The Diva Dancers planted the seeds of belly dance in Fredericksburg. (photo: Diva Dancers, Iesha and Anthea, late 1990's)
By 1997 my dance
(Iesha), who was also a member of Topkapi
Folkloric Troupe, had moved to the Fredericksburg area,
so we began collaborating as the Diva Dancers. We performed
belly dance shows at
local Senior Communities, Rehab Centers; private parties and special
events. Our efforts opened many local
doors to the art of belly dance. Two wonderful students from my Stafford belly
dance class joined us as well, Oriana and Ya Meena. in 1999,
Rob Hedelt wrote a
Free Lance-Star article introducing
me to Fredericksburg.
After moving into
Spotsylvania, several students began studying with me at my
home studio, and we performed a couple of times as Anima
Mundi. In early 2000 I put on my first belly
dance show in Fredericksburg, with a handful of dancers
including my local students, former Charlottesville students,
and several dancers from out of town including the lovely
dancer Joy. This was held at Ken Crampton's Eyeclopes on
Caroline Street, and I called it "An Evening Of Bellydance,
Drumming, and Fun". We had some local press coverage too,
which helped my Parks and Rec. classes get started.
As the Diva Dancers, we
produced two sold-out weekend belly dance workshops called
"Dancing In The Woods" (in 1999 and 2000) that featured two
days of classes as well as percussion and dance jams. Workshop
attendees came from 3 states to learn with us. These events
gave my new weekly classes in Fredericksburg a wonderful
boost, and our belly dance community was born!
In the summer of 2000 the
Diva Dancers also produced a spectacular all-professional
show, "Magic of Belly Dance", featuring professional soloists
and troupes - a first in Fredericksburg. Our guest teacher was Malika of D.C., whom I knew from working with her
at the Marrakesh.
Malika and I had also collaborated briefly in a performing
venture she called
In April of 2000 I also produced a successful Dance and Frame Drum Workshop with Tahya of PA, which was well-attended.
After the year
2000, my Fredericksburg students and I began performing around
town; and besides the
Diva Dancers I had three other performing groups: Pearls of
Rhythm, PRISM Dancers, and Tribe Odyssey; so in 2005 I founded "Dance Eternal
Productions" to bring them all under one name for local shows.
While the Diva
Dancers and these student groups were a wonderful way to bring
music and dance to Senior Communities and other local events,
there was nowhere in Fredericksburg to perform as
a soloist, as I had
been doing in the DC area for years. While I was still commuting to DC
to perform in clubs and restaurants, I really wanted someplace
to perform locally.
I knew if
Oriental Dance - in the form of Raks Sharki or as it was called
"cabaret style" - was featured regularly in Fredericksburg it
would not only introduce the art to the general public, but
would help to grow our little belly dance community too.
It wasn't until
March 2005 that this opportunity happened: the owner of the
local Middle Eastern market opened a cafe, and I began dancing
every Friday night at Nader's Middle Eastern Cafe
(on Plank Road) before heading to my regular DC gigs. I was able
to introduce my protege Adara Janaani there as a soloist, and
one of my other students, Basima, danced there a few times as
well. They were both lovely dancers and always professional and reliable. Iesha also worked there for a
while, and since Nader wanted more dancers for both Friday and
Saturday nights, I called in Noor Jihan and Nimeera from the DC area to help fill the
schedule. When word got out that Fredericksburg had a belly
dance venue, more dancers come looking for a spot. This provided
my students with an introduction to the highs and lows of
I lost my spot at Nader's the next January, but luckily another local restaurant began to have dancing, so in February of 2006 I began performing at the lovely Indian restaurant Radhuni (on Plank Road) on Fridays; once again before commuting to my regular DC gigs. Radhuni also began featuring other dancers on Saturdays, so Fredericksburg belly dance was booming!
after a couple of years, but working there was interesting for me because the
owner kept me informed of the belly dance politics happening
behind my back; stories that matched what the Marrakesh staff
were telling me. It seems that one of the DC dancers (who shall
remain nameless) really wanted my gigs. This was not one of my
dance friends but a new performer whose husband had just been
stationed at Quantico. It seems that she was talking about me to
managers and trying to get me fired, with limited success. This
kind of thing comes with the territory when you're a
professional dancer so I took it in stride; and as I said it
provided an interesting education for my students!
It can be hard for new performers to deal
with the reality of professional dancing; seeing strange dancers
turn up looking for a job (YOUR job) can bring up feelings of insecurity and
jealousy. I know that
having outside dancers come into town was a bit of a shock for
my student performers because
they had to deal with this particular lady too, but there wasn't much I could do
other than give advice.
In the fall of 2006 Aladin Kabob and Hookah
(on Plank Road) began featuring weekly belly dancing; so I
worked there before heading to my DC gig. I again filled the
dance schedule with reliable performers including Noor Jihan and
Nimeera; and was also happy to introduce my former student Kiyaana to the
Fredericksburg dance scene.
All that dancing meant I needed a hip replacement (here's my post THR blog) so I retired from solo performances in January of 2008, doing my last gig at Aladin; so I never worked at the new restaurant that opened later in 2008, Laziza (on Plank Road). But I was happy to hear they were featuring weekly belly dancers, and it seemed the community was going strong. Until I retired, I'd worked hard at keeping Raks Sharki visible in the local community, and from 2006 to 2011 Fredericksburg had at least one restaurant featuring weekly professional belly dance shows. Though it's hard to imagine now, for a short while there were actually three local venues with weekly dancing! But with the closing of Laziza in 2011, regular Raks Sharki performances ended. Currently Kiyaana performs sometimes at Aladin restaurant, but at the moment there are no regular weekly dance venues in Fredericksburg.
My one and only
troupe (with formal membership) "Pearls of Rhythm" was founded
in 2000, and performed until 2004. Highlights include winning
Second Place (performing "Tribal Odyssey" synchronized group improvisation) at the 2002 East
Coast Classic in Virginia Beach. Besides showcasing
various styles of Middle Eastern dance, our shows featured
members performing original percussion compositions on authentic
Mideastern instruments like doumbeks, tars, riqs; and even a
little bit of classical Arabic song. The members had outside
homework too, including assignments like researching and writing
about the dance. Here are two dance
articles by troupe members.
Lance Star interviewed me in 2003, followed us during
rehearsal and a show at Casablanca Restaurant in Alexandria
(VA), putting together an interesting multimedia
article on the Pearls of Rhythm in 2003.
planting of a seed necessitates its death, the death of your
fondest hopes, before it can be reborn to bear the fruits of
new life and new opportunity." - The Urantia
I found managing a troupe too stressful, and disbanded the Pearls in 2004; deciding instead to continue group performances with a less formal bond of dancers. Much, very much, good did come from the trials of the troupe in the form of personal growth while learning to deal with others. The 3-step Conflict Resolution I still use is part of the fruits of that struggle, as were the revelations of Chakra Energy in Belly Dance.
was a student performing group here in Fredericksburg that
performed only one style of belly dance: Tribal Odyssey group
directed Tribe O East, and Miramar of Winchester directed a
sister group, Tribe O West.
Tribe O East
began performing in late 2000, and around 2005 I folded this
group into the PRISM Dancers. Miramar continued with her
group, Tribe O West, for several years.
and I were working on an instructional DVD for Tribal Odyssey
and needed music, in
2007 I began creating original music (under the recording name
"Tribe O"). Making original music seemed easier than
dealing with music royalty issues! I still use the name Tribe
O for my music, and on Twitter I'm @TribeO. You can follow
Tribe O music
on Facebook, and download songs there or from Reverbnation. I
often use Tribe O music for my instructional videos on YouTube,
to avoid copyright issues.
And that's a
short history of our belly dance community here in
happy to see it continue to grow even in these tough economic
times, because dancing brings us joy!