I began studying belly dancing in 1976 for exercise, after I discovered that I couldn't breath when I ran for the train. I had never heard the music or seen a dancer; however, I had always enjoyed dancing.

After eight weeks, the class took a field trip to see our teacher, Tasia, perform. I don't remember the place. I don't remember much about the music. I don't even remember much about the performance except that all I could think was, "I can do that." So I set about learning how.

I practiced every day. I listened to Middle Eastern music almost exclusively. I loved the music but it all sounded the same to me. Eventually, I learned where the "one" was and how to distinguish among Arabic, Turkish, Armenian, and Greek music. Eventually I learned to recognize the individual styles within the broad categories. To this day, I can't have enough music.

I loved the movement and enjoyed performing in class presentations. In 1977, my teacher suggested that I enter a belly dance contest, which were very popular at that time. Well, as much as I enjoyed dancing choreography with a group, I was terrified to improvise a dance by myself. I was very shy and could not picture myself in the role. But I agreed to do it. I knew I would either fail completely or do well.

I stood waiting nervously with terrible makeup and a less than flattering pink costume. I watched each performer before me and I knew I had to do something to distinguish myself. When they announced me it was as if some other person took over. I bounded out and did my show. I smiled. I had a blast. I won.

That was how I got my first paying job. Good dancing, showmanship, and professionalism took much longer to attain and I learned most everything the hard way.

I performed several times a month in the early years, mostly working at the Middle East restaurant (see photo). I went to the late Ibrahim Farrah's week long seminars in New York City. I took every workshop I could afford and I continued to hone my skills by frequent practice.

In 1985 I suddenly got extremely popular. I began working almost everywhere and I continued working steadily in clubs, at haflis, weddings, and private parties. I love all of the music so I've never limited myself to one style.

I spent twelve years in the Near East Dance Theatre, a dance company that sponsored and promoted the dance as art on the theater stage. We did classical oriental styles and folkloric dances. I was Assistant to the Artistic Director. I danced, and I contributed both original choreographies and choreographies I learned from other teachers to the repertoire.

As a member of this group, I learned a tremendous amount about performing but the most interesting thing I learned was that although I could do folklore, I preferred Oriental. The dance company eventually disbanded because it was too much work for too little return. Most people did not want to see this dance in the theater. We did, however, make three videos that were successful in the dance community.

Although I had been teaching sporadically for many years (privates and the occasional workshop), it was not organized, nor was it something I especially wanted to do. For a while in the mid 1990's I taught with Katia, alternating weeks. This was when I began to enjoy teaching in earnest. I stopped teaching group classes when I went back to night school. After graduation, and after Leon (my wonderful SO) turned the unused one-car garage into a studio, I began a multi-level group class at my house, began teaching beginner classes through Newton Community Education. I love to give the joy of this dance to my students.

To take a step back, Katia and I also sponsored weekend seminars in the eighties and nineties with master teachers such as Ibrahim Farrah, Yosri Sharif, Jehan, Samara, and Mahmoud Reda. These weekends included two days of classes, a gala show with a live band, a student show, and sometimes a local event on Friday night. We always tried to create a classy event and include as many people as possible in the dance community. I believe we succeeded.

I've also sponsored workshops with Amina Delal to teach up and coming dancers what they need to know to be successful performers in the nightclub world. We experimented with formats and live music and had some very successful events.

In 2007, at the behest of many students, I produced two teaching videos based on what I teach in my classes and on what I consider two of my strengths: hip work and turning. It took an unbelievable (to me, not my videographer!) fourteen hours to film, but we got it all in at the beautiful Ancient Art Dance studio in Berkely, MA. The videos became available a year later and have enjoyed critical acclaim both by those that know me and those that don't.

In 2008, at the urging of Leon Manoogian, I offered a workshop on Phaedra's Finishing School, a workshop designed to add the finishing touches that make a performance memorable and to help students become better at what they already do. In addition to the workshop, I wrote it all down and produced a book version that includes exercises that can be used by teachers and students alike, based on my own teaching "experiments."

Currently, I am concentrating on teaching and helping my students to become better dancers. I have several students that have moved into the professional arena. This makes me incredibly happy and proud. I have been sponsored to teach workshops in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and all over Massachusetts.

I continue to perform at benefits, dancer-sponsored events, and the occassional restaurant. I continue to teach. And I continue to study.

Mildly Interesting Statistics - I: