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BELLYTWINS (Neena & Veena) have appeared on and have been the center of TV gossip columns on over 20 talk shows and news segments in the United States and Canada. Some include The View, Extra, E!, CNN, VH1, and CBS, Fox News, and more. The twins have also made their mark on worldwide television networks including BBC (UK), CTV (Canada), Univision (Latin), Zee TV (India), Sony (India), RTN (Russia) and international publications including India Today, Hello, Australia’s Harper Bazaar, and Femina. They have graced the pages of numerous magazine and newspaper articles in publications including InStyle, YM, Time, Muscle & Fitness, LA Times, New York Daily News, and FIT.

Veena and Neena Bidasha are billed as the world’s only identical twin belly dancers. They are also fitness experts and released a new workout regimen that combines belly dancing and weight training.

How To Wiggle Away Weight
by MARY-JAYNE MCKAYL

Want to shimmy and shake your way to a better and healthier body?

Neena and Veena, billed as the world’s only identical twin belly dancers, have a new DVD out that shows how the use of weights can transform the ancient dance art into a low-impact fitness routine.

Into addition to fewer pounds, the sisters say, the dividends from such a workout include “a healthy back, a good posture, and an hourglass shape.”

They recommend starting with small weights and working up to the five-pound weights.

As they lead (video)
The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm through a beginners routine, Neena and Veena suggest a warm-up of hip rolls, followed by forward and back steps, which add a cardio element to the workout

Holding weights in each hand, the belly dancers incorporate shoulder rolls, one shoulder at a time, then lower into a squat as they continue the rolls.

Neena and Veena are trained in yoga and ballet as well fitness and belly dancing. Their 10th and newest video, “Bellydance Core Conditioning,” can be ordered on their Web site, www.bellytwins.com.

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Bellytwins (Working World Magazine)
by Frank Capri

BELLYTWINS (Veena & Neena Bidasha) is a bellydance & Bollywood dance company specializing in an Arabian Nights theme. Photojournalist Frank Capri asked Veena for her five secrets of success.

FIND YOUR UNIQUE QUALITIES AND GO WITH THEM

When we first came up with the idea of having a Bollywood company, everyone said there’s no way it will work . “No one will want to pay for that!” We had to educate every client about our craft. In the end we helped pave the way with promoting belly dance in terms of fitness, and with promoting Bollywood as entertainment that deserved fees. We stayed true to our unique craft and it paid off.

DO YOUR WORK FOR THE LOVE OF WHAT YOU DO, AND NOT FOR THE MONEY

Otherwise you’ll get bored or burned out or bothl

GO WITH YOUR VISION

Compared to what someone else says is better for you. We were told we should be more all-American in style and look. For example, people suggested we make sure we have a blond woman as the host for our dance video. They thought that was important for marketing; we didn’t. Don’t let people turn your head to what you know is your truth. Listen to your gut feeling, and act on it.

BE PATIENT WITH THE PROCESS

There will be mistakes along the way. We knew that we were getting better at what we were doing. Don’t think that you have to be perfect. When I danced at the Academy Awards one year, I was intimidated by some of the other dancers at the audition and at the show. They came in with a huge amount of dance experience … ballet, jazz, and so on . I had to give myself a talk to stay calm “You’ll be fine,” I told myself. “You did this dance routine in the rehearsals, and you know it. You might forget a little, but you’ll be okay.” It turned out that I didn’t forget anything, even after I saw a few famous people in the audience like Denzel Washington!

AND FINALLY, AS ONE OF MY TEACHER! AT UCLA ADVISED, GO HAVE FUN!

Live the full life, rather than being so focused on your career that you miss out. Find the balance of work and play. It’s that combination that will enrich your life.

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Why There’s More to Bellydancing than Smooth Moves
By Melissa Hathaway

They’re beautiful, sinuous, sensual and utterly feminine. California-born twins Neena and Veena have been dancing almost from the moment they could stand upright, and have spent years learning and refining their impressive skills, taking on everything from bhangra to ballet and jazz.

Yet the talented pair have become fondly known as the ‘Bellydance Twins’, thanks to their memorable, hip-swivelling performances that have entertained the likes of Hollywood luminaries such as Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, as well as politicians and royalty from around the world.

‘Belly’ Good for the Whole Body

While not everyone would want to take to the stage and strut their stuff in public, bellydancing is something that absolutely anyone can try – and the benefits really are amazing. Neena and Veena’s own mother was diagnosed in her twenties with severe rheumatoid arthritis. While she endured several painful surgeries, little did anyone realise the techniques her daughters were learning could have helped ease her symptoms.

Because it focuses on repetitive, gentle muscle movement and not bone-crunching, high-impact steps, bellydancing helps tone your body from the inside out, as literally every muscle used is worked again and again. Those trademark sensual hip rolls and drops don’t just look good – they strengthen the neck, trunk, pelvis and – crucially, the spine.

