Gilded Serpent presents...

Shimmying on the Shores of Paradise

The Dancers of The Dominican Republic

by Sylvia Richards
posted February 17, 2010

White sands and turquoise waters come to mind when most picture the Dominican Republic, but the Caribbean paradise offers visitors far more than its natural beauty. It may come as a surprise that the small tropical country most known for its pristine beaches and Caribbean hospitality also has a vibrant and thriving belly dancing scene.

Belly dancing arrived on Dominican shores in the 1970s, when Dominican businessmen introduced the Middle Eastern dance form to a popular local restaurant, El Maunaloa, after returning from a trip abroad. The Dominican Belly dancing community has been growing steadily since. In the 1980s, Ana Luna opened the country’s first Belly dancing school. The school produced many of the island’s most prominent belly dancers, such as Vanessa Angulo, who was hired in the late 1980s to dance in the popular variety show, “El Show Del Mediodia.” Angulo accrued many followers in the Dominican Republic, as well as in Dominican immigrant communities in the United States.

In 1986, she went on to found her own belly dancing school, Vanessa Angulo & Su Grupo, which boasts four professional studios and over 800 students. The school, which has drawn international stars like Yousry Sharif and Mohamed Shahin, has been the backbone of the belly dancing community in the country. Angulo also helped to fuel the Dominican belly dancing community through the organization of local belly dancing contests and festivals.

Today, the Dominican Republic’s Belly dancing community is small but flourishing. My recent trip to DR to work on our upcoming festival has really shown me that belly dancing is beginning to penetrate the country’s media, particularly in numerous television shows.

There are also venues throughout the country that hold Belly dancing performances and workshops. These include Ballet Teatro Dominicano, Casa de Teatro, Country Club Dominico-Americano, Casa de Espana, Country Club Rotario, Country Club Los Prados, Mohamed Restaurant and Bar. In addition, countless resorts across the country showcase local belly dancers.

The Barceló Bávaro resort complex, in which Festival Isis will be held, is one such resort. The festival will take place March 15-21, 2010, and will showcase the talent and flair of DR’s own Vanessa Angulo, Sahar Sami, Jannelle Cortes, Cristal Rodriguez, Esther Vasquez, and dozens of others. Belly dancing aficionados will have the opportunity to explore the diversity of the art form as they take workshops with local dancers, as well as with international stars such as Fifi Abdou, Randa Kamel, Saida, and more.

In light of the recent earthquake in the neighboring country of Haiti, a portion of the festival’s profits will go to Haitian relief funds. Despite its proximity to Haiti, the Dominican Republic is stable, and the festival will go on as planned.

This March promises to produce a new and exciting page in the story of Dominican Belly dancers, as thousands of fellow shimmy seekers touch down on the island, and members of its belly dancing community, shown here, gain international prestige and distinction. 


Vanessa Angulo

Vanessa Angulo
Vanessa Angulo began to teach professionally in 1986, recognized as the first oriental dance choreographer in the Dominican Republic. Considered the most outstanding dancer Dominican Republic has had in Oriental Dance, she has contributed largely to the popularity that Arabic dance has achieved in recent times in her native country.

Sahar Sami

Sahar Sami

Born in the Dominican Republic, Sahar Sami is a master instructor, choreographer, performer, and director of the Academy of Egyptian Dance, the largest school in Southern California dedicated strictly to Egyptian dance. Her annual dance productions seek to educate the public about Egyptian history and Egyptian Dance, while providing a professional setting for students to present what they learn in class to the community.


Jannelle Cortes

Jannelle Cortes

Dominican native, Jannelle Cortes choreographs and performs for a wide range of cultural, corporate and commemorative events — from weddings and parades to summer festivals. A charismatic teacher inspiring to students of all ages, Jannelle recently made her television debut on the Telemundo morning news, bringing the art of belly dancing to a wider audience.

Lorelei Acosta

Lorelei Acosta:
Lorelei Acosta is one of the most dedicated dancers and instructors of Arabic Dance in the Dominican Republic, having spent the last 10 years immersing herself in this form of art.  Her awestruck students and loyal fans enjoy the sparkle and soul put into her every performance. With each move, Lorelei masterfully exhibits her spirituality, elegance, sensuality, and most of all, a deep love for dance. She has her own dance studio called “Lorelei Acosta, Danza Oriental”.

Easther Vasquez

Esther Vasquez:
Esther Vasquez is one of the most prestigious teachers and dancers from the Dominican Republic. Throughout her artistic career she has done important performances at restaurants, theaters, cultural activities, as well as TV shows.

Graciela Coiscou

Graciela Coiscou:
Graciela Coiscou is a belly dancing instructor and certified choreographer. She has had more than 10 years of experience, and is the director and owner of the Belly Dance Shelim School in the Dominican Republic.


Architect, dancer, choreographer, instructor, and director of Oriental Dance Studio, Sindia Fernandez, known by her stage name, Rakssindia, has a unique style of dancing characterized by creativity, talent, stage presence, and charm.

Gisselle Ubiera

Gisselle Ubiera:

Gisselle Ubiera was born in the Dominican Republic, the home that fostered her love for the art and culture of Raqs Sharqi from the age of 15. Today, she dances, instructs in, and is the director of the Gibelly School of Dance.

