When I arrived in Spain 7 years ago, I was ready for a change. I had been living, working and dancing in the greater California Bay Area already for 11 years and in my heart I was longing for a new atmosphere and adventure. As someone who made it my business to study dance, languages and culture, Spain was the ideal place to begin anew with it’s rich flamenco music and dance and appreciation for artists with fuego.
I landed in Madrid on April 1st2011, I literally had ties to no one from the dance community in Spain. I had unsuccessfully tried to reach out to a number of dancers and dance schools, but I couldn’t speak any Spanish and most schools that concentrate on oriental dance weren’t looking to take on new teachers. Despite these setbacks, I felt determined that I was to share my knowledge, training and style in the dance community in Spain and I was eager to get started.
It was a lovely Italian dancer named Alessandra D’Ambra who was the first to open her doors to me as a teacher. It was her first year running her new school and she saw that our talents and training were complementary and together we could provide a rich dance experience for dancers and she was right. Although I’ve worked in a number of dance studios around Madrid over the years, at D’Ambra Dance Project we have created a beautiful dance community and family that houses some of the kindest, most humble and beautiful dancers I’ve come to know in all my years as a dancer.
Dance Junkies, a student fusion dance collective formed over the past few years under my direction and we have even had the opportunity to combine RaksArabi from California with the Dance Junkies (making Raks Junkies) for a few productions uniting my belly dance families across the world.
However romantic my tale may seem thus far, have no illusion that the road was smooth. To arrive in a new country and not speak the language or know anyone and try to make a life for ones self is not for the faint at heart. To go through not being able to communicate or understand, one experiences a loss of ones self. I am a person who thrives on laughter and that suddenly went missing from my life in those first few years. I will confess that I did debate returning to the safety of my circle of friends and familiar environment, but because I had sacrificed so much to be here, I wanted to make a life for myself despite the disillusionment of the romantic circumstances that brought me here.
I feel that when we do anything out of love, the end result can only be positive. Love begets love. Perhaps not always in the shape or form we are expecting, but my level of enrichment in dancing in Spain far outweighed the trouble and personal suffering I went through to be here. I was able to move forward to create beauty and joy in my new dance community and truly that it was makes me most happy.
The list of people I have to be grateful to is incredibly long, but I do have to mention a few people for giving me the initial exposure I needed to be successful in Spain and in Europe. Morgana, one of Madrid’s dance jewels, invited me to participate multiple times in her annual event Gothla España and this was a great platform for me to display my work as a choreographer and dancer and to share my art as a workshop instructor. Vicky Qamar has been a loyal friend to me since the beginning of my arrival and over the years and has helped me immeasurably in the best and worst of times. Maytz from Exotica was the first dancer I was really able to communicate with in English and she has been incredibly supportive of my dance journey in Spain. Just to name a few…
Aside from having participated in countless dance productions in around Europe and the world over the past 7 years. I have produced a number of original events in here Madrid.
Skeletons in the Closet was a summer event that was designed for dancers to share some hidden aspects of themselves. In my case, a longing to embody the beauty and grace of a ballerina.
Bhakti the following year had the intention of giving dancers a platform in which to share some element of love or devotion. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with the beautiful and immensely talented Mistri for an Arab/Indian fusion piece.
The 7 Deadly Sins was another fun summer event where, as you can guess, each dancer had to portray one of the 7 deadly sins. I took on lust.
In 2016 a wave of inspiration hit to use dance as a platform for relaying the dangerous consequences of climate change. It’s very frustrating when you see that so many people don’t know the truths about climate change or are unmoved by scientific reasoning – I felt I’d try an approach that might target the heart.
I created a cast of dancers that I thought could effectively bring to life 17 of our planets threatened and endangered species. I targeted teachers who I knew were open and creative as well as expressive soloists who I thought could bring my vision alive. I was not disappointed. The entire cast was comprised of dancers from Spain and they poured an incredible amount of love and skill into the production. The show was so popular we had to give it a second go around and the public feedback showed that people were genuinely moved and inspired.
I am eternally grateful to all the dancers that made up the crew of WILD and especially to my beloved Dance Junkies for all their help in helping my vision become a reality and making a production that I believe is unforgettable.
Not long ago a dear friend asked me what I considered success to be. As much as financial security is a necessity in the world we live in, money alone does not equate success in my eyes. My success in Europe these past 7 years has been the ability to inspire women to embrace their bodies and utilize their unique internal and external beauty as a means of expression. When we ourselves feel good in our lives, we are able to inspire goodness and happiness in others. It’s been my greatest honor to dance alongside so many wonderful, kind and inspiring people all these years and I hope to continue this journey with each of them in the years to come.
My deepest gratitude,