About Nicola

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Nicola has been taught and praised by some of the very best dancers in the business.

Her preferred teacher and mentor, Hadia, recently wrote:

Hadia of Canada

“I highly recommend Nicola’s classes to anyone interested in learning authentic and beautiful Egyptian Oriental Belly Dance, Baladi and Folklore.   She is unquestionably the most experienced and well-trained dance instructor in the province of Manitoba and combines careful and conscientious guidance for her students with a deep love and respect for the dance, music and culture of the Middle East.
She is one of the few instructors in the world who has successfully completed my 3 year Master Programme of Instructor Training. She has studied with some of the most respected and knowledgeable artists in the world, including Dina, Denise Enan, Sahra Saeeda and Cassandra Shore. She has also attended many of my Professional Oriental Dance Intensive Training Programmes.”    ~ Hadia of Canada

Nicola’s dancing has been noticed and praised by many top-tier dancers, including Toronto’s Sashar Zarif for “living in the moment of the dance”, as well as Cassandra Shore, Denise Enan, Sahra Saeeda Kent, Ranya Renee, Roula Said, Suzanna del Vecchio, Suzy, Delilah, Jasmin Jahal, Vanessa, and Yousry Sharif.   She has always stood out as a dancer who can hold her ground with technique, choreography and interpretation.  Nicola has been lauded for her graceful, smooth, and elegant style, her natural talent, and for her authentic representation of Egyptian dance styles.   She brings an energy that is relaxed and playful. Always, she strives to present the dignity and beauty of Egyptian dance.

Denise Enan

Sahra Saeeda Kent

Cassandra Shore teaching at Orient Express 3 hosted by Nicola

Nicola began her bellydance studies in January of 1997.   Nicola had been a fan of Middle Eastern music for many years prior to this, and had studied Near Eastern archaeology and history. Her first teacher was Shayera, at Winnipeg’s Bravado Dance Studio.  Shayera was Winnipeg’s premier performer at the time, and the feature dancer/troupe director of the former Lebanese Pavilion of  Folklorama.  Nicola was soon taking both beginner and intermediate classes, and was actively coached and mentored by Shayera, who dubbed her “the intelligent dancer’s dancer”.

Nicola’s first performances were stage-based class recitals.  By 1998, she was performing solo at the Fat Angel Bistro’s Student Night.  That spring, she was granted 2 solos in a stage show featuring Hadia.  Hadia singled her out in those early days as a “beautiful” dancer with tremendous potential.  Nicola attended workshops with major name dancers in Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon fervently, attentively, and often.   Shayera booked Nicola as an opening act at party and show gigs, as well as a substitute instructor.   Nicola’s ability to learn technique quickly and perfectly was matched by her choreographic memory and inclination.  She was simultaneously working on a graduate thesis in anthropology, then by 1999, an after-degree B.Ed. at the University of Manitoba’s pilot program where she gained university-level training as a dance teacher.

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Delilah called her a dancer with “great power”.   Suzanna del Vecchio said “she is very, very good”.   Cassandra has said she “…enjoyed [her] dancing very much…great taste in music!”.  Jalilah Zamora noted Nicola’s gift for musical interpretation, referencing her performance in a Winnipeg workshop:  “a beautiful job with masmoudi [dancing to “Ya Amarti”]so many dancers don’t…”.   Suzy of Calgary has said Nicola is “SUCH a pretty dancer”.   And most recently, Ranya Renee said she has “really good movement” and complimented her “Ooloo Balash” choreography.  Sahra Saeeda praised her choreographic accomplishments in the “Journey Through Egypt” show, and called her “a very strong dancer” during her 2012 visit.

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Nicola is a seasoned, confident performer in all performance venues, as well as a passionate and dedicated teacher with a commitment to technique, authenticity, and artistry.   She has taught and coached several excellent students, including Sha’Vega and Oksana (now performing and teaching in Ottawa), and Asra of Winnipeg.   Her students and troupe members have included Za’ina, Asra, Heather Flynn, Zafirah, Johara, Kevla, Shifra, Yonisha, Kalila, Basinah, Laura, Kristin, Nita, Christine, Lisa, Sameerah, Samira, Cyrena, and Ildiko.  She is currently Manitoba’s only certified teacher of Middle Eastern dance, having completed 3 of 3 levels of teacher training with Hadia (2007-2011).

Nicola has directed several troupes since 1999, beginning as rehearsal coach/co-choreographer with Gamaal Rawhany and Ahlan Dance Company (with Shayera), and more recently Spice Road Bellydance and Amar Egyptian Dance (as Founder and Artistic Director).

In 2006, Nicola began an enduring commitment to producing shows and events, which have included a CBCF fundraiser, Leylet Hob–Dance for the Cure, and stage shows featuring star dancers including  Orient Express 1-4, Journey Through Egypt, Club Bellydance (2011 & 2013).  Nicola is a co-founder of  Raks into Summer, Winnipeg’s original bellydance multi-class recital.    She has hosted many top-tier dancers as an effort to enrich and encourage the Winnipeg dance scene, including Hadia, Sahra Saeeda, Cassandra Shore, Jamiila al Badawia, and the Bellydance Superstars.  Nicola attends local and regional workshops in order to support the same efforts by colleagues.

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In 2008, Nicola made the jump into dance theatre.  Her collaboration with Pedro Aurelio and Bolero Dance Theatre on the 2009 production, Alhambra, saw Nicola and Pedro creating their first true fusion choreography of Egyptian raks sharqi, raks baladi, raks saiidi, American bellydance, ballet, Spanish classical and flamenco.  Nicola guest starred as The Court Dancer.   Their follow-up collaboration was  Cleopatra, which played in October of 2012 and was revised with 6 new dances for the 2013 Winnipeg Fringe Festival, guest starring Beatriz Barcelo of Spain.  Nicola was featured as Isis.   Nicola has enjoyed group Spanish and flamenco classes as a student of Pedro’s.  In May of 2017, they presented the full-length Scheherazade and the 1001 Nights, a fantastical re-telling of the classic tales, bringing Sinbad, Aladdin, and Ali Baba to life.

Nicola invites you to read her CV, and thinks that all dancers should be able to honestly, clearly, accurately, and specifically document their training and experience in such a manner.

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“Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts,
because it is no mere translation or abstraction from life; it is life itself.”

Havelock Ellis


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Contact Nicola

204-957-7520
nicolaraks@mymts.net
Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.