*Middle Eastern Dance percussionist for 24 years
Rick Fink, national percussionist, has extensive experience in instruction and performance in Middle Eastern Dance. Based in Austin, TX, he has travelled nationally teaching and performing for many Middle Eastern dancers. Fink has developed a style of percussion that is distinctly powerful, lush and focused on enhancing the dancer/percussionist relationship.
*Producer of four Middle Eastern Dance based videos
With cultural grant contracts from Texas spanning from 1988-1993, Fink has produced three Middle Eastern dance based performance art videos: Ode to the Elements, From East to West, Rhythms from the Great Heart. From East to West was awarded best performance video of the year in 1994 by ACTV. His lastest video, Zills: Intermediate to Advanced, is acclaimed as one of the finest ever produced for instruction in Middle Eastern dance finger cymbals.
*Producer of two original Middle Eastern Dance music CDs
As one of the founding members of Z-Band and the sole founding member of Great Heart, Fink has produced the Middle Eastern based music Ode to the Elements and Red Roses. Regarded as joyfully eclectic, soulful and very palatable to the Western ear, this music has sold worldwide and has been used in performance by many Middle Eastern dancers.
*Producer of the Master Sunday Workskhop Series
Fink created the concept of Sunday afternnoon Middle Eastern Dance workshops that offered the professional Middle Eastern dancer an opportunity to intensely study the specialties of other professional dancers. From 1998-2001, Fink sponsored 13 workshops. The concept has now caught on and is used by other studios in
Texas and the Mid-West.
*Winner of Zaghareet Magazines 2001 Musician of the Year
Every year this national magazine produces the Peoples Choice Awards, and Fink was voted the best Middle Eastern based musician in 2001.
*Creator of award winnning website; Orientalist Art of the Nineteenth Century
Considered by many as the most beautiful website on Orientalist Art on the internet, this site garnered the Arabtop and Golden Web award in 2001. With over 60 images put in a moving historical context, Fink takes the viewer on an emotional journey of this extraordinary art.
*Invited to speak at Worcester College, Oxford, England in 2003
In collaboration with Catherine Allison, great granddaughter of the famous 19th century Orientalist artist Carl Haag, Fink co-authored the article; The Answers are all in the Painting- The story of Carl Haag. He was invited to present this article as part of the ASTENE conference (a worldwide Orientalist association) at Worcester College.
Maggie Mills, performing under the stage name of Shadia Dahlal has been a professional performer for over 20 years. She started her acting career at Cal-State Fullerton where she appeared in various productions. She also appeared in productions at the Downey Community theater. In 1974, she received an acting scholarship to the South Coast Repertory acting conservatory. She received her B.A. in theater and teaching credential in 1976.
Since the time she was a child, she had her heart set on an acting career; but fate intervened. Instead she took a teaching job with the city of Santa Ana, and it was during this time that she got hooked on Middle Eastern dance. Her first teacher was Marina Fisher. She later went on to study with Feiruz Aram, Samar, Tonya Chianis, Angelika Nemeth, and Shareen El Safy. After her first year of study she was hired for her first restaurant job and went on to work at several nightclubs and restaurants in the Orange County and Los Angeles area.
She also had the privilege of working with such distinguished musicians as John Bilezikjian, George Elias and the Aboud Abdel Al orchestra. Shadia was a member of the Arabesque Dance troupe in the mid 80s along with Latifa, the troupe leader and Kamala and Sahra.
In 1992, she relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma where she eventually returned to her first love: the theater. After teaching for Tulsa Public Schools for one year, she returned to school at Oklahoma State University and received an M.A. in theater in 1996. Part of her creative component for the M.A was a one-act play written by her and her husband, Russell. The play is entitled "Frida," and is based on the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. The play has been performed in Tulsa at various theaters. Shadia also performed the play at "The Day of the Dead" festival at the Tulsa Artists Coalition Gallery, the Gilcrease Museum (as part of the teacher training program for Harwelden), and SummerArts at Holland Hall.
Her second play, also cowritten with Russell, was "Blessed Be The Flame: The Hannah Szenes Story." It was produced by the Tulsa Community Jewish Center and directed by Shadia. She is also a professional make-up artist and has applied her talent in television and stage work.
