Belly dancing with Habiba

By Jessica Pasko

Habiba 1.jpgAs an introverted teenager, Donna Marie Tritico spent a lot of time in libraries. Which, naturally, led to become a belly dancer named Habiba.

Wait, what?

Actually, the trip isn't as far as it seems.

Donna had always been interested in the music of other cultures, but when she borrowed an album of Middle Eastern music from the Albany Public Library, she found her true passion--belly dancing. She picked up a local class and got hooked. Habiba was born. After dancing with a troupe for about 10 years, Donna/Habiba began teaching and today she performs throughout the region with Habiba's Belly Dance Divas.

Actually, belly dancing is sort of a controversial term. The Arabic name for the style of dancing is "Raks el Sharki", which translates to "Dance of the East" or ''Oriental Dance". Habiba/Donna says the dance contains elements of folk dances from North Africa and the Middle East, and can be seen from Turkey to Morocco, and Lebanon. But, she says, the dance itself really developed artistically in Egypt, where such dancers can become big celebrities.

It's not necessarily a dance of seduction, as many people assume. It's certainly sensual, but Habiba says it's not just about that. Part of what she likes about belly dancing is that the basics of the dance can be learned by just about anyone. Some modern belly dancing also incorporates elements of hip-hop, tribal music and pop.

"It is a dance form that really celebrates the body. It embraces all shapes and sizes and you can start at any age, " she says. "The basic movements are gentle to the body yet provide a good, low-impact workout for the entire body;. increases stamina, flexibility, grace and self-esteem."

You can catch Habiba in action this weekend when she performs with her troupe at the Arts Center of the Capital Region's Fat Saturday for the Arts. Local zydeco rockers Captain Squeeze and the Zydeco Moshers will also perform, and there will be an auction, Cajun food and other events. It takes place at Revolution Hall starting at 7 p.m.

If you're interested in taking classes with Habiba, check out her Web site at: She's currently teaching classes at eba and Zuzu's Wonderful Life.


As one of the Belly Dance Divas and a student of Habiba's for 5+ years, I have to urge everyone to take at least one class. Your muscles will burn, sweat will run into your eyes and you'll feel like a freaking goddess the whole time. Habiba's a gem, and everyone should have the chance to experience her class!

I am also one of the the Belly Dance Divas and Habiba is such an amazing teacher! The classes are so much fun and she teaches in a way that makes it so easy to pick up the different moves. I echo Sahar's words and would urge everyone to give it a try!

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