HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my first ever bellydance teacher, Daleela Morad! That’s her beautiful self lying in repose in front of her troupe “Eye of the Cobra” (I’m the wannabe pharaonic on the right, my mom is sitting on the left). Thank you, Daleela. You set my life on the right track, teaching me dance, preaching female empowerment and self-love. Check her out here .
I began bellydancing at eleven years old with my mother. When I realized I had forgotten how we started bellydancing my mom told me a story in which I was enamored with famed dancer Suhaila Salimpour’s performance at the Rennaisance Faire and that I insisted we start taking classes. Apparently the next day, my 6th grader self looked in the pre-google era yellow pages and found our first bellydance teacher, Daleela Morad. Daleela recently reminded me that I actually called her on the phone, “sounding very mature and asking a lot of questions.” As a kid who took my own prolific insights and creative pursuits quite seriously, adults were constantly telling me I “sounded mature,” (not referring to my raspy voice but to some quality called an “old soul”). I went to see her dance at a restaurant and we started taking classes.
I remember that Daleela framed bellydance as an ancient spiritual practice, a celebration of the divine feminine. For her, bellydance had routes in ancient pharaonic Egypt and was connected to birthing rituals and rites of passage ceremonies. She taught pharaonic style dancing, trance dances, and drum solo choreographies and we dabbled in playing the standard Arabic rhythms on zills and dumbek. We practiced on the uneven carpet laid out in her garage to cassette tapes of bellydance classics like Mohammed El Bakkar, Arabic party songs like Habibi, and Egyptian pop songs like Tarkan’s Kiss Kiss. She does lots of interesting things these days. I have so many good memories from studying with her and I have her to thank for my current life’s journey.