Belly dancing for fun, fitness, and grace! Join women of all ages, sizes, and levels of experience to participate in the creative expression as well as the health and fitness benefits of Middle Eastern dance. The beauty of this dance form is that it makes you feel wonderful in your own body, no matter its size or shape. We challenge all students to achieve a personal best!
If you've never danced before, or even if you have done another type of dance, Level 1 is the perfect class for you: basic dance movements, rhythms, dance combinations, conditioning, isolation practice, and introduction to finger cymbal patterns with dance steps. Wear comfy clothes, your bare feet, and a big smile!
Classes are not expensive: only $18 for an hour and a half class, and some discounts! Your first class is free. Try it! You’ll like it! Still not sure? See the FAQs for answers to the many questions we know you have! Then give Level 1 a try—we know you’ll have fun!
The Cassandra School is the teaching arm of the renowned Jawaahir Dance Company, the premier professional Middle Eastern dance company in the Midwest.
Our school was established in 1978 and offers year-round classes in Middle Eastern dance ranging from beginning to professional. All our teachers are members of Jawaahir, and have many years of teaching experience.
We run four 10-week sessions each year, with more than 15 classes per week in Minneapolis and Bloomington.
Cassandra, Artistic Director of Jawaahir Dance Company, founded The Cassandra School in 1978 when it became clear that there was a need for more belly dance instruction in the Twin Cities.
“I taught in the basement of Georges restaurant where I was a performer, but it wasn’t ideal.” Ever the visionary, Cassandra didn’t just want to do classes, she wanted to establish an eponymous dance
school built to achieve a singular goal. “I wanted to make a place where people could do an intensive study of the topic. I wanted to take students to a professional level.”
One could say she’s achieved her goal and then some. Many of her earliest students achieved professional dance status and have even retired. Cassandra’s still going. What keeps it fresh for her? “It’s my
life’s path: to be a dancer, teacher, and coach. It’s an evolution and a lifelong commitment.” Cassandra is deeply committed to her students, Jawaahir Dance Company, performing, and choreography. That
she is a masterful teacher in addition to all that she does, makes her a legend among other teachers and performers.
Cassandra believes that a long career in dance is possible with care and good instruction. “We train your body with a focus on conditioning and body awareness. The way to become a good dancer is to focus
on the basics.” Part of her teaching philosophy is to introduce Western audiences and students to a non‐Western art form. “It’s important to explain and show the stylistic differences in the way Arab
dance is done in different Middle Eastern cultures. I talk about the cultural context.”
Education from Cassandra is relevant to dancers at all levels, and especially for beginning students. “It takes time to learn these nuances, to feel the music and relate to it. In the beginning we train
people to hear Arab music, and to protect their bodies by having good posture moving to the music.” Cassandra also believes “belly dance has many gifts” like empowerment, relaxation, strength. “In order
to get those gifts, good dance technique has to be the focus.”
Angela is known for both her passionate dance performances and her work as a mehndi artist for her company Ancient Traditions Mehndi.
It was the art of henna that led her to explore belly dancing. “Henna and dancing go hand‐in‐hand.” Depending on the culture and event, women doing henna for each other would also include music or dance
as part of a celebration. “Listening to Arab music while I was doing henna got me thinking of dance. Henna turned out to be a gateway for other things.”
Angela started teaching in 2007 and currently teaches a mixed level 1‐2 in the Minneapolis studio. In her classes, she likes to keep things light and fun while focusing on the basics. “I think a solid foundation
is really important. I enjoy breaking down movements for my students, and working with them in class, in ways that actually feel like dancing.” In keeping with Cassandra’s philosophy, she recognizes
that not everyone wants to perform, but she teaches the class with professional level standards.
This has paid off, and she really enjoys teaching and watching her students’ progress. “We recently did choreography for our winter session and it was fun to see how the students worked with what I gave
them. To see them perform was such a fun experience.”
Angela’s also thrilled that some of her beginning students are now in levels 3 and 4. “I love that they’ve continued. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Aliyah Sahar started dancing when she was 3, but it wasn’t until 1989 that she discovered her love for Middle Eastern dance. She studies with Cassandra as well as traveling around the
US and Egypt to study with other renowned Middle Eastern dance instructors.
Kathy sees herself as living proof that even if you don’t feel like you are a born dancer, you can achieve new levels of grace and fluidity by studying it. As a young woman, Kathy always
worried that she “looked odd” and clumsy on the dance floor. As a college student in Madison, WI she secretly started taking jazz and ballet classes to address her awkwardness.
Then the day she slipped in to see the Middle Eastern dance class do a noon‐time performance released something obstinate within her. “I thought, oh my god, I am so wrong about this dance form. It was so
intriguing. The women were graceful and had wonderful control. I loved their feminine costumes, so right then I decided to add Middle Eastern dance to my class schedule.” After a couple years, she moved
to Chicago and kept studying with the renowned dancer Dahlena. But the chance to see Cassandra perform at a Turquoise International event changed her life’s path once again.
“It was the first time I saw a dancer who was the music. I could see what I was hearing. I didn’t want to take my eyes off Cassandra. A big lightbulb went on.” A year later she moved to the Twin Cities to
study with Cassandra. She’s been teaching at The Cassandra School since 1990, and primarily teaches levels 1 through 3. Kathy is the ultimate teacher and the school’s most steadfast instructor besides
Cassandra. “I want to share everything I know. I want people to understand Middle Eastern dance is a beautiful and complex art form that can be done by anyone.”
Kathy tends to be very hands on because she was once confounded by dance moves and she likes to explain them well. In her classes she also discusses and demonstrates different rhythms, and points out different
instrument sounds in the music to encourage people to keep their ears open to what they are hearing and how it works with the movements. “I like to show where the movement is coming from, or where it’s
easier to do in the body. I offer the info that I struggled to learn. It helps people progress more quickly from being beginners because when you advance that’s when it gets really fun.”
Lauren Olson Fraga used to play soccer for exercise before a friend introduced her to belly dancing. “I fell in love with the dance and just kept taking classes.” Her first teacher
at The Cassandra School was Shari, a then Jawaahir Dance Company member. “She’s such a beautiful dancer and she was inspiring to me. So, I went from the beginning levels and beyond to experience so many
other great teachers.”
Lauren now teaches levels 2 herself, and as a Jawaahir Dance Company member and teacher, it feels like she has come full‐circle. She nows what it’s like to come to dance late in life and wants people to
feel comfortable in her classroom. “My teaching philosophy is to provide a supportive environment for students at different levels.”
Lauren’s first teaching gig, though, was not in the U.S. In 2015, she was living in Brazil with her husband (she was once an exchange student there and speaks Portuguese), and taking classes with Monah Souad.
She also danced with Cristina Mendes and taught at her dance school. “Wherever I’ve been I’ve found community in dance.”
Yet she thinks The Cassandra School is special and it was something she missed while she was abroad. “Cassandra’s always had a mission. It’s really rare to find an instructor who is interested in preserving
the history and culture of dance and passing on that knowledge in classes, especially to beginners.” As a teacher, Lauren wants to pass on that enrichment, too. “I think belly dance is great for people
who like to learn over the course of their lives. It is an art form you can study forever.”
Margo Abdo O’Dell is a renowned teacher, performer, and choreographer of Middle Eastern dance. Noted for her polished technique and expressiveness, exceptional teaching skills, compelling
theater productions, and informative articles, she has been a leader in the national Middle Eastern dance community.
Her local theatrical presentations portrayed an array of dances from, in, and around the Middle East as well as interpretive works grounded in traditional and contemporary movement genres, always inspired
by her Lebanese heritage. She received numerous grants for her work from such funders as the Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Travellers, Women’s Foundation, McKnight Foundation, and more.
Her performance video,Tajdeed, has been reviewed and highly recommended.
Repeatedly criss-crossing the country to teach, perform, and share this vibrant, passionate tradition has been a profound honor and pleasure. The receptiveness of students and audiences to engage with Arabic
culture provides much gratification, especially in difficult global times.
Margo’s early dance training encompassed ballet, modern, tap, jazz, and Middle Eastern dance instruction from the finest choreographers/instructors in the U.S. and Middle East. She also brings her experience
as a certified Integral Yoga Hatha instructor to her teaching and coaching.
Each life phase brings new challenges, prospects, and modes of creative expression. Margo invites her students along for the ride, the opportunity to gain personal insights, and experince the elation of
uniting body/mind/spirit through movement. Dance, like yoga, should be a joyful celebration, not a competition. Be prepared to have fun in her classes!
Cassandra is her long-time friend and mentor and Margo is grateful for her years of encouragement and support. Margo was an original instructor at The Cassandra School and is delighted to return.
Renee has been teaching belly dance for about ten years, and it has always been her goal to be a teacher. “I just love teaching. It’s such a positive experience for students to dance
with other dancers who are also studying together. The most important thing for me is that people enjoy themselves and connect with the movements and music.” In her classes people are encouraged to dance
and feel moved by the music. It is also how Renee performs, expressing joy and connection to the art form.
Renee had been a gymnast in her youth. At a UN conference for women, she saw Middle Eastern dance for the first time and was intrigued. Her interest led to taking a class with Cassandra at the University
of Minnesota. “Seeing Cassandra move in the classroom context was very inspirational. Her movements are so clear and clean. It hooked me right away. I fell in love with it.”
