INTERVIEW WITH DAZZLING DC DANCER : RACHEL KAY BROOKMIRE!
Last month I traveled to D.C. or my aunt’s 60th birthday. My aunt and cousin have both taken/ are taking classes at the famous D.C. belly dance studio, Sahara Dance. My cousin spoke so highly of Sahara’s well known owner Rachel, that I decided to send her a message to see if she would like to meet up for an interview. Lucky for us, she said yes! yay!
We decided to grab coffee at Whole Foods and sit and chat/interview. Let me just tell you – this woman is amazing! Not only is she the founder and director of Sahara Dance, she is also the director of both of Sahara’s dance ensembles, Raqs Sahara and Raqs Caravan East, she created an intensive teacher training program, and…oh yea – she’s an incredible dancer!
The path that led Rachel to creating Sahara dance included learning from some of the best. She studied with both Autumn Leah Ward and Yousry Sharif as well as Sahra Saeeda (whom she also did a dance enthnology tour with in Egypt), Yasmina Ramzy, Haida, Faten Salama, Aida Nour, Jillina and others. All of this training allowed Rachel to cultivate her own vision for belly dance. She focuses on community, mindfulness, celebration of all body types, and developing belly dance as an art form.
I really can’t say enough good things about Rachel. When I was editing her interview I couldn’t stop smiling watching it – she’s just such a warm person, so wise and articulate, warm and sweet, humble, inspirational and incredibly cool. I hope you guys enjoy getting to know her as much as I did.
For more background info on Rachel visit the Sahara Dance site.
*disclaimer – the filming quality is a little low budget, content quality is high ;)*
TBB: How did you get started in belly dance?
TBB: What type of belly dance/ME music speaks to you the most?
RKB: I love Egyptian dance, I love Egyptian music, I like a lot of different types of music that fall into the belly dance genre or can easily be adaptable to belly dance movement, but Egyptian is my first love.
TBB: What is your favorite song right now?
Listen to White Flag by Gorillaz feat. Syrian National Orchestra :
[spotify id=”spotify:user:1272124796:playlist:5E0SMWQXJWsrhXiXo5tXa5″ width=”300″ height=”80″ /]
TBB: Who were some of your belly dance mentors?
RKB: Autumn Leah Ward is my first teacher and probably my largest influence and then from there Yousry Sharif is certainly a big part of my dance training, Yasmina Ramzy, Sahra Saeeda, Hadia, and then going to Egypt and studying… there are a lot of influences, but those I think would be primary.
TBB: If you could meet any dancer from the past who would it be and why?
TBB: What advice can you give other dancers and what is the best advice you’ve been given?
TBB: How did you decide to start your own studio?
TBB: When you opened your studio what did you think the challenges were going to be? Were you prepared? It seems like a huge undertaking…
RKB: I had a lot of support when I opened the studio, I still do, that helped. I didn’t know what the challenges were going to be, I just did it because I loved it and I kind of leapt before looking deeply, and I was lucky. So I didn’t anticipate challenges really, I just did it, and then challenges for sure arose (laughs).
TBB: You’ve put a lot of work into presenting belly dance as an art form and presenting in on a stage – can you tell me more about that?
RKB: Yea, I’ve gotten to do a lot with the theater. We do three productions a year, the biggest one is in Spring at American University’s Greenberg Theater…we’ve brought in a band or different musicians at different times or just with recorded music. Having done it for 12/13 years there’s been a lot of opportunity to create shows or choreographies that are in line with this vision of belly dance as an art form and also celebrating all bodies movING.
yay! how cool is she???
TBB: You mentioned before when you were talking about the advice you would give to amateur dancers, how it’s easy to get frustrated. It reminded me of me… because I’m a fashion designer too, I always had a hard time balancing – it’s my job, but I love it. Sometimes it gets confusing – I would think, why am I having such a hard time doing something that I’m supposed to love so much? Did you have a similar experience with your studio – it’s your work, but it’s your passion, and how do you reconcile that?
RKB: Yea, I had a very similar experience in that the passion was so strong for a while that it overpowered all other aspects of my life, and then that lack of balance – I felt it. There were periods where I was burnt out. Helping to cultivate a new sense of passion for the dance that didn’t consume everything, that was a process I really had to learn. I really had to spend time figuring out how to do that. I think that’s a challenge for anybody in the arts or pursuing anything they feel passionate about in a work capacity, keeping the boundaries and keeping the balance.
TBB: HOW DO YOU DO THAT???? hahaha If you don’t mind me asking – I could learn from this!
RKB: (laughs) For me I got into meditation 8 years ago, so that’s been a part of my life each day and as big a part as belly dance in some more recent years. Those teachings and those practices help me to stay grounded and connected to what’s most important for me and keep nourishing the love of dance. So I had to go outside to come back.
TBB: Where have you enjoyed performing most?
TBB: Do you have any funny gig stories?
RKB: (laughs) yea I mean I have all the same stories a lot of belly dancers have that you have to experience to really appreciate a good stage and a good audience when it comes.You know – changing in coat closets or burning your feet on hookah coals (haha)… the conditions are not always nice, but it was worth it for the musicians!
Thank you so much Rachel!!!
WATCH RACHEL DANCE!
RACHEL’S UPCOMING EVENTS
*these events have been added to The Belly Blog calendar which appears in the blog side bar. If you wish to add an event to the calendar please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
January 10th – April 11th: Theatrical Belly Dance Intensive with Rachel Brookmire and friends
January 11th: Introduction to Belly Dance with Rachel Brookmire
January 11th: Sahara Dance Open House & Mini Workshops (Jan 11)
January 11th: Women’s Creativity Circle with Rachel Brookmire (Jan 11)
January 30th – February 1st: Master Class with Mardi Love
February 14th-21st: 10th annual belly dance and yoga retreat in Costa Rica with Rachel Brice
March 6th-8th: Workshops with Yasmina Ramzy
6th: Lecture: Belly Dance and Feminism, Sexuality, Self Esteem and Spirituality AND Workshop X
7th: Heavy Hitting Hips Technique & Transitions AND Nuance, Style and Emotionality
8th: Folklore Realms AND Choreography
April 11th-12th: Master Classes with Karim Nagi
Dabke AND Live Drum Solo for Dancers
June 19th – 21st: Master Class with Sahra Saeeda
August 22-29: Bali Retreat w/ Rachel Brice
November 19- 22: Master Class with Zoe Jakes
December 4th – 6th Master Class with Donna Mejia
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m heading to DC!