Amira’s Bellydance Journey: The Best Dollar I Ever Spent

After being in an abusive relationship for nine years, I was divorcing my husband. At this time, I joined a book club. This club let you join by purchasing five items for a total of $5. I found four books, but was struggling with finding that fifth item. Eventually, I settled on a Bellydance workout video. I told myself, “Well, if I don’t like it, I’m only out $1.”

Ironically, I couldn’t tell you what those other four items were! I loved the video from the fist play, and I did the workout on a daily basis afterwards.

Then I ordered the next video…and the next…and the next. I couldn’t get enough of Bellydance! The music, the movements, and the joy it gave me. I went from sad and dismal to happy and cheerful.

This went on for about three years; me learning new moves via workout videos in the privacy of my living room. Until, I saw a flyer for a Bellydance class. I was so excited!

I stepped out of my living room and into the world of Bellydance. There were oodles of people in the class. However the teacher, Sarnita, was teaching a style of Bellydance that I was unfamiliar with. We were doing moves that I had already learned, but in a completely different way.

It turns out that Sarnita had learned American Tribal Bellydance during her time on the West Coast, while the videos that I had been studying for the last three years fell under the umbrella of American Cabaret Bellydance. Mind blown! I now had a new challenge; learning how to execute these same movements using different muscles that I didn’t even realize I possessed! 

The class quickly became Undulation, the Tribal Bellydance student troupe. We started performing around Traverse City, After a while, Sarnita asked to meet with me. She told me that she was no longer interested in teaching the class and running the troupe and she was handing the reigns over to me. I was honored and petrified all at the same time! What do I know about running a dance  troupe? 

There were little resources to utilize at the time. Thankfully, there was Shira, who had complied heaps of information. Long before Wikipedia ever existed, Shira had the goods!

Through trial, error, and a lot of research, I forged full-steam ahead. We had regular classes and weekly rehearsals. We applied to perform in the annual downtown Traverse Cityevent, Friday Night Live. This was a big hit and became a crowd favorite for years to come. We also entered the first Michigan Renaissance Festival Bellydance Competition, and placed first. And we changed the name from Undulation to the Dancers of the Rising Phoenix.

In 2004, the Dancer of the Rising Phoenix also became one of the very first chapters of PURE, the Public Urban Ritual Experiment. This was a way to give back to the community through the arts by raising fund for charity as well as awareness to their causes.

In 2009, I became certified to teach the Bellydance Goddess Workout®. I am now celebrating 17 years of teaching Bellydance, passing that power of healing onto others.

I also sponsor annual events in Traverse City to bring awareness of ethnic dance styles and the cultures behind them. Every spring we have World Bellydance Day and every fall RAKtoberFest.

If I hadn’t spent that $1, I feel that I wouldn’t have been able to help as many women.

Amira Hamzar Raks

231-313-5577

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