In 1992, Shadia began teaching Middle Eastern in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She currently teaches weekly classes at her own studio, 4622 E. 31st Street in Tulsa (just west of 31st and Yale) in Tulsa. Her dance company, "The Purple Roses of Cairo," was created in spring of 1996. From their humble beginnings as a Middle Eastern dance troupe, they have blossomed into a full-fledged performance company, and have staged full-blown productions at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. They remain in high demand at Renaissance Faires and other venues, such as Oktoberfest and Mayfest. Shadia and the Purple Roses set the standard for professionalism and artistic integrity in the Midwest.
Shadia continues her study of oriental dance by traveling to Egypt annually to keep up with the latest trends in music, dance, and costuming.
Debbie Scheel, performing under the stage name of Shakira Massood-Ali, whose maternal grandparents were from Syria, began dancing in Kansas City, Mo. in 1977. For seven years, she studied with Zaina Ali of Kansas City, Mo. She has subsequently studied with Ibrahim Farrah (NY), Cassandra Shore (MN), Leila Gamal (IN), Judy Reda (NY), Bert Baledi (CA); Zahra Zuhair (CA), Morocco (NY), Dahlena (IL), Dunya (NM), Vashti (TX), Beata Zardo-Cifentus and Horacio Cifentus (Berlin, Germany); members of Fat Chance Belly Dance Troupe (CA); Amaya (NM); Fatima (CA); Jamila (CA); Suhaila (CA); and Faten Al-Munger (IN), Margo (MN), Mezemra (CA), Eva Cernic (nn) Fatima (CA), Angelika (CA) Dunya (NM), Z'Helene (TX), Amel (UK) and Farida Fahmy to name only a few. She attends at least three to six extended weekend and week-long teacher's workshop on a yearly basis. Shakira is certified at Level I with the Suhaila Sulmopora School of Dance in California.
Shakira Massood-Ali began teaching at Sirrom School of Belly Dance in Houston, Texas in 1983. Since 1992, she has been the Artistic Director of Sirrom School.
Shakira Massood-Ali has performed at the Mediterranean Festival, the Multi-Ethnic Festival, the Houston/Methodist Marathon, the International Festival, and the Turkish Festival, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Natural Science and appeared at the Houston Grand Opera presentation at the Wortham Theatre of "The Abduction from the Segeralio" and has also performed at The Music Hall in Houston, Texas. She has performed at the annual gala for the Egyptian Society of Houston, the Arab American Society of Houston, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the Channel 8 Auction, the Museum of Fine Arts (in conjunction with the Egyptian exhibition in 1997), at the Houstonian Hotel in Houston, Texas for their annual fund-raiser and at the Jewish Community Center for various events.
Shakira Massood-Ali has also appeared as the featured dancer with Trans-Arabian Sound (of Houston, Texas) at The Four Seasons, the Marriott (Galleria), the Marriott (West Loop), the Wyndom, the Houstonian and various other hotels in and around the Houston area for weddings, birthday parties and other special occasions.
Shakira Massood-Ali has performed at various restaurants and clubs in the Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New York, and Texas.
In 1997, Shakira was the Executive Director and Producer of Sirrom's first professional video featuring Zahra Zuhair of California.
Cheryl Simon, preforming under the stage name Atéa is the star and producer of the Magical Motion video collection, an international bestselling bellydance instruction series. Shes widely recognized as an expert in classic and modern bellydance styles. A pioneer in video instruction, her innovative teaching methods have been utilized by dance teachers, video instructors, and choreographers worldwide.
Atéa is a sought-after teacher and has trained Hollywood celebrities, Middle Eastern royalty, and thousands of women of all walks of life. Shes well known for developing instruction that presents traditions of the authentic dance in a contemporary and easy-to-understand format. Shes been featured in magazines and newspapers around the U.S. and Europe and is also a published writer
An experienced performance artist, she has danced in venues ranging from nightclubs and concert halls, to art centers and universities. She produced and hosted two cable television dance series in Los Angeles and has appeared on numerous television programs in America and abroad.