Now that Renee’s an instructor herself, currently teaching levels 1, 3 and a mixed level 3‐4, she said Cassandra’s influence has been so important to her teaching style. “It’s important to me to teach people
things I’ve specifically learned from Cassandra, and that is to connect to the roots of the dance and respect the culture it comes from.” From Renee’s perspective, it’s one of the things that distinguishes
The Cassandra School from many others—the attention to dance technique and Arab culture.
Like a lot of people who are passionate about the art form, Renee wants to share all the positive things belly dance can do for people. “Most of all I want to contribute to the elevation of the art form.”
Teacher bio text written by Patricia Cumbie, except Margo. Photos by Terra Sura, except Cassandra and Margo.
At The Cassandra School, …more > you benefit from the artistic vision of Cassandra Shore, Artistic Director of Jawaahir. She's dedicated to presenting Middle Eastern dance in its authentic form, adhering closely to its original movements, musicality, cultural context, and emotional tone. Cassandra's deep roots in the field of Middle Eastern dance and her regular research trips to the region allow her to provide insight that takes you beyond technique to a deeper level of expression and understanding. < less
The Cassandra School has a multi-level performing group, Khazanah, that performs at local events around the Twin Cities. It's open to current students.
Cassandra herself choreographs pieces specifically for this performing group. Ask your teacher how to join. These are the requirements:
I really want to express my extreme satisfaction in the classes we've had! Our instructor infuses humor into everything, has made us feel right at home, has explained everything just wonderfully, and has helped each of us individually at each class.
We came to The Cassandra School feeling a little intimidated to study with the masters here in the Twin Cities area. We have been so pleased, and we really wonder why we didn't come to you earlier.
Meet your teacher. Thank you for dancing with us - enjoy!
This is the perfect class for beginners: basic dance movements, rhythms, dance combinations, conditioning, isolation practice, and introduction to finger cymbal patterns with dance steps.
*NOTE: Renee's Sunday, Level 1 class will begin on April 14th.
Dance movements built on the basics learned in Level 1. Continuation of basics, conditioning, isolations, and addition of more complex movements. Introduction to veil dancing, with additional work on finger cymbals and coordination of dance movements and music.
Introduction to advanced rhythm and movement concepts, improvisation, intermediate cymbal and dance techniques, and layering of specifically Oriental dance movement. More rigorous conditioning. Introduction to Arabic/North African folk styles. Continuation of all prior techniques.
*NOTE: Renee's Sunday, Level 3 class will begin on April 14th.
Advanced rhythm and movement concepts, improvisation, intermediate cymbal and dance techniques, and layering of specifically Oriental dance movement. More rigorous conditioning. Continuation of folk styles and rhythms.
Advanced movements, layering, combinations, choreography and concepts, improvisational class work, individualized performance exercises; continuation of folk styles and rhythm explorations. Advanced cymbal proficiency with movements.
Professional class — all of the above and enhancing performance skills!
Technique Intensive focuses on mastering technique — making it your own, incorporating it into body memory and vocabulary until you can command it effortlessly to express yourself through music and dance. We drill techniques with their variations and ornamentations. Appropriate for Level 3, 4, and 5 students. (Check the Calendar to see if class will be held, since Cassandra is often teaching out-of-town workshops.)
Good for one calendar month of unlimited classes. Levels 1 and 2, only $105. Levels 3 and above, only $115. No carryovers to a different month.
|1||Pass||CP1||Levels 1&2||April 2019||$ 105|
|1||Pass||CP2||Levels 3+||April 2019||$ 115|
To register for a class or classes, click on a class above to highlight it, fill out the information below and click Submit.
|Total Due||$ 0|
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Note: The decision to cancel classes due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances is made 2 hours before class. To find out if your class is cancelled, click the Today's Classes button at the top of this page.
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Our main entrance is off the lot on the south side of the building. Go through the glass door that is in the part of the building that juts out in the northwest corner of the south parking lot, and turn left. Our secondary entrance is off the lot on the north side of the building, next to the police station. Go through the glass door. Our studio is down the hall and to your right, through the purple door.
Parking is easy. Parking options include the parking lot on the south side of the building, the parking lot on the north side of the building next to the police station, and ample street parking.
Transit Information: Bike racks are right outside the studio door. We are on the 7, 21, 27, and 53 bus routes (info), and we are 2 blocks east of the Lake St-Midtown light rail stop (info) on the blue line.
The decision to cancel classes due to inclement weather is made 2 hours before class. To find out if your class is cancelled, click the Today's Classes button at the top of this page.
If you want to get email reminders, just go to Calendar, double click on your class to open the details window, and in the upper right corner select Reminder. Put in your email address and CalendarWiz will automatically send you an email reminder every time your class meets. If class is cancelled, the class title will include CANCELLED. Be sure and set the reminder time to be within 2 hours of your class time.
If you still have questions, call us at 612-872-6050.