taking a belly dance technique class. I strongly recommend that complete newbies take my own technique class (since it will cover everything you need to know for the second hour), but if you have some previous experience and are regularly taking classes with someone else, you'll be fine. Contact me to discuss your situation if you're not sure.

You can find more information and register at:

Parking is available, and Union Square is an easy bus ride from:
Central (91, CT2), Kendall (85, CT2), Harvard (86), Porter (87) Davis (87), Sullivan (86, 90, 91), Lechmere (87, 88), Arlington Center (87), Cleveland Circle (86), Wellington (90), Ruggles (CT2). Visit MBTA.com for schedule information.

For driving and parking directions, please visit Third Life Studio:

Email me if you have any questions!

Nadira Jamal
Belly Dancer
http://www.taktaba.com (video podcast)

p.s. workshops on this topic also available!

Congrats to Joy Cavender!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

My apologies for the delay posting this, but congratulations to Joy Cavender, the winner of the CD drawing.

Thank you everyone for sending me your input on my upcoming improvisation skills DVD. Your feedback was incredibly helpful!

I've got the script for Volume 1 mostly finalized, and am getting ready to shoot in early/mid-August. If all goes well, I should be able to release it on September 8th. Once I have my studio time booked, I'll post information on pre-orders.

In the meantime, if you'd like to be notified when the video is available, you can join the Takataba mailing list.

Enter your email address:

Upcoming Improvisation DVD! I want your input!

Monday, June 23, 2008


You may have noticed that it has been a while since the last episode of my Taktaba podcast. Well, it's going to be a little while longer before Episode 4 is released, but luckily, it's for a really exciting reason.

I've been reviewing the (incredibly encouraging and constructive) feedback from Taktaba viewers, and have decided that it's time to split the project into two different and complementary efforts: Taktaba Foundations and Taktaba Details.

Taktaba Details will continue the podcast's mission to explore individual elements of space, shape, time, and energy to give you new ideas for your choreography and improvisation. Taktaba Foundations will deal with the bigger picture: HOW to choreograph and HOW to improvise.

So I'm pleased to announce that I am working on my first instructional video: Taktaba Foundations Volume 1: Improvisation Toolkit. This video will include a series of exercises that will help dancers of all levels build the skills they need to improvise with confidence. These tools can also be used in class to help your students break their dependence on choreography so they can start buildling their own personal styles.


I have a lot of ideas about how to improvise, but I need to hear what you want: what do you want to know about improvisation? How can I make this video useful to you? How would you like the DVD to be structured?

If you have any ideas, requests, or questions, please share them in my online survey.

To thank you for your input, I'll be raffling off a copy of the Belly Dancing for Fortune and Fame CD, which has all the music used on the Taktaba podcasts to date, including the Taktaba theme song, Sala Sala. To be entered in the drawing, you must submit your survey (answering all questions and including your name and contact info) by noon eastern time on Tuesday, July 1st, 2008.

I hope to hear from you!

Drawing Winner

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Congrats to Johannah B., the winner of the World Belly Dance Day drawing! I'll be sending her a set of Taktaba DVDs.

To those of you who didn't win, thanks for entering! You can still view the podcast online. You can find handy links in the sidebar.

Winner Selected!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thank you everyone for entering my World Belly Dance Day podcast DVD giveaway. I was blown away by the response!

A winner has been selected, and notified by email. I'll post the winner's name once I hear back from him or her.

Thanks again!

DVD Giveaway in Honor of World Belly Dance Day!

Friday, May 09, 2008

A big thanks to The Belly Dance Business Academy for cluing me in:

Tomorrow (Saturday, May 10th, 2008) is World Belly Dance Day! According to the founders' web site:

Our mission is to unite the initiative of many dancers around the world to celebrate the wonderful art of belly dance as a holiday on the second Saturday in May every year. We got inspired by the idea of holding an event that would serve as a reminder that belly dance is an ART form, a cultural event, a sport, and a social and family entertainment.

Belly dancing is misunderstood in many places of the globe. Unfortunately, there are so many dancers that keep giving the wrong signal by wearing questionable costumes and portraying Raks Sharki as a dance of seduction, an entertainment for men.

The good news is that there are dancers who through the years have been trying to change that. This is not an easy job because of so many myths and misconceptions around belly dance. Belly Dance Day is our way of reaching out and putting our beloved dance form in a nice and different light, by holding an event that would be "family-rated" with all profit going to charity.

Enter the Contest:

In honor of World Dance Day, I will be giving away a set of Taktaba DVDs (episodes 1, 2, and 3) to one lucky winner!

How to enter
To enter, join the Taktaba announcements newsletter by noon on Monday, May 19th:

Email address:

NOTE: you will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. You will not added to the mailing list or eligible for the drawing until you confirm.

The Fine Print

The winner will be selected from the members of the mailing list in a random drawing that will take place at noon (eastern time) on Monday, May 19th. I'll use an online random number generator to select the winner based on the order in which they joined. i.e., if it picks #15, then the 15th person who joined the list wins. (This is the same process as Knitty magazine used in their awesome 50 Millionth visitor contest.)

You don't have to buy anything to enter, and you can remove yourself from the mailing list at any time. However, only people who are on the list at noon on May 19th will be included in the drawing, so if you take yourself off before then, you won't be eligible.

