You Asked Aunt Rocky - Book Cover

You Asked Aunt Rocky: Answers & Advice About Raqs Sharqi & Raqs Shaabi (Oriental & Folk Dance)

(23 customer reviews)


414 pages, 8.5×11 paperback

Over 50 years of in-culture research and experience…No other book in existence contains such an in depth look at what we popularly call “belly” dance. Country by country, region by region, Morocco breaks down customs, dances, rhythms and folklore while answering common questions and addressing major misconceptions about the world of Oriental dance. “You Asked Aunt Rocky” is the definitive text book for the study of Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi. Informative enough for any scholarly study of the subject, yet written for those who love the dance, this great tome is a treasure and an asset to any collection on the arts of North Africa, Asia Minor and the Middle East.

Price in the US: $45 + $10 tax, postage/handling in the US =$55, (add $3 with PayPal = $58.00)
Price to Canada: US$45 + $22 postage =US$67 (add $3 with PayPal = US$70.00)
Price OUTSIDE North America: $45 + $35 postage (Sorry! It’s what it costs me!) =$80, (add $3 with PayPal = $83.00)


Additional information

Weight 3 lbs

23 reviews for You Asked Aunt Rocky: Answers & Advice About Raqs Sharqi & Raqs Shaabi (Oriental & Folk Dance)

  1. Zora Ficarra-Cheatham

    The definitive book that gives Middle Eastern dance the respect it deserves as a beautiful art form blending technique with culture. Morocco has spent a lifetime performing,recording and educating the dance world about Raqs Sharqi.She is known throughout the world for her dance instruction as well as her wealth of information about the history of this dance. ” You Asked Aunt Rocky” has been a much anticipated book by students of Middle Eastern history as well as dance.I have read and re-read this book.Morocco’s love of the dance shines through with a passionate plea to treasure this dance with an authenticity that rejects any attempt to embellish it with post-modern ideas of creativity.

    (Posted on & – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  2. Kashmir Tancos

    I have been waiting for this book for years – and it was well worth the wait. Rocky has shared decades of her experience and research in an easy to read book. Each section looks at an aspect of the dance – from folk (raqs shaabi) to orientale (raqs sharqi) plus information on what it is really like “over there” and tips on teaching and working. It also includes a useful glossary of foreign words. Everyone can get something out of this, from newbies who want to know the facts behind the dance to people like me who have spent decades studying it already.

    (Posted on & – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  3. Julia Benson-Slaughter

    It doesn’t get any better than this, unless you have the opportunity to spend days just chatting with Aunt Rocky face to face. Even then, you’d want this book to remember the conversation by when it was over. (Posted on & – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  4. Ramona

    Aunt Rocky organized this fascinating book in an easy-to-read “question and answer” format. It’s fun to pick up this book and start reading, but if you are looking for specific information, the book also includes a table of contents, photos, glossary, bibliography, and index, which makes it easy to quickly look up anything related to Middle Eastern dance. She discusses everything from costuming and culture to traveling and teaching dance, and even a dancer with many years of experience will learn a lot from this book. This book is a must-read, especially for those considering a career in dance performance and dance instruction.

    Aunt Rocky is a well-respected authority on the art of dance, and she shares her 50+ years of experience with teaching dance and performing, travels abroad, and historical research in this 400+ page book. It is full of insight, facts, and a wealth of information about dance, music, and more, written in a straightforward, friendly style. Raqs Sharqui afficionados will appreciate the information about Egyptian, Turkish, and Moroccan dance and music, but there are also interesting facts about Flamenco, Zambra, Ouled Nail, Bollywood, and even Japanese dance culture. The list of world dances that is discussed in this book is too numerous to list here.

    In addition, Aunt Rocky discusses both male and female dance traditions, and it was interesting to learn little-known facts, especially related to men’s dances across different cultures. For example, Aunt Rocky tells us about the similarities between a men’s dance in Turkey and a men’s dance in Japan. She discusses both serious subjects and light-hearted subjects, and she is generous with her extensive knowledge, advice and experience. She effectively distinguishes between “Folklore and Fakelore”.

    In addition to Aunt Rocky’s personal stories, she also includes interviews with dancers, how-to’s for making beaded canes, shopping tips when traveling both to Cairo and shopping from U.S. vendors, interesting articles from dance magazines, advice about teaching dance and obtaining liability insurance, finger cymbal tips, hot trends, how to avoid carpal tunnel injuries, advice for dealing with performance nerves, and much more. She also tells us about her own and others’ cautionary tales, personal encounters and revelations.

