Shiraz Şahin is a belly dance performer, instructor, and dance ethnographer. Shiraz began her wondrous journey in belly dance (Arabic – raqs sharqi) thirteen years ago; instantly falling in love with the art form. The rich and complex music of raqs sharqi combined with the soft (yet strong) movement vocabulary allow the dancer to deeply express emotions and share them communally in a meaningful way with the audience. She loves the sense of ‘togetherness’ and connection the dance embodies between performers, musicians, and audiences- directly related to how today’s performance art continues to embody and celebrate its social dancing roots. The dance has become her passion as well as purpose. Shiraz loves to share the beauty, empowerment and ihsas (feeling) of belly dance through performances, teaching, and ethnographic research.
For years, Shiraz was a top award-winning belly dance performer and teacher on the East Coast, highly sought after in prestigious Middle Eastern and Turkish establishments throughout Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Delaware. Shiraz was also entrusted as the featured belly dance artist at hundreds of cultural celebrations, weddings, haflat (parties), and appeared on television and MTV. In 2012 she earned her B.A. degree in Cultural Anthropology, with a minor in Islamic Studies and Arabic Language, from the University of Delaware. Following, Shiraz packed her bags and pursued her passion for dance anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, where she’s a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in their world-renowned Critical Dance Studies program. Shiraz’s doctoral research focuses on explorations of raqs sharqi centered within Cairo, Egypt amongst local and transcultural MENA (Middle Eastern and North African) political dynamics. In particular, she explores circulations of belly dance and how its meanings and contexts change as it crosses different borders, bodies, and spaces. She is busy writing her dance ethnography on the subject for her dissertation. She has presented her academic research at national conferences within the U.S. and is currently a Teaching Assistant for the Dance Cultures and Contexts discussion sections at UC Riverside.
Currently, when she’s not in Cairo doing fieldwork for her dance ethnography, she’s performing and teaching raqs sharqi throughout the tri-state area on the East Coast (based in Newark, Delaware).
Shiraz is also a Raqs Sharqi (Belly Dance) and Folkloric Instructor available for group and private lessons locally, as well as belly dance workshops nationally. She is available for belly dance classes in Newark, Delaware as well as private instruction. Due to her unique background, Shiraz’s teaching critically relates movement to culture. Dance and movement is approached as layered in meaning and as a critical means of knowledge production. Her aim is for her dance students to continually be inspired through deepening their inner artistry and technique in direct relationship with Middle Eastern cultures and histories.
Teaching is her joy, she loves seeing dancers grow at all levels, from one’s first hip shimmy to mentoring fellow working professionals. Her teaching is infused with strong foundational technique, supportive encouragement, the necessary cultural and historic nuance, and a sincere love for the art form and her beautiful students; all providing a warm and meaningful environment to learn the rich dances of the Middle East- folkloric and raqs sharqi (belly dance.)
Shiraz’s core dance mentors and teachers are forever a part of her journey and accomplishments, and she delights in honoring them through each dance performance, class, and academic endeavor. She sends dearest love and thanks to Sahra Saeeda of California, Latifa of Maryland, Artemis Mourat of Washington D.C., and Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray, director of Silk Road Dance Company, Washington, D.C. These women are pioneers in the realm of dance, the best master instructors a dancer could hope for, and leave a glittering trail of beauty wherever they go. Alf shukar – you all make this world so much more wonderful.
Shiraz’s other significant training and accomplishments include being a graduate of Sahra Saeeda’s renowned Journey Through Egypt 1-4 dance ethnology certification courses; having completed 3 & 4 on site throughout dance zones of Egypt in December 2012. She has overseas research experience in Tunisia – where she studied in both 2010 and 2012. Shiraz also has traveled to beautiful Turkey a number of times to study Turkish Oryantal and Romani dance. Additionally, Shiraz has apprenticed with Artemis assisting her with dance history research and archiving projects. Shiraz was also honored to be a company member of the internationally acclaimed Silk Road Dance Company, directed by Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray, up until her California move. Currently, she returns to Cairo, Egypt annually for extended research and training for her practice as well as doctoral dance ethnography project.
Further accomplishments include: In 2010 Shiraz competed in three categories and won five awards in Za-Beth’s National Belly Dance Competition in Boston, MA: 1st place & People’s Choice for the Drum Solo, 2nd place & People’s Choice for the Belly Dancer of the Year, and 2nd place for the Improvisation to a Live Band. In 2010 Shiraz was also one of twenty-three contestants world-wide featured in America’s first ever belly dance show, Project BellyDance- The Search for America’s Next Top Belly Dancer, hosted by Michelle Joyce and Lotus Niraja.