Currently residing in Los Angeles, Atéa is developing new video, DVD, and Internet projects. She plans to continue her work with health care specialists, dance experts, and artists to help validate and promote the holistic benefits, fun, and beauty of this classic feminine art form
Melonye Grant, performing under the stage name Desdemona, grew up in a home where music and dancing was a daily part of life. From her early days, her Grandfather would play"Bluegrass" fiddle while her mother played guitar and sang. Desdemona wouldstand on her father's feet as he danced to the music. Her mother and fatherwere active in Square and round dance, and consequently, Desdemona grew up with a deep passion for dancing of any kind.
At the age of 6, she discovered an album in her parent's collection entitled "Little Egypt presents: How to Bellydance for your Husband". The music on that album enchanted her and set her feet on the path to learning Middle Eastern Dance. (She still has that very same album framed and hanging on her studio wall to this day.)
Although she studied Jazz, Tap, Ballet and other dance forms along the way, Desdemona's true passion is "Belly Dance". At the age of 18, Desdemona danced weekly in a Greek restaurant appropriately named "Zorba's" in Tyler, Texas.
She took a hiatus from dance starting in 1985 and ending in 1991 to have three sons. Then, while attending a renaissance faire with her husband, she watched a Belly Dance show and the passionate ember was ignited again. With the support and encouragement of her husband, Desdemona began to fill in that missing part of her life. She began performing in small local venues and eventually began attending seminars again, further continuing her education along the way. In 1996, she formed the Dream Harem Belly Dance Troupe which consisted of two friends and her. This developed into beginning
Middle Eastern Dance classes and within 2 years, she was teaching at a local community college and holding classes twice a week in a rented studio, in addition to performing at a local renaissance faire, various parades, festivals, restaurants and seminars.
In 2001, the Desdemona's dream became a reality when she and her husband opened the Dance Your Dreams Studio. Since then, Desdemona and the Dream Harem has participated and performed in many workshops, seminars, and shows across Texas and in the United States.
Desdemona is a featured performer at Al Amir Lebanese Restaurant in Dallas, and in addition to her own shows, performs as part of RAKSZ Middle Eastern Dance in the DFW area.
Desdemona is the creator and producer of the "Bust a Gut Belly Roll Workshops" and is at work on the "Bust a Gut Belly Roll" instructional video.
Desdemona has studied with many of the stars of modern belly dance including Jillina, Morocco, Dina, Z-Helene, Amaya, Miabella, Horacio and Beata Cifuentes, Raqia Hassan, Dahlena, Eva Cernik, and others in a quest to remain a "perpetual student", ever evolving and always learning.
Her students and troupe adhere to Dance Your Dream's Studio Motto-"If we dance true to our spirit, if we dance what is in our hearts, we dance our dreams." Desdemona - 2002
Susie Murrell, performing under the stage name Suhira, realized her interest in dance at the age of 5 when she was enrolled in a ballet, tap, and jazz class. She loved the applause at her first performance at age 6. Unfortunately, it was her last performance in dance until age 16, due to family finances and commitments. The last two years of high school were spent being involved in the Drill Team, which employed precision dance.
Suhira became an 8th grade Math teacher at the age of 21. Several of the teachers she was working with were interested in taking a Belly Dance class from a local hairdresser in south Fort Worth. Thus began the now 30 year love for Belly Dance! Suhira taught school for 4 years, and then went into engineering at General Dynamics Corp (now Lockheed Martin Aerospace).
Later, as a contract engineer, Suhira studied belly dance wherever her employment took her, including Seattle, WA, Denver, CO, and Wichita, KS. When in Fort Worth, Suhira studied and performed with Carol Shannon. This is where she met her partner in the dance, Layla Hazine. They have been dancing together for more than 20 years now and have co-directed their own dance troupe, Scheherezade's Fantasies, for more than 16 years now. They had a Polynesian group, the Hula Breeze for many years as well, though it is no longer active today.
Suhira and Layla Hazine along with a couple of other dancers were commissioned to perform for the Defense Minister of Egypt. They performed at the Texas Renaissance Festival, outside of Houston, for 8 years. They continually perform at Arbor Daze, Mayfest, and the Texas State Fair in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. They have performed at many local restaurants and festivals and dance seminars, where they receive training from all of the well respected instructors of the belly dance.