    This is a comprehensive, in-depth look at many facets of dance, and should be on every dancer’s bookshelf. Bravo, Aunt Rocky! (Posted on & – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  5. M.H. Wallin

    An Essential Book on Dance

    This book is a triumph! I’ve followed Morocco’s career for thirty years as she has performed and taught — from Lincoln Center to many venues around the world. Her wide experience and encyclopedic knowledge have convinced me she is the leading authority on Middle Eastern dance. Now she shares both with dancers and readers alike, answering everything from technical dance questions to those from the curious. The writing is clear, accessible, and always interesting.

    (Posted on & – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  6. Ellen Sander

    A Must Read for Anyone Who Loves th Dance

    What a wonderful book. It is a great read, with wonderful sections on culture, history, music, etc. and absolutely phenomenal anecdotes. Aunt Rocky as she as known, embodies the authenticity of the dance, in many of it’s regional and theatrical forms and she dishes cootumes, zils (wow even zill instructions, I mean how great is that?) in a hefty volume of great information and entertaining asides including gossip, politics, geography, major moments and persona of the profoundly beauty of Mideastern dance. It’s hard to put down. (Posted on & Lulu – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  7. Carol A. Henning/ Tandava

    Must-Have for Middle Eastern (“Belly”) Dancers!!

    As a devotee of Oriental dance for nearly a decade, I have a strong interest in the true history of this much misunderstood dance. As I have frequently turned to Morocco’s excellent website as a resource, I am more than thrilled to find her extensive knowledge set forth with clarity, thoroughness and humor in this brilliant compendium. Not surprisingly it is being used as a textbook at a high school near where I live, such is the rigor of its factual integrity. It is a must-have for every Oriental/Middle Eastern dancer, musician — indeed anyone who has an interest in this breathtaking art form.

    (Posted on & Lulu – 5.0 out of 5 stars & referenced in her theater show “Blood on the Veil”)

  8. Miriam Missura Marzetta

    In CHORIKA (Switzerland)
    Episches Fachbuch über den orientalischen Tanz
    by Miriam Missura Marzetta

    In der orientalischen Tanzwelt lange erwartet und nun endlich da: Moroccos episches Fachbuch
    über den orientalischen Tanz. Für diejenigen, die Englisch verstehen, wird das Buch eine über 420 Seiten dicke informative Fundgrube.

    Morocco (C. Varga Dinicu) ist eine weltweit anerkannte und unbestrittene Koryphäe, die sich mit ihren unermüdlichen Recherchen um den orientalischen Tanz verdient gemacht hat. Sie spürte den Traditionen und den Fantasien nach und präsentiert ihre über fünfzigjährige Forschung kondensiert in Form von Fragen-Antworten in diesem Buch. Wir haben dieser Frau viel an sauberer Quellenarbeit und klarer Information zu verdanken und ihr humorvoller, in der Sache aber seriöser Schreibstil tut sein übriges, dass dieses wichtige Buch in jede Bibliothek einer Tänzerin und Lehrerin gehört.

    Das Buch ist von A-Z spannend zu lesen! In ihm beantwortet Morocco alias „Aunt Rocky“ konkrete Fragen, welche ihr seit 1996 von Userinnen in Email-Chatlists und Internetforen gestellt wurden. Dies macht die Lektüre äusserst lebendig, da sie viele Fragen von allgemeinem Interesse klar beantwortet. Englisch lesen muss frau allerdings können, denn das Buch besteht fast vollständig aus Text, mit einem kleinen Anhang interessanter Bilder und einem umfangreichen Index für das Aufsuchen spezifischer Themen.

    Produziert wurde das Buch im USPaper-Format, ähnlich A4, und beinhaltet Fragen und Antworten zu den Themen:
    • Einleitung und Kurzbiografie über Morocco (7 Seiten)
    • Shaabi (S. 9-94)
    • Sharqi/Oryantal (S. 95-168)
    • „Over There“ (S. 169-194)
    • Das A und O über: Unterrichten, Technik, Zimbeln, Profession (S. 195-296)
    • Warnende Beispiele (S. 297-318)
    • Bedeutung und Missdeutung von „Bauchtanz“ (S. 319-350)
    Der Anhang mit Fotos sowie ein Glossar, Quellenverzeichnis / Bibliographie, Index und „About the Author” schliessen das Buch ab.

    Das Buch ist ein sehr einfach gelayoutetes Paperback und wird bei regem Gebrauch vermutlich mit der Zeit auseinanderfleddern.

