Winter Session

 Winter Session started January 6, 2020. You can still join us! The beauty of this dance form is that it makes you feel wonderful in your own body, no matter its size or shape.

Spring Session will begin April 6 and registration is coming soon!

Welcome all! 

Welcome to The Cassandra School

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!

New Students

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!

About the School

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.”  

Text by Patricia Cumbie.  

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.”

Text by Patricia Cumbie

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.

Text by Margo.

Megan loves Middle Eastern dance - the movements, energy, music, history, and culture, and is excited to be sharing her passion with students at The
Cassandra School. She is mindful that we all have a variety of backgrounds, skills, experiences, and abilities, and hopes that everyone feels welcome, has fun, and is able to challenge themselves in class. Besides taking classes and teaching, Megan is a member of Jawaahir Dance Company, and dances at Ansari's Mediterranean Grill and lounge, as well as other local events.

Text by Megan.

Paula is a teacher for Level 1 classes at The Cassandra School. She has studied Middle Eastern Dance since 2006, when she took her first class at The Cassandra School with no previous dance experience. After overcoming the intimidation of a completely new art, she dug into learning more about the music and cultural connections of Middle Eastern Dance. After moving out of the state, and several years living and dancing in Michigan, she returned to the Twin Cities and again sought out Cassandra as a teacher.

Now a professional soloist as well as Jawaahir Dance Company member, Paula’s style is characterized by a focus on the feeling of the music and connection with the audience.  She is excited to share her love of Middle Eastern Dance with beginner students and to welcome new dancers into the art in an approachable and fun way. 

Text by Paula.

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.” 

Text by Patricia Cumbie. 

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  

Here's a short clip of our director, Cassandra, performing with the band Amwaaj.

Want to Perform?

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:

  • Please be 39 years old or over. 
  • Be available for weekly rehearsals on Thursday evenings.
  • Take at least 3 classes per month at The Cassandra School.

What Students Say

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.

Winter Session

January 6 — March 15. (Winter pdf) Check the Calendar for current info.

This session ends with a Class Showings on Saturday, March 21.

  • If you are a brand new student, your first class at The Cassandra School is free.
  • Levels 1 and 2: Classes are $18 for a single class or $160 for 10 classes (12% off).
  • Levels 3 and above: Classes are $20 for a single class or $180 for 10 classes (11% off).
  • Make-up Classes: You may make up any missed classes in any other class of the same level or below, at either location, during the 10 week session. Just go to your make-up class and tell the teacher which class you are originally registered for and that you are doing a make up.
  • Student Discount: Show your current student ID to your teacher for $10 off a 10-week session. Register at your first class.
  • Monthly Class Pass: Good for one calendar month of unlimited classes. Levels 1 and 2, only $105. Levels 3 and above, only $115. Buy the cards at class. No carryovers to a different month.
  • Refunds will not be issued after the first week.

Level 1

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.

1 Wint L1 Mon Mpls Paula 6:00-7:30p $ 160
1 Wint L1 Mon Bloom Kathy 7:30-9:00p $ 160
1 Wint L1
Tue Bloom Kathy 6:00-7:30p $ 160
1 Wint L1
Wed Bloom Kathy 6:00-7:30p $ 160
1 Wint L1
Wed Mpls
Renee 6:00-7:30p $ 160
1 Wint L1 Sat Mpls Kathy 10:00-11:30a $ 160

Level 2

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.

1 Wint L2 Mon Bloom Kathy 6:00-7:30p $ 160
1 Wint L2 Mon Mpls Megan 7:30-9:00p $ 160
1 Wint L2 Wed Bloom
Kathy 7:30-9:00p
$ 160
1 Wint L2 Sat Mpls Kathy 11:30-1:00p $ 160
1 Wint L2 Sun Mpls Renee Noon-1:30p $ 160

Level 3

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.

*ATTN: Kathy's Wednesday, Level 3 from 10-noon moved to Minneapolis.

1 Wint L3 Wed *Mpls
Kathy 10:00-Noon $ 180
1 Wint L3 Sun Mpls Renee 10:00-Noon $ 180

Mixed Levels 3-4

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.

1 Wint L3-4 Mon Mpls Cassandra 10:00-Noon $ 180
1 Wint L3-4 Thurs Mpls Cassandra 6:00-8:00p $ 180

Level 5

Professional class — all of the above and enhancing performance skills!

1 Wint L5 Tue Mpls Cassandra 6:00-8:00p $ 180

Technique Intensive

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.)

0 TI Sat Mpls Cassandra 1:00-3:00p $ 20/class

You may register and pay for the whole session online, or register and pay for the whole session when you come to class, or register and pay each time you take a class, or you may purchase a Monthly Class Pass.

Class Showings

Saturday, March 21, 2020. 3:30—5:00pm.View flyer

Here is a chance to show what you've been learning and polishing. Free and open to the public, it's a chance for you to invite friends and family to see your progress and to have fun! In Minneapolis.

Monthly Class Pass

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 Feb 2020 $ 105
1 Pass CP2 Levels 3+ Feb 2020 $ 115


To register for a class or classes, click on a class above to highlight it, fill out the information below and click Submit.

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  • Pay now using a credit card or PayPal, by clicking the Buy Now button. Check out with PayPal
  • Bring payment to the first class.
  • Mail a check to the office.

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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3010 Minnehaha Avenue So, Minneapolis, MN 55406

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.