Suhira's love for the dance truly shows in her intricate choreography, which is adaptable for solo or group performance. She loves to incorporate props such as swords, veils, tambourines, canes and zills into the dance. Suhira's teaching motto is, "Nothing you do in belly dance is wrong, just make sure you do it on purpose!".
Suhira thanks both Judy Cunningham and Conchi for believing in her dance instruction technique enough to invite her to teach (along with Layla Hazine) seminars in both Sedalia, MO and Cincinnati, OH respectively.
Suhira now co-teaches a choreography class with Layla Hazine for those who wish to continually challenge themselves with innovative choreographies. Her goal is to teach, create choreography, and perform for many more years to come and help enable each woman she encounters to be the best she can be at all aspects in life through the empowerment of the belly dance.
Helene Christopher, performing under the stage name Z-Helene, believes that art should transform. She draws upon her expansive movement vocabulary, wild creativity, Goddess inspired spirituality and fierce courage to forge transcendent experiences for her audiences. She is committed to a powerful and truthful purity of the moment that is, by nature, ecstatic. As teacher, her dynamic group improvisations and detailed full-length choreographies coupled with her deep regard and ability to communicate with each student enable her to bring the rich beauty of Middle Eastern dance to all who seek it.
Z-Helene Christopher has a broad dance background that includes extensive study and performances in Middle Eastern, East Indian, African, modern, ballet and flamenco dance forms. She has been performing and instructing Middle Eastern dance for over 23 years and, having successfully completed one year of training for Iyengar Yoga instructor certification, has been teaching yoga for five years. She holds a BA in Theatre Arts from Franklin & Marshall College. For the past 13 years Z-Helene has been teaching an accredited Middle Eastern dance class at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas, where she has produced large scale Middle Eastern dance concerts. As originator of her own eclectic ethnic style, Blue Wave, she has also received numerous cultural grants from the City of Austin to produce professional concerts. She has written a paper entitled Middle Eastern Dance: The Emergence of the New Sacred Temple Priestess, which is an expanded version of a presentation given at the First International Conference on Middle Eastern Dance at Orange Coast College. Z-Helene has been nationally acclaimed for her percussion talent with finger cymbals and her passionate dance style. She has produced four dance videos and two music CDs with more planned for the future. As well as classes at Austin Community College, Z-Helene teaches a movement fusion that combines Belly Dance and Yoga called Bellyoga. She performs and teaches seminars both locally and nationally. Her husband, Rick Fink, performs with her and teaches drum classes both in Austin and regionally.
"Z-Helene is an excellent dancer who is one of the most exceptional finger cymbal players I have ever seen. She and her drummer husband Rick Fink have an exciting onstage relationship that is creative and entertaining. But what I love the most about Z-Helene is her voice! She adds a theatrical element to the dance that is wonderful indeed."
- Mahmoud Reda, Pioneer of Egyptian dance theatre
Cedena teaches and performs Middle Eastern dance with more than 14 years of experience to draw from. While performing at local Arabic clubs, she quickly became known for bringing tradition back to the stage. Highlights of her career include co-starring in a music video, performing overseas, and working with competitive dancers on their award winning numbers, including national titles in 2002 and 2004. In 1998, she recorded her own percussive solo, Zaghat Al Helwa, which is now a trademark performance number for her student tribe, SHAWAZA. And in 2004, she served as a judge for the Personal Best Middle Eastern Dance Competi-tion in Columbus, OH.
Locally, Cedena is well known for her efforts in promoting the dance in a manner that benefits all Michigan dancers and instructors. Her award winning booth at the 2001 International Womens Expo and televised interview successfully generated new interest on a state wide level, and many Michigan teachers acquired new students as a result. As a certified fitness instructor, she has also successfully promoted belly dance within the health and fitness industry as an alternative to traditional aerobics. And her classes are often attended by other local instructors who help form a network of cooperation, support and positive influence.
Throughout the belly dance community, Cedena is recognized for consistently demonstrating excellence in costume design and choreography, with uncommon originality. Her artistic interpretations, sponsored events, and ongoing efforts to generate public appreciation for the dance have earned her three nominations for community arts awards in 2001, 2002 and 2004. Cedena pledges her support for the arts and to fellow business owners as a member of many highly respected organizations, including the National Dance Association, Michigan Arts Council, Aerobics & Fitness Association of America, and the Michigan Retailers Group.