As the spine is manipulated by those seductive pelvic rolls, shimmies and figure-eights, more synovial fluid is released to lubricate the spinal joints, radically improving posture. Meanwhile, the same movements – when done correctly – tip the pelvis forward, easing pressure on the lower back, not forgetting the arms and shoulders. They get a workout too, as they are held above the head for some moves. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, bellydancing offers the chance to breathe new life into your whole body – and it will boost your brainpower, too.

Keep Working Those Little Grey Cells

Aside from enjoying the obvious physical benefits, such as weight loss and muscle toning, bellydancing can also help on a mental level. Increased blood flow to the brain helps keep the mind sharp and active, while learning complicated dance movements helps boost memory retention – and can help in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Many people find bellydancing helps ease stress levels, as the muscles in the neck, shoulders and back are eased. Under stress, we tense up and lactic acid is produced, while blood flow to the muscles decreases, causing pain and discomfort. The trials and tribulations of everyday life can sometimes be too much for some people to deal with, and they become depressed – or even turn to drink or drugs as a coping strategy. For those who take the leap and decide to get help, alongside the traditional forms of addiction support available in California and other states, increasingly, an exercise routine forms an essential part of the rehabilitation process, as it fixes new patterns of behaviour that are positive, rather than destructive. With its stress-busting results, few regimens are better than bellydancing, which loosens the neck, shoulder and back muscle groups, flushing away lactic acid and relieving stress – and all with a few repetitive, circular motions.

For the most part, bellydancing is aimed largely at women, as it allows females to tune in to their bodies’ natural movements, but there’s no fundamental reason why men can’t give it a try – though enthusiastic participants ought to be aware that it’s easy to overdo it. It’s wise to speak to a medical practitioner before embarking on any new exercise routine.

And the Good Stuff Keeps on Comin’

Muscle-building, posture-improving, stress-busting – it seems bellydancing can do it all – yet astonishingly, there are even MORE good reasons to take a class – or seven! A 15-minute session of bellydancing speeds up the flow of lymph (the stuff that washes away all the toxins that build up in our bodies) by a staggering 15 times. Bellydancing as exercise has been linked to breast cancer prevention, and – rather less dramatically, but no less importantly – those who bellydance are more likely to enjoy a better night’s sleep.

The social upside of bellydancing can’t be underestimated either – classes are fun, enjoyable environments, with lively music and plenty of laughter. Spending time with friends, or meeting new people in a convivial atmosphere helps banish gloomy moods and can prevent a downward or negative mental spiral.

You don’t have to want to follow in the shimmying footsteps of BellyTwins Neena and Veena and swing your hips for the rich and famous, but anyone who does take up the chance to bellydance may find they end up with much more than simply a flatter stomach and better posture. There’s every chance you may just unlock your inner goddess…

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Very fond memories of this interview: Dancing, Trancing; The Bellytwins
By T. Virgil Parker

Once in a while, mainstream culture gets a little more than it expects. There are a few people out there who fervently believe in belly dancing as an art form; a profound enhancement of feminine power. But the casual observer sees it as a form of entertainment, with perhaps a tiny glimmer of something a little beyond American Idol.

So, two brilliant and beautiful identical twins of Indian descent have this intimate knowledge of Eastern dance, and an insight forms: This is about as aerobic as anything can get. This is a hardcore workout. Veena and Neena, AKA The Bellytwins have taken this idea into millions of homes in the US via their exercise videos, making them the most famous belly dancers in history. They rub elbows with everyone from Robert Redford to Ozzy Osborne. They have acting careers and books under their (silk) belts. They jet off to India to perform in Bollywood films.

That they have achieved all this came as a surprise. They simply wanted to make a living while embracing their art. In fact they’ve brought health, wellness, art, even a little magic to the silent masses, shimmying before the flickering light of their TV screens.

TVP. Virgil Parker: You clearly get people doing this for the workout who begin to have insights about the art form?

Veena: All the time, actually. When I’m teaching a workshop I go in to the technique and the history of it. Little tidbits information about either the song, instrumentation, the dance; that’s of interest to the students. In my classes where I’m teaching the actual workout, I don’t have too much time to go into it, but I do throw in tidbits of information and it becomes a little more fascinating rather than just sitting there and exercising. For some women, they feel much more connected because it makes them feel like, “oh my gosh! I’m part of something that’s so ancient!”

TVP: Do you think people are gaining certain kinds of enlightenment about it as well instead of just getting those fat pounds off?

V: Yes. And with some women it makes them want to exercise even more.

TVP: You’ve probably thought a lot about the origins of belly dancing.

V: Yes I have, but I’m obviously much more into the actual movements. There’s not really direct information about where the dance came from, so it’s not like we can say, “okay, it definitely came from here and this is the actual history of it.” The history is basically just theories. They’re strong theories, but they are theories. It hasn’t been officially said “yes, this is what it is.”


TVP: We have seen frescoes in ancient Egypt of belly dancers. We’ve also seen a wall painting in Minoan Crete circa 1,500 BC of snake dancers.

