Thursday, November 16, 2017
Spotlight on Samara
Samara, MDTC's Artistic Director of Dance and Choreographer, is pictured in "Red Desert," a signature piece in the Company's repertory, and one of the many exquisite choreographies she has created since the Company's beginnings. (Photo by Gary Heller.)
I can still remember the swirling hips and beautiful hand movements of my older cousins -- such joy they expressed through the music they loved. They were one generation closer to our Greek and Turkish heritage. I always keep that vision close to me. They were captivating women who made their dance look so fluid and so natural. The beauty of being female never looked so good!
Dance to me is part of nature, something extraordinary. I remember going to City Center to see Martha Graham in my early teens and being totally floored by the depths of her darkness in one of her pieces -- it was riveting, authentic, and so real. It inspired me to study at the Martha Graham School which lead me to become a dance major. At the same time I was studying Middle Eastern dance in Long Island with a student of the famous master Ibrahim Farrah. Her name was Allegra. She was a beautiful dancer! She brought me to see his dance group at Lincoln Center and I fell in love with the company and the diversity of their work. I started studying at the Ibrahim Farrah Near East Dance School and eventually became a member of the company which really changed my life. I learned so much about the folklore in different regions of the Middle East. Working in the theater gave me the discipline and inspiration I needed to grow as an artist. I had the best of both worlds--working in some of the most popular nightclubs in the U.S with professional orchestras, and simultaneously performing in some of the most prestigious theaters. Middle Eastern Dance was at the top of its game here in New York City in the 1980s. It was the place where people became accustomed to seeing really good talent -- singers and dancers accompanied by superb Middle Eastern orchestras. After the first Gulf war some of the nightclubs closed down. It was then I started spending longer periods of time out of the country. I danced in Jordan, the Ivory Coast West Africa, Mexico City, Cairo, Athens, Istanbul,and Japan to name a few. This was an interesting time in my life, and I really enjoyed the experience of performing in different cultures!
I find one of my biggest challenges in this performing art form is making people understand what it is. I have gotten to the point where I say I am a dancer who choreographs, performs, and teaches world dance. If they ask for more specifics I explain in more detail but I try not to use the word "belly dance" because to me it does not describe what I do. This is a challenge because most of the time the question I get is, "Do you do belly dance too?"
The Mosaic Dance Theater has really brought me full circle. It is an honor and a joy to share with the company all that I have learned from my mentors and from all my experience. It is so important to present our dance form in the most disciplined and professional level. This has been passed down to me from others whose vision and dedication I share and cherish, it is my hope that their voices forever live on.