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Interview with Belly dancer Tamalyn Dallal

by Salome

Tamalyn Dallal has... well... she's just about done it all. She "sees Belly dance as the ultimate feminine expression", one that she has shared through instruction and performance in well over 20 countries.

On her native soil, Tamalyn founded the non profit arts organization, "Mid Eastern Dance Exchange" in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. which produced several of today's popular artists - Amar Gamal and Bozenka. Tamalyn also lent her creative powers to "Inner City Childrens Touring Dance Co.", and the "Dance Out" program for deaf students.

She went on to produce a series of full scale theater productions in Miami; "Supplemented Silence", "Infinito", "Sawah" and "Emerald Dreams" and received the Giza award for the video of "Infinito".

Tamalyn won the crowns "Ms. America" and "Miss World" of Belly Dance as well as "Best troupe" award by the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance (IAMED), and was recently nominated in the category of "Best Cabaret Dancer" for the IAMED awards.

Tamalyn Dallal wrote a book entitled "They Told Me I Couldn't", about her adventures as a traveling belly dancer in Colombia. She has written two feature length screenplays, and produced two instructional videos on Belly dance technique. Please welcome the tireless and multi talented Tamalyn Dallal!

Tamalyn Dallal


Salome: You have worked abroad extensively, what was unique about your experiences in Colombia that inspired you to write the book "They told me I couldn't"?

Tamalyn Dallal: I love Colombia, but "They Told Me I Couldn't" was actually a section of a larger manuscript entitled "Along the Sequin Trail", that covered all of South America, but the publisher (who is my sister) decided to divide it into different books and use my travel journals in Cuba and North Africa to complete the first series. Publishing is hard and the book did not make any money, so she created "Belly Laughs" to generate money to print the other books. Meanwhile, she discovered by accident how voting machine results can be manipulated and followed her quest to inform the public about the unreliability of electronic voting. She wrote "Black Box Voting"", which made a lot of waves and was interviewed in Vanity Faire, on CNN, and numerous other places. She now travels the country trying to root out voting fraud and discrepancies and is often in the news. Needless to say, my books are way on a back burner. I have looked into publishing another book on my own, but whe n you look at the numbers, it is a wonder anybody ever attempts the publishing business.

Salome: What observations can you share about the Rroma you encountered in your travels of Eastern Europe?

Tamalyn Dallal: They are strongly identified with Indian culture. If you go to India, and also spend time with the Roma, you will understand how the Roma get misunderstood, discriminated against and don't fit in in Europe. Their homeland is in India. Many Rom do not know much about their history. They tend to live in the present, which is what all the spiritual masters are telling westerners to do these days.

There is heavy discrimination against the Roma all over Europe, but I found it most overt in Bulgaria. About 25 % of Romanians are said to have some Roma blood, but a small portion of them are pure blooded or follow the traditional life. Romania is the country where you do see a lot of Roma women in beautiful skirts, braided hair, and showing pride in their culture. Like India, they inherit their job. Entire extended families work with metal, or in construction jobs on high buildings, or selling cars (descendants or horse traders), etc.

I met both the King and the Emperor of the Roma in Sibiu, Romania. They have proclaimed themselves leaders throughout the Roma world, but outside of Romania are not recognized as such. The King is into politics and consciousness raising. The Emperor is a really sweet man, who gives scholarships to young people. He is very rich and benevolent. They are cousins, but there is a family feud between them. Being fat is a symbol of power and prestige. The emperor is older and really huge, but seems to be pretty healthy.

Salome: You produced several theatrical productions in Miami, Florida wherein you involved ballet and modern groups. Can you talk a bit about the conception of the productions, manifesting your vision and also how other dance forms played a role in that?

Tamalyn Dallal: My productions focused on Belly dance but "Infinito" was a collaboration between myself and Amir Thaleb of Argentina. He wanted a more modern and Balletic approach. On one hand, that is what every dance group from Egyptian Folklore to Chinese Classical dance do, but I still am torn because Belly dance is such an expression of individuality and each woman's unique beauty, so I think the question of how to translate our dance form to theatrical settings as opposed to intimate settings where there is an exchange of energy that moves the dancer and her audience has yet to be resolved.

My first two productions were entirely belly dance and folkdances. I really have a passion for ethnic dance and want to follow that passion in the future, and not westernize too much.

Salome: You have performed for some major celebrities, among them Madonna, Robert De Niro and Sean Connery. How does it feel to be an artist's artist and do you have any noteworthy (read juicy) stories from those celebrity gigs?

Tamalyn Dallal: Dancing for them is the same as dancing for anyone else. I usually don't know ahead of time if someone famous will be there. Sean Connery was very nice and supportive of myself and Bozenka as artists. I also danced for Michael Caine, who played with him in the "Man Who Would be King", which was one of my favorite movies as an adolescent. Michael Caine is a great actor, but he was a grump and didn't even want to watch.

Salome: What are your thoughts on creating a universal movement vocabulary for Oriental dance, and/or certification system? And what body of people do you think should guide that process?

Tamalyn Dallal: I think universal movement vocabulary is a good idea, though not so necessary as long as every teacher has some sort of name for each movement. I used a combination of other peoples names and some of my own for the moves that I feel are the root of all belly dance, and put them in my book "Belly Dancing For Fitness'. When I teach the variations, I often name them after the person who taught them to me. I think it will be along time before anyone agrees on standardized terms, since the subject has been coming up over and over since I started dancing.

I am still undecided about certification. I conduct teachers training classes, but the certificates I give are careful to mention that the person receiving it has attended all the classes and done their homework, not that I can attest to what they do with the information.

Belly dance has always been such a free spirited dance that I think the basics and body alignment, as well as cultural and musical understanding are very important, but I do not think it should be judged and scrutinized too much because it is one of the few things in this world that embraces self acceptance, individuality, and self expression. I wouldn't want to get too caught up in the technical aspects and let it get too regimented.