About Us

Mission Statement

The Guild of Oriental Dance is an organization of professional and avocational Middle Eastern dancers. It was established in 1981 to help promote Middle Eastern dance, provide dancers with performances opportunities, and promote camaraderie within the dance community.

2018-2019 Board Members

First chair: Renee Szudy

Renee started belly dancing in 1996 when she happened upon a class Cassandra was teaching at the U--she instantly fell in love with the music and movements!  She has been studying under Cassandra ever since and joined Jawaahir Dance Company in 2006. Renee regularly performs as a member of Jawaahir and as a soloist.  Her favorite way to share the art of Arab dance is through teaching and she holds weekly classes at the Cassandra School. Renee is very excited to have the opportunity to serve the local dance community as First Chair and to be working with a great group of Guild board members. When not dancing, Renee would usually rather be dancing. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, organic gardening, wild mushroom foraging, fixing up her duplex and working at her family-business, Eastern Shore Natural Health.

Second chair: Ashley Alitz

After the first time I saw belly dancing I knew it was calling me. Now I have been dancing at the Cassandra School for a little over 4 years and it has taught me about patience, self love, dedication and confidence. Though I can be shy, I am thankful to be the new Second Chair and I look forward to advancing my skills and building community. 

Secretary: Autumn Pennington

On a whim that was also a lifelong itch, Autumn started taking belly dance classes in 2008 through Bloomington-Richfield Community Education.  By 2012, forever in pursuit of more dance experience and performance opportunity, a Guild membership, several years of workshops, and a variety of haflas and festivals followed.  Autumn has been thrilled to venture into theatrical performances, beginning with a guest performance with Smiling Lune in 2015, and in 2016 joining both Al-Bahira Middle Eastern Dance Theater and the Blue Lotus Middle Eastern Dancers.  Autumn also really enjoys teaching beginning belly dance students.

Treasurer: Tegan Carr

Tegan has been dancing since 2008 and teaching since 2013. She became interested in traditional and derivative dances of the Middle East while a student of anthropology. Over the last 10 years she has studied several world dances and has come to appreciate the merit of dance in its many forms. Having evolved over thousands of years, all dances are unique to the people that dance them yet every form has similarities - dance fundamentally connects all of humanity while making a spectacular display of diversity. Tegan's other passion is research, when she's not tied up in science or dance, she most enjoys hiking, reading, and traveling.

Communications/Social Media: Emalee Morem

Emalee has been bellydancing professionally since 2005 and teaching since 2008. She is the director of the troupe Bellydonna, a member of the Blue Lotus Dance Company, and part of the duo the Shimmytwins. She is a featured dancer at the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe and Ansari’s Grill. Some of Emalee’s notable experiences in the bellydance world have been the filming of the bellydance performance DVD “Al Dunia” in Los Angeles in 2010, participating in Bellydance Evolution’s Alice in Wonderland performances on the East Coast in 2014, producing the theatrical bellydance show Beauties and Beasts in 2015, producing the Wizard of Oz Bellydance Show in 2018, and participating in Virgina’s theater show Reflections in Miami in 2016.   In addition to teaching weekly classes and private lessons in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, Emalee produces local community and theatrical bellydance shows. When Emalee is not bellydancing, she enjoys cooking, eating, horseback riding, and Harry Potter.

Website Officer: Sonja Clemenson

Sonja has been dancing for 18 years and belly dancing for 12 years.  She has experience teaching beginner belly dance, Zumba, ballroom dance, yoga, and many other fitness classes.  Sonja is especially drawn to the mind- body connection belly dance invokes and loves learning about the connections between culture and dance.  While Sonja has been taking time off from performing professionally, she is looking forward to incorporating this back into her routine and getting to know the Minneapolis community.

Festival/Hafla Coordinator: Bonnie Berquam

We are always looking for volunteers to help on committees and in many other capacities! To volunteer, please contact us.