Friday, February 27, 2009

New Angelika video on YouTube

Angelika Nemeth performed this original choreography at the Spring 2008 Dance Concert at Irvine Valley College's Performing Arts Center to "Yearning," a sexy, sultry track from her CD, "Angelika Unveiled."


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Belly Dancer of the Universe 2009 winners

The Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition has been a popular event in Southern California for years, but this year proved just how much this contest has grown. Dancers came from all over the globe to compete in various style and age categories, and put a truly international touch on this year's festivities.

Unfortunately, a pregnancy complication kept me from attending, but thanks to Deborah, who produces the annual Market of the Casbah festival in Fullerton, we have the winners:

Dilek of San Diego

Maryam of Mexico

Belly Soul Fire of Oregon

Sema Yun of Korea

Mireya Yamilet of Puerto Rico

Enise from the South Bay area

Guzel Gilmeeva of Russia

Attiya of New York

Guzel Gilmeeva of Russia

Monday, February 16, 2009

O.C. Belly Dancer Spotlight: Sashi

Sashi is the kind of belly dancer who likes to play with expectations and test the limits of what is possible, and in the process creates captivating performances that showcase her exceptional dance talent as well as her theatrical skill. By layering elements of storytelling, acting and stagecraft into her choreographies, she catapults her work beyond a traditional belly dance performance into the realm of performance art. But it's not all for show. At the heart of Sashi's dance is a deep awareness, understanding and respect for the diversity of cultures from which belly dance draws its music and dance.

In addition to traveling extensively across the nation and overseas to perform and teach workshops, Sashi leads Ascend Tribal Dance, a dance company she founded in Orange County, and conducts an ongoing Gothic Tribal Fusion dance course in Costa Mesa.

Another way this energetic and innovative performer is making her mark on the dance world is with Gothla US, a festival celebrating Gothic belly dance that she co-founded last year. Gothla US: The Conjuring debuted in Fullerton, California, in February 2008 with tremendous success. And it returns next month (March 6-8) as Gothla US: The Divining, primarily at Cal Poly Pomona.

Sashi is busy with the final preparations for the upcoming festival, but she took time to answer a few questions about herself, her inspiration and her unique approach to belly dance.

What is your style of belly dancing?

I am a Tribal Fusion and Gothic Tribal Fusion Bellydancer. I am most known for being a Gothic Tribal Fusion Bellydancer, as I am one of the foremost innovators of this newer style of belly dance, as well as one of the co-creators of Gothla US, the largest Gothic Bellydance Festival in North America.

How long have you been belly dancing, and how’d you get started?

I have been belly dancing for 17 years now. I started because I was fortunate enough to attend college at San Francisco State University in Northern California. Due to their wonderfully diverse dance department, I was afforded the opportunity to experience all kinds of dance and music classes from all over the world. My main focus became African Haitian, West African, Jazz and Modern dance, as well as West African and Native American drumming. After learning so much about other cultures through their dances and music, I realized that I wanted to learn more about my culture through our own styles of dance. I’d already grown up with the folkloric versions of my culture’s dances, but I wanted to get into belly dancing and find out more about my culture that way. So, I signed up for the belly dance class at the studio around the corner from my house. It just so happens that the teacher of that very first class I took was none other than Carolena Nericcio. I’ve been studying the dance since then. I have a broad background in many styles of the dance, including ATS [American Tribal Style], Egyptian and Lebanese Cabaret, Folkloric and Tribal Fusion.

Who are your favorite or most influential teachers?

I’d consider my most influential teachers to be Angelika Nemeth, Sahra Saeeda and Tina “Enheduanna” Elkins. I learned strength and classic technique from Angelika, who had such a graceful and respectful way of imparting the dance to her students. She inspired me to want to be as respectful and knowledgeable about the dance as I could. As a student and member of Sahra Saeeda’s troupe, I learned about the histories, stories, meanings, nuances and intricacies of the folkloric dances of the Middle East. Sahra inspired me to know all the aspects of the dances I took part in and to hold the dance and the people in a place of respect and reverence, making sure not to engage in cultural appropriation or misrepresentation. Lastly, from Tina “Enheduanna” Elkins, I learned the grace of presentation through the body, especially facial gesturing. I also learned about the use of space onstage and in choreography, which is an art form in and of itself. Most of all, I learned a sense of graciousness and patience for fellow dancers by being her student and a part of her troupe. Each of these teachers inspired me because they approached the dance in a genuine way, allowing for me to witness, incorporate and eventually emulate this sense of humility and grace.

What is your favorite place to dance?

I don’t know if I have only one favorite place to dance because, for me, my favorite aspect of the dance is the interaction between dancer and audience that can happen almost anywhere. So really, my favorite place to dance would be wherever the maximum energetic contact with an audience can take place, whether that includes only one member or any amount more than that.

What music do you most like to dance to?

While I would not want to pigeonhole myself into one or two genres of music, I can definitely say that I have an affinity toward Gothic-Industrial and EBM styles of music, but anything with a good strong beat, energy and accent can inspire me to move.

What was your most memorable performance?