Rosanna Valera

Rosanna Valera:

Rosanna Valera has 10 years of artistic experience, and since 2005, has been the teacher and official dancer of the famed Lebanese-Syrian-Palestinian Club. She dances in many private as well as public events, including the Arabian Colony of Port Prince.

Cristal Rodriguez

Cristal Rodriguez:

This great dancer, much appreciated by her audience, discovered the magic and fascination of the Raqs Sharqi arts 10 years ago. Also a singer and actress, Cristal Rodriguez has presented her art throughout the Dominican Republic, currently working as a dance instructor in several schools in the country, including the prestigious Lebanese-Syrian-Palestinian Club.

From Vanessa Angulo School

Liz Emely

Liz Emely:

With only 4 years of experience, Liz Emely has proven herself to be extremely talented as a choreographer and dancer, receiving First Place in the Junior Belly Dance category of the Eastern National Dance Competition in DR.

Genesis Jimenez

Genesis Jimenez:

Genesis Jimenez began studying with Vanessa Angulo at the age of 7. She taught beginners at age 12, and today, is an amazing instructor within Vanessa Angulo School. She is an excellent choreographer and dancer, and has participated in all national events prepared by the company of Vanessa Angulo.

Sharom Schnabell

Sharom Schnabell:

Sharom Schnabell is one of the youngest in Vanessa Angulo School. Trained in other forms of dance, she has been studying the Raqs Sharqi arts for 5 years, and is one of the most requested dancers in private activities today. Currently, she receives training as an instructor within the school, and participates in all workshops and events and countless national television programs.

Luz Aura Ortiz-Goico

Luz Aura Ortiz-Goico:

Luz Aura Ortiz-Goico started belly dancing at age 12. Her beauty and dynamic personality is an inspiration to many, and she is currently training to become an instructor.

Alicia Mata

Alicia Mata:

Alicia Mata is a professional choreographer and dancer, starting at age 7. She has been trained in many different genres of dance (ballet, jazz, hip hop, etc.), and has had 17 years of experience at Vanessa Angulo School, participating in numerous international workshops, TV programs in Santo Domingo and the U.S. She won First Place in the Professional Dancers category of the first National Dance Competition in East DR. 

Carolina Angulo

Carolina Angulo:

Carolina Angulo is Vanessa Angulo’s daughter, and began her studies at the school at the age of 6 years. She is the first and only practicing dancer of Femina Tannour in the Dominican Republic. An excellent choreographer, she has participated in countless programs, events and workshops with her mother, while a teacher and dancer at the school.

Vanessa Robert

Vanessa Robert:

Vanessa Robert is a dancer and teacher with over 8 years of experience.  Placing second in the Business category of the first National Dance Competition in East DR, Vanessa has participated in numerous shows and national and international workshops.

Nathaly Reyes

Nathaly Reyes:

Nathaly Reyes teaches and dances in Vanessa Angulo School, with 10 years experience within it. Third Place Winner of the East DR National Dance Competition, in the category of Dance Professionals, Nathaly is an excellent dancer and choreographer of the company.

Alexandra Ramirez

Alexandra Ramirez

has had 8 years of experience with Raqs Sharqi, and is also well recognized as a Flamenco Dancer. She is a teacher and dancer at Vanessa Angulo School, and has traveled outside the country to participate in numerous artistic events of the company.

Manuelia Medina

Manuelia Medina:

Manuelia Medina has had 8 years of experience within the art, and her passion continues to flourish as she participates in countless national and international workshops as well as festivals and private activities. Today, she trains to be an instructor. 

Jennifer Bibieca

Jennifer Bibieca:

Jennifer Bibieca, with just 5 years of experience in the dance, is one of the youngest of Vanessa Angulo School. She is the 2nd. Place Winner in the Junior Category of the first belly dancing contest in the country, with international judges and world renowned belly dance stars, Sahar Sami and Mohamed Shahin.

Barceló Bávaro Resort: The magnificent Barceló Bávaro Resort is the site location of Festival Isis de Baile
Photo at top of page:
Bávaro Beach:




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  1. Naiilah

    Feb 17, 2010 - 11:02:07

    Wow! Great to know there are no fat or old bellydancers in the Domincan Republic. That would be horrible!

  2. TerriAnne Gutierrez

    Feb 17, 2010 - 12:02:43

    Thank you for this excellent article. Last year Susu Pampanin and I were flown in to perform for a private party at one of the resorts in the D.R. Since then I have been interested in their belly dance community. It looks mostly Egyptian cabaret style…is there any tribal there yet?

  3. Lily

    Feb 17, 2010 - 01:02:45

    Hello! I’m friends with Saly Duluc, one of the few tribal dancers in the Dominican Republic. She tells me that the community is gaining momentum more and more each day, and I think the festival itself will bring more tribal techniques, and more belly dance styles in general, to the burgeoning community.  Exciting!

  4. TerriAnne Gutierrez

    Feb 17, 2010 - 04:02:59

    Hey, that’s awesome! Thank you for your response.

  5. Lily

    Feb 24, 2010 - 01:02:53

    No problem! Are you coming to the festival?

  6. TerriAnne Gutierrez

    Feb 24, 2010 - 01:02:31

    I would love to! Anything is possible…

  7. Amber

    Mar 3, 2010 - 11:03:55

    JUST PURCHASED MY TICKET!! SO EXCITED. Hope to see you all there!

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