Shiraz began her wondrous journey in dances of the Arab world (raqs sharqi and folkloric) over ten years ago; instantly falling in love with the cultural art form. The dance has become her passion as well as purpose. Shiraz loves to share the beauty of the Arab world through their rich, diverse, and delightful dances. Shiraz is continually deepening her knowledge and understanding of the Arab world; and hopes to use her dance to build meaningful and positive relationships between cultures. So much beauty and extraordinary potential is possible through dancing – it can be used to learn about, and unlock value, within oneself and between oneself and another culture and way of being in the world. This is Shiraz’s purpose; whether through dance performance, instruction, or scholarly 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 in Riverside, California, where she’s currently finishing her second-year of Ph.D. work in their distinguished Critical Dance Studies program. Shiraz’s doctoral research focuses on auto-ethnographic explorations of raqs sharqi as a U.S. located practice and community amongst transnational and political dynamics. In particular, she explores questions of subjectivity in relationship with the embodied practice and politics of pedagogy within U.S. studio-sites in relation to Cairo, Egypt. She has presented her academic work at national conferences within the U.S. and is currently a Teaching Assistant for the Dance7 Cultures and Contexts discussion sections at UCR.
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 Riverside, California 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.
Teaching is her joy, she loves seeing dancers grow at all levels, from one’s first hip shimmy to mentoring fellow ‘gigging’ 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 safe and meaningful environment to learn the rich dances of the Arab world- folkloric and raqs sharqi.
Shiraz’s core dance mentors and teachers from the East Coast 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 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 with teacher Artemis Mourat in May 2013 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.
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.