V: Yes, I had heard about that as well. A couple people were like, “well, they don’t really dance with snakes in Egypt .” In the ancient times, historically there have been snake dancers, so that’s been my argument with them as well. So I guess that’s one of the reasons why Neena and I have taken snakes and added them to our show.

TVP: What do you feed your snakes?

V: They get fed rats, most of them do. At one point they were getting gerbils. But I was so glad when they went back on rats because gerbils are hard to find. But yeah, they are fed rats.

TVP: I’ll keep this interview away from PETA for now.

V: You know, I have vegetarian friends. At the moment I’m actually a vegetarian, at the moment. Sometimes I’ll go six months being a vegetarian or a year being a vegetarian and I’ll go back on meat. It depends on when my body feels the need is. I understand not eating meat and why and all that. However, the snakes will starve to death. TVP: You’ve probably thought about the religious origins of belly dancing in India .

V: There is a theory of belly dancing starting in India, or that some of the aspects have started in India, but I don’t think too much of it historically as much as the movement, but it is fascinating that possibly some of the origins may have been there, at least the origins of the movements and/or the religious aspect. I’m sure it could be either, because India is a very spiritual country, so in anything that comes from there, there’s a spirituality connected to it. Actually, in ancient times there were always gods involved. I hope that we can still continue that connection with movement in God or God in anything else, even food. I always like saying anything and everything is connected with God. But the aspects of some of the dance for sure came from India . Some of it at least, because a lot of the gypsies originated in Rajasthan , India .

TVP: Yeah, in Punjab , I’ve heard.

V: Not in Punjab , it has been pinned down to actually Rajasthan. People conjectured it was Punjab but it wasn’t really Punjab . The actual Banjara gypsies- the original gypsies- resided in Rajasthan. It’s even said that it’s possible that they originally came from Afghanistan . But some people say that and some people say no, they really are Rajasthanis. But in either case, those original gypsies are still nomadic people and they had been nomadic and they would travel everywhere. The famous gypsy trail is the one that started in Rajasthan , India , and they went into the Middle East , including North Africa , Eastern Europe , and into Spain . So that’s the famous one that a lot of people see the traces of in India .

TVP: And they leave a trail of art behind them as they go.

V: Yeah, of course, because wherever you’re going to reside and you’re going to be involved in interacting with people, you’re going to have influences in either direction, although the Banjaras or the gypsies stayed pretty true to what they were about. And they came from all types of backgrounds. So to do a whole history on gypsies is fascinating alone. And boy I wish I could do a whole dissertation on that because there’s so much and it’s so fascinating. But the Spanish gypsies, if you can trace back the origin, definitely came from India .

TVP: They were said to be the last goddess worshipers in Western Europe .

V: That’s probably true. The women I know seem very, very strong.. It’s just the way they are. The men have their thing and the women have their thing and it doesn’t feel submissive at all with them. If anything they feel a little bit stronger than men. So there probably was a lot of Goddess worshiping.

TVP: I’ve actually heard Roma dancing called goddess dancing. I thought that was interesting etymologically. There’s also a Sufi influence in belly dancing.

V: Probably, because it’s all from north India and the Islamic influences.

TVP: Do you ever feel like you’re trancing really hard when you dance?

V: I think biologically what happens when someone is dancing is that they do feel a connection. Endorphins are released. These are feel-good things that come out and are released from your brain, so I think a lot of people do feel a sense of going into a trance. I’ve had that feeling too, especially when you get connected with the music. In fact in our book The Way of the Belly, that came out a little bit ago, we talk about connecting your body with the music. First you feel the beats, and then you get into the instrumentation and allow your body to move and sway and allow your body to be connected with that. You don’t really have to know the movements so much as you have to feel the music. To actually belly dance you get to know the basic vocabulary. But once you do, and say you’ve already got that, even just a couple of the movements you can really connect your body in with the music. Let is sway, let it connect, and let your body go into this journey. If you have a camcorder that records all the stuff that you’re doing, you can come up with all this cool choreography just because you’re so connected. And once you disconnect yourself from the music, then you start thinking about it, like, “okay, let me put this move in instead.” It just becomes a little bit different. But there’s nothing like that feeling of being connected. I think Sufism, for sure they had some kind of connection that allowed that journey just to happen. I do know that even in Punjab , because we teach north Indian dance as well as including Bhangra from Punjab , and from Bombay , and I do know that in some of the dances, especially in Rajasthan and Gypsy- which we have taught in the past, and the Punjab Bhangra, there is shaking of the head. In a lot of the movements the guys will shake their heads, or sometimes the girls will. My educated guess is that it could have come from Sufism. That’s an educated guess, because I observe it, and I see that and go, “wow, these Sufi dancers are shaking their heads like the Bhangra dancers are.” And it’s all from the north, so it’s possible that it really could be.

TVP: So assuming you could go back far enough and it would be the same dances and the same trances but ‘Insert god or goddess here.’

