Middle Eastern dance performance artist Z-Helene believes that art should transform. She draws upon her expansive movement vocabulary and unbridled creativity to forge transcendent experiences for her audiences. Known as the Jimmy Hendrix/Buddy Rich of zills (finger cymbals), she continually expands the frontiers of what this instrument can do, delivering many virtuoso zill solos that are unparalleled in the world of belly dance. Her hottest-selling DVD Zills for the Intermediate and Advanced Dancer, is touted as the best in the field for those wanting superior professional finger cymbal instruction.

Besides being renowned for zills, Z-Helene has a reputation for being fearlessly explorative and out-of-the-box. Her love of belly dance performance art has included reciting poetry, singing, chanting, extemporaneous prose, and the rolling of 10 quarters on her belly (up and down twice and then every other one!). Since 1982, Z-Helene and her percussionist husband Rick Fink have been a dynamic performing duo. Their performances have riveted audiences everywhere with technical expertise, humor, and powerful showmanship. For a clip, go to http://bit.ly/iyx1wr 

Z-Helene has also developed several theatrically-based dance characters; from the goddesses Thundula and Kali, to the comedic gypsy Z'Aira, to her latest creation Agape, a burlesque/drag/belly dance queen. Her and Rick Fink's monthly Austin, TX Kick Butt Belly Dance and Drum Shows are unique and exhilarating improvisations, with the first half of the show highlighting individual dancers and the second half featuring audience suggestions for group themes for the dancers and drummers. There's no other belly dance event quite like this!

Beginning in 2005, Z-Helene and Rick Fink have sponsored and produced The Annual Middle Eastern Dance Troupe Choreography Competition in Austin, TX, in which troupes come from all over to deliver their most innovative and cutting-edge belly dance choreographies. For the first three years, Mahmoud Reda (famed for his Egyptian Folkloric Dance Company) was the esteemed guest instructor and judge at this event. 

Holding a BA in Theatre Arts from Franklin & Marshall College (1977), Z-Helene has been a professor in the Kinesiology Department at Austin Community College (since 1988), teaching courses in Middle Eastern dance, yoga, aerobics, and stretch/flex/conditioning. She is proud that she has taught thousands of students in over 70 semesters at the college! As a teacher, she has a deep regard and ability to communicate immense amounts of knowledge and wisdom to each student. Winner of the 2000 IAMED (International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance) Teacher of the Year Award, her dynamic group improvisations and detailed full-length choreographies enable her to bring the rich beauty of Middle Eastern dance to all who seek it. 
Z-Helene has a broad dance background that includes extensive study and performances in Middle Eastern, East Indian, African, modern, and flamenco dance forms. She first studied Middle Eastern dance in the late 1970's with Marie Silva in Los Angeles and Bobby Farrah and Elena Lentini in New York City. Upon making her permanent home in Austin, TX in 1980, she continued-- and still continues-- to attend classes and seminars to upgrade her skills. Z-Helene's other credentials include: a certified board member of NATCMED (National Association for Teacher Certification in Middle Eastern Dance), a one-year training for Iyengar Yoga Instructor Certification, a current certified Group Fitness Instructor with AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America), and a current registered and practicing massage therapist (since 1983).

As originator of her own eclectic fusion style in 1985 called Blue Wave, Z-Helene received numerous cultural grants from the City of Austin to produce large-scale Middle Eastern dance-based concerts: Blue Waves (1985),  Ode to the Elements (1989), From East to West (1991), Rhythms from the Great Heart (1993). (The latter three are available on DVD.) As a scholar, she has written several articles for belly dance periodicals including ZaghareetHabibi and The Belly Dance Chronicles and was one of the featured artists in Jenna Wood's ground-breaking finger cymbal book The Dancing Cymbalist. In 1997, she 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. She has produced five dance videos and two music CDs. Her most current DVD is a 4-disk set called Bellydance! A Comprehensive Beginning to Intermediate Instructional

As well as courses at Austin Community College, Z-Helene also teaches private and group classes at her home studio and seminars both locally and nationally. She may be contacted at zhelene@grandecom.net.
   "Z-Helene is an excellent dancer 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, Pioneer of Egyptian dance theatre

Read about Mahmoud Reda and his accomplishments on the various websites.

ITI/UNESCO: International Dance Day

From the International Theatre Institute, a branch of UNESCO- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Mahmoud Reda
from GoBellyDance.com

   "I cannot say enough about this young woman... she is a kindred spirit... She's a wonderful, strong, vital and knowledgeable dancer and teacher. Z-Helene is known for her expressive finger cymbal playing; she is considered groundbreaking in her use of counterpoint and syncopation... She cuts through the future frontier of our dance with a style she calls the contemporary/ethnic Blue Wave Belly Dance!"
- Delilah, Visionary Dance Productions; Seattle, WA

   "Watching Z-Helene perform is an organic experience... [she] proves that a determined artist can successfully fuse various international dance styles upon a solid base of Middle Eastern dance... Z-Helene has absorbed the nuances and soul that are Middle Eastern and has enhanced these elements with the sophisticated theatrical treatment of the West... Here is an artist of strong individuality... Z-Helene makes a statement when she dances, and one of the strongest statements that comes across is that she believes in what she is doing. The language of her dance is universal and would be understood in any land... She reaches for the elements and incorporates them successfully into her own personal expression, fusing them into movement."
- Ibrahim Farrah, Arabesque

© Copyright 1997 Z-Helene Christopher, All Rights Reserved © Copyright 1997 Thundula Productions, All Rights Reserved Do not replicate by any means (including any e-mail, photocopying, printing, quoting, links to other sites, etc.), in part or in whole, without written permission from Z-Helene Christopher.

Z-Helene's Bio
    Rick's Bio    Photo Gallery    Music Downloads   Teaching and Performing

Papers    Press    DVDs and Music  Teaching Selection  Bellydance at Kickbutt Coffee