    Für ein Nachschlagewerk wäre eine Fadenheftung stabiler gewesen. Für eine zukünftige Auflage wünsche ich mir ausserdem eine übergeordnete Struktur, welche die heute lose Abfolge von Fragen-Antworten einsichtig gruppiert. Hilfreich wären auch Seitenzahlverweise bei den Inhaltsverzeichnissen der Kapitel und ergänzendes Bildmaterial direkt bei den Themen.

  9. Irene Maradei/ Shantimar (Athens, Greece)

    The definitive guide – and a book more entertaining than many performances!, May 2, 2012 By Shantimar (Athens, Greece)

    You can almost hear your mind’s doors screeching open while reading this book.

    She’s been around for the last half-century or so, dancing, learning, travelling, teaching, arguing with people, fighting – at times single-handedly – a noble cause in the name of oriental dance.

    Although the deluge of cheap, fake, stupid or downright sleazy dancers and shows threatens to drown Morocco’s voice, this only strengthens her determination to inform the public about what oriental dance really is, to help dancers understand what it is they are dancing, to make them want to learn more, investigate, and not blindly accept whatever their teacher or their neighbours think. To make them more conscious artists, women and human beings. By propagating the consideration for the culture and knowledge about the dance’s history, by being more respectful to their dance, they will get more respect themselves, and their life and work will become more meaningful.

    I first met Morocco (Aunt Rocky) online, on that defunct M.E.D. List, and absorbed with relish all she had to say, which often was a revelation to me. That’s why I consider her one of my most important teachers, although I’ve never taken an actual lesson with her (apart from a weekend seminar, but that was choreographies). And, in that sense, she might also be considered the teacher of my own students, since I’m now passing on the information. As well as admiration and respect for this amazing woman: an intelligent, passionate, opinionated, resourceful, creative, thorough, and immensely funny lady whom I love from the bottom of my heart and I’ll always feel close to, even if I should never meet her again in my life. She has been a tremendous influence for me as for uncountable others, and I feel I’ve become richer (only in the figurative sense, though, LOL) because of her being in this world.

    Still, as much as she’s been teaching, in her studio, in online lists and articles,conferences and in innumerable seminars abroad, how many can have access to her teachings and benefit from her huge experience? And – touch wood! – will she be around forever? Who can pass on all of that knowledge to the next generation of dancers? We all have some bits, but only she has the whole thing.

    That’s why a book was a necessity. The organizing of such vast material must have seemed a huge chore to someone who is not a professional writer, so the format chosen was a clever way out. An introduction to the chapter or subchapter, and then a Q and A, based on the saved email exchanges that we lovingly remember. Plus filling up on whatever subjects hadn’t been covered on the list, inserting stories, anecdotes, even full articles and interviews.

    She does cover almost everything one would ever wish to know about the subject – including some things we didn’t know we wished to know, and a huge chunk of info on folkloric dances (she calls it raqs Shaabi, not to be confused with the urban Shaabi style) which have little to do with Oriental dance and thus will surely not be of much interest to at least half of the dancers. But it had to be there, as so many dancers and show organizers now are seeking, for variety’s sake, to include some of them in their performances. Being a relatively new addition, it is a candidate of mis-interpretation, and as such, a candidate of Morocco’s saving campaign.

    Here is what you’ll find in the book:
    1. It starts with an introduction and a short biography – too short in my opinion, but maybe she’s saving the juicy parts for a separate book, who knows?

    2 and 3. The two chapters about Shaabi (folk dances) and Sharqi/Oryantal. Discussing the different styles, what is done where, what is authentic and what is invented, giving definitive answers. When she talks about Taheya Carioca and how she got her name, it’s Carioca herself who told her. When she says that Mahmoud Reda invented Melaya Leff, it’s from Reda’s lips that she has it. And so on. So you can relax and be sure, and read on, knowing that you can trust completely what you read.

    4. The next chapter, “Over There”, is very useful. What is happening in the countries of origin of the dance? How is the situation now, how are they thinking about the dance, what are the conditions for dancers? Where to go, how to act, what to expect, what to shop for if you want to travel there?

    5. The next chapter is called “Nuts and Bolts” and is divided into Teaching, Techniques, Finger Cymbals and Working. No, it does not teach you technique, but it does give invaluable pointers, and discusses most issues that people will come across as students, teachers and/or professionals, including what to look for in a good teacher, a safe position of the hands when playing finger cymbals to avoid tendinitis at this age of PC use, whether and how to accept tips, how to organize a seminar and so on.

    6. The Cautionary Tales, Personal Encounters and Revelations will help you be wary of and avoid the many pitfalls in your way, but also flesh out the scant biography section because here she recounts her meetings with great dancers/choreographers or people relevant to the dance history.

    7. What’s in a name? A lot, according to Morocco, and it’s because of her, mainly, that so many of us are avoiding the offensive “b” word in favour of Raqs Sharqi or its translation, Oriental dance – even if we all use them in the tags of our youtube videos and in the keywords of our websites, well knowing that the public will usually not search for the politically correct name but for the misnomer.

    8. Images. A few pictures, some never previously available to the general public, with the authentic costuming of folk dances.

    9. Glossary. Indispensable, even the most knowledgeable will find a word he/she didn’t know.

    10. Bibliography. A very fat bibliography, 5,5 big pages long, containing old print classics but also some web resources and videos.

    11. Index. Very useful, considering the wealth of material in the book.

    12. About the Author. All the awards and recognitions and nice things that she couldn’t put in her bio written in the first person.

    So, a really comprehensive reference book. What I didn’t mention is that, while being exact and scholarly, it’s exceptionally well-written, pleasant, witty and to the point, even anectodes are no idle chat, they have a reason of being there. It has the flavour of real conversation, and goes down sweetly, so that even non-bookish dancers will enjoy perusing at least parts of it, if the size of it doesn’t feel threatening to them. So yes, even if you haven’t ever read anything other than Cosmo in your life, don’t hesitate, give it a go, you’ll not regret it!

    (posted on & – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  10. World Belly Dance

    A Must Have for Every Oriental Dance Fanatic!

    This book brings together over 50 years of experience in the field of Arabic and Middle Eastern dance. Morocco has been involved with this art form for 50 year and has travelled and reserached extensively. There is a section about folklore and different types of dance in Northern Africa and the Middle East and a section with practical information for dancers. This book is great because it is based on fact and it dispels many mtyhs, as well as giving good guidance to all dancers. I would recommend it as a reliable source of information for all those who are serious on learning more about this fascinating art form.

    (Posted on & on Feb. 18.2012 by World Belly Dance – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  11. Lee B. Croft

    A Comprehensive Treatise on Middle Eastern Dance

    For anyone with an interest in Raqs Sharqi–Middle Eastern Dance: performers, choreographers, cultural historians, and spectators of any stripe–this is the book for you. Legendary dancer Morocco (Carolina Varga Dinicu) shares her life in this very physical art form with us in question-answer format, managing in the process to present virtually all aspects of its history and practice. We have here a unique blend of scholarship, complete with photographs, glossary, bibliography, and index, intermixed with illuminating tales of Morocco’s own half-century of personal involvement in dance, spiced considerably with her ruminations on intercultural relations, gender psychology and politics, international business, and national identities. It’s a life-long labor of love, eagerly anticipated by many, and it doesn’t disappoint.

    (Posted on & on March 15, 2012 – 5 stars)

  12. Kathy Keading

    Required Reading for *Oriental* Dancers by Kathy Keading

    Morocco has forgotten more about Oriental dance than almost any living dancer will ever learn. In many cases, she is the last available first-hand source of information about the people and dances that shape what we (correctly or incorrectly) consider modern Oriental dance.

    Fair warning: If you’re new to the dance, you’ll spend a lot of time flipping to the glossary. But Aunt Rocky is specific, clear and adamant about using correct terminology–so much so, that I, for one, no longer use the “b” word because of her influence.

    (Posted on & March 25, 2012 – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  13. Leilah Ali

    The Indispensable Reference for Any Dancer or Instructor

    Well written and researched, you will pick this book up again and again. Informative and entertaining, it is one of those rare reads that you wish was a never ending story. (posted on & 4/22/12 by Leilah Ali – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  14. Sarah Mayne

    A MUST OWN for ANY Middle Eastern Dance Lover by Sarah Mayne

    After 10 years of studying with Rocky, I couldn’t WAIT for her book to come out! Case after case my students can’t get enough, and we have even developed an entire 3 month educational class structured around the contents of this AMAZING book! THANK YOU MOROCCO! This book is a MUST OWN!

    (posted on 4/22/12 on & – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  15. Bonita Oteri

    Aunt Rocky’s Book Really Rocks! by Bonita Oteri

    As a teacher and professional performer, I find this book to be a highly valuable edition to my library. I enjoyed the anecdotal tales of the “old world” the best and also was a pleasure to read about the lively world of clubs back in the day. This is a great book for the academically minded student who wants to understand more about the culture, for the fledging professional who cannot afford to make stupid gaffes based on not understanding the culture and for all middle eastern dance and history afficinados. (published on & 4/23/12 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  16. Pauline Costianes

    Loved This Book! by Pauline Costianes

    I’ve been in the oriental dance world since 1975, have had the pleasure of studying with Morocco several times, and always valued her wit, directness, and knowledge. I LOVED this book. It’s a go-to for dance history, costume stylings, music, and more. It’s become my manual for all things orientale and folk, and I’ve already used it for the introductions my troupe gives before each dance, as our goal has always been to educate as well as entertain. Wish I’d had this book years ago. Get this book if you want an encyclopedic knowledge of raks sharki and shaabi, that is easy and fun to read.

    (published on & 4/23/12 – 5.0 outof 5 stars)

  17. Alianna J Maren/ Alay’nya

    Essential for Every Bellydancer’s Bookshelf! by Alay’nya/ Alianna J. Maren, Ph D

    “You Asked Aunt Rocky” is Essential for Every Belly Dancer’s Bookshelf.

    There is a hidden repository of knowledge, wisdom, and experience within each of the “great masters” of our art; those who have been Oriental dancers (practicing Raqs Sharqi and/or Raqs Shaabi) since the 1970’s, and sometimes even the 1960’s. Up until now, though, to gain access to what these dancers know, we have had to spend years in their troupes and studios. Even though they’ve done their best to teach us during workshops, they can only say and share so much in less than ten hours of instruction!

    Now, though, we have access to a repository that ranges from history to social (and situational) psychology; from costumes to customs, and from technique to training. In one volume, Morocco (C. Varga Dinicu) has brought together much of what she’s taught ˆ over the years ˆ via an internet chatlist. After over ten years of providing ‘answers [to posted questions], comments, stories, information and [correcting] misinformation about Middle
    Eastern dances and cultures,” Morocco had created a compendium of material unmatched within the dance community. After extensive editing, augmenting, and selecting, she’s winnowed the material down to a mere 414 pages, scaled to a generous 8 1/2 by 11-inch two-column page size.

    This is not a “coffee-table’ book, although it contains some excellent (and historically significant and rare) reproductions of photographs. Nor is it an encyclopedia, although its scope is similar in both breadth and depth. Rather, it is *without question* the single most authoritative ethnographic sourcebook on Mid-Eastern dance and related arts, together with
    a collection of valuable technique pointers, specifics on dance and rhythm patterns, and a wide range of other information. At the end, there is a glossary (including dance terms from multiple languages), an excellent bibliography, and – perhaps most important (given the nature of this book) – a detailed index.

    If this book were simply a compendium of Morocco’s personal experience, as part of the New York dance Oriental dance community from the 1960’s to the present, this would be a valuable book. However, it is much, much more. Morocco is truly a scholar, as much as she is a dancer and a teacher. She is widely regarded for having gained fluency in several foreign languages, and
    for her frequent travels abroad to observe and study the dance in its indigenous locales. What is not as commonly known is the depth of her research, creating the solid foundation for her expertise. Over the years, Morocco devoured relevant books from the New York public library, and searched out rare and valuable manuscripts. This has resulted in a private library that is by now probably unequaled in the world.

    Morocco’s informal style (some might call it ‘breezy”) belies the years of work, and the incredible lengths to which she has gone, to gain the knowledge that she so readily shares in “You Asked Aunt Rocky.” While not written in a “scholarly” style, this is clearly the work of a field ethnologist, someone who has taken the time (and the trouble, and the money, and the risks) to travel alone to foreign countries. Morocco’s range of observations span the gamut, from shows in the most exclusive clubs to family and tribal gatherings in remote villages. She buttresses this with extensive knowledge gained through observing, studying, and performing in
    New York, along with national and international appearances.

    Morocco’s simple, direct, and practical advice – her “real-world knowledge” – should in no way discourage someone who is looking for depth in cultural awareness. Rather, Morocco brings her understanding of foreign cultures – and of how the dance is both regarded and experienced – into practical and down-to-earth terms.

    This book is valuable to both academics and practitioners. For all of us who “grew up” with dance teachers who themselves had only limited training; for all of us who have had to travel to workshops to study with truly great teachers; this is a superb enrichment. And for those of us who engage in serious scholarship, it is an invaluable reference. And for every practitioner of Oriental dance who considers herself to be a “serious student” (if not a full-fledged professional), it is an essential read. “You Asked Aunt Rocky” belongs on every Oriental dancer’s bookshelf.

