City Profiles

The Belly Dance Guide to New York City

New York City.  The Big Apple has a lot of well-known tourist stops, but if you are looking for what makes this city truly Hip, is your source.   Belly dance artist Najla gives us the inside scoop on a belly dancer's MUST Do's in New York City.


Najla’s NYC Top 10 for Belly Dancers



New York City is every belly dancer’s dream. Where else can you find a city that allows you to dance, shop, and indulge your every sparkly desire 24/7?  Here are some of my “musts” for dancers visiting the Big Apple.


1. Learn from a legend…or a rising star

I can’t even begin to try to list all of the incredible dance teachers who hang their hip scarf here, not to mention the pantheon of international dance stars who frequently come for workshops.  Instead, here’s just a taste of who you can learn from: Morocco, the ladies of Bellyqueen, Mimi Fontana (Manhattan Tribal), Ranya Renee, Elena Lentini, Tarik Sultan, Dalia Carella…and many, many more


2. Hang out with the band

As dancers, we all know how important music is, whether it’s dancing to a recording or working with a band.  Learn about rhythms and Middle Eastern music from some of the city’s talented musicians: a small sample of doumbek instructors includes Raquy Danziger, Brad Mack and Carmine Guida. 


3.  Visit Egypt

Little Egypt, that is. Located in the Astoria neighborhood of the borough of Queens (roughly on Steinway south of Astoria Boulevard), this area is a great place to find all sorts of Middle Eastern shops and food.


4. Walk with the Pharaohs

Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum have world-class collections of Egyptian art. After you’ve finished your visit to the Met, head behind the building to see Cleopatra’s Needle, an obelisk brought to Central Park from Egypt in 1881.


5. Dinner & a Dance

While the heyday of Arabic nightclubs has passed, there are still many opportunities to see belly dance shows with live bands. Check out shows at Mezzo Mezzo, the Lafayette Grill and other locales, where you can often take the floor during open dance sessions.


6. Project Runway, Belly Dance Style

There is a world outside of Joann Fabrics, and that is the Garment District. Also known as the Fashion District, this area runs roughly from 34th to 42nd street between 5th and 9th Avenues, and contains both wholesale and retail shops with everything you would ever need to make a dance costume or accessories, from hooks to rhinestones to silk. Some of my go-to stores include Top Trimmings, Spandex World, Vardhman Inc, Toho Shoji, and yes, even Mood. Make it work.


7. Go to sparkly heaven

The Garment District has its share of jewelry shops and bead stores, but it’s also worth your time to head down to Chinatown. There you’ll find stall after stall filled with sparklies to adorn your ears, fingers and even your phone.


8. Shop like a Raqs Star

New York City is home to several fabulous costume sources created by dancers for dancers. Belly Dance America (run by Jehan Kamal) has a brick and mortar store in the Garment District with the hottest Egyptian imports, while designers Decotach (Noora) and Sharifwear (Nourhan Sharif) often have in-house sales, or are available to visit by appointment (or online!). Also worth checking out are the many stores that appeal to dancers of all stripes, such as the Capezio shop.


9.  Get your Glam on

Whether it’s MAC, Sephora, or the NYC-only Ricky’s, you can find makeup and more to match every costume, not to mention wig shops to give a little extra something to your showtime style.


10.  Learn something new

New York City is arguably the dance capital of the world. Try your hand (and feet) at a new dance style at studios like the Ailey Extension or the Broadway Dance Center. Learning a new style is a great way to bring inspiration to your belly dance practice.


About the author: Najla is a New York City based performer and instructor of Egyptian style belly dance. Find her online at and at her Profile