Jalene


You didn’t need a partner.

You didn’t have to buy shoes.

You didn’t need experience.

And it was during a time slot that I could fit into my busy work and school schedule. I was desperate for some “me” time. 

Those were the reasons I took my first bellydance class in 1997. Or was it 1998? I can’t even remember.

I loved that beginners class. Honestly, I would have stayed in it forever if my teacher hadn’t prompted me to advance to the next level. I loved the ritual of class, perfecting the basic movements, feeling the old rough hardwood floors on my bare feet, breathing in the musty smell of the old building, listening to my teacher tell stories, and watching her dance.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]I want people to do more than observe dance, I want to inspire them to participate in it.[/pullquote]

She was much older than me. It was the first time I ever saw an older woman exude that much power. She owned her body and her self. The older women in my family seemed so frail and weak compared to her. She was like my missing auntie, the female role model I desperately needed growing up. She taught me Greek line dances and we had a big Greek night club party for my 21st birthday. She talked about things that went way over my 19-year-old head, things that I’m just now understanding. She made me watch Zorba the Greek and Never On A Sunday. I never intended to keep bellydancing. It was just for fun. It was supposed to be temporary, till I could save up for flamenco shoes. I had no idea the world she was opening up for me.

When her rheumatoid arthritis became too much to teach me more she sent me to study with Amelia Moore. (I loved dancing with Amelia, she became my core teacher and artistic director of Circle Dance Theater later on.) Through Amelia I met Angela Silling, one of my favorite dancers in Seattle. I sometimes assisted Amelia and Angela in their classes and that’s when I began teaching.

I was always drawn to teach, I felt like it was something I was meant to do. I wanted to share the empowerment and confidence that dance had brought into my life with others. So when Angela had to stop her class I was more than happy to take it over.

From here everything is kind of a blur… I can’t even count how many dancers, musicians and artistic directors have influenced me. It makes me crazy just trying to list them all. A few off the top of my head include Elizabeth Dennis, Elizabeth Strong, Tamalyn Dallal, Ruby Beh, Reyhan Tuzsuz, Encarnación, Rubina Carmona, Ana Montes, Janelle Keane-Campoverde, Sonja Hinz, Heather Rastovac, Amel Tafsout, Sahra Saeeda, Selim Sesler, Karim Nagi, Souren Baronian, Jessaiah Zure, Mira Betz, Massive Monkees, Gigi, Unmata, Lara Kaminsky, and Helene Eriksen. When I had time I took every type of class I could – flamenco, Afro-Brazilian, Persian, breakdancing, modern, yoga, tai chi, salsa, bachata, merengue, swing, hiphop, dancehall, burlesque, etc.

Two of my biggest dance highlights:
Traveling to Istanbul on a music and dance study tour with Helene Eriksen. And then having the opportunity to tour with her in Nepal as part of her dance company, Anar.

During all of this I continued to teach, up to 3-4 classes a week. And as my beginning students became better and better I was able to start my own performance group, Bahar. We made some magic during our bi-annual shows at my favorite small venue in Seattle, the Rendezvous.

Okay, I feel like this is getting a little too much. I could stay up for days writing about my journey but I don’t think it’s necessary right now. Basically here’s where I’ve ended up…

As much as I love creating dance performance experiences for audiences, what I am truly fascinated and focused on at the moment is dance and movement off the stage. How “real” people dance, how it exists and helps us in our everyday lives, how it helps us celebrate or mourn, how it can nourish us, and how most of us need more daily doses of music and dance. I want people to do more than observe dance, I want to inspire them to participate in it.