"Advanced Bodywork & Massage" Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy
Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy & Massage to eliminate or reduce pain and dysfunction for a HAPPIER you!

Belly Dance and Pilates instructor Maria Hammer in Pittsburgh

Maria Hamer http://www.mariahamer.com

All Current classes at 

Zafira Dance Studios
1113 E Carson St
Pittsburgh, Pa 15202

For information on classes go here:



Born & raised in Pittsburgh, Pa, Maria Hamer began training in dance & art at a young age.  She was fortunate enough to be raised in a large family  who spent the majority of their daily activities learning & studying all forms of dance & art. She studied ballet, modern, jazz & tap as a young child & spent most of her teens focusing on fine arts, oil painting and sketching, taking precollege classes at Carnegie Mellon University. 

In 1992, Maria began her studies in Middle Eastern Dance (bellydance) under her sister Christine Andrews. After 3 years of study, Christine allowed Maria teach small portions of class under her supervision to help develop her training. In September 1995, Christine Andrews, Jennifer Imashev (Ever After), & Neefa Bint Durr  (Khafif) discussed starting a troupe focused on the more folkloric elements of  Middle Eastern Dance or BellyDance. They invited Maria, Shakti & Audrey Sica (Blue Lotus) to form Ghawazee Middle Eastern Music & Dance. Later adding dancers: Olivia Kissel & Tamara Juel (Foxglove Sweethearts) & musicians: Jas (Khafif), Denys Proteu (Turku, Khafif), Staycie Webber, Jaime Pennisi, Mark Howard & Eric Webber.

"Ghawazee was conceived as a forum for Middle Eastern dance that would display and educate, as well as entertain the public." Ghawazee archived website 

Ghawazee continued to perform at various  events such as country clubs, SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) events, weddings, Renaissance festivals, & appeared on Turku's LIVE video in 1999.  Maria developed a passion for classical & ethnic forms of dance as she matured including: Russian Gypsy, Russian Character, Kalbelyia (through her sister, Christine, who studied in India) and many other forms. 


In 1999, Maria got her first teaching job, outside of local classes at a workshop in Hollywood, Florida at Maja's Magical Bellydance Festival, later becoming Spirit of the Tribes. In early 2000 Ghawazee split up & late 2000, Zafira Dance Company was formed initially by Christine Andrews, Olivia Kissel & Maria Hamer & very shortly after adding Tamara Juel & then Jennifer Imashev. 

Zafira Dance Company quickly gained attention at the first Tribal Fest in Sebastopol, Ca as being one of the few troupes to get a standing ovation that year and to have the semi-unique element of original choreography which at that time most of the troupes in "Tribal Styles" were improvising in an ATS (American Tribal Style) format. Being inspired by the love of the dance and their friendship for each other, Zafira stood out as a unique troupe. 

Maria's top inspirations include: Jill Parker & Suhaila Salimpour
 Jamila Salimpour, John Compton & Habbi Ru, Mahmoud Reda  & Farima Fahmy & Reda Troupe
 Tribal: Rachel Brice, Zoe Jakes, Mardi Love, Mira Betz, Elizabeth Strong, FatChance BellyDance (ATS) , 
 Turkish/Egyptian Orientale: Eva Cernik, Helena Vlahos, Artemis Mourat, Anaheid Sofian, Tamalyn Dallal, Ava Fleming, Gina Bruno, Amar Gamal, Bozenka, Tito, Zhaleh Fareshtah
Other Dance Forms: Gulabi Sapera (Kalbelyia), Mia Micheals (Contemporary), Chaz Buzan(Contemporary), Ekaterina Maximova(Ballet), Reyahn Tuszus (Turkish Roman)
Dance sisters that I'm always inspired by: Christine Andrews, Olivia Kissel, Jennifer Imashev, Tamara Juel, Awalim, Onca O'Leary, Khafif

 In 2007 Zafira won "Troupe of the Year" from Zaghareet magazine readers poll.  Maria has been involved with and spearheaded putting on events, shows & other projects under Zafira and has the fortune to travel to many festivals and events. In 2008 Zafira traveled to teach for the first time overseas and Maria was able to teach & perform in  Barcelona- Spain, hosted by Maria Rosa & Eva Tallada-Boisin. Barcelona enjoyed Zafira so much, they had them back in 2009. Since then Maria has taught & performed with Zafira  in Kiev- Ukraine,  Croatia, Prague & Brno- Czech Republic, & The Netherlands. As a solo artist Maria taught & performed  in Australia at the Wild Honey Festival in Byron Bay in the fall of 2009.
Throughout her dance training, Maria has always focused on health and well being. For 10 years+ she has studied and trained on and off with Pilates & Yoga disciplines. The summer of 2010, Olivia convinced Maria to get her Pilates Mat 1 certification through PHI Pilates in Pittsburgh. Since she aquired her certification, she has been teaching Mat 1 courses weekly at Zafira Dance Studios in Pittsburgh. She continues to study the form and wishes to further her certifications and eventually get certified in reformers and cadillacs. 

In the fall of 2010, Maria had one of her dance dreams come true when she collaborated with her top inspiration since she began dancing, Jill Parker. Through Zafira (Maria, Christine & Olivia) & Jill Parker's Foxglove Sweethearts (Jill & Tamara Juel),  they collaborated & performed in Tempe- Arizona at Plaza De Anya & again in Pittsburgh when they hosted Jill & Tamara at a sold out show in November 2010. Maria hopes to continue collaborating with Foxglove Sweethearts as well as others in the similar fields now that she has experienced working with others. 

Currently she lives with her husband (Erik "Angus" Douglass) & son (Kai) near the Pittsburgh area & teaches regularly at ZDStudios and surrounding areas. She looks forward to her dance future & continued training as well as nurturing her fine arts studies fully integrating them wholly into her family & life.

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