V: I would say that’s a good guess

TVP: This is why it was so mind-blowing to me when I saw your first exercise videos. It looks like you’re bringing the sacred into the domestic in a really unique way.

V: Oh, wow, thank you! I’m glad we had the effect because I always thought it was such a great idea to do something like that. Here my sister and I grew up in basically white America . It’s not really “White America” but it isn’t India and it isn’t the Middle East . It’s a land of other cultures but a pretty Caucasian influence, and that’s the culture. But I grew up even in my own household with what I know. So to me I always thought, “wow, it would be so cool and wonderful if people could really experience what I like and what I’m feeling with this music and this dance. I wonder if they’ll like it.” And we were told so many times that it would never work because it’s too exotic and that America wasn’t ready for it.

TVP: Oh, don’t believe that for a second! Really, Western Culture is dying to get out of itself. It’s like it’s boxed itself in and is looking for ways to expand.

V: I think especially now it’s definitely like that. Western culture is always going, “we need something different, we’re dying for something different!” They just want variety. And they’re fascinated with everybody else, because they don’t want to miss out. Nobody does. Even other countries too. In India they’re fascinated with American culture, and in Egypt too.

TVP: You may have grown up here but you’re not entirely as Western as you think you are: You were voted the sexiest twins in America and weren’t in a beer commercial.

V: That’s funny! To be in a beer commercial, I think that’s pretty American.

TVP: The funny thing is, a lot of people wish they’d done something meaningful and productive in their lives and in some way everyone has, perhaps. But what you’re really doing is making people think more deeply, feel more deeply, and get in shape at the same time. It’s got to be very gratifying.

V: I think it is. All my and Neena’s lives, growing up, we used to say things like, “don’t drink that, it’s got too much sugar!” And I would be like six years old. I was reading ingredients on different labels around the age of five. I would tell my mom, “this product is the same as this product because the ingredients are the same, but buy this because it’s ten cents cheaper!” Read up on the ingredients that’s involved in food because that’s as important to feed your belly as it is to exercise.
That’s part of being healthy, energetically and physically as well. Even in regards to people’s emotions, because we grew up with a mom that was pretty sick. She was physically challenged because she had Rheumatoid Arthritis, and she had it pretty bad. So she got struck with it probably in her late twenties and was in constantly in surgery. If we had grown up with a mom who was healthy, we probably wouldn’t have as much passion about health and exercise as we do. In our culture, we’re not allowed to be dancers. It’s not the best choice of profession for women. So we had to disguise our dance with exercise. And we used to tell our mom, “this is good exercise!” And she actually knew in her heart that it really was because she would do some of the movements and enviously think, “gosh, I really want to move! I can’t move but I want to move,” so she would move and go, “this is the best thing!” So deep in her heart she was like, “do it because you can. I can’t.” It was a very strange thing to grow up with a mom who was in and out of the hospital in a wheelchair.

TVP: That must have been hard.

V: It was very difficult because while most kids are going to dance classes and gymnastics and things like that, Neena and I were taking care of our mom. We would help her go to the bathroom and things like that.

TVP: That’s the hardest thing you can do. It’s not the work; it’s the emotional drain.

V: Yeah, it’s very emotional. But my mom really tried to make it a positive situation even though it really wasn’t. But we had to make it a positive thing and I didn’t really appreciate the hard work until later. Someone had even said, “what a great story about you and, that’s how you came up with the idea of belly dancing for fitness.” And I said, “well that’s not a story, it’s true.” I don’t think I’d have been able to come up with a story.

TVP: An angle.

V: Yeah, I guess that’s the proper way to say it. An angle.

TVP: You know, people are falling all over themselves to sell your videos online.

V: Yeah. But we come from a real background. So when somebody says, “you don’t understand what it’s like growing up poor!” I said, “yes we do.” We were very poor growing up. When my mom got sick she didn’t have health insurance. So all of our money went to surgeries and stuff, so that would make you go broke really quickly. Or when somebody says, “you don’t understand about not being healthy.” I sure do. I grew up with my mom, so I do understand.

TVP: Our glorious healthcare system.

V: The American way has its place, but we’re all very much into quick fixes. And it really is like that. If there are certain problems, a lot of stuff can be reversed. A lot of stuff, by diet and exercise alone, but a lot of it is also from attitude and letting go. Physically and emotionally.

TVP: That’s awesome. And again that’s got to be a benefit from the dance, because what you’re doing is so nonverbal and that kicks in all these different psychological systems in the body. You and Neena are probably the healthiest people in America .

V: I don’t know about that! We try to be as healthy as we can, but we grew up on a farm that had a lot of chemicals and stuff, so we had health problems of our own that we had to take care of. And also, living in Los Angeles is pretty tough. The healthiest person would be somebody living in beautiful clean water, clean air, really quiet with organic fruits and vegetables that you’re growing in your back yard.

TVP: Nah, I think that makes you weak. I think you need something to fight against.

V: I think because we live in this kind of society it’s pretty tough to have that kind of a background. Maybe you’re right about that. You wouldn’t have the immunities that are built up in your bodies. So you’re probably right.

TVP: I A lot of people talk about modern vacuity, meaninglessness, emptiness. You found this endless source of meaning from looking into your own past and your own culture.

V: It has meaning now. It didn’t before because I would be kind of, “why me?” I know it sounds a little bit spoiled, kind of a spoiled way of thinking because you do have your health, but why did I have to grow up in a family that was so poor and with a mom that was so sick? I just thought it wasn’t fair and life isn’t this way. I talk to my mom a lot, even know, and a couple times she’s even said “why me?” Like her, herself, and she really went through a lot. But again, I don’t think we would have come up with things to say or a message to people if we didn’t have what we had to go through.

TVP: It’s almost like fate sat down and cooked up a plan to make Veena and Neena bring Eastern dance into American fitness.

V: Yeah, exactly. And now we’re bringing in not just belly dancing but also Bollywood and Bhangra; which is like our background as well.

TVP: That is too cool.

V: It’s a whole different thing but it’s still the same message. This one actually includes men. The belly dancing is much more female, it’s very empowering, and very soft and feminine, but yet strong at the same time. But this Bollywood and Bhangra are definitely male and female. It is definitely ancient, but it’s ancient with upbeat modern feel to it. Our classes are doing very well. I started teaching this back in ’97. The first day of class I had two people who said, “what’s Bollywood and what’s Bhangra?” and that was it. The next week they came back again and brought a couple people, and it built up. It became the secret of really staying fit. We had one girl who did nothing different except attend the class. At that time I was teaching only once a week on a Sunday and she would only come to that one class and she lost thirty pounds. Doing nothing different except that class. They come out and they’re sweating bullets. With belly dancing, they sweat differently. Even the cardio class was more of a, “oh boy, that was a bit of a workout! I feel the burn!” But this one was pretty hardcore. The guys would be a little bit, “okay, this is kicking my butt!”

TVP: It seems that a lot of fairly famous people have discovered what you’re doing and swear by it.

V: And I don’t even know all the celebrities who have taken the classes. I keep hearing, “so and so has your videos! Did you hear them mention them on MTV?” I don’t know who has them. I know Jessica Simpson has one of them and there was another really famous hip-hop singer, and then there were others who actually came to our classes and we taught them as well. But as far as I know, I’m not sure who’s had our videos. There’s a good amount of them, it’s nice to hear.

Dancing Keeps You Young, Healthy: Bellytwins

Bellytwins Neena and Veena Bidasha have been endeavoring to broaden their horizons and establish themselves in every aspect of their uniquely created industry. At present, the Bellytwins are performing and choreographing dances. Simultaneously, Veena maintains a career acting and doing voiceovers. “Currently, we are still performing and choreographing mostly either live events or in TV/films,” said Neena. In a year, the Bellytwins do an average of 40 events. In order to maintain the excellence of their shows they focus on each and every part of their events rather than the number of events. The twins ensure that their stamp of approval is on every aspect of every event.

“Sometimes one event takes a lot of our time, in which we have to pass up some projects in order to maintain our standard of high quality,” said Neena. Utilizing their prior knowledge and experiences, the Bellytwins coordinate with the event planners to create the best event possible. Neena and Veena always have a hands on approach.

“We often just produce these shows. This entails bringing in deejays, singers, musicians, other various performers and entertainers to create the ambience or theme the client wants, coordinating everything and everyone involved…. essentially being the planner or working with the planner,” said Neena.

In an attempt to keep up with the advances in technology the Bellytwins are remodeling their website to have downloadable material available. They have numerous plans for the future. In order to spread the word and get their work out there the Bellytwins intend to teach their skills to individuals who are interested in learning the craft that they possess.

“Our plans are to conduct more workshops – in Belly dance, Bollywood and Bhangra, fitness, health, and beauty,” said Veena.

Additionally, Neena and Veena are working together to co-author another book and are planning on a book tour upon its completion.

Keeping everything in mind, the Bellytwins aspire to stay down-to-earth and are thankful for all they have attained.

“Even though we stay busy, we don’t neglect God. We pray every day, attend church regularly.”

Neena and Veena began their careers from their respective home towns. Prior to setting up their business the Bellytwins were into performing, acting, singing and dancing. “At first separately, because I was living in Northern Calif. and she (Veena) in Southern Calif. Then I moved to Los Angeles, and we started working together as dancers. Immediately, we established a dance company, and started our careers as not only dancers but also choreographers,” said Neena.

From a young age, Neena and Veena have had been intrigued by health and fitness due to their mother’s countless health problems. Therefore, as well as maintaining their various occupations the Bellytwins would take the time to demonstrate the importance of having a well-balanced diet and exercising. “So, in addition to performing, we would often conduct workshops on healthy eating, workout programs, with a dance fitness twist. We would go on radio or TV shows, or do lecture circuits among schools and colleges,” said Neena. Even with everything that they are currently doing and planning for the future, Neena and Veena will always find time to dance because as they say, “dancing is a way to keep yourself young, happy, and healthy.”