The winner will be notified by the email (at the address they add to the mailing list) so they can send me their shipping address (PO boxes and international addresses are just fine!). The winner must allow me to post either their first name or their stage name here on the blog.

Here are some more ways you can celebrate World Dance Day:

Introduce someone to belly dance

Invite a friend to go to class with you, or take someone out to see a belly dance show. Talk to them about what the dance is, and the misunderstandings and stereotypes that are out there. The Art of Middle Eastern Dance by Shira has some great articles that can help you correct misconceptions. (If you don't have classes or shows on the exact day, that's okay. Just extend the invitation on Saturday, and make your plans for whatever day would be convenient.)

Be counted

Those of you who are in Massachusetts can submit the Artist's Foundation's Stand Up and Be Counted questionnaire. This is a census of artists living in Massachusetts, which the foundation will use to advocate for artists in the bay state.

Get the word out

I heard about this holiday just this morning. Help spread the word to other dancers and non-dancers. You can send ecards, courtesy of the World Belly Dance Day web site. Send them as "valentines" to dancers you like and admire, or send them to friends and family. Both are a great way to get the word out about World Belly Dance Day.

If you have a blog, write a post about World Belly Dance Day. (And add a comment here with the URL so I can visit your blog!)

Hone your craft

Part of World Belly Dance Day's mission is to help the general public understand that belly dance is a "legitimate" art form. Many people don't understand that our dance requires dedication and hard work. The more seriously we take our training, the more seriously the public will take us. So this Saturday (or whenever you read this), devote just a little extra time to your own practice. Some ideas:

- add an extra 10 minutes to your regular practice
(or if you don't practice, just do a quick 10-minute drill)

- try something new: cross-train in another style, try out a new prop, etc. Push outside your usual stylistic and technical "comfort zone". Or, ahem, work on your compositional skills by watching (or re-watching) Taktaba. (You can find handy links to each episode in the sidebar.)

Value your work

Part of the reason why belly dance isn't respected as a legitimate art form is that many of us treat it more like a hobby than a profession. When you perform, you are providing a service of value. Just because you love what you do doesn't mean that it isn't work, and that you shouldn't be fairly compensated for it. Some of the best wedding cake makers have day jobs and bake on the weekends because they enjoy doing it. You wouldn't expect the baker to give you a free cake just because they aren't desperate for your money to pay their bills, would you?

Women are often socialized to be modest, minimize their accomplishments, and not be "greedy". However, if you don't value your work, nobody else will value it or even respect it. So spend some time getting comfortable with the fact that your work has value and that you deserve fair compensation. Then start working on strategies to make that happen. The Belly Dance Business Academy is a great place to start.

Shimmies for a Cure DVD available

Thursday, April 10, 2008

For those of you who attended Shimmies For A Cure Part Deux: the performance DVD is now available to order online.

$5 will be donated to Baseema's Pan Mass Challenge fundraising campaign (benefits the Jimmy Fund) for every show DVD purchased by April 22nd, so order early!

Shimmies for a Cure a Huge Success

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Shimmies for a Cure Part Deux was a BLAST!

First, I owe a HUGE thank you to Baseema and *Samantha*, the organizers. You two consistently put on the best-run and most fun events in the area! I know how much work that took, but from the other end (both as a workshop instructor and as an audience member), the whole thing went smooooooooooothly.

The other workshop instructors (Phoenix Avathar, Najmat, and Aepril Schaile) also deserve some applause. You're all excellent teachers, but it was your warmth and enthusiasm that made me wish I could be in the class, rather than behind the camera.

Congrats also to the workshop performers. You were all a joy to watch and put together a great cross-section of what the New England belly dance community has to offer.

For those of you who haven't heard, the event raised an astounding $4650 for the Jimmy Fund (via the Pan Mass Challenge), almost twice the amount we raised last year! If anybody out there wants to make an additional donation, check out the Shimmies for a Cure web site.

Taktaba on TV! (eventually), Episode 4 in the works

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My apologies for my silence lately, but big things are in the works!

Episode 4 is in the scripting stage, and will hopefully be produced and ready to download sometime in April. This episode will cover working with speed in your dance.

I've also joined my community TV station, SCAT. So not only will Taktaba be shown on the air (Channel 3 in Somerville, MA), but I will be able to film it in a professional studio with real lighting, real cameras, and plenty of space! (Jumping up and down.) I've spent the last month in production classes and working on other shows' crews to get some experience. My plan is to finish Series 1 (elements of time) in my home studio, and switch to SCAT production for Series 2 (elements of space).

For those of you in the Boston area, I'm teaching a workshop and performing at Shimmies for a Cure Part Deux fundraiser hafla. My workshop, "9/8 911 - a Karsilama Emergency Kit", is a how-to-cope guide for the karsilama illiterate. I'll also be taking footage for SCAT at the event.

And, since the details are not yet finalized, I will NOT be telling you about my plans to offer a group class just yet. Oh wait...

Taktaba Episode 3 Now Available on DVD

Thursday, January 17, 2008

You can now buy Epsiode 3 on my web site.

You can save on shipping by ordering a combo pack of two or more videos.

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