When Soraya Al Musri turned her back on the Royal Ballet School in London to begin a family in America, she knew she wouldn’t be able to return.
“I knew I wanted to dance still, since I’d always danced, but you can’t go to a ballet company at 30 years old. It just doesn’t happen,” Musri said. “That’s when I found belly dancing and fell in love with it.”
Thirty years later, Musri has owned four studios, with her most recent opening 14 years ago: Aalim Bellydance Academy, 2520 N. Meridian. Belly dancers who have honed their skills at studios can be found performing across the metro, but Musri believes the art form is best seen onstage. That is why she helped national touring group Bellydance Superstars bring its new show, Club Bellydance, to the Edmond Community Center.
right, Soraya Al Musri
Pared down from traditional Bellydance Superstars productions, Club Bellydance is held in more intimate venues with lower ticket prices to draw a wider audience. The first half features 20 of the top Oklahoma belly dancers, an honor one local performer likened to opening for Pearl Jam.
Bellydance Superstars’ Stevie McKinley said anything from traditional dances to more modern fusions of styles and high-energy music will be featured during Club Bellydance. She added that, in today’s political climate, belly dancing has taken on an important role as ambassador.
“Culturally, there is a stigma toward Middle Eastern influences, and people aren’t always clear about how beautiful the Middle East and its culture can be,” McKinley said.
For Musri, it’s a critical chance to present belly dancing beyond just window dressing.
“We have girls that perform in restaurants,” Musri said. “The people there … aren’t really paying attention. People go there to socialize, and the belly dancing just happens to be there, but it’s not the main focus.”
Formal shows feature the music, lighting, costumes and performers in the best environment. Musri hopes more women will be inspired to try belly dancing.
“A lot of women come to belly dancing purely as a hobby. They don’t want to perform or operate a business; they just want to come and exercise, and that’s fine,” Musri said. “That’s why we appeal to certain age groups, (including) moms that want to get out of the house and come to this oasis, where they can forget about their troubles outside.”
Photo by Mark Hancock