Bellydancing Entertainment and
Fire Performance in Tampa Bay Florida

How I came to appreciate the art of bellydance in (of all places)
the small coastal town of Dunedin, Florida

Love at First Shimmy.....

I didn't get into bellydance for fitness or health.  It wasn't because I was searching for a new hobby or had a desire to 'awaken my inner goddess'.  I sort of just fell into it incidentally, or rather by luck. 

I was first introduced to Oriental Dance (aka bellydance) as a child by a close family friend and my after-school/summer caregiver, Jan (stagename Yohara), who was/is a bellydancer.  By age 8 I had become pretty accustomed to regularly hearing Turkish, Greek, and Arabic music, watching Jan practice for performances, and observing her sewing on her beautiful handmade costumes.  She painstakingly sewed sequin after sequin.... bead after bead ...for hours.  This was long before you could buy a pre-made costume on online.   While the other kids of the house were outside playing, I really just wanted to hang out inside and watch Jan dance and listen to the music.  I was mesmerized by all of it.  

I remember copying some of Jan's movements in the mirror around age 8 (or at least attempting to).  There was always a stack of albums and cassettes stacked by her stereo with bellydancers on the covers, and her zills (finger cymbals) were usually on top of the stack or near the stereo..... we were not supposed to touch those things.  But as Jan was outside in the yard distracted by kids, laundry, or some sunbathing, I would sneak over to those cymbals and put them on (little rebel.)  The straps were too large for my 8-year-old fingers, and they would slide down to my knuckles, but I would quietly try to 'click'  a gallop sound with them.   

In the afternoons we would walk from school to her house and as you got closer to the house, you could hear the sound of her finger cymbals ringing through the air in tempo with classic Middle Eastern artists like Eddie Kochak and George Abdo.  Other kids in our group would utter things like  "Sounds like Jan's practicing again....she's playing that weird music."  I secretly LOVED it, but of course I didn't let on to the others that I did.  (Peer pressure you know lol.)  In retrospect it was a bit unusual for an 8-year-old American kid to love Middle Eastern and Turkish music.  I've always joked that if we have lived previous lives, I must have lived in the East in a prior life.   

There were many trips in Jan's car to the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs (aka Greek Town)  to buy music and dance supplies.  There are also a lot of  family parties over the years where Jan would end up barefoot in a hip sash dancing with friends and family.  I always looked forward to the part of the party where she would inevitably end up bellydancing with friends joining in.  Even some of us kids would give it a whirl.  I remember seeing the bellydance show at Busch Gardens for the first time when I was 9, and that same year I saw the Weeki Wachee Mermaid show, both of which mesmerized me.   I thought to myself  "when I grow up I want to be a bellydancer and a mermaid!"   Well one out of two ain't bad.

Continuing the love...

I began a more dedicated study of Oriental Dance in late 2002 at Karina's School of Dance in Seminole, FL.  It was Karina who sent me out on my first professional gigs.  Because of her regularly arranging public performances,  encouragement, and mentoring, I gradually obtained my 'dance legs' and conquered my fear of a stage. and for her and her studio I will always be grateful.   I continued to study and appreciate this dance form by learning from other dancers and instructors, taking workshops with international instructors brought in by studios like Hip Expressions in Saint Pete, and through self-study.  Being a history and humanities buff, I've also enjoyed learning about the art of bellydance's many stylistic differences between countries and studying the musical differences as well as each region's folk dances.   I will always consider myself a life-long student of the dance, as most bellydance aficionados  do, as this art form is constantly evolving!  I also feel ceasing to learn equals falling into a rut and losing the passion.  For me and most dancers, bellydance is not just a job or a hobby, it's a passion and a regular part of your life.  Once you're truly bitten by the 'bellydance bug', the fever tends to last a lifetime.  I know I don't just speak for myself when I say I'll probably be bellydancing in 'the home' when I'm 80, albeit much slower, but shimmying something nonetheless.