1) How long have you been dancing, and tell us about your dance journey- where did you start, who have you studied with?
My dance journey started young.
There was a park program for tap and ballet nearby and I BEGGED to join. Finally my mom agreed and only because I had a girlfriend who already had dance shoes. I loved those hand-me-downs!
Fast forward to my teen years when I auditioned and was accepted into the Urban Arts Program, specifically with The Children's Theater Company. I took mime, tumbling, costuming, voice and singing, and a variety of dance classes.
My teachers were dancers with The Minnesota Dance Theater. Bobby Crabb, Sylvia Boulton and others performed with the company and taught us at CTC. After high school I was taking just ballet classes from Annette Atwood, former member of the Royal Ballet of London. Her skills of dance and physical therapy was the reason we learned more about our dancer bodies from the inside out.
After that I got interested in Bharatanatyam, the oldest classical dance tradition in India. An Indian teacher was living in Minneapolis for a couple years, so that's how long my training lasted.
Fast forward to January 2000, when I started taking classes at The Cassandra School. Cassandra, Kathy McCurdy, Sarah Larson, Patricia Aulc (sp?), and other company members.
I started for therapy, then something about the music and movement, and yes the costumes, hooked me. As I continued with my training I have enjoyed additional training in so many other styles, and have a specific love of Persian style from Leili Tajadod Pritschet. My journey continues.
2) What are your top (three or four) memories or experiences you’ve had in your bellydance life?
When I was rehearsing then performing with Leili gave me great insight into her dance journey. I mean, I was performing for and with a principal dancer with the Iranian National Ballet Company and then was the artistic director of the Iranian National Folklore Institute! Being an apprentice with Jawaahir has been a goal of mine since I started at the Cassandra School. I performed as a guest dancer in "Shoma" and then being asked to be a part of the company and dance some more! Wow.
3) Tell us about which dancers have inspired you the most in your dancing.
When I teach dance students who are new to this art, I am inspired again and again. Their enthusiasm reminds me why I love this dance. When I watch dancers I have trained with I am inspired to do more and be better.
4) In what ways has bellydancing enriched your life?
Since we are in 'covid season' the dance has provided a way to focus on something else creative. While leaving the house is a process, taking Zoom classes or rehearsing for a future show provides a positive thing in my life. The camaraderie with the other dancers means so much!
5) Have you noticed bellydancing has changed since you started? In your community or in a broader sense. 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.
The changes may be because I have a broader awareness of other groups and styles. As a student our focus is narrower. As we train more and longer we are exposed to more. Also now we have the ability to see dancers from other countries perform, and changes what happens here.
In some ways it has opened possibilities to styles, costuming, music, and culture. In other ways, the wide variety has clouded the specific style/culture/whatever of the specific style. Folkloric dance and costumes that are not completely understood have been used out of context.
Unfortunate, but a lesson to pay better attention to those styles maybe from afar, maybe study them from a direct source before thinking and acting like we know it all. My humble opinion.
Having said all of that, there is a wonderful future for this dance. And in all its variations. We will need all these ways to express ourselves, as we are all not the same. Find a way. Respect its origins.
6) Can you give us photos of and tell us about your favorite 3 costumes you’ve owned?
These specific costumes made me feel like I was fully expressing myself as a raks sharki dancer. They made me feel so good!
7) What’s been your favorite performance (or two), and your proudest dance moment?
Performing with Leili in "Hidden Yearnings" in 2007 and 2009, plus performing with Jawaahir in "Shoma", have been highlights. I am looking forward to the future great moments.
8) What’s your favorite thing about being in a troupe?
I am glad to have been in a few groups. The best thing is the camaraderie, the creative process and the excitement of finally showing the audience what we have worked so hard and long. Having all the elements in one place.
9) who is a dancer you admire that you’d like to study with and why?
Samia Gamal or Taheyya Kariokka or Soheir Zaki. I know they are not teaching any more, but they still show us what they do through the recordings of their performances. I love their styles. the way they are interpreting the music. I think there are little things to see each time their performances are viewed.
10) what is your favorite song (or two) to perform to?
This is probably no surprise that my favorite songs are classics! There is a song from the Amani 'red' CD called Cocktail Om Khathum, basically any of the instrumentals from her recording. Then "Lama Bada Yamathana" which I'm told is very old. It reminds me of poems from Rumi. There are so many more. These are the first that come to mind.
Great interview! I love hearing how others began their belly dancing journey.