    Alay‚nya (Alianna J. Maren, Ph.D.) is the author of “Unveiling: The Inner Journey” (, from Amazon,, depicting Oriental dance as an authentic women’s mind/body/psyche/energy integration pathway. (published in The Chronicles, summer 2013 & on & – 5.0 out of 5 stars)

  18. Stasha Vlasuk

    In One Word: Important! by Stasha Vlasuk

    “You Asked Aunt Rocky: Answers and Advice About Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi”
    By Morocco C. Varga Dinicu.
    First Edition 2011 by RDI Publications Virginia Beach, VA USA.
    414 pages, $45 ISBN 978-0-9830690-4-1
    review by: Stasha Vlasuk

    Here’s one word that could describe this vast collection of information about the dances of North Africa and the Arabic East: Important. Morocco (Aunt Rocky as she is affectionately known) needs no introduction to aficionados and students of these dance arts. To others, her coveted, prestigious and voluminous accolades introduce a tireless researcher, dispeller of misinformation, extensive performer and innovative instructor. Bringing insight culled from a career that spans over fifty years and twenty countries, Morocco has distilled decades of experience into this illuminating volume.

    The tone of the writing is intimate, relaxing and conversational while still specific and detailed. For example in “Shaabi Folklore and Fakelore”, topics such as the intricacies of costuming and the clearly defined choreography of numerous folkloric dances effortlessly enter the reader’s understanding through Morocco’s warm and easy-going writing style; it’s like you are enjoying a chat with your dear aunt – your dear Aunt Rocky. Sharing information gleaned using her “three Rs” approach (“R, R, & R: research, remember & record”) – from jugs to spoons, swords to canes, from Schikhatt to Zeffa, Guedra to Zambra Mora – over one hundred topics of folkloric dance are fascinatingly detailed in this section, with a numbered index for easy reference. In “Sharqi / Oryantal : Truth and Fantasies”, Morocco again covers over one hundred indexed topics concerning the performance form of Raqs Sharqi and the myriad stylistic differences from each region. From it’s earliest history to it’s most recent fusion forms, she chronicles, often with a great sense of humor, how this dance has endured, grown and changed. I appreciate the many footnoted references (as well as a huge bibliography) to other sources that lead to further research on one’s own. The book’s common theme and the author’s intent, is, as she states: “… to impart a better and truer understanding of the diverse cultures from which these dances and music came”. Morocco could have concluded the tome with this scholarly achievement, yet instead devotes the remaining sections to informing and preparing the professional (or aspiring) performer. She explains how the dance appears in Middle Eastern society, the “nuts and bolts” of teaching, technique and working, plus instructive cautionary tales. Morocco is shrewdly aware of, and generously shares, the practicalities of successfully performing in both Western countries and “Over There”. Enlightening personal encounters with pivotal Middle Eastern dance personages provide insightful “learning experience” anecdotes.

    Her advice is –

    Poetic: “Raqs Sharqi is basically a dance of improvised response to the music… It is an expression of the dancer’s soul, within certain style of movement vocabulary or dance language.”

    Clarifying: “Raqs Sharqi is Oryantal Tansi is Raqs-e-Arabi. Just like English is English but there are different dialects (American, Canadian, British, Australian, Irish, etc.) and different regional accents within those dialects. Same thing with dance.”

    Assertive: “Too many Western dancers present all sorts of things as ‘authentic’ Middle Eastern that have as much connection to real Raqs Sharqi as a cat has to a camel.”

    Hilarious: ” ‘Pop’ and ‘Lock’ are two more incorrect and dangerous bits of American terminology. In Oriental dance nothing is ever ‘locked’ – except the dressing room door.”

    This book is a fun read. The quality of the research makes it an immensely useful as well as an insightful and detailed reference. New students of this dance form will draw encouragement. Seasoned professionals will find confidence upon discovering they handled dance challenges the same way Aunt Rocky did, and also find new solutions in her suggestions. More clarity and expansion of their dance life is sure to follow. Teachers will have their knowledge confirmed and expanded by the succinct way Aunt Rocky shares her insightful vision of Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi.
    (5.0 out of 5 stars published on &

  19. Ondine Blue/ Devon, UK

    Oriental Dancers of Every Level Must Have This Book by Ondine Blue/ Devon, UK

    This wonderful and informative book is the result of one woman’s life long love of Oriental Dance. It is packed with useful information on a wide range of topics and should be considered a staple in every dancer’s library. Whilst the content of the book is extremely well researched it is not presented in a dry academic format, making it accessible to all levels of dancer. This is the next best thing to listening to Morocco in person and is my first point of call when I need an answer from someone who really does know what she’s talking about. Go and buy this book now – I promise you will not be disappointed! (5.0 out of 5 stars – posted on & 4/24/12)

  20. Kathleen S. Pressley

    The Definitive Book on Middle Eastern Dance! by Kathleen S. Pressley

    In “You asked Aunt Rocky: Answers & Advice about Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi”, Morocco, known as “Aunt Rocky” to her students, also known as Carolina Varga Dinicu in academic circles, sets to rest many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding Middle Eastern Dance. Morocco comes across as very knowledgeable in her subject matter without being dry or academic. She has traveled extensively to Egypt and the Middle East and the book contains many firsthand accounts of the dances and rituals she has observed in her travels.

