This is in Turkey, on a short hike from the Bosphorus cruise end to a mountain on the edge of the Black Sea.

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My dance name, Samra Iara combines my past and present, and the interaction of my artistic and mundane worlds. Without either I cannot exist. I am from Brazil but have lived in Fancy Gap, Virginia most of my life. Prior to embarking in Middle Eastern and other forms of dance I was an academic instructor. Since childhood I had been mystified by the music of the Middle East which was played frequently by the family of my sister-in-law who was from Syria. My early experience with dance was through Carnaval, folkloric dances in Bahia, and being surrounded by dances of all kinds from many cultures. Becoming a dancer however, was a taboo for me who was pathologically shy.

As a mature adult I was seeking a form of exercise and stepped out of my multilayered box and tried Belly Dance. Little did I know that my life would forever change for the better. Back in those days classes and workshops were few in this part of Virginia, so my dance education involved traveling. During the first few years I attended Morocco’s week longs, Rakkassah West then East, Shake’n Bake with Amaya, Mendocino Camp, and intensive studies with some of my favorites such as Cassandra in Minneapolis, Conchi in Cincinnati and truly countless workshops near and far. I thought I was in paradise when Egyptian and other international instructors toured the USA and I was able to attend their workshops.

I began teaching a little in the neighboring town of Galax, while continuing my education and taking some students to workshops with me. But sadly, I never encountered anyone with a similar level of passion and I usually ended up going to the big events alone. Such an event was Ahlan Wa Salam Festival in Cairo. I spent nearly one month in Egypt by myself. I had traveled alone before and visited several countries, but in Egypt I found my inner self and my inner strength.

Shortly after that, I went to Brazil and taught a successful workshop there and returned twice. I realized that my two greatest passions are traveling and sharing dances from other cultures, both as a student and a teacher. I decided to follow this dream to the extent that my mundane world permits.

I continue to teach weekly classes in Virginia and North Carolina, and periodically teach workshops in the USA and abroad. The first workshop I taught in Asia was in Singapore, and I fell in love with that part of Asia. I have returned eight times since 2005. I have also returned to Brazil and I have been to Finland, Sweden and Norway. I founded the Lotus Dance Retreat in Bali and will be leading the Custom Dancers Dream Tour to Egypt in April 2010.

Dance has expanded my world in a way that I never dreamt. I hope it also brings delightful surprises to all who embrace this powerful art form.

Articles on Gilded Serpent by or about Samra

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