Middle Eastern Dancer
Amar, now based in the Philadelphia area, is known as one of New York City’s finest Middle Eastern artists. Recognized for her musicality and clean articulations, she has extensive experience as a soloist and folkloric dancer, both in cabaret settings with live Arabic bands and on the theatre stage. Amar’s artistry ranges from classical and folkloric dance to contemporary and fusion musical genres, and from improvised to choreographed renditions. Her professional career encompasses over 25 years as performer, instructor, producer, writer/editor of Middle Eastern dance and music (Arabesque and Habibi), and choreographer/director (NY’s Amarain Dance Company and, currently, Amar Dance Philadelphia). After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and Mannes College of Music, she went on to study Middle Eastern dance intensively with Ibrahim Farrah and her mentor, Yousry Sharif. She has also learned from Egypt’s Mahmoud Reda, Mona Said, Aida Nor, and Raqia Hassan. Amar’s dance can best be characterized as modeled after the Egyptian style combined with personal expressiveness and new incorporations. A natural, fluid dancer, Amar’s organic movements derive directly from the music. She is familiar both with current Middle Eastern dancers’ milieu and of Arabic culture. Classic dancers she admires most include Naima Akef, Nagua Fouad, and Dina!
Amar’s current focus lies in continuing to develop her new troupe of young professionals, Amardance Philadelphia, and to highlight them in new choreography for performance throughout Philadelphia area venues – and beyond. All of her dancers have always risen up the ranks from her classes; so she is inspired to continue to develop new opportunities to teach this dance to interested students.
Director/Choreographer: Of Amar’s most prized accomplishments are the establishment of her NYC troupe, Amarain Dance Company (2003-2011), with complete productions in NYC venues and festivals, including The Lafayette Grill, Harlem’s Mafrika Festival, Shrine, and The Triad Theater; and her new group, Amar Dance Philadelphia (2013-present), who has commenced performing troupe and solo presentations in the Philadelphia area.
Troupe Work: Most notably, Amar was a long time member of the Yousry Sharif Dance Ensemble and performed in special cultural events throughout the United States, including annual engagements at Brooklyn Museum’s Maharajan al Fan; Detroit Institute of the Arts; and the Annenberg Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She was a member of New York Performing Artists’ troupe, coordinated to present folklore dances, choreographed by Samara, for New York City public schools, and performed in the group’s full theatre production, “Mosaic.” Additionally, in conjunction with colleagues, she created several groups to bring Middle Eastern dance arts to the public, including “New York City Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble.”
Soloist: Amar performed regularly as a cabaret soloist with Arabic bands in the New York Metro area’s Middle Eastern night clubs, and for parties and concerts for both American and Arabic audiences including Manhattan’s famed Egyptian night club, Ibis, as a featured soloist and as part of its nightly Egyptian show and was a regular at the former Cedars of Lebanon. For many years, Amar was the featured house dancer at Atlantic Avenue’s Caravan Restaurant where she produced “Belly Dance x 4" with a live band, presenting seasoned professionals and opportunities for debuting students. Being engaged for performances/seminars for special events throughout the Northeast, and in California, France, Japan, and the Middle East, she has frequently worked with well-known artists of the Middle East. A partial list includes Rhode Island’s first annual “Arts in the Park” (producer, Nourhan Sharif); The First International Conference on Middle Eastern Dance (CA, starring Mona Said); the annual American Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (NY, including a tribute to Mahmoud Reda); The United Nations, Henry Street Settlement House “Festival of the Nations” (hosted by Ibrahim Farrah); Mannes College of Music (with Simone Shaheen); San Francisco’s International Belly Dance Festival; Ethical Culture Society (NY); Lincoln Center (NY); Caesar’s Palace (Atlantic City); Eddie Kochak’s annual “Atlantic Antics” (NY); with Alabina at the Beacon Theatre; and with The Brooklyn Funk Essentials at the Bowery Ballroom.
Instructor: Amar has been a frequent guest performer and main instructor for workshops in NYC and Japan. In NYC, Amar started the belly dance program at the New York Club (eight years) and was on staff at Ballet Hispanico. In Pennsylvania, she was on staff at Contempradance and currently teaches group classes (beginner to advanced levels) and coaches privately in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Her method of dancer development rests in learning the technique, relating to the music (which means exposing students to the sounds of the Middle East), understanding the dance composition as a soloist and ensemble artist, and learning the traditions from which the art has evolved. The dance that Amar teaches is not goddess dance, not about harem seduction, not tribal, and not gothic. The reality of the dance, this culture, and the practice required to excel in its unique expression is so rich and exciting as an art form that no fantasy need be imposed.
Editor/Writer: Amar, as Nina Costanza, is a published writer/editor of Middle Eastern dance and music. From 1990-98, she was Editor-in-Chief of Arabesque Magazine (NY), an international journal published by Ibrahim Farrah. She was on staff of Habibi Magazine (CA/OR, original publisher Shareen el Safy), as Review Editor for her column, “In Focus” (1998 – 2008). She writes for various online magazines, including The Guilded Serpent.
Accolades: In 1997, she received The Magana Baptiste Achievement Award (CA) for “literary contributions in Middle Eastern dance and for artistry in oriental dance.” In 2000, Amar was contracted by Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, MA) to dance and produce the entertainment for the opening of a nationally touring Orientalist exhibition. She was featured on the cover of Time Out Magazine (1998) and in an article in Time (2005) concerning the health benefits of this dance. Her performances have been favorably reviewed in various dance publications, including Arabesque Magazine (NY), Habibi (CA), Jareeda (OR), AAMED (NY); Al Ahram (NY); Allewaa Alarabi (NJ); and Sistrom (Australia). She has been seen frequently on Arab-American TV (NJ/NY) and WNBC’s “Good Morning America,” and is in a number of respected video collections including Yousry Sharif’s “Gala Shows” and “The International Conference of Middle Eastern Dance.”