Daphne, Helena, & Atlantis
Daphne (Helena's Daughter), author and Atlantis
This was a photo taken by my student and troupe member Shawna Bradlich when Atlantis came to teach her workshop in Phoenix. This was on Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gilded Serpent presents...

Recognizing Accomplishment:


by Helena Vlahos

April 13, 2009

Once again, the Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition has come and gone, and a shocking thought about it came to me: I have not given the proper appreciation to one of the producers of this wonderful event!  It is so easy to forget how talented a dancer is while she/he is in the capacity of producing or sponsoring events.

Often, I forget about their dancing, and I forget that they are artists! I get so excited over the events they are producing, that I have no thoughts about them as dancers. All I think about is the person who is performing or teaching and the merchandise that the venders are selling. I only think of the sponsors as being effective with the business side of Bellydancing.

I appreciate their sponsoring me in workshops and shows, but I never think of the sponsors as star dancers or star workshop instructors (not because I don’t think they are—but because they are so busy making those of us whom they sponsor feel like stars that we don’t have a chance to see them shine, too). They are too busy making us look good, and the focus of attention is not on them.

Perhaps many of you know someone who is a dancer and also is either sponsoring, producing, vending, or organizing events and shows, etc. Do you give this person the credit she/he deserves as a dancer and a performer—or like me—do you see this person as a respected organizer and businessperson but give no thought to her/his other talents as performer and instructor?

I would like to give credit to, at least, one person who fits this category: Atlantis! She is co-producer with Tonya Chianis, her mother, of the Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition held each year in Long Beach. This will be the event’s 19th year.  Since I have been a judge, workshop instructor, and performer for this event for the last few years, I have seen how hard they work to bring us this enjoyable event.

I was on-hand to see Atlantis in action as a workshop instructor and a star performer in Phoenix, Arizona, where I live. Many thanks to Esther Gengler of United Dancers Guild of Arizona who has been a sponsor for many years in Arizona.) Esther had wanted to sponsor Atlantis for a workshop and show for some time; so when Esther told me of her interest to bring Atlantis for a workshop, I helped her by contacting Atlantis.

As it happened, Atlantis was already planning to visit her relatives in Arizona in November; so, she became interested in teaching a workshop there because it coordinated with her plans.

I knew Atlantis was an accomplished dancer, but I had not given her all the credit she deserved. Also, I had never taken a workshop with her. I was delighted to discover that she is a knowledgeable instructor for many dance styles.

Atlantis’ workshop topics were:

  • “Universally Yours” Simple steps and combinations for basic 4/4, Persian 6/8 and Greek/Turkish 9/8
  • “Fusion Fantasy” encompassing the core of ballet/soul of a gypsy with the fundamental artistry of all styles of the dance, including East Indian, Jazz and African tribal movements

Since I had only touched on the Turkish 9/8 and Persian 6/8 with my students, this workshop helped me clarify a lot of the movements for them. My student, Shawna, was quite enthusiastic about Atlantis’ workshop! She committed all the movements to memory and started writing choreography for our troupe.

I have been dancing since 1964, and in those days, we had to know how to play finger cymbals, dance to Greek/Turkish 9/8, and Persian/Armenian 6/8, in addition to 4/4 and 2/4 rhythms. We expected to dance floor work; if we did not know how to do some of these things, we did not consider ourselves adequate dancers.

Therefore, I had some knowledge of Persian 6/8 and Greek/Turkish 9/8 and playing those rhythms with my finger cymbals. However, I learned a lot of different movements from Atlantis’ workshop, which proves that we should never stop learning. From now on, I plan to view all the dancers who sponsor workshops, shows, and other Belly dance events in a different way: I will appreciate them as artists as well as sponsors!


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