    I especially enjoyed the sections on the Ghawazee of Egypt, the Ouled Nail of Algeria and the Hagalla. The photo section has a picture of an authentic Hagalla dancer. The outfit she is wearing looks nothing like the costume that is marketed in this country as a “Hagalla Dress”. The photo section is wonderful, but left me wanting more. I can’t imagine all the wonderful photographs Morocco must have from her travels. (Could a follow-up book of photos be in the works? ….PLEASE “Aunt Rocky” !!)

    Other interesting sections include an interview with Mahmoud Reda where he describes how he developed his “Character Dances” and adapted traditional Egyptian dances for the stage so that they would be more interesting to the audience. I know of many dancers who insist that the Melaya Leff is a traditional dance from Alexandria and refuse to believe that it is a dance that was “made up” for the stage by Mr. Reda. There is also a section on an enterprising young man named Mahmoud Abd El Ghaffar who decides to cater to the increasing number of Dance Tourists in Egypt, and becomes the inventor of the hand-beaded Egyptian Costume that is so popular today. I have friends who have fond memories of visiting Mahmoud and his wonderful Al Wikalah Costume Shop while vacationing in Egypt.

    I have read the book once, and have started to re-read it. There is so much information packed into this volume, that I am constantly discovering interesting tidbits that I missed the first time. The book is also a wonderful reference book on the subject of Middle Eastern dance and culture. Although this is a large book, Morocco’s writing style makes it an easy, enjoyable read. I wish that every Middle Eastern Dancer would read this book and learn the truth about this dance form that is much loved in our country. This book is a Must Have for every Middle Eastern Dancer and anyone who is interested in the culture and traditions of the Middle East.

    Enough from me — Buy This Book and Read It! (5.0 out of 5 stars, posted on & 2/9/12)

  21. Morocco

    This is a review I wrote for “The Chronicles” about a friend’s book that I highly recommend:

    “Unveiling – the Inner Journey” by Alay’nya” is about the Dance of Life and it’s not just for dancers!

    I often say: “Never assume – it makes an ass of you and me.” To my chagrin, *I* did and it delayed me in starting this valuable book because I saw the title and the Oriental dance pose on the front cover and assumed it was yet another book on “how to unleash your inner harem queen”.

    Fortunately, I found Alay’nya’s intelligence and wit on the phone so irresistible, I opened “Unveiling” and started reading. I was very wrong in my original assumption and how thrilled I am to be able to admit that. “Unveiling – the Inner Journey” by Alay’nya” (Alianna J. Maren, PhD.) is an important book that I wish had been written much sooner. It’s not just for dancers, but a book that mothers and aunts should give to the young women in their families before they go forth to forge their own lives and one I recommend others read to determine how close they are to “getting it.”

    “Unveiling” is extremely interesting and very well-written, but it is neither a book on how to do Oriental dance nor really a book about Oriental dance per se – in fact, Alay’nya uses dance sparingly and even states early on “Many women who study Oriental dance are drawn by the allure of an exotic ‘alter-reality,’ taken more from fantasy than from any existing culture.” It is, however, very much about the Dance of Life.

    She is a very observant, intelligent, witty, articulate woman, a scientist, inventor and academic in other aspects of her life. Her conclusions are well-founded. Since she is a dancer, most of her insights and outlook are related with a dancer’s heart and her approach is therapeutic, with a hint of spirituality and can be helpful to those from many walks of life.

    All the aspects of this book are extremely well-researched, supporting its conclusions with the findings of many other authorities in the areas referenced. In addition to Oriental dance, Alay’nya also utilizes some of the martial arts, herstorians, myths, the real meanings of the original Tarot cards, psychology, chemisty, science and important truths and revelatory examples from her own life and teachers – as compatible tools and examples of helping to find one’s own real inner self and strength. It has extensive footnotes and bibliography and is chock-full of valid wisdom and advice.

