Feature of the Week: Z-Helene

Published on February 2, 2015

This week we feature Z-Helene a professional belly dancer and performance artist and a very active member of our #CreativeMondays Community. In this feature discover breath taking creative art that is dance and be blown away by the beauty of this craft that will get you inspired to continue in the creative journey. Also read on below to discover the story behind our feature of the week…and Yes, Go Create forward!

I am a professional belly dancer and performance artist based in Austin, Texas with a dance career spanning more than 30 years and numerous stage productions.

My artistic background is rather diverse. It includes extensive study and performance in Middle Eastern, East Indian, African, Modern and Flamenco dance styles. I first studied what we know as belly dance in the late 1970s with Marie Silva in Los Angeles and Bobby Farah and Elena Lentini in New York City.

Best known for my work with zagat (Arabic finger cymbals), my reputation usually precedes me as explorative and out-of-the-box! I’ve even been called the “Jimmy Hendrix of finger cymbals!”

Since 1982 I have performed with my husband Rick, a percussionist. Together, we are known for our improvisational live music work with him on drums and me on finger cymbals and dancing. You can see a clip of us here. (YouTube link)

I think creativity is different for everyone, and often very personal. I am definitely a fan of the #CreativeMondays community, as it fosters ideas to help you start the week on the right path and grow any ideas that may arise. There is still ‘confusion’ out there in the world that being creative means you must be painting, singing, dancing, drawing or something very art-focused.

I think creativity simply means giving your ideas a chance to flow and remain open-minded.

An example of my own creative process is a stage show I produced last autumn titled “Ode to the Elements Forever”. It was a revival of an original show I did in the 1980s with original music. Art evolves, and I wanted to reflect that transformation, so I wanted to bring it back to the stage and give new life to the choreography. We had a cast of 22 dancers and 5 musicians and a sold out show!

Our monthly live music showcase in Austin, Texas is held at the Kick Butt Coffee House. We like to give local artists the opportunity to go outside the boundaries of their usual performance repertoire and experience live drums, as that is sometimes hard to find close to home.

From 2005 to 2012 my husband and I sponsored and produced The Annual Middle Eastern Dance Troupe Choreography Competition in Austin in which troupes come from all over to deliver their most innovative and cutting-edge belly dance choreographies. For the first three years, legendary Egyptian dancer Mr. Mahmoud Reda was our esteemed guest instructor and judge. He pioneered bringing Egyptian folk dance to a large stage format.

Here’s what he had to say about my performances:

 “Z-Helene is an excellent dancer and choreographer who is one of the most exceptional finger cymbal players I have ever seen. She and her drummer husband Rick Fink have an exciting onstage relationship that is creative and entertaining. But what I love the most about Z-Helene is her voice! She adds a theatrical element to the dance that is wonderful indeed.” ~ Mahmoud Reda

In 1997, I presented a paper entitled Middle Eastern Dance: The Emergence of the New Sacred Temple Priestess at the First International Conference on Middle Eastern Dance at Orange Coast College. And in 2000, I won the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance Teacher of the Year Award.

In addition to the courses I teach at Austin Community College, I also offer private lessons and group classes at my home studio. For brand new students or established dance professionals interested in exploring Middle Eastern Dance, I am excited to offer private lessons via Skype as well. From time to time I also teach dance seminars and workshops locally and nationally.

You can get in touch with me at zhelene@grandecom.net







    1. Tom Cottar February 3, 2015
    2. timsoft February 8, 2015