Ebony on Feeling Good and Fusing Urban Dance Styles with Belly Dance – 057

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What is the difference between Popping and Locking? Find out from this amazing fusion belly dancer who has toured with Belly Dance Superstars, Belly Dance Evolution, choreographed for Zoe Jakes’s shows, and is featured on Rachel Brice’s Datura Online. This show is packed with deep health and beauty secrets as well as a love for festivals and shenanigans.

Ebony Qualls of Washington DC fuses urban dance styles with oriental dance styles and makes the world an even more magical place! If you go to Datura Online, you’ll see Ebony’s lovely face on the home page right between Rachel Brice and Zoe Jakes. On Datura Online, Ebony teaches choreographies with Waacking and Popping and Reverb as well as some killer shimmy plank workout action. Ebony also teaches weekly online classes. Her website is EbonyQualls.com, and it’s easy to find her classes there. Ebony toured with Belly Dance Superstars and Belly Dance Evolution. There are so many things I want to ask Ebony about because she has done so much since she started belly dancing in 2003. Ebony performs and teaches all over the world, and I am honored to share this conversation and this fantastic dancer’s wisdom with all of you.  

Danceable Ritual: Listen to music as you get ready for your day

You’ll dance through your shower and morning routine if you are listening to music that inspires you to move. Having a bluetooth shower speaker helps!

Get a shower speaker and listen to your favorite Spotify playlist (Belly Dance Body and Soul is a great playlist!)

And keep the music going as you put on moisturizer and get dressed. If you have wood floors, see that as an invitation to dance.

Danceable Song: Get Down on It

It’s ok to have a Danceable Song just for the day! Kool and the Gang asks “How you gonna do it if you really won’t take a chance?” That may inspire you to just get down, whether it’s belly dancing or other dancing. With friends or on Instagram. So much music inspires movement. 

Belly Dancing with Electronic Music Artists Oojami and Thievery Corporation

Alicia: You have performed with a slu of great electronic music artists, including Peaches, Oojami, and the Grammy-nominated band Thievery Corporation. How did you get connected to these artists and what was it like to perform with them? 

Peaches is a family friend. The Turkish DJ Oojami contacted our belly dance troupe when they performed in DC. I performed with Thievery Corporation in Ibiza, Spain. They are also my friends.

If we want to see more dancers in live music shows, we need to reach out to musicians. – Alicia

Damn Sexy Dance Move: The Monster

Alicia: I love pilates, and I am all about your plank shimmy combo. That’s right. Shimmy while you plank. Brilliant. What is one of your favorite Belly Dance Moves that you can teach us how to do right now? 

Dance Move: The Monster, inspired by Manca Pavli of Slovenia when she was teaching for Zoe Jakes. Ebony’s student ensemble Shimmy Pop named this move.



Alicia: You choreographed for Zoe Jake’s House of Tarot.

What is it like to work with Zoe Jakes? 

So fun! 2 tours. Lisa Zahiya co-produced the shows. We toured in Asheville, New Orleans, and Tennessee. That’s when I met Michelle Sorensen, Pixie Fordtears, Calamity Sam, and Mattie Waters.

Zoe has been super supportive of what I do. She’s talented and creative and a really good business woman. She always gives me really good feedback. I like how she’s done corrections. I take workshops with her too. Those are hard in a good way. 

A lot of people don’t know, but Zoe Jakes makes a lot of the music in Beats Antique. She’s making the beats. She knows what she is doing with sound engineering too.

Alicia: Tell us something you wish every belly dancer already knew about Urban Dance Styles. 

There is a difference between popping and locking. 

What is the difference between popping and locking?

Popping is what we do a lot in fusion belly dance. Like what Rachel Brice used to do in Belly Dance Superstars when she was doing all of those really snakey undulations, and then stop and stop. Like clicking.

Locking is a style that has really big explosive movements and energetic. Like extending on the diagonal. Do you remember Rerun from the 1980s show What’s Happening? It’s jumping and pointing.


There are so many great dance styles to learn about in the world. We’re not ever going to get done.

Delicious Vegan Whole Food: Coconut Water with Aloe

Sometimes I’m drinking water and I scream out, “This is delicious! What did we do to deserve this?”

Sometimes people are just grumpy because they are dehydrated. Stay hydrated!

Maria Hamer loves fresh coconut water too…

Costume Tip: Do NOT rely on safety pins

Sew on snaps and do not rely on safety pins. This is a costume tip that keeps coming back and is also featured in previous episodes! And Jillina of Belly Dance Evolution forbids performers from using safety pins. You just don’t want to worry about your safety pin coming open or stabbing you. Make sure your costume fits you and stays on.

What are your favorite festivals?

Elevation Dance Festival in Golden Colorado with Elizabeth Ashner

Madame Onca‘s Festival Triboriginal in Charlottesville Virginia

Essence of Belly Dance in Atlanta

Jamballah in Portland

Wanderlust wellness festival

Festivals that have great dancing and instructions and also give you the time to have shenanigans and have fun with your friends are the best.

How has Burning Man changed you as a performer?

At Burning Man I let it all out. Free style, authentic dance. Hearing new music. It is inspiring. I feel free and unbound. I am dancing for no one but the dust. That feeds the source of inspiration for me.


I do a lot in the pursuit of taking care of myself. Here’s a list of some things that I do for myself:

  1. Get enough sleep. Be well rested! I want this for everybody.
  2. Stay hydrated
  3. Look for things to be grateful for. Live in a state of gratitude
  4. Create a vision board on Pinterest. Look at it every day and keep adding to it.
  5. Pick a theme for every day. Ex: I am excited.
  6. Eat some delicious ripe fruit in the morning and celebrate. It’s a blessing.
  7. Meditate before getting out of bed. Try listening to binaural beats

Ebony’s super hero character is the Nap Fairy 🙂

How to Move Past Fear to be Your Authentic Self

I got laid off, and I traveled. I kept asking myself, “Do I need to go back and work in an office.” And then I kept saying to myself, “I believe that you can figure this out. You have figured out harder things before. You’ll be fine. Don’t go back and get yourself an office job. You don’t want to.”

I never even entertained that I could be a full time belly dancer financially.

So when the pandemic came, I started teaching belly dance online. And I am making a living as a belly dancer now. That is what my soul was telling me.