Meet the Guild Board

2024-2025 Board Members

First chair: Danielle Haller "Dani"

Dani started her dance journey with Ballet and Jazz dance styles as a youth and dance quickly became her passion. She had a job at The Minnesota Renaissance Festival as a kid and was immediately drawn to the beauty and vibrancy of Belly Dance after seeing Dancers performing there. She started studying in 2006 and never stopped. She has a huge respect and admiration for the vast culture and rich history of the art form.
Dani is the Director of Barátok Belly Dance Company and also teaches Dance Fittness classes. She has danced professionally in multiple facets since 2011. She loves utilizing dance in different ways to have a positive impact on others.
Dani is very excited to serve her dance community through The Guild of Middle Eastern Dance and continue to strengthen The Guild's reach, inclusion and opportunities for its community members.

Secretary: Amina West

Amina West, the founder and Artistic Director of Dans Askina Turkish Dance Ensemble, has been dancing, teaching, and performing for close to 30 years. While her dance studies originated with American-style and Egyptian bellydance, she has spent the past 15 years exclusively studying Turkish Oryantal, Romani, and Folk dances through multiple trips to Turkey and online.
As a dance instructor, she has over 25 years of teaching in local studios and community education programs; internationally she has taught in Turkey, Belgium, and Crete. As a local performer, she was a featured dancer at four Middle Eastern Restaurants, and has also performed with the Turkish American Association of Minnesota Folk Dance group, Jawaahir Dance Company, Al-Bahira Middle Eastern Dance Theater, and various ad hoc Minnesota Renaissance Festival troupes. Internationally, she has been a featured performer in Turkey and Crete.
In her spare time she travels, studies new languages, and is currently working on converting her home lawn into pollinator-friendly habitat.

Treasurer: Renee Szudy  

Renee started belly dancing in 1996 when she happened upon a class Cassandra Shore was teaching at the U of M. She instantly fell in love with the music and movements and she has been studying Arabic dance ever since! She was welcomed into Jawaahir Dance Company in 2006. This provided her the wonderful opportunity to learn closely from Cassandra for 15 years. She is grateful for the opportunity to now learn from Jawaahir's current Artistic Director, Vanessa of Cairo. 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. She taught regularly at the Cassandra School from 2008 until 2022, and she currently holds weekly and specialty classes at Hothouse Studios in NE Minneapolis. After serving as First Chair for six years, Renee is looking forward to stepping into the Treasurer role and working with the new composition of Guild board members. When not dancing, Renee would usually rather be dancing. She also enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, bicycling, organic gardening, wild mushroom foraging, fixing up her house and working at her family business, Eastern Shore Natural Health.

Communications: Maerin Renee

A lifelong dance enthusiast, Maerin studied ballet, contemporary, and modern dance as a youth, and found her happy place years later in belly dance. She finds the music to be so inspiring! She's enjoyed learning several different styles of belly dance, including fusion, FatChanceBellyDance-style, folkloric, and cabaret. Being a complete nerd, she is all about Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Disney villains! She owns too many cats, and holds a black belt in Korean sword.

Social Media:  LaDonna von Stoetzel

LaDonna has studied dance for almost 20 years; she began her journey after college, inspired by her best friend.
She practices several genres of belly dance - from folkloric dances of Egypt and Iran to Raqs Sharqi and Raqs Baladi to modern Fusion styles.
When she isn't dancing, she spends much of her time caring for a small hoard of cats, reading, and watching nature documentaries.
She recently relocated from Minneapolis to northern Wisconsin along the beautiful south shore of Lake Superior in the Chequamegon Bay area.

Website: Paula Nixa

Paula has been involved with Middle Eastern dance since 2006. She started by taking classes in Rochester with Julianna, and then joined Julianna's Blue Lotus troupe in 2010. Paula started dancing at the Mediterranean Cruise Cafe in Burnsville, MN in 2010 and has been doing that ever since! She has enjoyed learning from teachers around the world including Cassandra, Virginia, Mohammed Shahin, Mercedes Nieto and others through the years. She is currently a member of the Blue Lotus troupe. She lives in Rochester and enjoys performing locally with other Blue Lotus troupe members. Dance has been a very important part of her life, and she is excited to be a part of the Guild Board! Paula is also a Reiki Advanced Practitioner, cybersecurity engineer working for Boston Scientific, wife, and mother of two teenagers.


Events: Bonnie Berquam

Bonnie has participated on the Guild Board for 15 plus years and has served in most board officer roles. Her dance background includes ballet, contact improvisation and interpretive dance. She began Middle Eastern dance in 1995. She performs with the Khazanah and Sage Heart dance troupes. She explores creative, playful roles such as JoJo Fairy Godmother, BonJo improvisational clown, and JonBoBee advocate for pollinators. She drums, coaches breath work, sings her truth, and is currently building a pollinator landscape.

To our Board Members who are moving on in 2024, Emalee Morem, Thuy Doan, and Cath Petersen - - Thank you for your dedicated service on the board!