Community Feature: Al-'Anqa
What was your childhood ambition?
You mean besides being a princess? I really wanted to be a marine biologist when I was little. I love the ocean. My lack of enthusiasm for biology when I hit high school nixed that pretty quick.
What was your first job?
My first job was an internship as a marketing assistant at Wonderful WV Magazine in college. Their office was based at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, so at the same time, I got work at the camp store as a cashier.
Favorite indulgence or guilty pleasure?
I KNOW it’s hazardous, but I love laying in the sun. My husband swears I’m part lizard. I love everything about summer: the heat, the sunshine, beach trips, hiking and camping, biking, grilling outside. These days, I slather myself in sunscreen when I go out and wear a stylish wide brimmed hat, but I still can’t resist the lure of a sunny day and a good book spent on a lounge chair.
What's on your current music playlist?
My I-Pod is an eclectic mish-mash of Top 40, Arabic and Turkish belly dance music, rap, and pop. I’m a little obsessed with Maroon 5. I promise it’s not “just” because Adam Levine is so pretty. I also love, love, love Dar Williams, Natasha Atlas, Eminem, and Imagine Dragons. My favorite belly dance song is Alf Leyla.
What is your dance background?
I took jazz and tap until seventh grade when my parents moved and I found myself in a tiny WV town with no dance classes or stop lights. (We got a caution light at our town’s exit on the 4 lane that passed nearby when I was in high school. That was exciting.) I was on the drill team in high school. When I got to college, I had access to classes again. I helped co-found the Concord Dance Ensemble on my campus and was a member, student, and choreographer. I lost dance for a few years while I worked in theatre and film, but I found belly dance eight years ago, and have been hooked since. I’ve turned my spare bedroom into a studio and my costume wardrobe is as large as my normal wardrobe- I’m happily, irrevocably entrenched.
How did you get interested in belly dance?
I was a runner. I ran track and cross country in high school, cross country in college, and continued doing 5ks for fun until my knees started bothering me. A physical therapist suggested I find something less stressful on my cartilage damaged knee caps. I picked up “Belly Dance for Fun and Fitness” at the local library. It sounded fun, so I found classes to the South in Fredericksburg, VA with Kawakib (Anthea Poole) and stayed dancing with her for five years. I-95 traffic made me look for classes in the other direction from my house, which led me to Sahara Dance three years ago.
So far, what's been your favorite belly dance moment or experience?
My favorite experiences have come from dancing with groups of women that were close to each other. It wasn’t belly dance, but my first memorable moment was in college when our dance ensemble performed a modern Irish-inspired piece in the WV Dance Festival in Charleston, WV. We were all either co-founders of the ensemble or close friends from the theatre department, and it felt so good to be on the festival stage with a piece we had created, dancing with a group we had formed out of our passion for dance. I feel the same now about my Raqs East troupe mates. We gel really well together as a group and feed off each other during performance. It’s a great energy and an open, creative collective: no divas, we’re all equals. I love the group dynamic. I think it comes from my love of theatre and acting which is all about give and take with your fellow actors and channeling all that energy back out to your audience. It’s pretty special when a cast or crew clicks like this in theatre or film- it doesn’t always happen. I feel lucky to have found it twice in dance.
What are your current dance inspirations?
I’m inspired by everything Roma. I love reading about the history of the Rom and how various groups who ended up in different countries contributed to local folkloric styles. I love the energy with which Tülay Karaca moved. She was a Turkish Oriental belly dancer from the 80’s who had some wonderful signature kicks and spins, and coincidentally, had Romani heritage. Re: Egyptian style, I love to watch Soheir Zaki and Fifi Abdou. They’re so elegant, precise, and relaxed. I love watching dancers who make it look effortless. And in general, nature inspires me. Art and movement that are based off things found in nature, like spiraling leaves or waves on water, are very appealing to me.
Finally, what do you love most about Sahara Dance?
I love the community at Sahara. It’s very welcoming and so far, I’ve noted a definite lack of in-fighting and competition. That’s refreshing, and I appreciate the effort Rachel makes to ensure the studio is a safe place for all of our dancers.