DANCING KEEPS YOU YOUNG & HEALTHY: BELLYTWINS
by Sonam Mirpuri for INDIA JOURNAL

Bellytwins Neena and Veena Bidasha have been endeavoring to broaden their horizons and establish themselves in every aspect of their uniquely created industry. At present, the Bellytwins are performing and choreographing dances. Simultaneously, Veena maintains a career acting and doing voiceovers. “Currently, we are still performing and choreographing mostly –

either live events or in TV/films,” said Neena. In a year, the Bellytwins do an average of 40 events. In order to maintain the excellence of their shows they focus on each and every part of their events rather than the number of events. The twins ensure that their stamp of approval is on every aspect of every event.
“Sometimes one event takes a lot of our time, in which we have to pass up some projects in order to maintain our standard of high quality,” said Neena. Utilizing their prior knowledge and experiences, the Bellytwins coordinate with the event planners to create the best event possible. Neena and Veena always have a hands on approach.
“We often just produce these shows. This entails bringing in deejays, singers, musicians, other various performers and entertainers to create the ambience or theme the client wants, coordinating everything and everyone involved…. essentially being the planner or working with the planner,” said Neena.
In an attempt to keep up with the advances in technology the Bellytwins are remodeling their website to have downloadable material available. They have numerous plans for the future. In order to spread the word and get their work out there the Bellytwins intend to teach their skills to individuals who are interested in learning the craft that they possess.
“Our plans are to conduct more workshops – in Belly dance, Bollywood and Bhangra, fitness, health, and beauty,” said Veena.
Additionally, Neena and Veena are working together to co-author another book and are planning on a book tour upon its completion.
Keeping everything in mind, the Bellytwins aspire to stay down-to-earth and are thankful for all they have attained.
“Even though we stay busy, we don’t neglect God. We pray every day, attend church regularly.”
Neena and Veena began their careers from their respective home towns. Prior to setting up their business the Bellytwins were into performing, acting, singing and dancing. “At first separately, because I was living in Northern Calif. and she (Veena) in Southern Calif. Then I moved to Los Angeles, and we started working together as dancers. Immediately, we established a dance company, and started our careers as not only dancers but also choreographers,” said Neena.
From a young age, Neena and Veena have had been intrigued by health and fitness due to their mother’s countless health problems. Therefore, as well as maintaining their various occupations the Bellytwins would take the time to demonstrate the importance of having a well-balanced diet and exercising. “So, in addition to performing, we would often conduct workshops on healthy eating, workout programs, with a dance fitness twist. We would go on radio or TV shows, or do lecture circuits among schools and colleges,” said Neena. Even with everything that they are currently doing and planning for the future, Neena and Veena will always find time to dance because as they say, “dancing is a way to keep yourself young, happy, and healthy.”

Bellydancing Site
by Ronnette Ramirez, BellaOnline’s Bellydancing Editor

Veena and Neena’s Indi Hop

Identical twins Veena and Neena are skilled in Middle Eastern and Indian dance. The have performed dances originating from Lebanon, Egypt and different parts of India. Originally from India, the sisters grew up dancing bhangra.

Bhangra is a dance that originated in the northern part of India called Punjab. It is a mixture of yoga and martial arts. The modern version of bhangra is combined with hip-hop movements.

When you hear that dhol, or drum, you know its got to be bhangra! Other instruments, such as the iktar, tumbi and chimta make bhangra unique. Bhangra is usually performed for special occasions like weddings and birthdays, but since the ’90s, bhangra has gained much popularity. You may have recognized the bhangra beats in some of today’s modern hip-hop songs, such as Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On”.

There is no doubt that the music is what keeps you going when you workout to Veena and Neena’s Indi-Hop. There is just so much energy in that workout that you just don’t want to stop. The music is just amazing!

Veena starts you off with a warm up. Her sister Neena along with a diverse group of hip-hop dancers add to the fun. This workout has a lot of hops, kicks, and travel steps with the hops. You may want to do an extra warm up specifically for the ankles.

What I love about this workout is that the moves go with the beat. This is a plus, because you want to keep that energy level up. Any slower or any faster would not work.

Both sisters do a great job in breaking down the moves. It is easy to follow. How they manage to talk and workout, is incredible. There is a small part in the workout where Neena laughs as she catches her breath.

After the warm up, there is a brief cardio segment followed by routines one through three. Neena takes you to routine one where you learn to really combine the up/down shoulder movement along with hopping. With bhangra, you have to keep the foot flexed when you are kicking. It may be difficult if you have been taught to always point your feet when dancing.

Routine two, Veena takes over and does some great side kick moves that work your oblique muscle. These side kicks then become travel movements as you continue the workout. Veena teaches you the Indi Swing and Indi Jack in this routine.

Neena takes routine three with utmost energy. There is a neat stomp move going into a kick. There are also travel steps too.

Remember to not forget about moving your shoulders up and down while you do the kicks and hops. It really does help with the momentum. The Asian guy in the workout does such a great job of keeping up with this; pay attention to him.

I would also suggest that you wear lots of support on the top. Especially if you are top heavy. Those Indi Jacks and hops do a number on the chest if you don’t have good support. Double your sports bra if need be, or purchase one that will hold everything in place.

The cool down is great, and the special features are interesting. Neena and Veena give you a glimpse of bhangra where several women are dancing it. The explain their passion for bhangra and the history. Another video shows the twins along with the other dancers doing a bhangra/hip-hop video. They look dynamic!

Interview

HOLLYWOOD DANCING TWINS – VEENA & NEENA BIDASHA

by Padma Chebrolu, OH, USA

e-mail: padma@culturalcentreofindia.com

Born in northern California into an immigrant Punjabi family, identical twins, Veena and Neena Bidasha, are creating waves in Hollywood. They have learnt many international styles of dancing including Indian and using that experience to create their own style of entertainment to the celebrities and masses. They perform worldwide, offer classes and produce videos. That is not all. Soon, they will be opening up their own clothing line, in the Hollywood style.

Veena and Neena are not only talented and glamorous, they are running a business as a corporation with their constant innovation of their art style as professionals and stealing the hearts of millions of fans. Veena and Neena faced criticism and the uncertainty of show business in the beginning. Now that is past, these amazing dancers are the most well recognized dancers in their style of dancing.

Veena Bidasha is a recipient of several acting, singing and dancing scholarships and awards, local and national. She holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in theater and voice and is a graduate of the Masters of Fine Arts degree program at University of California at Los Angeles. Aside from studying dances in Egypt and in India, she has studied Mexican Folk dance and Spanish at the university in Michúcan, Mexico. She speaks Hindi, Spanish, and is fluent in sign language.

Neena Bidasha received a double Bachelors degree in Journalism and Business, and graduated with academic awards, scholarships and fellowships. As a performer, Neena had studied Western and Eastern classical singing, Indian classical music and acting. Well schooled in dance also, she has studied ballet, jazz, Indian, and Middle Eastern dance.

Padma: When did you start dancing and what kind of training did you go thorough? Did you go through Classical Indian dance training?

Veena & Neena: We grew up with bhangra dancing, because we’re Punjabis. When we were little, we would put on shows for our family and friends all the time. It wasn’t until later on when we started taking dance lessons – probably every kind that exists – many years of belly dancing, ballet, Bharata Natyam – but also, hip hop, Kathak, Flamenco, and even some Mohiniattam, and Odissi. We were naturals at anything related to movement.

Padma: Do your audiences prefer belly dancing or Indian dancing?

Veena & Neena: Some audience like belly dancing, and others prefer Indian dance. Many tell us they can’t decide – and like both.

Padma: What are the main differences in the dance techniques in belly dance vs. Indian dance?

Veena & Neena: The differences in the techniques in Indian dance and belly dance will depend on the style of Indian dance. There are many different styles of dances in India. Unlike belly dance, all Indian classical and some folk dancers require wearing ghungroos or bells on their feet or even knees.

Rajasthani style – both classical (Kathak) and folk is probably the closest to belly dancing. Classical because of the arms, and folk (gypsy) because of the hip movements. Bharata Natyam, as well as other southern style classical dances, is completely opposite. The dancers dance in half sitting position (ardi-mundi), strong arms, flexed hands, and exaggerated facial expressions (abhinaya).

Padma: How do you feel about being so popular with your videos, performances and classes in California and around the world?

Veena & Neena: We never thought we were popular until other celebrities told us we were – Steven Tyler and Ricki Martin. We are very happy that people love our videos and classes, and that we receive so many emails from many people from all over the world. We answer everyone – sometimes it takes awhile.

Padma: You have worked on several music videos with different celebrities. Can you tell us about it?

Veena & Neena: We’ve worked with so many great artists on music videos – Aerosmith, Ricky Martin, Michael Jackson, Dr. Dre, Outkast, Depeche Mode, Tom Petty, — these are only a few of the music videos we’ve danced on, not including TV, films, stage shows. We’ve also danced at many celebrity events – U2, Eddie Murphy, Hugh Hefner, former Prime Minister of India, etc. Each was a great and unique experience. Some of our favorites were when we recently performed at Sting’s home, and at Ozzy Osbourne’s 50th birthday bash. What fun! Many celebrities.

Padma: What advice do you have for Indian dancers to be successful in their careers?

Veena & Neena: Go after your dream! This applies to any career. It takes a lot of hard work, but the pay off is worth it.

Padma: How do you maintain the balance between commercial success and the artistic side of your career?

