Asmina: What notable awards/recognition have you earned as a dancer or are awards & competitions not very important to you?
Soraya: They are not important to me at allÖ they don't mean anything about really being truly successful as well as completely artistically and spiritually satisfied. I never pay any attention to that stuff, I find it silly actually.
Asmina: What is your most enjoyable type of dance?
Soraya: I love to perform Egyptian technique, styling, stage presence, use of space, timing, musical understanding and presenting a truly Egyptian concert. I love cane dancing from Upper Egypt of Raks Assaya or stick dancing and other forms of authentic Folkore from Egypt. I love Hegalla too. I love folkloric Guedra Moroccan dancing too.
Asmina: What props do you enjoy utilizing in your dances the most if any?
Soraya: I enjoy to do Cane dancing from Upper Egypt. It is a real skill and I find it fascinating. I love watching Madame Abdou do it with her intense strength, agility and feminine charm. That is a martial art that mostly men do of the countryside in Egypt, of the "Fellahen or Fellah". When the ladies do it, it is usually a cane or the traditional stick like the men use. There are specific rhythms in the Saidi music. The name for the dance officially is called: "RAKS ASSAYA".
I have been using the "SAGAT" or zills since I was a child too. I naturally felt not only the dance of Egypt, but the musical time signatures and subtle changes in the music too. I love to play zills for hours training my ear and hands as a little girl...My brother who is an accomplished percussionist in Los Angeles that plays in movies, sitcoms, writes music, etc., told me that as I child, I could "play a mean 9/8"! LOL! I loved the Turkish 9/8 rhythm as a child, you master that and you master any zill pattern, the rest will be cake! I also love professional veil work...But, the best prop of all is your body and strength. Too many props can detract from the art itself. Know when, how and why to use them and do it great and it will only add to the spectacle of your show!
Asmina: What advise would you give to a new dancer in terms how to be a captivating performer?
Soraya: Be an individual and do not ever compromise your values both personally and professionally. Dance with inner joy, inner strength, physical strength, agility, grace, elegance, and class. Dance with all of your personal life experiences as a woman, celebrating the entire female experience and remember your inner little girl too. Really slow down and listen carefully to how the Arabic music speaks to your soul. A great Arabic dancer doesn't memorize and count steps like a jazz or modern dancer, we FEEL and become the physical embodiment of the rhythms and beats. Since the dancer is representing the art of another culture, always keep it real and do not insult the heritage by not doing your homework. Really take the time to fully understand the movements, gestures, feelings of the people, what the songs are saying, learn some Arabic, interpret the music and become the music. Be confident and donít be afraid to be yourself! Most of all have fun and relax with your show, since you are baring your soul to your audience. Before you hit the stage think to yourself: "What do you want to convey to them and how do you want to be remembered"...
Asmina: Where do you go internally to bring out excitement & energy in your performances for your audiences?
Soraya: This dance is so spiritual for me that I try and dig so deeply into the inner core of my being. I try and represent every human emotion when I perform. I am so happy now being married to the love of my life that when I dance I think about my amazing husband, my family, and the joy that I hope to make my audiences feels. I want to make sure that when they leave my show, they really feel inspired. Nothing makes me happier than to make other people happy and my art is just one way that I strive to achieve that very personal goal in life.
Asmina: Have you traveled for bellydancing? If so, where?
Soraya: Morocco, India and Spain, as well as all over the United States! Having been individually chosen to perform as an invited guest of his late Majesty King Hassan and the Moroccan Royal family was the GREATEST professional experience of my life!
Like I mentioned above, the international and national media attention was intense. As great as it was, it was still not be as magical as my own wedding day! On that special big day, I felt like I became the real Queen marrying the man of the dreams! Doc is the sweetest, kindest, most loving, honest, sincere and incredible man a girl could ever wish for! We have been married now for 3 years and everday just gets better than the last! He is my king and I am his queen!
I canít say this enough! DREAMS DO COME TRUE! Never compromise or give up your dreams both professionally or personally! :o)
Besides dancing at the Palace in Maroc, I also did a huge tour called: "Soraya's Night at the Casbah" for select five star hotels in India! I also recently performed in Sevilla, Spain (Andalusia, southern Spain)!
