An interview with Badeah
1. What drew your interest to belly dancing?
I had studied tap, ballet, acrobatics, baton, from the time I was four years old. I saw dancers at a Spring Fair in Santa Cruz, when I was still in high school. I was so intrigued and thought, “I’d love to move like that.” I never considered that I would actually perform for an audience.
2. Who was your first belly dance teacher?
Amira, one of Jamila Salimpour’s students.
3. What impression did she have upon your dance?
Amira was blonde, calm, and she moved beautifully. The biggest influence she had was when she brought her teacher, the inspirational Jamila Salimpour.
4. What do you recall about your first performance?
It was at the Casbah in San Francisco. I was underage, so I wasn’t allowed to perform “officially.” Jamila had monthly “Moon Celebrations” where students had an opportunity to dance onstage with the house musicians. The musicians were fantastic - they put on a great, exciting show for every dancer with a dramatic drum solo finale. We learned to dance to Palestinian, Jordanian, Saudi, Lebanese, Greek, Syrian and Persian music.
d) What was the most memorable feature about that first show?
That night went great. I had this incredible feeling of being one with the musicians. I think my stars were all aligned or something. The owner wanted to hire me, but told me to come back when I was 21.
5. Tell us about your experience with Suhaila and Jamila Salimour?
I went to San Francisco State University and began attending Jamila’s classes regularly. Suhaila was really young when I first started classes, so we didn’t get to know each other at first. Jamila was a pioneer of the Middle Eastern dance movement in California and many sought to emulate her ideas. As a loyal, respectful student/person, I was fortunate to be part of her life and a troupe member of Bal Anat. Initially, a drummer, then a back up traditional Ghawazee dancer and Moroccan dancer. Suhaila was also in this group, and it was a blast. Funny thing, my age sometimes put me in a position of being too young to go out to clubs but old enough to babysit Suhaila!
6. What impression did they have upon your dance?
Jamila prepared me for the stage, gave me a professional name, helped me with my costumes and make up. She took me to a photographer for professional photos, set up my first auditions and her expertise gave me an edge. It was a different world, and the clubs were on Broadway in San Francisco, the center of adult entertainment. Jamila watched out for me.
7. What is the most memorable show you’ve done & why?
Can’t pin it down to one show. I worked with excellent Egyptian musicians for extended periods. Every night was a gift. The Egyptians taught me pieces like Mishaal and Tamera Henna, musical pieces that are still popular today. After the shows, we talked about music for hours.
One very memorable show was doing a group choreography, with my friends Melissa and Candace (Aza), with Raghab Alama in San Diego. The “unforgettable” part was that he did not sing the song, “Loomi, Loomi,” like the CD we practiced to. We laughed a lot and tried to improv on the spot!
8. Please tell us about your educational accomplishments.
I was San Diego Unified School District Elementary School Teacher of the Year 2000 and am a National Board Certified teacher.
9. Given your profession as a classroom instructor, what advice do you have for dance teachers?
Be positive and celebrate your students’ approximations of what you are trying to teach.
10. During your career, have you seen changes in the belly dance community? If so, what changes?
I see that there are so many gifted and multi-talented professional dancers who are often highly accomplished in other fields—doctors, attorneys, teachers, to name a few. Dancers use props much more than in the past. There are many more workshops and shows that have really improved the level of the dance, while encouraging creativity and expression.
11. What are your aspirations for dance and your future?
I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to perform again. I truly believe this is the best form of exercise possible. I want to continue working on my posture and learning new choreographies. These two things will keep me challenged. Oh yes, and to perform with fantastic live music again and again!!