Kim Leary (Alexia) is a world dance performer, choreographer and instructor in Central New Jersey.  She is Co-Artistic Director of Groove Merchant Drum & Dance Ensemble and Co-Director of her school, The Drum & Dance Learning Center in residence at YWCA Princeton, New Jersey.  Kim has been involved in the multi-cultural music and dance genre since 1989.
Ms. Leary has performed at numerous venues such as Lincoln Center, The Ohio Theatre (SOHO), CAMI Hall (NYC), DanceSpace (NYC), FIT (NYC), The Evolving Arts Theatre (NYC), The Black Box Theatre (NJ), as well as at many colleges, universities, and festivals as a soloist and with her own dance company, SaZ Dance Theatre, Jamila Salimpour's Bal Anat and Dalia Carella's DNA Project. 
Kim holds a certification in Training & Development as well as in Multiple Intelligences and the Arts from Kean University. She is a Level 2 Certified Dancer in the Suhaila Salimpour Dance Format since 2000 and Certified Level Two in the Jamila Salimpour Dance Format since 2008 and earned a Level Two Certification in Sahra Saeeda's Journey Through Egypt Program. Kim received a dance scholarship award from Dance New Jersey in 2010 and was voted New Jersey's Favorite Belly Dance Teacher in 2008, 2010 and 2013. 
She has taught a variety of workshop topics at many festivals and events including Rakkasah East, Spring Caravan, The Austin Belly Dance Convention, The Art of the Belly and Waking Persephone Dance festivals.
Her acclaimed dance company, Groove Merchant Drum & Dance Ensemble has performed at festivals and theatres nationally and their performances have been partially supported by funds from the NJ State Council on the Arts.


Habiba is internationally recognized as a performer, choreographer, teacher and authority on dances of the Middle East. She has performed extensively throughout the United States and abroad in nightclubs and on concert stages. She has done extensive fieldwork in Egypt and Tunisia.

In addition to studying Middle Eastern Dance with America's top teachers, such as Ibrahim Farrah, her dance background includes training in ballet and modern dance, which she studied at the Martha Graham School in New York. During her numerous trips to Tunisia and Egypt, she studied with members of the Tunisian National Folklore Troupe, and took classes at the school of the Reda Troupe, Egypt's most famous dance ensemble. She has studied with many of Egypt’s top oriental teachers such as Ragia Hassan, Soheir Zaki, Mahmoud Reda and Nadia Hamdi. She has documented numerous folk performances in villages in both Egypt and Tunisia, including the dancing of the Benat Mazin, descendants of the famous Ghawazi celebrated by European writers of the 19th century.

Habiba has mastered a variety of styles, from the earthy Raks al Beledi of the Egyptian fellahin, to the exciting feat of balance seen in the Tunisian Pot Dance. Also a master of the classical Egyptian dance, Raqs al-Sharqi (also known as Oriental or Belly Dance), her depth of understanding of these cultures is such that she projects the distinct and separate personality unique to the peoples of each region. As a performer, she has an unfailing understanding of the music and the difference between folkloric and oriental styles.

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Awakened Roots™: The Body Electric with Kim Leary
Friday March 22
5-6:30pm ROOM WA

We have all watched our own performance videos and not been satisfied with energy level of our dance, yes? All the moves are right but it just needs more umph. Join Kim to get some tips that will change your dance immediately! Pump up your energetic movement through concepts of full range of motion, opposition, continuous flow of movement and action and reaction. Kim Leary’s Awakened Roots Series are movement, stretch and music sessions designed to create a deepened mind body connection for dance and for life. Great for all levels.

Zill Skills & Combos
Saturday March 23
This workshop starts with finger cymbal power-up exercises to build your musicianship as a dancer. We’ll dance TWELVE different dance combos to put all that rhythmic goodness into action. Experience MORE of the core principals in the 30-Day Finger Cymbal Workout™ by Alexia (Kim Leary)& Dave Merritt, co- directors of Groove Merchant Drum & Dance Ensemble.


Habiba's Ghawazi Lecture

Friday March 22

10:45-12:45 ICE RINK

The Ghawazi were Egypt's dancing girls made famous by the 19th century artists and writers who wrote accounts of their travels to Egypt after Napoleon's expedition to that country (1789).  Most of these dancers came from a group of people who were thought to be ethnically different from the other rural inhabitants (fellahin).  It is fairly well agreed now that most of the Ghawazi came from the Nawar, Balawan and Halab tribes that have been in Egypt for hundreds of years.  Among these groups there are families in which it is traditional for the girls to earn their living by dancing.  In recent times the celebrated Ghawazi came from the Mazin family, who are Nawar.  Habiba will share her experiences with the Mazin dancers and will trace the place of the Ghawazi in the history of Egyptian dance.

The Ghawazi, along with the dancers of Mohammed Ali Street, are the twin nurturers of the modern Egyptian dancer and the heritage of all of us who call ourselves Raqs Sharqi, Oriental or Belly Dancers.


Habiba's Ghawazi Workshop

Friday March 22

1-2:30pm ROOM PA

(see above for description of "Ghawazi")

Introduction to Ghawazi technique and choreography

Time permitting, the workshop will include a little of each of:

-Costume info

-Staging and working in pairs

Music will be available for purchase


Habiba's Tunisian Workshop

Friday March 22

5-6:30pm ROOM DE

The North African country of Tunisia, has a richly mixed cultural heritage that includes  Phoenician, Berber, Roman, early Christian, Islamic and Jewish elements.  The folkloric Tunisian dance style is earthy and features horizontal twisting of the hips and pelvic movements.  The dancer often executes twisting movements to increasingly faster music and sometimes dances with scarves or a pot balanced on their head. 

Time permitting, the workshop will include some of each of the following

-Tunisian folkloric dance technique


Music available for purchase

Note: Tunisian dance is hard on the balls of the feet- wear a dance shoe.



MARCH 19-22, 2020