Gilded Serpent presents...
of Oklahoma City
is in Oklahoma. She says that she is proud to be an “ Okie”
and says she is also part Cherokee. Her dance name is Soraya! Her
first dancing lesson took place in 1972 was at the YMCA, in
Oklahoma City. Her teacher was a professional dancer from New
York whose husband was transferred to Oklahoma City be a television
news director in a local station. He told her during those
years not to tell anyone that she was a belly dancer.
as she reminisces, “One night my girlfriend called and said
‘You have fifteen minutes to get into your leotard and meet
me to take a belly dancing class.’ So I ran to the YMCA to
meet my destiny! Two years later,
my teacher went back to New York. Her name was Shani,
and she turned to me just before she left and said, “You have
to be the teacher now!” I laughed and then realized that she
was serious! So I did it! I had to start going to workshops
to amplify the technique I had already learned. As I told you,
Shani was from New York. In those days, dancers didn’t go to
school to learn to dance.
had learned by going to watch the belly dancers at the
Round Table after working as a ‘twister’ (a dancer who
performed The Twist) at the Peppermint Lounge”.
Soraya's poem to Shani in right margin)
break the dance movements down as I do when I teach. I had
to learn to do that… We had to
follow along; just as in they
do in the Middle East (especially if there is a language barrier).
Once a month, I went to Dallas to study with Meara. I assumed
three classes from Shani that she had been teaching in different
parts of town.
my name after I read a book by the former Empress of Iran,
“Soraya.” She was a second wife and the love of the Emperor’s
life. His Parliament made him divorce her because she was unable
to bear children. Soraya is also the other name for “Pleiades”,
“the Seven Sisters” constellation of stars. It also means “candelabra”
or, to me, “light”. This is why I chose this name.
In the 1970s
I met Bert Balladine, at a workshop in Fort Worth, sponsored
by Carol Shannon. I brought Bert here to Oklahoma several times
for workshops after that.
I look good and work well together! We were complementary heights.
We read each other while dancing with a mutual instinct. We
each knew what the other was going to do. Bert would give me
a brief over-view of the choreographic outline and then we
would just do it. And it always worked!
appeared on television together on a show called “The Danny
Williams Show” It was a noontime entertainment. It included
some news too and then special features. First we were interviewed
and then we danced. It was the first time that Belly Dance
had been presented in Oklahoma. In the interview, they seemed
surprised we were doing such a thing. We tried to tell them
how Belly dance is truly an art form and that there were many
misconceptions especially here in the heartland. It was still
something new here. We tried to present it in a very dignified
and artful way.
was a lady who was publishing a magazine in Wichita. She sent
a letter saying she was going to quit, or that she was planning
to suspend her publication called the Binty Balady.
I then decided to start a magazine called The Mirage.
I published my magazine for four years and had subscribers
in 42 states, including Germany and Sweden. Our subscriber
in Sweden was an Egyptian man, Bahi Barakat,
who had about three hundred students with blond hair and blue
eyes. One time, he called to say he was coming to the states
to show his dance films, including one of the Zar. First, he
was going to New York and then to California. He was a 6’5”
course, I’m married, and I had danced for 14 years in a Jordanian
restaurant. Bahi came and stayed a few days here and played
the drum at the restaurant. I wrote an article about him in
Mirage, which I will send to you. I took a picture and wrote
a little text about him and his dance. He knew about it, of
course. He went on to California. He bought some of my books
about Egypt and its dance before he left. He died shortly thereafter,
I love Egypt,
especially ancient Egypt, and studied it a lot in school. I
fell in love with Egyptian antiquities in art history classes.
I graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts from Okalahoma
University. Fortunately, I have had the chance to go to Egypt
and to Athens also.
go to one private grade school in my area, to perform and teach
dance. I’ve been going there for 14 years now. They are in
the 3rd grade and they all come dressed as Pharaohs and Cleopatras.
The children usually tell me whom they are portraying. There
is usually only one scribe in the crowd. They have their Egyptian
feast every year in October when they are studying ancient
Egypt, and I perform a folkloric cane dance for them. I really
enjoy working with the children and sharing my knowledge. The
kids love it when I say I’ve been inside King Tut’s tomb. “Who
was the first feminist?” I ask. “I know! Queen Hatshepsut,”
the kids will shout.
I danced at the opening in New Orleans for the King Tut Exhibit
touring the United States. I did what we called a Pharonic
dance. I was wearing white pleated dress costume to resemble
an ancient Egyptian. That was a fabulous gig. I did this with
fellow dancers from Houston. Naderah had her
hair braided, and she played Isis. Her husband was Osirus.
Inadvertently, my dance became the dance of the widow of Tut,
Ankhnamen. It was in supplication to Osirus to accept the soul
of King Tut in the after world. This is how we melded our characters
into one show.
speaks about her dance shows with Bert:
and Mark Anthony”
the character was supposed to be Caesar! I rented
a costume for him. I had an Egyptian architect paint the backdrop
so that it looked like an Egyptian tomb painting. Four men, costumed
as slaves, carried me in on a fancy litter. I wore my gold lame
cape over a beautiful costume. Bert was standing on the stage,
posturing, awaiting my arrival. I entered the stage after coming
down off of the litter. Two ladies were on either side, fanning
me. Nobody will ever forget this show. Such fantasy! Then, of
course, we did our duet with the veil.
remembers seeing Dalilah in
was also a former partner of Bert’s. For personal reasons, she
and her family decided to move to Madrid, Spain, her place of
birth. One of their children was killed there in the elevator
shaft of their apartment. They had twins, Peter and Paul; Paul
was the son who fell. They were out of touch with everyone after
that tragedy. Oh! They also had a daughter.
By some coincidence,
I got in touch with a lady that knew how to contact Dalilah
in Madrid. We were going to Madrid on vacation, so I sent a
letter to the address I was given. She called just before we
left. They took us around Madrid and showed us all the great
restaurants with the best tapas. We had a great visit. We talked
about bringing her here for a workshop. She died shortly after
our visit, though.
She had been
here before, and she stayed in my home. I knew her through
Bert. They had danced together before. When I first met her,
they were living in Las Vegas. I met her again in San Francisco
at an event of Bert’s. We hit it off, became immediate friends,
and I went to see her and her house in Las Vegas. After I reconnected
with her in Madrid, I shared her address with everyone who
wondered what became of her.
Restaurant that I mentioned earlier was called “Sweis”. This
was the owners’ family name. They were Christians from Jordan,
and they specialized in Middle Eastern food. I told them I
wanted to dance in their restaurant, and they had a stage built
just for me. I became like part of the family. I brought lots
of artists into their place. They felt I had done a lot for
them. He still has a pita bakery,
but the restaurant is closed now. I am still in contact with
the Sweis family.
I was the
only Caucasian in a Japanese dance troupe in Oklahoma, after
the Japan American Society asked me to join their group.
One of my
former dance partners has been working in Dubai. When he got
married, I held the wedding reception for him and his bride.
He has since become a Muslim, and he has made the pilgrimage
to Mecca. He wouldn’t want me to reveal his name now because
of his new religious life, and he will not be dancing as a
performer again. I am happy to say that I am still considered
a good family friend.
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the Certifiers, The Chicken or the Egg? Part Two By
Najia El-Mouzayen. ...artists
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with me to the Casbah" by Nisima
me right into her husband's lap, yelling, "Kiss her Henry...
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