For me, I would definitely say that my most memorable performance would be my “pierced wings” performance at Tribal Fest 2006. There was such an amazing energy exchange between myself and the audience. I had entered a trance-like state with the pierced wings and brought that energy with me onstage. As I began dancing, the energy washed through me and into the audience. Most of the audience absorbed the energy, interacted with it and allowed it to flow back to me. So, for the length of the performance, a cyclically continuous flow of energy existed in that large room and impacted each of us, humbled us and moved us in our own ways. I have always been awed by that experience and hold it with me in reverence.

What is your dance regimen?

I strength train for two hours two times a week, run one to two miles a day and do abdominal exercises for 30 minutes daily. I dance three times a week for two hours and drill daily.

To you, what separates an accomplished dancer from an amateur?

I imagine what separates an accomplished dancer from an amateur would be the level of dedication, intent, stamina, technique and performance the dancer has. Some people get involved in this dance for the sake of exercise, to experience the sensuality and spirituality this dance conjures, etc., while others decide that they would like to take this art form to levels of performance and notoriety which requires a professional level of dedication. Thus, I would say that level of dedication and intent is the divisive factor in this realm.

As there is always room for improvement in dance (just as there is in all art forms), what are you still working to improve?

I am always working to improve my creativity. There are times when the performance of a particular style becomes stale and even though this is what is being asked of you in the venues you are hired for, it has the possibility of stifling one’s creative flow and ability to see things anew. Therefore, I always make a point to review what I am doing, engage in new experiences and seek to incorporate new concepts into my dance.

How long have you been in Orange County ?

I’ve lived in Orange County since I was 4. When I was 17, I moved to San Francisco and stayed up there for college and two rounds of graduate school before retuning to Orange County for a job 13 years later. I’ve been here ever since.

For more about Sashi, her performances and classes, visit

For more about Gothla US: The Conjuring (March 6-8), visit

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kamala Almanzar presents Sha'Abi Chic in Alhambra on March 21-22

If you're going to be in the Alhambra area on March 21 or 22, plan on checking out Kamala Almanzar's Sha'Abi Chic belly dance show at the Arte Flamenco Dance Theatre (230 W. Main St., Alhambra). The show--billed as "eclectic belly dance in an intimate setting--begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Kamala's Orchids Al Sahara troupe will perform, along with Flowers of the Desert, Shaunti Kazemi, Viridiana & Roxanna, and other special guests.

Tickets are $20 for adults at the door, or $15 in advance. You can pay online if you visit here.

Got questions? Call 626-824-7767 or visit

Monday, February 9, 2009

Interview with Jennifer Hepner, Miss Montana 2008

Jennifer Hepner, Miss Montana 2008, took her love for belly dance all the way to the Miss America Pageant last month, when she was one of two contestants to present the Middle Eastern dance as her talent.

Bringing belly dance back to the pageant after its 30-year absence wasn't about breaking with tradition or trying to stand out in a crowd, though. To Jennifer Hepner, it was much more about expressing herself honestly and sharing a love for the dance form she has nurtured with countless hours of instruction, practice and performance.

She was kind enough to take time out of her Miss Montana duties to talk about her inspiration.

First, can you share a little about your background?

I was born in Tacoma, Washington, but have lived in Montana since 1990. I am an Air Force brat who came to know Montana as home because of an assignment my father had at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana. I went to grade school, middle school, and high school in Great Falls (a town of 60,000 in central Montana).

In 2003, I headed west and began my collegiate journey at the University of Montana in Missoula, Montana. In 2007, I graduated through the University of Montana’s Honors College as a University Scholar and earned two degrees with high honors (first degree: communication studies, second degree: anthropology).

In 2007, I started graduate school, working toward my master’s in communication studies. I am also a graduate instructor, teaching two sections of “Introduction to Public Speaking” each semester. I took a leave of absence from this academic year as my duties as Miss Montana are my primary focus. In the eight months that I have held the title of Miss Montana, I have filmed a four-week reality TV series (TLC’s Countdown to the Crown), competed in the Miss America Pageant, and traveled over 12,000 miles of Montana highways, talking to educators, parents, children and politicians about my platform: “Beyond the Bell: Afterschool Programs for Montana’s Youth.”

How did you first get introduced to belly dancing?

As a child, I was always drawn in by the mystique of belly dancing! But it wasn’t until I was in college at UM that I actually was exposed to belly dance instruction. I began taking classes at my university and quickly realized that I wanted to know more! I was hooked and knew that if I wanted to develop into my personal best dancer that I would have to look outside of Montana for instruction. In 2006, I attended Rakkasah West and took classes from many of the big names in belly dance. While I have taken workshops and classes from Zoe, Jim Boz, Fahtiem, Susan Delvecchio and Ansuya, my main influences are Jamilia and Suhaila Salimpour. I have been a humble student of the Suhaila Salimpour School of Dance since 2007. I am so excited to practice the Suhaila Salimpour technique as it is taking our art to a new level. I am so blessed to have the Salimpours’ support and encouragement not only in my preparations for presenting the dance on the Miss America stage, but also throughout my personal and intimate journey with the dance.

When and where was your first belly dance performance?

My first belly dance performance was at a student night in 2004 in which I performed to John Asher’s Tiger’s of the Raj for my dance peers and close friends. My first public performance was at the 2007 Montana State Belly Dance Festival. I remember being so nervous because dancing in front of other belly dancers is the most nerve-racking thing for a beginner! Lucky for me I was in a supportive place that promoted sisterhood and goodwill. The Montana belly dancing community is so close knit and supportive, and for that I am blessed! The Montana belly dance community truly empowers me to continuously evolve as a dancer.

Do you still perform regularly? If so, where?

As Miss Montana, I am expected to dance at the majority of events that I attend. Over the past eight months I have danced at numerous schools, farmers markets, outdoor festivals, fairs and youth conferences. When talking to children, I use the dance to drive home a lot of the points I make in my presentations. The dance is a great metaphor for being yourself, which is a big lesson for middle and high school students experiencing stress from bullying and peer pressure. The dance not only helps me talk about identity but also issues of diversity, body image and sisterhood (stressing female cooperation over female competition). Outside of Miss Montana, I love performing at local haflas and at Montana’s annual Belly Dance Festival every May.

What is your practice regimen?

I don’t practice nearly as often as I would like to, but I make a point of practicing every chance I get.

What is your favorite style of belly dance?

Oftentimes I see dancers that are quick to search for audience approval. They feel the need to powerhouse their way through their “arsenal” of movements in order to impress onlookers. One thing that I love about tribal fusion belly dance is that, by its very nature, it is incredibly commanding. I enjoy watching women who are confident enough in their technique and performance ability to take things slow. When I see The Indigo perform, I always find myself so impressed because they can have me hypnotized with a single synchronized hip drop. They are AMAZING dancers who are concentrating on expressing the music rather than winning people over. I love ALL styles of belly dance, but I personally feel most empowered as a tribal fusion belly dancer.

Do you have favorite belly dance music?

I love the industrial and electronic beats of tribal fusion music! The Pentaphobe and Beats Antique are my personal favs! Other belly dance favorites include Solace, Issam Houshan, Mokhtar Al Said, and Raquy and the Caveman. I love my drum solos!

Who are your belly dance heroes?

As I mentioned earlier, the Salimpours are my personal heros. I love the complexity of the Suhaila Salimpour format because I never hit my climax … instead I continue to evolve as a permanent student of the dance.

What is it about belly dance that continues to attract you?

What attracts me to belly dance is the complexity of the art. Belly dance is much more complex than a dance vocabulary or a series of movements. Belly dance is about changing the way that we think about ourselves. The dance teaches us to love ourselves as we are—to embrace our shape, our age, and our unique attributes. Belly dancing is a never-ending journey of self-discovery.

Why did you choose belly dance as your pageant talent?

For me, dance is the ultimate form of expression! In college, I have made a point to further my training in jazz, ballet and modern dance. When it came down to choosing what kind of dance piece I wanted to present at the Miss Montana pageant, belly dance seemed like the natural choice. I feel most like myself when I belly dance. It is a powerful feeling that I don’t experience with other dance forms. I competed for the title of Miss Montana three times, and each year I was the odd duck. Most girls would sing opera, tap dance, sing a Broadway ballad or play a musical instrument. In the world of pageantry, it takes a strong woman to go against the grain. Sometimes being yourself is harder than pretending to be someone else, but passing such a test of identity is the most rewarding experience. In that regard, I felt that I came out of every pageant as the winner!

Were your friends and family surprised by this choice? And if so, what was their concern?

Although supportive, my friends and family were a nervous about my talent because of the conservative nature of both our state and of the pageant community. But they knew that I didn’t just want to win Miss Montana by virtue of being the typical “pageant patty.” I wanted to win Miss Montana as Jennifer Hepner.

What’s in your belly dance future?

I will always be a humble student of the art form. Every time I am challenged I am learning, and when I am learning, I am improving. I will be dancing for the rest of my life! One of my heroes is Jamilla Salimpour as she still whips me into shape at age 82!

You can visit her page here:

(Photo credit for last photo goes to The Right Impression Photography, Glendive, MT)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Shabby's Dance Revolution on Sunday

This is going to be a great local show by some of my favorite dancers in O.C.

Here are the details:

DATE: Sunday, February 8, 2009
TIME: Doors open at 6 p.m., Show starts at 6:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Orchid Restaurant
3033 Bristol Street, Suite F, Costa Mesa, CA 92626

The show, sponsored by Fit 4 U Fitness Studio, will feature advanced dancers from the award-winning Angelika Nemeth Dance Ensemble performing Bellydance, Latin dances, Persian and Armenian dances.

Other special performances are planned, including a special performance by Angelika Nemeth herself!

The show includes a wonderful Persian buffet dinner.

The ticket prices at the door will be $40, or call for instructions on how to get $5 off by purchasing a ticket in advance. Phone: 714-966-2676.

If anyone takes pictures, please send them to me at I'd love to post them here!