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It was October 1975, and I began training within this wonderful dance form in a little Southern California town called San Dimas. In fact, it was all my Mother's fault. She invited me to join her in a class and I was hooked. Our teacher was a very large woman and the absolute grace with which she moved was astounding. I was convinced that belly dance brought out the beauty of anyone who applied her or his self to the art.

My first time on stage (with knees knocking) was that spring and I danced to "Enta Omri". Some of you may recognize that oldie. Being on stage lit a fire within me that as never gone out. Mom went on to become a well-known costumer in California, "Samira-CostumeMaker". She used to make the most exquisite Persian applique skirts.

On October 3, 1977, I got my first night club job. I was in 7th heaven. It was the Arabic club, "The Cascades", owned by the well-known Lou Shelby. From then on, I danced in almost every night club within two hours driving distance within Los Angeles and Orange County: clubs like the 7th Veil, Coco's Nightclub, Ali Baba's, The Fez, The Merrakesh, The Moroccan House, and The Appadana (to name just a few).

One of the most exciting memories I have of those times was when I danced at the California Jewelry Mart and made $800 in tips. Whooo Hooo! Another time, I danced for one of the princes of Oman (a small gulf country in the Middle East). The prince was pretty grumpy and I was not impressed. The silliest memory I have is of the time I danced in the "B" movie "Stooge Mania" starring Josh Mostel. They had me dance around a table in a restaurant scene, but when the movie was released, all that was left of me was a quivering belly accompanied by a glib one-liner. Ugh!

During my club years I became involved with MECDA (Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association) and was one of their first Vice presidents and then President. I also began teaching seminars for MECDA and others in the early 80's. I was the first American professional belly dancer to teach several seminars in New Zealand (June 1986). I was featured there in the Wellington City Magazine and had an interview on the premier "Performance Arts" radio show also in Wellington.

In the late 80's, I also began researching the effect of belly dance on pregnancy and during childbirth. I started teaching the "Birthdance" method to local Moms in the Los Angeles area. It was a class combining yoga and belly dance to prepare for childbirth. Some of my students used it during labor with some interesting results.

My daughter Elayssa was born in 1980 and grew up surrounded with belly dance. She was an exotic looking child being half Serbian Gypsy. It should be no surprise to anyone that at the age of 16 she decided that she was going to be a belly dance star. I had never pushed her to do this; it was all her idea and I was pleased. Elayssa and I formed our first troupe together, "Desert Bloom". We were well known for our bi-yearly house parties in Bel-air. (Desert Bloom is now on their own and going strong)

In 1996, Elayssa and I moved up to Sonoma County to go to school together. I went on to major in fine arts at Mills College in Oakland and Elayssa took time off from school and went to live in San Francisco.

UPDATE July 2002: I'm back in Los Angeles now and my daughter is too! I have got a degree in Studio Art/Photography emphasis and minor in Book Arts. I am soooooo jazzed to be done with school. Look out people, I'm back! I will be back to teaching and dancing by the end of the year. Watch for my photographs and check out my photo work at www.LightMagic.Org. Blessings to you All!

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