Foreword offered by: Leila of Cairo, Egypt www.LeilaInEgypt.com
Dahlia's dancing defies categories. She is neither Egyptian or Tribal, Fusion or Gypsy, but she is all of these rolled into one. She does not just interpret the music; she oozes it. Whether it is Middle Eastern, Jazz, Balinese or Japanese, music is part of her being. This is what you see when you watch Dahlia dance: the essence of music in physical form.
I have known Dahlia since the beginning of my dance career. As fledgling dancers we were members of the same troupe performing throughout the Pacific Northwest. Dahlia, with her background in classical western music, jazz, and in-depth knowledge of Middle Eastern and Far Eastern music, would always keep us on tempo. Admittedly we were a bit jealous of the way she could dance without counting and then instantly break down a difficult rhythm for the rest of us. She could memorize choreography perfectly but never used it when she danced solo, preferring the freedom of improvisation. She was always pushing us to try new things and think out of the box. Dahlia could also down most of a large pizza and a beer and then go on to dance a two-hour show (something I am still in awe of).
Since our troupe days I've watched Dahlia grow into a teacher, events sponsor, advocate for dancers' rights and award-winning performer. She also finds time to raise her two little girls, both of whom seem to have her love of music and dance. I guess the most important thing I can say about Dahlia, categories and definitions aside, is that I just love to watch her dance. That's what it all comes down to, isn't it?
I was born in 1974 to a family of musicians, artists and singers and have been surrounded by music and song throughout my life. My father, a retired English teacher, writes poetry, sings and plays classical guitar. My mother is an award-winning portrait artist whose other passion is singing. Like many dancers today, I studied traditional Western dances, such as ballet and tap, at a very young age. Later, I gave up dance studies for music and took up the flute and a pair of drumsticks. My passion for music and singing continued throughout grade school and into college where I was chosen to join an award-winning vocal jazz ensemble called "Genesis" at Mount Hood Community College. It was there that I fell in love with my piano-playing husband, John. (We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this year!) John and I moved to Ellensburg, Washington in 1993 to attend Central Washington University where we both continued our music studies. It was in this very small town that my journey with belly dance began.
The Passion Begins
One evening, I happened across a cultural event, not unlike those that are frequently found throughout eclectic venues in Ellensburg. Among the entertainers was a belly dance troupe called, "Troupe Rose." It consisted of five talented and amazing women: Minda Rose, SuHara, Andrea, Dawn and Tabriz. I was awe struck with what I witnessed; grace, musicality, mystery, femininity and power. I immediately began studying with Minda Rose, and for the next two years pursued belly dance as a serious hobby.
Not long after taking the stage name Dahlia Moon, I began performing with my classmates and was welcomed into the community as a successful dancer. Two other students and I, along with one of our mentors and teachers, formed our own troupe and named ourselves, "Nashim Olam," which in Hebrew means "Women of the Earth." One of those troupe members is the famous Leila of Cairo, who I now sponsor annually for workshops and shows in Seattle. The styles of dance we studied, created and performed varied greatly; ranging in concept from Fantasy belly dance to folkloric Berber, from ATS to Bobby Farrah choreographies; opposite ends of the spectrum.
Our troupe enjoyed success for about four years, practicing weekly or bi-weekly for local performances, regional festivals and showcases (our favorite being Hasani's Hafla in Tacoma, which had already earned a reputable name in Washington State). We organized our own local haflas as well; inviting dancers and troupes from throughout Washington and Oregon. Eventually, life led two of us elsewhere.
Education & Foreign Travel
During those four years with my troupe, I was enrolled at CWU where I had been studying anthropology, along with my serious vocal studies. My itch for adventure began with a class trip to Bali, Indonesia. Just one course away from my B.S. in anthropology, my studies were interrupted by the opportunity to spend two years in Osaka, Japan where John and I taught as part of the Japanese English Teachers, JET Program.
