Call her late for dinner but just don't call her a bellydancer!
In Tucson, AZ she is easily one of the most graceful, one of the most experienced Middle Eastern dancers but don't you dare think of labeling her a bellydancer.
From her her website arabiandancearts.com I quote "I do not dance solely with my belly. We do not call flamenco dancers heel stampers, hula dancers shirt swishers. And ballerinas are no longer called toe dancers. Those names would be considered demeaning to serious artists. I dance with my feet, my hands, my chest, my arms, my legs, my head and my heart. To refer to me as a belly dancer diminishes the profession to which I have devoted most of my adult life.
I AM CARMEN, A MIDDLE EASTERN DANCER
Whew! The woman is on fire! I must say I agree with her. I also agree with her about Hugh Jackman...read on.
1. What first attracted you to Middle Eastern dancing?
I majored in dance education in college. Shortly after graduation my husband and I moved to the NYC area. I noticed an add for an adult school class in ME dance and decided to try it. Fell in love immediately with the rhythms and the whole mystique. I had never seen a Middle Eastern dancer in my life prior to that.
2. How long have you been studying/involved with this dance?
I was 29 years old at the time of my first class. I am now 67. You do the math. The numbers are just to big for me to comprehend.
3. Why do you continue to study/dance it?
I have a poster in my studio that says " Why do I dance? Why do I breathe?" That pretty much sums it up. However, there is also the fact that no matter how good you are, you can always be better. Hence, the lifetime challenge.
4. What is most challenging about it?
In addition to the challenge of always trying to deliver the "perfect" performance, there are all the small challenges of keeping your body in tune, learning new things, creating better choreographies, and developing new innovations while remaining true to the real dance of the Middle East.
5. What is your next goal pertaining to Middle Eastern dance?
At this point in my life my goal is to be able to share the vast and comprehensive knowledge I was lucky enough to obtain, with as many dancers as possible. I danced and studied with some of the top dancers in the world. I was very fortunate to have studied and worked with many of the masters.
6. What/who is your inspiration at the moment?
You Tube is a wonderful thing. I recently discovered a dancer from Argentina named Saida. She is perfection. She always dances to authentic music and although her western classical training is apparent, her dancing is true to the Middle Eastern aesthetic, while bringing a higher level of artistry to the dance. Her costuming and makeup and command of the stage are also outstanding.
7. In the early years where you presented with challenges concerning family and friends or did you have their support?
With the exception of my ex husband, my family was on the whole supportive. I did have some trouble with my daughter's friends and parents. There was a very strong belief in those days that if you were a "belly dancer" you were either a stripper or a whore. Fortunately that attitude is much less prevalent these days. And happily my current husband is 100% supportive.
8. What did Middle Eastern dancing change for you?
Middle Eastern dance opened a whole new world for me. I am actually on the shy side, and I was forced because of my compulsion to dance, to go places and do things I never would have dreamed doing in my quiet, banker's wife, and mother role. I danced all over NY, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. I drove to jobs as far as 75 miles away, leaving home at 8PM and getting home, often as late as 5PM and I did it 5 to 7 nights a week for 21 years, before semi retirement in Tucson. I was by myself in blizzards and rainstorms and handling rude and often condescending club owners, party givers, and musicians. It was a difficult but stimulating life, and it made me a stronger person.
9. What other hobbies or passions do you enjoy and do you have time for them?
I guess you could say ballroom dance is my new hobby. For the last 16 years I have been designing and selling jewelry in Arizona art galleries. Recently I decided that since I have always made my own costumes, I would put that knowledge to use. I have started a costume design business and I am making ballroom dance costumes and Middle Eastern costumes that I sell under my label Stardancer Designs.
10. What (one) word would you use to sum up what Middle Eastern dance means to you?
Briefly share something about yourself that we wouldn't know from a simple conversation/interview with you.
I HATE TO COOK!!! And, Oh yes, I secretly long for Hugh Jackman.
Thank you so much Carmen.