Oriental dance & Shahrazad Dance Troupe Inspired by 1001 Arabian Nights

Oriental, Egyptian and Arabic Folkloric Troupe “Shahrazad Dance” based in Phoenix Arizona. Founder of Company is an Egyptian Dancer and internationally performer Warda. Troupe specializing in classical, modern and folkloric styles. Their goal is to bring to their audiences the beauty of the cultures,expressive, and creative-art-form they represent. The interview with Warda about her dance career, inspiration and Shahrazad Dance company.

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Shahrazad Dance

Shahrazad Dance

ML&L - When and how you were introduced to Oriental Dance and why you choose it to be your life's work?

Warda - I first saw Oriental Dance performed at a wedding in Bahrain, long ago while stationed there in the U.S. Navy. Later in college I saw it in hookah bars near the ASU campus and started taking classes with my first teacher. 

ML&L - What made you choose belly dance as your dance of focus?

Warda - I fell in love with Belly dance in a non-negotiable way when I first went to Egypt to study it in 2007.

ML&L - What inspired you to belly dance? 

Warda - I felt like I was dancing in a golden sphere of light as I danced and fell in love with the dance completely. Although I have always been an artist and athlete, studying painting and violin, and running marathons, dancing hip hop and ballet, this put them all together and combined them with my other love, that of bridging cultures, and traveling and learning other languages. 

Warda Shahrazad-Cairo

ML&L - What were your thoughts on creating a Shahrazad Dance Company?

Warda - No thoughts. Not one major life decision in dance was made with thoughts. It was all with heart and destiny. I was at an audition with a soloist when the event producer said he wanted a folkloric group and I had just returned from training in Egypt in folkloric dance and I felt a pull and followed it, saying, “I can do that” and I started a troupe with two friends that went to 14 members in just over a year and then fluctuated up and down in following years. How to build the troupe and increase professionalism and begin to travel has required much thought however.

Shahrazad Dance Company is an international award-winning Egyptian/ Arabic dance, formally referred to in the Middle East as Raqs Sharqi, (meaning Dance of East, or Oriental Dance).

Inspired by the courage and wit of protagonist Shahrazad of Arabian literary classic 1001 Arabian Nights, who saved the women of her village using only her creativity, this dance company stages theatrical performances involving a high degree of technical skill, while showcasing dancers in the spirit of heroines and idols as in the ancient rituals and long revered queens and goddesses throughout Egypt's long history.

Shahrazad Dance Company's director Warda has assembled a dance troupe of intensely trained, skilled and passionate dancers modeled after Egypt's famous Mahmoud Reda Troupe. Reda was the first in Egypt to travel across the country documenting the different regional styles of dance in his native land, and Reda troupe performed those dances in over 99 countries worldwide to international acclaim, receiving medals and awards from kings, queens and presidents, throughout the Arab world and beyond.

Formed in 2009, Shahrazad performs internationally at numerous ethnic and cultural events including the annual Miss Arab USA Pageant, theatrical ticketed events and other special engagements, and has appeared on ABC, NBC and FOX affiliate TV stations, as well as Dandana TV internationally.

Shahrazad Dance Co Promo

ML&L - What do you focus on in Shahrazad Dance programs?

Warda - My niche. I feel very strongly that my destiny and gift is to bring authentic Arab dance to the world. I am most appreciated by Egyptian and Arabic audiences and it is a big job to not dabble in 'American Fantasy' as  a genre (which is very popular in the U.S.), but instead to stay true to my goal of bringing authentic Egyptian and Arab dance to the world, thereby giving back to those cultures for the joy they have given me through their dance and arts, and support of me from the beginning. 

ML&L - Is the Shahrazad Dance only one dance group or you have students also?

Warda - I have students and that helps me to achieve my goal of bringing Egyptian and Arab dance to the world.

ML&L - How do you work to make your belly dance community a positive environment for all dancers?

Warda - I'm known for my excellent reputation for honesty and integrity which is why I'm offered so many jobs. I think the biggest gift I've given my community is performing charity events for many disenfranchised groups and have helped many dancers become professional level. Before I started working on an international level, I used to go to all the hookah bars and haflas and encourage and support all the participants, but my schedule has become grueling and I feel my calling is in the international sphere now. I want to give back to Egypt since I see we in America have so much materialistically and they have so little. When I become wealthy like Bill Gates I plan to build schools and set up teacher training in refugee camps and create conflict resolution committees in refugee populations..

Shahrazad Dance Company-Helwa Laaba Di-Cairo Egypt

ML&L - Tell us more about shows and competitions on your company?

Warda - We are involved in a constant stream of offers and I always look to see which events are most beneficial to my goal of giving back to Egypt and to bringing authentic styles to the world. I love holding my company to its goals of excellence by competing. Although I'm interested in money to further my goal, money is never the main consideration. 

ML&L - What advice do you have for the dancer, both new to the dance and those stepping out into the professional ranks.

Warda - Learn to love belly dance unconditionally, because it won't be smooth sailing at all times. Clients are not so different than those who go to see ballet, they want to see fit dancers, who execute skills with grace, but they also want to see those who can act out the songs which means you need to know the words and music style and genres and the geographical, cultural and historic information behind the songs.

In my case I even learned to read and write Arabic which many professionals do. Be willing to train constantly, learn the music and culture, travel to Egypt. Last but not least, have the courage to deal with the intensity of competition in the entertainment world. I'll tell you a story.....I once had a hookah club owner call me...he said come in for a meeting, I want you to schedule dancers here.

He was direct and not politically correct, which is common in other countries. He told me the prior dancer was overweight and didn’t take care of her grooming and had an attitude that made it look like she was dancing only for money, which looks very bad for his establishment. He said he would fire her and don't tell anyone what he said. This kind of thing is fairly common and I also have lost jobs.

At any rate, the dancer who lost the job told others I had her fired, but because I said I wouldn't tell, I couldn't tell people what really happened. My first night dancing there her friend literally grabbed me and tried to throw me down on the floor and fight. I called the DJ and security guard and she finally stopped. I'm not the type to brawl on the floor in a dress but I refuse to be intimidated and danced anyways that night, with my new enemies staring at me the whole time. This kind of thing is hard, but because of my higher purpose I can continue.

Shahrazad Dance

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