Asmina: As far as costuming, what do you use/do to determine what costume/colors you want to wear?
Soraya: I use my mood and also the type of show/performance that I am doing. I choose my colors depending on the color scheme of a wedding, concert, the clients preferences, I personally work with my clients to give them all individual attention. I love colors, except washed out boring pastels. With belly dancing, anything goes as long as it is in good taste and doesn't stray away from the "look" of the traditional bedlah (belly dancing costume). I LOVE beautiful classic black with gold and Austrian crystals. I love red and silver, fushia, multi-colors, and my most favorite are rich, dark earthy colors like bronze, metallics, copper, gold, amber, topaz and shimmering rootbear. I love how they look on my olive medium skin tone.
I am Middle Eastern, so I love how the earthy autumn tones show up my darker skin. I canít stand washed out colors, only the beautiful, vibrant rich colors, that are my personal preferences. I also love real Austrian crystals, stones, long, thick Egyptian beaded fringe as it frames movements and romantic flowing skirts, capes and veils. I have so many costumes and am always having more made in Egypt. Also, I want to emphasize never to be a slave to fashion, be yourself and donít follow trends. Some styles are hideous, wear what you are comfortable in and feel beautiful in. Know what works BEST for you and be extravagant, opulent, elegant! Make a statement with your costume as well as your personality, show and choreography!
Asmina: As a performer, what do you enjoy the most?
Soraya: There is nothing better for me than dancing only for the sheer fun and joy that my art brings to me. I now dance only for the enjoyment, excitement, artistic and creative outlet because I feel like it. Since getting married a year ago to the most amazing man, life is truly beautiful and keeps getting better everyday. I could not be happier or ask for more. I feel blessed and thank God all the time for everything, I take nothing for granted. When I am on stage moving the music, I feel so free and happy. I dance to celebrate the incredible real, everlasting love that Doc and I have for each other, our heath, gifts from God and our wonderful life. All emotions come into play when I perform. The emotions I never feel are sadness, anger, bitterness, regret or stress I am just too happy and fulfilled! I with that for everyone else too to be as happy as I am in life, I hope my happiness is infectious!
I dance now ONLY for the sheer love of my art...period. I only take an event if the mood strikes me and I have become ultra selective in choosing my events, fancy Middle Eastern weddings, concerts and shows. I do not have to dance for a living anymore, and now I perform only for the fun of hearing the applause of my audience. I dance only when feel I like it. Belly dancing for me is just a spiritual outlet. Since marriage, I now have this incredible freedom to pick and choose everything that I do. Enjoying this incredible artistic abandon, freedom and creativity is so great that it is hard for me to even put it into words. I never thought it was possible before to be this happy with my art when it was my living.
My art became too much of a "job," and I wasnít enjoying performing as much. I wanted that same feeling about belly dancing as I did as a child. The wide-eyed excitement! I made great money with my dancing and am truly professionally and personally satisfied with what I have created on my own, however, performing as much as I did full-time and not as a hobby, made my dancing not as much fun. If the show, beautiful ethnic wedding, event, etc, truly will FEED MY CREATIVE and ARTISTIC SOUL, then I am there! It is the best way to be!
Now, my cultural art has become something I do for myself for fun and have a deeper appreciation for my dancing than ever before. When you do something because you want to, not because you have to it changes everything. I enjoy having the great freedom to really pick and choose everything that you take personally allows the dancer to be very ultra selective. This is a dream come true for me. My husband says for me to dance when I feel like it! His words are music to my ears! I have decided to become very selective with what shows I carefully choose to take. I was always selective even when dancing was my job, now however, I am really choosy!