9050 Lyndale Avenue So, Bloomington, MN 55420

Our Bloomington studio is located 7 blocks east of I-35W at the 90th Street exit. It's in the lower level of the Great Bear Shopping Center. The entrance, below the lit Cassandra School sign, is near the center of the mall.


Yes, there will be women of all sizes in the classes. The beauty of this dance form is that it makes you feel wonderful in your own body, no matter its size or shape.
Too old? Never! Our classes are filled with women of all ages, mostly 20s to 70s, and we do accept girls as young as 13. Classes are geared toward the adult learner, so girls younger than 13, due to shorter attention spans, must be accompanied by an adult. 
This depends on the type of injury and your doctor’s advice. Speak with your teacher about past injuries or body weaknesses so that she can give you alternative exercises or movements if necessary. Mostly you need to learn the difference between good and bad pain so that you don’t aggravate the condition. Some conditions can actually be improved through proper exercise. For example, lower back problems may be lessened by strengthening your abdominals. Learn to listen to and respect your body. 
Our Level 1 classes are geared for non-dancers. You will learn basic movements and then build upon them.
Yes. You may progress more quickly than a non-dancer, but you need to learn the basics, as they are the building blocks for more advanced technique. Again, belly dance uses the body in very different ways than other dance forms. You will also need to learn how to play finger cymbals. 
No. As you develop as a student you may choose to perform or not. Many students take classes just for their own pleasure. If you do wish to develop performance skills, there will be student opportunities that your teacher will let you know about. Whether you wish to perform or not, attending performances is very educational. 
Belly Dance is a term for a beautiful feminine dance form from the Middle East. Its movements are thousands of years old and are based on traditional folk dances. Belly dance differs from Western dance forms by emphasizing the torso and using isolations to express the rhythmic and emotional qualities of Arabic music. Traditionally, it is an improvised solo dance — a dancer’s personal interpretation of the music. Attend Jawaahir’s performances and you will get a better feel of what the dance is about and its roots! 
Yes! The dance is a great total body workout that builds strength, is easy on your joints, and increases your flexibility. Belly dance is also a great emotional release because it is fun and creative!
The classes start with warm-up and conditioning exercises to help you prepare for the movements you will learn. Classes continue with instruction in dance movements mixed with finger cymbal instruction. The classes close with stretching and cool-down exercises. All of this is done to an array of fun Arabic musical selections.
The Cassandra School offers year-round classes in 10 week sessions. Beginner and Level 2 classes are 90 minutes long. Levels 3-5 and some special classes are 2 hours long.
  • There are three ways to take classes: show up and pay for a single class, register for a 10-week session, or buy a monthly card.
  • Your first class at The Cassandra School is free. Get your coupon here.
  • Levels 1 and 2: Classes are $18 for a single class or $160 for 10 classes (12% off).
  • Levels 3 and above: Classes are $20 for a single class or $180 for 10 classes (11% off).
  • Student Discount: Show your current student ID to your teacher for $10 off a 10-week session. Register at your first class.
  • Monthly Class Cards: 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.
  • Refunds will not be issued after the first week. 
This will depend on the teacher. Traditionally the dance was and still is improvised, so a choreography or dance combinations are only tools to help you learn how the dance works with the music. The fun creative part comes when you learn to dance your own dance, as you feel it!
Of course, and it will help you learn faster!

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. 

Every teacher has a different style, and we completely understand if your teacher is not right for you. If that happens, feel free to switch to a different class.
Like most dance schools programs, students remain at a level for about a year before moving to the next level. So usually a beginner student has studied for 0-1 years, Level 2 for 1-2 years, Level 3 for 2-4 years, etc. There is a lot of material to learn and master at each level which the next level will build upon. All this depends on your ability and, oh yes, how much you practice. Your teacher is your best guide and will tell you when you have mastered a level and are ready for the next.
If, by week two of a new session, there are fewer than 3 students registered for a class, that class may be cancelled for the remainder of the session by The Cassandra School. You are more than welcome to find another class that will work for you and make up any missed classes within the session.
We recommend beginning dancers start Level 1 within the first 3 weeks of a session because the class is progressive. We want you to have fun and not get frustrated by not understanding the movements and isolations, and zil patterns that have been taught and are being built upon.
If you can’t wait for the next session, we do accept new students at any time. If you are uncertain of which class to take, call the office to discuss your options.
There are two ways to register for class:
  • Register at your first class. We accept cash, check (written in blue or black ink), and credit cards.
We do not carry over missed classes from one session to the next. If you pay for a session you may make up missed classes any time during the session. If you are in Level 1 you may attend any other Level 1 class by simply showing up and telling the instructor you are doing a make-up. Students in Level 2 and above may attend any class at their level or a level close to their level.
Wear workout or dance wear, something comfortable to move in that you don’t mind sweating into! 
We dance barefoot, so you don’t need special footwear. Some students do wear dance slippers, half sole shoes, or sandals, but that is a personal choice.
You are welcome to bring or purchase a hip scarf to accentuate the movements, but it isn’t necessary. We do have some hip scarves available for purchase should you develop a craving we call bead lust, the strong desire for something sparkly!
We teach all students how to play finger cymbals, or zils, starting at our beginner level and continuing through all levels. The Cassandra School does provide zils you can use during our beginner classes. We sell them and encourage you to purchase your own so that you can practice on your own.
No. This is a good workout — it would be too hard on the fine fabrics of a costume.

If you still have questions, call us at 612-872-6050.