There are many things I still don't know, but I've answered the questions below to the best of my ability. Please feel free to e-mail me with more questions. If I can't answer them myself, I may be able to send you to a website that can.
The short answer: Possibly, but who knows! I'm basically mixed; half black, half white.
The long answer: I've been asked this by people from both Middle Eastern and non-Middle Eastern backgrounds. As much as I would LOVE to say, "yes," I have to be honest and say I'm your average American mutt. My heritage consists of, in addition to African (which I haven't yet tried to trace), Irish, Scottish, Welsh, German, French, Black Foot Sioux, and Cherokee. I can lay more claim to African, Irish, French and Cherokee, however as I know for sure who my ancestors were to a certain extent when it comes to those nationalities.
My great grandmother on my father's side was full blood Cherokee. My mother's side comes from both Ireland and France (by way of Canada. They were forced to change their name from DuBois to Woods when they moved to the U.S. to obscure their Catholic roots. ;)
It seems I was destined to be a starving artist as my great grandmother x 4 was a fortune teller, my great-great uncle ran away to join the circus (he ended up with Buffalo Bill), my great grandfather was a Vaudeville dancer and he went on to marry my great grandmother who was a model.
I was lucky to meet a wonderful Lexington dancer by the name of Katana. She used to drive up here to Louisville (about 1 1/2 hrs.) to teach me to belly dance. I practically had to sneak money into her purse to get her to take anything. About three weeks later she got me into a Lexington troupe (Phyllidia's Desert Dancers) and I drove down every week to practice with them. After awhile the drive became too much for me so I found an instructor in Louisville. I am however, eternally grateful for the gift both Katana and Phyllidia gave to me.
This question comes up quite a bit and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Basically, it's easy to come up with many different reasons to dance.
I began to learn in February of 2003.
I love being able to express myself and when I met the man who is now my husband about seven years ago, I had a perfect outlet for my expression. My husband is a well respected, multi-award winning tattoo artist. My tattoos have been featured in numerous magazines both nationally and internationally. I've even had a small appearance on a Discovery Channel show about tattoos. They reflect parts of me that I feel can't be expressed in words. They reflect artwork/images that have had a profound effect on me throughout my life and I wouldn't get rid of them for anything. If you would like to see more of my husband's work, visit his site: Necropolis Tattoo.
Well I can't speak for other tattooed, "cabaret," style dancers, but I feel much more connected with Egyptian style belly dance than perhaps any other dance form I've done. My favorite dancers are the great Egyptian dancers; Suher Zaki, Fifi Abdo, Hala, Randa Kamel, and Dina. They reflect a femininity and shapeliness that I can relate with, they feel the music so incredibly deeply, yet still remain laid back and sometimes humble in their approach.
I've tried Turkish style and ATS and I've seen quite a bit of American style belly dance and Lebanese style. Egyptian (though I'm considering saying my style is Egytptican as I am not entirely Egyptian, nor am I American) just feels more natural to me.
Central Asian dance is a term which refers primarily to the folk dances of the various regions of Uzbekistan. They can range from fun and Earthy, with the use of percussive elements such as saucers and thimbles, spoons, and wrist bells, to heart felt dances that tell a story. All of the dances are very modest and highly stylized with movements coming mostly from the shoulders, arms, hands, and head. Each region has a different style of dance which entails different costuming elements. For more information about Central Asian dance head to the Crescent Moon Dance Company website.
In addition to performing Central Asian dance, the Crescent Moon Dance Company also performs dances from Egypt (both folk and belly dance), Turkey, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
I started dancing with the Crescent Moon Dancers not long after I began learning belly dance. Perhaps about 8 months afterward. I joined the troupe through my belly dance teacher at the time who is also the director of the Crescent Moon Dance Company. Many people wonder why I am in a folkloric troupe rather than a belly dance troupe. There are a couple of reasons. I feel it is in my best interest as a dancer to learn folk dances in order to keep me humble, grounded, aware of where these dances come from, and a more well-rounded dancer. The challenge of learning to control not just my hips, but my arms, hands, head, shoulders, and facial expressions helps keep me more aware of what I am doing no matter what style I perform. For the most part, I also prefer to perform belly dance as a soloist. As a soloist I am almost exclusively an improv dancer. This gives me all of the freedom in the world to express myself and interpret my music the way it feels best to me.
Yes, I do! I work 6 days a week and sometimes more. But it's a dream job for me, so I don't mind!
Yes! I've seen many wonderful male dancers and I think the few of them that there are are an asset to our community. Traditionally, the solo performance dance, Raks Sharqi (the Egyptian term for the dance), is done by women. But a good dancer is a good dancer in my opinion and I don't think it is my place to tell anyone they can't learn if that's what they want.
Believe it or not, I haven't heard anyone say anything negative about my tattoos. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen, of course. People from all walks of life have complimented my tattoos, asked to see them, asked where I got them. I've even had people tell me that they embellish my dancing (one of the reasons I got them was to accentuate my shape ;). The few times I've had the opportunity to perform for Arab audiences, I have been well received and have been asked the same questions I get from Americans. To this day I am hired for parties from members of the Arabic and Indian communities without a problem.
The way I look at it. If people decide they don't want to watch a belly dancer, they at least have something else to see.