As Luck would have it, I was "in the right place at the right time" even in this very foreign country. After a spontaneous audition for an Egyptian with a doumbek, I was asked to dance at a Syrian and Lebanese restaurant called, "Ali Baba." It was there that I adopted my current name, Dahlia, from the Egyptian clientele. Much to my delight, requests by Japanese women encouraged me to start teaching beginner and intermediate belly dance classes. Their eagerness to study with a foreigner overcame any language barrier. Before leaving Osaka in 2001, I produced a grand showcase for my students.
A Family is Born
Our stay in Japan was cut short because of a special miracle that had surprised us both. John and I became pregnant with our first child in 2001. I was in my sixth month the summer we moved back to Ellensburg, Washington. The home birth of our daughter, Autumn Eve, changed our lives forever!
Within a few short months, I completed my B.S. in Anthropology and graduated from CWU with my husband and his Masters in Music Composition. I resumed teaching belly dance in Ellensburg, and produced a large hafla featuring my dear friend, Leila, from Cairo. Before I knew it, I found out I was again pregnant, and Lilia May came into our lives May of 2003.
Soon, our family moved to Seattle where John was hired as the chair of the music department for Edmonds Community College. I wasted no time exploring the dance scene in Seattle and was promptly invited to perform in local Moroccan and Persian restaurants. Teaching was and still is an essential part of my growing career as a dancer, so I continued instructing at various studios. After having the honor of being invited to be the secondary instructor at Delilah's Visionary Dance Productions studio. I now consider VDP my home base.
Styles & Influences
Of the many genres of belly dance styles, Egyptian music speaks most profoundly to my spirit, so I focus my work primarily on Egyptian style. Saiidi is a favorite of mine, but I also have a special place for Khaleegy (Dance of the Arabian Gulf). Most of my education as a belly dancer has come from studying performance videos of famous Egyptian and folkloric artists and very selectively taking workshops from numerous respected dancers. Some of my biggest influences have been Fifi Abdo, Soheir Zaki, Lucy, Dina, Nagua Fouad, my friend Leila, and also Aziza of Canada. But probably most of all, I watch all dancers with a discerning eye and absorb something very specific that I like about their style or technique, then go home and work on it for a few days. Just doing this has molded me into the dancer I am today.
In 2004 I decided to enter a local competition, Emerald Rain. I competed with my peers and performers from abroad, but didn't place in the professional category. With all of the performing I had been doing, choreography was not my strength, so I discovered that more preparation and perfecting my routine would be essential to success as a competitor. I gave Emerald Rain another go the next year and took 3rd place, next to my respected peers, Elisa Gamal and Nadira. The following year, 2006 I decided to enter the Double Crown Belly Dance competition which was being held in Vancouver, WA. I had no expectations of success upon realizing I was competing against 21 reputable dancers in the Belly Dance Performing Artist category. As the evening came to a close, it ended in tears of joy as Nadira passed the crown to me. Shocked and elated, I drove home with my first title.
A few months later, I made the decision to enter the Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition in Long Beach, CA. I took a leap of faith and also entered an entirely new category: Solo Fusion. Amazed to receive anything at all, I placed as first-runner-up. Again, with no expectations of winning, as the competition was fierce, I was stunned as my name was announced as the 2007 Belly Dancer of the Universe.
Competing pushed me to choreograph for myself, as well as for my students. Iwas able to map out what the music speaks instead of interpreting it "on the spot." I am forever grateful that I have had such a wonderful music education, which has enabled me to easily transform the melody and rhythm into dance.
Today & Beyond
Today, I am thoroughly enjoying my career as a performer and instructor. I work closely with Delilah on a few projects each year, with much effort going into the amazing Fremont Summer Solstice Parade and Belly Convergence projects. I am also a principal dancer for some of the most respected Seattle bands, The MB Orchestra, House of Tarab, and Naseem. As I continue dancing for various events locally and regionally, I still have plenty to fill my plate as a wife mother of two beautiful and energetic little girls!
Future plans include the release of my first instructional and performance DVD. I am eager to continue my path of change and growth and most of all, grateful for my body which allows me to pursue this career as a dancer.