ad 4 Fahtiem

Gilded Serpent presents...
The Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition,

held February 19-20, 2005
in Long Beach, California

report by Amy Bonham
photos by GS staff

Judges: Angelika Nemeth in pink hat, Aisha Ali,
Zahra Zuhair
, Amina Goodyear , and Anisa

The 15th annual Belly Dancer of the Universe contest took place February 19-20, 2005 on one of the rainiest weekends in Long Beach, California on record for that time of year. Willow Street outside the Grand Willow Street Center was a raging river on Saturday morning and the rain continued through the weekend with intermittent dry spells. The weekend included dance workshops and competitions in seven categories:

  • Little -ages 5-9 years
  • Junior -ages 10-17 years
  • Divine -20 years experience
  • Fusion
Egyptian Category Contestants
(in order of appearance)

Northern California

Shoshanna won the Belly Dancer of the Year last year. For this category, she did a very fast-moving, sophisticated choreography that conjured up the "dallae" flirtatious Egyptian archetype. In a black and silver velvet costume with a mermaid skirt, she bounced to a peppy baladi vocal and segued into a dramatic and sexy organ/accordion section. She accented the vocal parts expertly and ended by blowing us a kiss.

Southern California

Unlucky Leilainia had unsettling problems with her music, which was marred by distracting static. I felt this beautiful girl was in the wrong category. She came out with a sword on her head and immediately went to the floor into a pose with one leg up. Her music was a medley of pop Arabic, hip-hop and Olé-Olé Spanish. She did fast undulations and big pops and locks that didn't read well on her petite frame. Also the bronze green of her costume didn't show up well under that stage's lighting. Certain shades of green have that problem, I've noticed.

They had problems with the lighting when they started this category that they couldn't address until after the first contestants had performed. They decided that it wouldn't be fair to give the better lighting conditions to the subsequent contestants so they left it alone.

Northern California

When Karawan came out in her liquid gold dress with red rhinestone accents, I thought she looked like an Egyptian queen. She was classy and regal, with her hair in an elegant chignon. Karawan, who is married to one-third of the Lammam Brothers Arabic music ensemble, is a classical Arabic music maven, so I wasn't surprised that she picked a lesser-known Umm Khalthoum song, "Esaal Rohak". I noticed that she was really working a lot of the subtleties in the music in her dance. She really knows how to work the dynamic in a dance: going from soft to hard, from kitten to lioness as the music takes her. She mimed and mouthed the words to the songs several times, although it was not a vocal track. I wonder if that's wise if you have a non-Middle Eastern audience and can't be sure that the audience and judges are familiar with the lyrics.

Southern California

Inaya was the Princess of Cairo in a black skirt gored with fuchsia with a diagonal fuchsia strap on the bra and belt and a pretty headband framing her smile. It was an excellent interpretation of this popular Egyptian dance tune, with fluid transitions, and assertive traveling moves. I like it when a dancer goes on the prowl. At times I thought she was channeling Fifi a bit, with her radiant, yet calm and beautiful face.

Southern California  People's Choice Award

Veronica wore a purple chiffon skirt with fuchsia insets that flared beautifully when she danced. She started with her back to the audience, which can be hard to pull off. During the kanoun taxim she did hip shimmies while following the bass drum background with big chest drops. She also had a fake ending. We thought she was done, but she picked up her veil again and gave us a swirling, fast finale with lots of audience eye contact.

Leyla Jamal

She was smooth and dramatic in emerald green and gold. Nice interpretation of another old Egyptian dance favorite. I think it was Sitt El Hosn. Another audience favorite and another dramatic back drop finale.


Sumra, in vibrant orange chiffon over a gold lamé underskirt, got the audience rocking to the Saidi part of her dance. When she moved to the back of the stage and paused for that old familiar boom-boom tekka tek drama of the drum, she pulled us all into the drama with her. As Bobby Farrah used to say, "there isn't an Arab in the world that doesn't know what to do when they hear and see that". As in put your hands together and GROOVE with the dancer.

Southern California

Jade was in shocking fuchsia chiffon with a ruched bra and a flower over her ear. The skirt had a fringeless belt with cut-outs. She seemed a bit tentative to me at times but had a nice soft quality. Again, the audience seemed to like the Saidi part, and it seemed to be her favorite, too.

Texas  Second runner-up

Sa'adiyya was the winner of the 2003 Belly Dancer of the Year contest. She was also runner-up in the fusion category that day. In fuchsia chiffon with flowing sleeves that enhanced her arm movements, she manipulated a beautiful fuchsia, teal and mauve veil with great drama. Later in the dance she became playful and outgoing. The whole effect was graceful, youthful, and fresh. Yet another music problem caused some bad sound system feedback during her dance.

Southern California  

Redhead Lucia's costume of liquid gold mermaid skirt with champagne chiffon panels looked outstanding under the mediocre lighting and highlighted her graceful moves. Maybe I was influenced by the bad weather we'd been having, but she was like the sun coming thru after a rainy day. Sort of like an art deco statue electrified. Another happy Saidi portion. As I recall, she ended on a fade-out of the drum solo, which I thought was an odd choice.

photo provided by contestant, thanks!
Southern California 
 First runner-up

I was beginning to hyperventilate by this time, thinking that I didn't know what Egyptian dance is, when Rahana came on. Thank you, Rahana. Thanks to you I could stop groping in my bag for my inhaler. I could sit back, breathe calmly and watch while you took-care-of Egyptian-business. The controlled small shimmies; the emotion-filled delivery; the building of the tempo and energy; the whole package was wonderful and VERY Egyptian.