Veena & Neena: It’s hard to maintain a balance between artistic and non-artistic. But in the arts, as well as any profession, one must also learn to be a good business person – this is a business. Just like a doctor or lawyer, or engineer have their business(es), so do we. We treat it like one. Although it is a business we enjoy doing, it isn’t a “hobby.” And just like a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, it took many years of training to achieve the skills – in fact, even more years than most professions.

Padma: Most immigrant Indian parents want their children to learn their culture though music and dance. As you grew up in US, you must have seen where it worked and where it did not work. What do you think parents can do to encourage their children to be in touch with their roots?

Veena & Neena: I think any opportunity where parents can encourage their children to stay in touch with their roots is good, whether it’s through music, dance, or basket weaving – more important – anything the children will feel connected with themselves. We should be proud we’re Indians – there is a lot of richness in our history and culture.

Padma: What kind advice do you have for the dance teachers in US to spark their students’ interest in Indian dance?

Veena & Neena: Encouraging is always a great tool to be successful with all students – especially kids. Children can be very affected in their later years by teachers and parents.

Padma: What is your favorite style of dancing, regardless of whether you learned it or performed it? Why?

Veena & Neena: We happen to like most styles – many of them Indian and Middle Eastern because we love the music so much. Many others we’ve either taken classes in or practiced – salsa, flamenco, hip-hop… almost anything with movement!

Veena and Neena Bidasha can be contacted at bellytwins@bellytwins.com and more information can be found on their website: https://bellytwins.com

Padma Chebrolu is the artistic director for Cultural Centre of India. She performs, teaches, writes, and produces videos related to dances of India.

INDIA TODAY
Belly balle balle!

Their parents wanted them to be doctors. They became belly dancers. But who’s complaining?
Methil Renuka

January 15, 2001 | UPDATED 13:23 IST

Their parents wanted them to be doctors. They became belly dancers. But who’s complaining?

Voted “America’s sexiest twins”, 20-something Los Angeles-based Neena and Veena Bidasha have performed for Ricky Martin, Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise and Hillary Clinton, and been on Vogue and People.

Hollywood won over, the twins wowed audiences in Delhi recently, and will soon to release their fitness videos in India.

Trills Neena, also a journalism graduate: “There’s nothing erotic about belly dancing. India’s ready for it.”
Some guts!

THE TIMES OF INDIA

Punjabi ‘belly twins’ rock Hollywood

Rohit Mullick| TNN | Nov 23, 2006, 11.30 PM IST

The identical sisters have been voted Hollywood’s sexiest twins.(TOI)

CHANDIGARH: The Belly Twins, saadi Punjabi girls whose real names are Neena and Veena (they don’t want to reveal their surnames) are on a roll these days — they are rocking Hollywood.

The identical sisters — voted America’s sexiest twins — already have a long list of admirers and a celebrity fan list that’s as long as the distance from Patiala to Pennsylvania.

Their song and dance routine has hypnotised the West, enough to have the likes of Jenna Elfman and Steven Tyler, legendary frontman of Aerosmith, and current Latino flavour Ricky Martin rooting for the kudis, who have featured in the videos of these stars and performed in hundreds of international shows.

In fact, so pervasive has been their influence on contemporary dance forms that they are credited with popularising and bringing into the mainstream belly dancing in America. Those in entertainment circles say Britney Spears and Shakira, too, haven’t remained unaffected by what Neena and Veena dish out. How could they? Some of the 12 fitness videos they have starred in have had long runs on Billboard Top Ten charts, selling over 4 million copies worldwide.

Now considered to be a part of the Hollywood A-list, it hasn’t been an easy ride for the girls, though. “In the entertainment field, it’s not easy to be a working performer for anyone, especially Indian women. Thousands of people come to Hollywood every week to become a star,” Veena told TOI in an e-mail.

“Neena and I have been very lucky to constantly get work as actors, singers, voice-over artists and, of course, dancers. It was a very hard climb for us in the beginning.”

Raised in Sacramento’s Punjabi community, the road to fame has got the twins to where very few Indians, leave alone Punjabis, have reached. Today, the sisters own a production company in which different projects, including films, television and commercial, are produced.

They are also branching into the animation business. “We will have a television show ready by next year,” says Neena even as she describes her performances abroad as “Bollywood extravaganza with a Las Vegas twist”. Asked how they got hooked to belly dancing, hooking large hordes of the glitterati in the process, they say,”We started belly dancing as an exercise, when everyone said it would not work (as money spinning showbiz item). But today belly dancing is a multi-million dollar industry.” That they have incorporated “Indian influences” in their dance has only added to the exotic element of the twin package.
They say it’s obvious as they have grown up listening to “Bollywood music” and dancing to various Hindi and Punjabi numbers. The sisters, who have choreographed in a number of Hindi movies and done a theatre show called ‘Hooray for Bollywood’, insist they’d love to work in Hindi movies.
Punjab, however, is never far from their hearts. “Even though we were born and raised in California, we always think of India as home and maintain our faith in Sikhism,” Neena says, as Veena adds,”Chandigarh is one of our favourite places. We have relatives in Punjab whom we visit every year.”