I feel so incredibly fortunate and I want everyone else to be happy and all of their wildest dreams become a reality too. My husband thinks that it is nice that I enjoy performing, since it is my culture and he tells me that I should dance only if I feel like dancing. He knows that it was always my dream to dance only if I enjoyed it and for no other reason. I now have such a deeper appreciation for my art, more then I ever thought possible. Dreams do come true; I am walking proof of that! My husband is not in the arts like myself; he is a very prominent physician who works as a top ranking Corporate Executive. I am so proud of him and the level of personal and professional achievement he as received. The sweetest thing is that he feels the same way about me and my art! I love the interesting juxtaposition of scientist and artist! We have the perfect marriage as he is my true soul mate the person God wanted me to be with! Again, I just wish every woman can be as happy as I am.
Asmina: What inspired you or prompted you to create your performance videos?
Soraya: I wanted to capture on film, my cultural art and share it with the world. It is very simple. I wanted to create a video and DVD collection that will really showcase the Egyptian style of belly dancing, a full range of choreographies, Arabic dance movement, Middle Eastern dance styles, costumes, musical styles and interpretations, formal theater performances, Casino showroom concerts, and more. Some of them are very choreographed pieces from formal studio settings, some are from actual Egyptian, Moroccan and Lebanese weddings to show dancers a real Arabic hafli and how brides interact with the dancer (they have also been real great sellers). Some of them are fancy International Festivals at ivy league universities in gala shows, other videos are raw footage from all kinds of upscale events with a hidden camera so that the viewer can feel like they are actually there ring side to the show. A few feature my orchestra from Egypt and Lebanon: "SORAYA and MIDDLE EASTERN SOUNDS" in formal concerts at Casino's and weddings.
Asmina: What do you want people to think or say about Soraya 10 years from now?
Soraya:Good question! Well, as I sip on a delicious Washington Apple Martini (with 3 cherries), I want people to say that they still learn from me. Not only about how to be the most professional, highly respected and successful dancer and also as a person, but also the most spiritually fulfilled! I would want people to know that I always strived for perfection as an artist and as a woman to really bring our love of belly dancing to the next level. That I never compromised my integrity or dignity and the special people that really know me understand this. I am very selective with friends just like my shows, you have to be! I love my very close knit circle of friends and stay away from the jealous, angry, bitter riff - raff. Successful, happy and spiritually fulfilled people scare the insecure.
Remember, they always embarrass themselves and the truth comes out in the end. I always keep it as real as possible, honest, straight-forward and believe me that the key to success as a dancer and person is to always be true to yourself. I never play games. I avoid them. Even though I am dancing ultra selectively, it turns out, I am busier than ever with high-end and very fancy wedding, and show requests!
I also want people to know that I love to share the goodness with others. I have dancers that I employ and love to see them working and not having to do those terrible unpaid American hafla's, and low class restaurants that donít respect our art or the woman. Like I emphasized before, the only difference is that I dance now only for the joy of performing, making my audiences happy and that is the sole reason. I only take very upscale special events, Middle Eastern weddings, cultural parties, Casino shows, major corporate theme parties, and more.
I want to leave behind a real legacy of true class, professionalism, authenticity of style but most of all respect for myself and the art that I present. I feel so complete right now in my life not only as a person but also, as a performer. Every day just gets better than the last! Life is so beautiful for me and I hope that everyone else finds their true happiness in their lives too. My sincerest advice is to never give up until you have exactly what you want and always dreamed of having, do not settle. Never settle. The formula to success is not only the importance of working harder, and to be driven but also to work smarter. Being spiritually, emotionally and psychologically balanced is crucial to inner peace & happiness.
When you look in the mirror the face that is staring back, the feeling should be truly contentment in every way possible and never lie to yourselfÖ
Having balance in your life is the key to happiness. Always be nice to people, but careful whom you associate your good reputation with. Also, eradicate any toxic, jealous, envious and negative people from your life. Jealous is ugly and no successful, and truly happy lady has time for that! Take it all as a compliment, but stay away from jealous people, they are low class. Surround yourself with happy, secure people, true love (like I have with my husband), joy, fun and real friends. You get out of life, what you have put in to it. Keep pushing the envelope and you will be very surprised by the person you will become! REMEMBER, you CAN and WILL HAVE IT ALL! Dreams do come true!