I actually met Rahana briefly at the Dina workshop last year. During her dance she reminded me a bit of that Egyptian diva. Something about those small sideways traveling moves done while moving in a circle and the way her hair fell over one eye. Her asymmetrical clingy red costume with one sleeve had a tummy panel that allowed her tattoo to peek out. I think it was during Rahana's performance that I came to an epiphany: Egyptian dancers rarely look like they are trying too hard, which is very difficult in a competition.

Rahana also owns a dancewear boutique and vends at dance shows. She has a line of cute dance-logo tanks and T-shirts. You can see some of them in the upcoming Gilded Serpent feature on dance T-shirts.



Sorry, no picture available of Nitara!
Do you have one? Please send it in to us ASAP. Thanks!

Northern California

It must have been hard to be the last dancer after this many contestants, but the audience stayed with the performers all the way. This was despite the distraction of shopping going on all around the room. I enjoyed the calm and gentle feel that Nitara projected. She used a pop male vocal and used finger cymbals, unusual in this category. She was in maroon and iris gold/blue.

Northern California

Andalee wore a slinky cobalt blue halter dress accessorized with lady-like silver heels. It seemed a little long for her, and she had to tug at it a bit, but it was a lovely line. Her song was a Fairuz-like female vocalist with a heavy drum machine. She also sang along for part of it. She was saucy yet demure, a charming combination. She tossed her silver assaya in the air. I liked her ending of twirling turns with the cane.

Southern California  Third runner-up and Congeniality Award

As the person in the seat next to me said, "when you go to Egypt, you see dancers that dance like that all the time." This dancer and her performance were the embodiment of the Egyptian concept of "Eshta"*. In a bubble-gum pink bedla and skirt, she was butter-smooth with really clean technique that was a joy to watch. Someone told me that she is the daughter of Lou Shelaby, one of the brothers that owned the famous Fez and Cascades nightclubs in Los Angeles. Lou Shelaby was also a violinist, I believe, so talent apparently runs in the family. Roxxanne must have been watching great dancers since she was small, and it shows. She also performs with and is Assistant Director of Sahra Kent's "Ya Amar! Middle Eastern Dance Company". No wonder her Egyptian chops are so well-honed.
*Eshta: creamy, rich, often used to mean deliciously voluptuous in Egypt.

Ed note- So sorry the pictures we obtained are not turning out very well! We will continue to show you what we have, but your photos are welcome and appreciated, especially as we try to fill out the categories below. Thanks!

BDOU 2005 Category Photos yet to come

Next year's event has been upgraded!
The 16th Annual Belly Dancer of the Universe Competitions and International Dance Festival
February 18 and 19, 2006, Saturday and Sunday of President's Day Weekend

Spacious New Location- Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center
300 East Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90802,

Vendors both days- 2 shows - 11 Competitions- 16 Workshops

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
7-16-05 The Junior Division of the The Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition photos by Lynette
Ages 10-17 years, held Saturday, February 19, 2005, in Long Beach, California

4-29-05 Power Failure Halts Troupes & Finals Categories, The Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition, Part 1, Sunday Evening, held February 19-20, 2005, in Long Beach, California report by Amy Bonham, photos by GS staff
Willow Street outside the Grand Willow Street Center was a raging river on Saturday morning and the rain continued through the weekend with intermittent dry spells.

5-13-03 Fusion Category added to Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition by Luna
"You know, we're really making history here..."

3-12-03 Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition 2003 Photo Report by Lynette
Sponsored by Tonya & Atlantis and held in Long Beach, California. Finalists are expected to be able to improvise spontanious choreography!

10-9-05 Zaharr's Memoir, Part 11- The Minerva
What do Greeks know about Belly Dancing anyway?” He just grabbed my hand and we headed toward the door. Grumbling, I followed him inside and I was startled to see a big stage with a large wooden dance floor right in front of it.

10-7-05 Rhythm and Reason Series, Article 5, Cymbals & the Music by Mary Ellen Donald
But that’s not the rhythm. As I say at the beginning of each workshop, “Rhythm is the patterned arrangement of sound and silent.”

10-13-05 A Weekend with Horacio & Beata Cifuentes, Part 1, by Dondi Simone Dahlin
What is it about certain workshops in which the profundity and joy of the workshop stays with you long after it is over?

9-28-05 Haft Paykar: "Seven Beauties" Seeking Love and Enlightenment in 12th Century Persia, Reviewed by: Rebecca Firestone, performed on April 2, 2005 produced by Laurel Victoria Gray . Even when a show attempts to borrow at least the external forms from some body of myth or literary work, it is unusual for the producers to be as aware of the allegorical content as Gray is of the deeper meanings behind Haft Paykar.


ad 4
ad 4 Suzanna Del Vecchio
ad 4 oasis dance company
ad 4 Casbah Dance

ad 4 Dhy & Karen

 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines