Interview by Emalee Morem
1) How long have you been dancing, and tell us about your dance journey from beginner to professional?
I've been dancing since around 2000.... My sister was belly dancing in California and I fell in love with it there, and then found Cassandra School in Minneapolis and started taking classes.
After a few years, I was in classes with Margo and did my first Theater show with her. Soon after, I started at the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe.
I also tried dance competitions. At that time there was 'Bellydancer of the Universe' competition in California. I won "1st runner up" in the Universal category and "Peoples’ Choice" award.
I had also started teaching out of my home then moved to teaching in a dance studio. Classes did really well. I had a fairly big student body. We did student shows and haflas. Eventually I was hired by the "Arab World Festival" In Milwaukee to do their main stage entertainment for the festival. I scrambled to get a troupe together and a show choreographed and costumed, "Julianna and the Blue Lotus Middle Eastern Dancers" was born. We went on to do many awesome theatrical productions.
I always tried to learn from different teachers that inspired me. Jillina in LA was one teacher. I did her week-long and participated in a video performance "Dancers from Around the World". I also met some lovely women from around the world. One connection led to a teaching opportunity in Bali with a group of dancers from Norway. That was my first international trip. It was really amazing.
Eventually I open my own dance studio, "The Blue Lotus Dance Center".
I continued to do dance shows with The Blue Lotus as well as community events, private parties, corporate parties, festivals, the Eagles Cancer Telethon, as well as traveling and learning from many outstanding instructors of the day. I studied with Bozenka in Greece, Tamalyn Dahlal in Miami, Virginia in Miami. I've taken many workshops with Yousry Sharif and a couple from Mahmoud Reda. I also travel to workshops in Budapest, and Miami on several occasions and learned from many outstanding dancers.
2) What are your top (three or four) memories or experiences you’ve had in your bellydance life?
1. My First Theater show with Margo. It gave me the theater bug.
2. Bellydancer of the Universe competition was pretty intense.
3. Arab World fest shows were really awesome, big stage, big audience four or five shows over a weekend.
4. Cassandra had invited me to perform at the Southern Theater with a live band and that was really awesome.
3) Tell us about which dancers have inspired you the most in your dance career.
1. Cassandra gave me my foundation.
2. Tamalyn Dahlal has the most amazing arms and hands and just a fluid way of moving.
3. Virginia, I've hosted many times for workshops and her performances just blow me away. Her drama and feeling and just interesting combinations. She was VERY inspiring for me.
4) Tell us how your troupe formed. You’ve produced a lot of shows with the Blue Lotus; do you have a favorite that stands out? What was the most challenging thing about being a troupe director?
When I started performing, there was a sort of a secretiveness and competition between dancers. I felt we should all support each other and treat each other with kindness and respect not competition and cattiness. So when I started as the dance manager and scheduler at the Cruise and started my own troupe, I really tried to promote camaraderie and support between dancers. That could be challenging but mostly, I feel I accomplished that.
Our best show, I think, was "Elements"; from a production stand point, we had some different and challenging things ...."Vintage Dreams" I had soooo much positive feedback from audience members and "Seasons" I had a lot of interest from other dancers in the Minneapolis community after this show
5) In what ways has bellydancing enriched your life?
I think dance is very healing and positive. It really has a positive effect on a person mentally as well as physically keeping you in shape. After surgery I had a anesthesiologist tell me I have the respiration and heart rate of an athlete. I feel really blessed to have had the opportunities I've had. Belly dancing has been such a joy for me.
6) Have you noticed bellydancing has changed since you started? If so, in what ways? Where do you think the dance is headed? The community, the styles, the costuming, the sequence of events from taking classes to performing….feel free to answer it in whatever way you see fit.
I kindof got to see it become popular around the world, thanks to the Belly Dance Super Stars.Each part of the world kind of has its own flavor and that's very interesting to me as an artist. That being said I do think since it is a cultural dance, dancers need to be educated about the dance and its culture.
7) Can you give us photos of and tell us about your favorite 3 costumes you’ve owned?
1. "Crunch Berry " by Sahar. It was the first wired bra cup in Minneapolis, meaning a see through fishing line between the cups. It was a little scandalous at the time.
2. "Tinker Bell" by Sahar. My friend custom ordered this green costume from Sahar and she HATED the odd green color and the strange arm tutu. i bought it off her and redesigned the arm band . It was so comfortable and I always felt awesome in it.
3. "Pink Pearl" the last few years I started making my own costumes. This one is so flattering and comfortable. I'll probably wear it for my last show .
8) What will you do/have you been doing with all your free time now that you’re retiring?
I am planning to reignite my art career. I was a pastel artist for many years before dance took over. I also hope to move to the country, I've always wanted chickens maybe horses; I love animals.