Belly Dance

About Me – Valeria Lo Iacono

Orange costumeTaking up belly dancing back in 2003, for me was a revelation. I love it so much, that I am currently doing a Phd exploring Egyptian raqs sharqi as a form of cultural heritage in Cardiff Metropolitan University (in Cardiff, UK).

You can email me on valeria (at)

My PhD Research

As I have an academic background in preservation of cultural heritage, I have decided to put together my passion for belly dance with my academic training, which has led me to wanting to explore raqs sharqi from the cultural heritage perspective.

The idea behind this, is that cultural heritage is something that is embodied and part of us and it can influence our lives in a deep and meaningful way, whether we embrace a tradition that comes from our culture of origin or from a different culture.

The starting point for the idea was the 2003 UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage and my research progresses from this initial idea. Please feel free to contact me for:

  • Academic queries and cooperation.
  • If you would like someone to give a talk on the topic of dance as cultural heritage.
  • If you are a dancer who practises or has practised Egyptian raqs sharqi at some point in her/his life and would like to be interviewed for my research.
  • Any other research related query or information about dance for academic or non academic purposes.


Symonds, PA., Brown, D. H. & Lo Iacono, V. (2017). Exploring an Absent Presence: Wayfinding as an Embodied Sociocultural Experience. Due for Pulication Feb. 2017.

Iacono, V. L., Symonds, P., & Brown, D. H. (2016). Skype as a Tool for Qualitative Research Interviews. Sociological Research Online, 21(2).

Iacono, V. L., & Brown, D. H. (2016). Beyond Binarism: Exploring a Model of Living Cultural Heritage for Dance. Dance Research, 34(1), 84-105.


“Dance as a Form of Intangible Heritage” (Symonds Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-912011-72-8) – Release Date: Planned for 1st August 2019.

Conference Papers

  • Is VoIP a Feasible Tool for Dance Research? Use of Skype for Qualitative Interviews on Dance as Transcultural Heritage. – DanceHE Symposium, University of Bedfordshire, Bedford, 7th April 2016.
  • Can video sharing sites be valid platforms to archive, share and re-live dance as heritage? The case of Egyptian raqs sharqi. – Digital Echoes, Coventry University, Coventry, 4th March 2016.
  • Can online videos be powerful tools to curate dance as a form of cultural heritage? The case of Egyptian raqs sharqi. – Presented at PopMoves, University of Roehampton, London, 24th October 2015.

Teaching experience

  • ­Visiting Lecturer for the ‘Sporting Bodies and Social Identities’ master course in Cardiff Metropolitan University, on the topics of sociology, heritage and identity and qualitative research methods.
  • Guest lecturer in the School of Dance at Cardiff Metropolitan University, in the module of Analytical and Contextual Studies on the topic of Hybridism and Authenticity in Dance.
  • Delivered lectures in Cardiff Metropolitan University in qualitative research methods, including using online videos to curate and analyse dance as a form of cultural heritage and qualitative interviews using Skype.
  • Hourly paid lecturer in Cardiff Metropolitan University, teaching research methods and sociological research at undergraduate and master level.
  • Lecturer of Italian language and culture at Hanguk University of Foreign Studies, (Seoul, South Korea).
  • Teaching Egyptian style belly dance classes in Cardiff, UK, for many years. I have taught groups of up to 30 people, one to one classes, workshops and hen parties groups.


Academic Qualifications

  • PhD candidate in Dance and Cultural Heritage at Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, Wales, UK.
  • Master in Tourism Management and Economics from Ca’ Foscari University  in Venice (Italy).
  • First class honours degree in Preservation of Cultural Heritage from Universita’ degli Studi della Tuscia (Viterbo, Italy).

Professional Certifications

  • Level 2 – Certificate in Teaching Exercise to Music from Fitness Wales.
  • Level 2- Introductory Certificate in Team Leading from Training Services Wales LTD.

Professional Memberships

Member of the Laban Guild for Movement and Dance.

Heritage, Dance and Qualitative Researcher

  • Experienced UX customer experience and human factors researcher specialising in qualitative research.
  • Experienced in Digital Humanities (providing training, teaching and as a conference speaker).

My Dance Background

I was introduced to this type of dance by a friend Jeanan Haddad, from Iraq. My training includes ballet, jazz, tango, contemporary and other forms of dance, but oriental dance has been my favourite form of dance since I started practising it. I am a qualified exercise to music fitness instructor and I am currently doing a PhD on dance anthropology, focusing on Egyptian raqs sharqi.

I have been attracted to belly dancing first of all because I have always loved Arabic music, but also because it is a form of dance that transmits an idea of fun. Every time you look at a belly dancer performing or even at someone doing this form of dance socially, you have a feeling that they are having great fun and enjoying the time of their life. Also, oriental dance encourages a healthy body image in people. It does not matter what size or age you are, you can be a good belly dancer.

In addition to this, Middle Eastern dance is very natural for the body and does not force the dancer into unnatural positions, hence the risk of injuries is lower comparing to certain other dance forms. I can say for sure that it did a lot of good to my back. When I was 10 I was diagnosed with scoliosis and the doctor told me that I would suffer from back ache in my thirties. I started suffering from light lower back ache at some point, but it disappeared for good after I started belly dancing. Read here for more information on oriental dance’s health benefits.

Since I started learning belly dance, I performed in Seoul, South Korea, in various venues while I was living there and throughout the years I have keep studying and improving my technique with great dancers such as Dandesh, Aida Noor, Yasmina, Sarah Farouk, Randa Kamel and Khaled Mahmoud. My dance style is focused especially on Egyptian raqs sharki, with some use of veil and finger cymbals.

In addition to practising oriental dance, performing and teaching, I have created this website, because I wish to give information on this art form. I try to make the site as informative as possible and also make it useful for the dance community, by writing about information and tips and my own experiences.

Originally I was born in Sicily, Italy but I am now based between Cardiff, South Wales in the UK and Catania (Sicily, Italy). I travel to Egypt and Turkey usually two or three times a year and I am presently involved with belly dance in conjunction with dance therapy. Learning about dance therapy is an area which I am particularly interested in for the future.

I continue to enjoy belly dancing and I can be seen at many workshops and classes in the UK. You are bound to see me at some point if you dance in the UK. If you want to learn belly dance in Cardiff, Wales you can contact Valeria.

Past Performances – In the Media

Click on image below to read large version

Korean herald story

While living in Seoul, South Korea for 2 years, I performed twice in Egyptian restaurants. Read the news story which was in South Korea’s main English written newspaper, the ‘Korean Herald’, all about their performances.

I have fond memories about this event, as it was my first performance as a beginner after 6 months of practising belly dance, having first learned in South Korea. My teacher at the time was Jeanan, an Iraqi-American friend who taught English in Seoul and to whom I taught Italian in exchange for belly dance lessons.

Since 2003, when I first started practising belly dance in South Korea, my passion for this art form has kept on growing. If you want to learn belly dance these days in South Korea, you can ask in the Arabic restaurants in Itaewon, the most cosmopolitan area in Seoul.

Other Information and Useful Links

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Valeria is a dance researcher completing a PhD in dance and heritage. Valeria also teaches and performs as a belly dance but also enjoys learning ballet, jazz dance and other dance genres.

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