I am a performer, educator, and scholar.
As a primarily solo improvisational dancer, I choose to follow the tradition of belly dance of allowing the music to inform my movement and emotion. My improvisation and choreography reflects not a fantasy of an imagined Orient, but an intimate understanding of the dances and culture of the Arab and Turkish people, while still performing as myself, not a caricature or imitation. Through exciting energy, exceptional technical prowess, and expression, my performances engage the audience in an emotional exchange between dancer, viewer, and music. My performances reflect the sentiments of the music, but are also reflections of my own personal experience of the music in that moment. I make music visible so that the audience, dancer, and musician can have a shared and transcendent experience.
As an instructor, my priorities are technique, cultural understanding, and musicality. In my beginning classes, I wish to foster a classroom environment where students feel safe to take risks, are challenged, and can learn the basic elements of Middle Eastern culture as it relates to dance. I also impart on my students the importance of proper body alignment and technique, for these are the fundamentals for becoming a developed dancer and performer as well as promoting lifelong movement. For more advanced students, I focus on refining physical technique and musicality within the context of Arabic and Turkish music, as well as essential performance skills such as projection and full-bodied movement. Many of my students are adults taking dance classes as a hobby; however, I do not feel that because they are not professionals that they deserve any less respect or engagement from me. I want all of my students, regardless of skill, to feel that they are respected, challenged, and constantly learning.
My work as a scholar permeates my performances and my teaching, as I believe that a dancer with integrity honors the roots of the dance that they are performing, regardless of the place or time of origin. As a dance historian, I seek to illuminate the roots and development of belly dance in the United States, staying true to the primary sources we have on the dance and its practitioners over the past two centuries. I also wish to impart on the readers of my work the hybrid past of belly dance, and how Eastern dances (from the Arab world, Turkey, South Asia, and East Asia) have influenced the development of American and European modern dance.
As someone who has dedicated her life to dance, I wish to communicate the love and respect I have for the culture from which my chosen dance form comes in my performances, teaching, and research.