    Another statement that totally rang true from what I noticed myself and what many of my students told me so often over the years: “Have you ever studied with a great teacher, and heard them say the same thing time and time again, and yet not heard them? All of a suddent you ‘hear’ what that teacher is saying on a particular topic. And then you realize that they’ve been saying the same words for years, but up until that moment you simply weren’t ready to hear what they had to say”.

    I was tempted to call her every few pages just to discuss what was in there and how I’d come to very similar conclusions via often very dissimilar paths though my life’s experiences. Since it was either very late at night or on my way somewhere on a plane, train or bus, that was impossible. However, it was very comforting to me to read what she had done and learned and that she actually took the time and did the gut-wrenching work of writing this book to share with others – to assure us that we are not alone out there. When needed, it could help some find their strong yet “feminine” side that might have needed to be “veiled” in the other parts of their lives and work – ergo the title.

    “Unveiling” is not a book to breeze through in one sitting – there is way too much in there. It should be read in sections, thought about, “filed” within for future reference and returned to as needed. In fact, she has a list of tasks – personal pathworking – to do at the end of each chapter to help do just that.

    A dancer friend to whom I recommended the book early on also liked it, recommended it to others and found it interesting that Alay’nya, who started out in science and martial arts ultimately found her way to Oriental dance. She didn’t know that I also started out in the academic world and got into Raqs Sharqi quite by accident. We all found this dance form to be extremely healing for ourselves and our students.

    Read it, learn from it and enjoy!
    Alay’nya (Alianna J. Maren, Ph.D.) is the author of “Unveiling: The Inner Journey” (, from Amazon,, depicting Oriental dance as an authentic women’s mind/body/psyche/energy integration pathway.

  22. Maggie Godsland

    By Maggie Godsland for Mosaic Magazine, UK

    You asked Aunt Rocky: Answers and Advice about Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Shaabi by Morocco (C. Varga Dinicu)
    I love Morocco. I spent a wonderful week in New York once at one of her seminars and remember the afternoon sessions, when we would sit and listen to her talking about the dances we’d learnt that day and about her experiences in North Africa researching them. Reading this book is a lot like that.

    The text takes the form of a question and answer session and covers an enormous range of topics: everything you wanted to know about dancing but were always afraid to ask! We start at “Shaabi: Folklore and Fakelore” and move through “Nuts and Bolts: Teaching” to a lively debate about what we call our dance (a debate which seems to be all but extinguished here, everyone having settled on “bellydancing”).

    Morocco researches all the topics she covers in tremendous detail. When she’s talking about guedra she begins by explaining the various meanings of the word: cauldron or cooking pot, drum, the female performer of the ritual dance and the dance itself which is itself also called a guedra. She then sets the dancer and dance within its cultural background with the Blue People from the Sahara Desert and tells us something about their society. The men, although skilled and fierce warriors, show especial respect and deference to their women as they believe that they are protected against the invasions of ubiquitous evil spirits because in giving birth they possess the secret of life. Morocco then describes the clothes the guedra wears and the setting in which she performs the ritual dance. All this information is interwoven with Morocco’s own experiences in witnessing the guedra and learning the dance herself. Finally she answers all the various questions students have thrown at her about the guedra: Is there a male equivalent? Was the guedra ever a dance of seduction? Do all the dancers wear the special headdress?

    Not only is Morocco’s knowledge vast, she also has a wealth of experience of performing and teaching in the USA and pretty well everywhere else. She tells the most amazing stories: how she finally came to meet Nadia Hamdi after being enchanted by her dancing at a wedding at the Nile Hilton. How she was blown away by Mme Abla’s costumes and finally tracked her down and became a faithful client and firm friend. And she includes some wonderful photos of dancers in various costumes as well as some of herself dancing and drumming.

    Although Morocco gives some basic tuition on playing finger cymbals this is not a book that explains or analyses dance moves. It is a reference book with a wealth of information written in a way that is accessible and personal, passionate and also very amusing at times. It is a book that you can dip into or read from cover to cover. And I challenge you to come up with a question that Morocco hasn’t answered in one way or another!

  23. Khalidah Kali

    My review of “You asked Aunt Rocky” It’s a page-turner. Every page is important! Can’t put it down! Information is so concise, precise, easy to read and understand. No where else, in the universe, can you get so much generous details of truth and authentication compiled in a half century of research, all-in-one-place, regarding our beloved North African and Middle Eastern dance. Very much appreciate the rare photographs, and that information is not “white-washed”! Thank You, Mama/Auntie,Rocky! Lovingly, Khalidah Kali, Chicago (2011)

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