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The Gilded Serpent presents...


of Chicago

The dancer enters the room to the sounds of Arabic guitar gently opening the phrases of a classic cabaret song. Making her way to the Persian carpet in the center of the floor, all eyes gather to her. As the drums begin, and she moves with grace to the music, her spell begins, and the dance unfolds. Sparkling eyes and a bright smile charm her onlookers. A shimmering veil and gems and sequins move upon her costume, casting reflections in the eyes of her audience. For the moment, all else is forgotten, and there is only the dancer, becoming one with the song, becoming one with the audience, and becoming one with the dance! And all too soon it is over, and she bows, collecting applause before she glides away, leaving her spellbound audience behind.

If it sounds like a scene from a classic Egyptian film, it isn’t. This happens at least once a week in Chicago, Illinois. For this is the home of Sonya, and this is what she does best. Anyone who has seen her dance will attest to her presence on the stage, or in the nightclub, or in the restaurant. She makes it look natural and easy, the way only those born to the art can do.

Sonya has been belly dancing for nearly a decade (since 1996) here in her hometown. She is a committed lifetime student of all things belly dance, from costuming to makeup, from the history of the dance to the most contemporary styling, from the music in all its forms to the glorious performance of belly dance itself! For a little over eight years, she had mentored under the world renowned Jasmin Jahal, learning all the subtle movements and nuances that had been shown to her. This firm grounding in Egyptian-style & Middle Eastern folkloric dance would be the foundation she built on forever. Once it was seen that there was something special in her student, Sonya was invited to join the troupe Desert Moon, with whom Sonya performed in the years 1997 to 1999. Later, after Desert Moon was dissolved, Sonya was moved to a position as principal dancer and costumer in the next dance company, Ward el Sahara. Here Sonya’s star really began to burn brightly, as she danced in more than twenty five staged theater shows, under her mentor’s tutelage. The dance company’s ultimate expression came in the form of their full theatrical performance of ‘Kismet: One Man’s Destiny’. This ballet-esque dance-as-theater show took place in August of 2002, and was the culmination of more than three years worth of work. Sonya played several major roles in the performance, and as the official costume designer for the show, she proved her versatility in belly dance culture beyond anyone’s doubt!

Sonya’s performances have developed through the years. Once upon a time, she was the student that teachers marveled over; the unpolished gem that shows such natural talent and ability, and an affinity for the music. Her capacity to lose herself in the song is unquestionably her greatest asset. Over time, hard work, practice, and bold determination have uncovered a jewel of surpassing charm and beauty. Haflas and student showcases and festivals and restaurants and weddings and parties have all enabled her to grow as a performer, and it shows. She now possesses the poise, grace and charm of a seasoned performer, noticed by other professionals in the field. As a featured dancer at weekly venues, Sonya never fails to dazzle her audience with her skills at improvisation. But she will tell anyone who asks that her true love is the discipline of choreography that is at times a must for the theater stage.

Never one to let the dance stop with her, Sonya acts as an educator. She realizes the value of knowledge, and subscribes wholly to the belief that all her talents mean nothing if she cannot teach them to others. Sonya taught for over 5 years at the then-only dedicated school of belly dance, and continues to teach 9 classes a week at her own dance school, Arabesque. Sonya is frequently invited to do University demonstration lectures on belly dance and various other folkloric dances from across the Middle East. Sonya has had the pleasure to be hosted/hired as a workshop instructor across the mid-west as well as across Chicago land, giving her the opportunity to both teach others in her very natural style, and also to learn a bit about the dance community away from Chicago. Her choreography workshops and makeup/costuming seminars at Arabesque are always a hit with the local dancers as well!

Her list of dancing credits is simply astounding for such a relative newcomer to the scene. In Chicago alone, she has performed in countless restaurants and nightclubs, giving her the chance to elevate the public’s perception of her beloved art form. Tizi Melloul, a Mediterranean restaurant here in Chicago, saw fit to award Sonya the Golden Navel award after a daylong competition and show in the spring of 2004, and to add to that honor, she has become a featured performer there & in later years also a judge. Sonya has been privileged to leave the city she calls home for numerous invitations for out of town performances. Over the last several years, she has performed for the MEDINA (Middle Eastern Dance In North America) conference, and acted as judge to their annual competition. She herself has started to set the bar in Chicago by hosting grand annual seminars with fantastic performers such as Yasmina Ramzy in 2004 at The Chopin Theatre to a sold-out house. Part of Sonya’s philosophy is to keep busy, and it shows!

Such a dedicated and talented performer is certainly fated for great things. Sonya hopes every day for greater opportunities to learn and teach and perform her chosen craft. All of her life rotates around the celebration of womanhood and femininity that is belly dance. It is this intense focus and stubborn will to succeed that drives her, and she hopes to be an inspiration to other young dancers everywhere. This dream, and her passion to follow it, has carried her to her current state of recognition as one of the rising stars of the Midwest. --Written 2004 by Robert C. Criswell

Articles on Gilded Serpent by or about Sonya

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