Dance is the reason my heart beats. Dance is the highest form of art because one’s body is the instrument used to interpret music through movement. I’ve performed in other countries to audiences that spoke a different language than mine. During and after the dance, we understood each other perfectly.
At three years old, I studied ballet and tap, then modern jazz. When I took my first belly dance class at seventeen, other forms of dance I trained in became a thing of the past. I’d never moved in such an intensive isolated fashion before. Middle Eastern music is rhythmic, melodic and haunting. All I wanted to do was dance to those magical rhythms.
By age twenty-one, I was performing professionally in cabarets, theaters, colleges, universities, and New York City’s Greek, Arab, Turkish, and Israeli nightclubs. In 1996, I wrote a play entitled, A Belly Dancer’s Story. I produced, choreographed, and danced in this one-woman show which played in Manhattan’s East Village. After six weeks, A Belly Dancer’s Story was picked up by producers for eight more weeks. After every performance of my play, women sought to study dance with me. In April of 1997, I started teaching dance. In January 1999, I founded my dance school, Big Apple Belly Dance.
I’ve eaten Middle Eastern food at nightclubs and restaurants I performed in all over the world. Foods eaten by Greeks, Arabs, Turks, and Israelis are the same foods eaten by Southern Italians – they’re just prepared differently. I created vegetarian mezza dishes of Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine, as well as North African Tagines. I enjoy cooking with herbs and spices from those cultures. The outcome is a fresh, flavorful, exotic dish.
People ask how I went from dance to cooking. In dance, one trains for years perfecting spinal alignment, breath work, arm postures, isolations, foot patterns and much more. The dancer proceeds to create choreography that she performs on stage.
In cooking, a chef masters knife skills, braising, broiling, baking, and more. The chef follows a recipe. When food is cooked, it’s presented on a platter.
Whether one cooks on the dance floor or in the kitchen, the same process creates the ultimate outcome.