Born in Dallas, Texas, I grew up living all across America as my family settled in different cities. As a child I tried conventional dance, but found myself unfulfilled. Growing up, I fought chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic lower-back pain, and before my 21st birthday was diagnosed as infertile due to scar tissue resulting from endometriosis. Instead of surgery, I opted for the natural path,
   (1) In my Tutu, age 5. (2) Aura photo after a session with a Filipino Psychic Surgeon. (3) In the woods, practicing bird calls.
embarking on my journey of healing. I turned to Acupuncture, Massage, Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Reiki, Cranio-Sacral therapy, and Feldenkrais... but found only minor relief.

I realized I needed to become my own healer - and had the power within me to do that - but I needed a strong, daily commitment to study, practice, and getting to know my body. Bars, television, and other regular Western pastimes were not uplifting my spirit; however, spending weekends rock-climbing and camping in the woods brought me mental peace, and back to the natural rhythms of the cycle of life - which is also the basis of all natural techniques for healing.

I studied Tai'Chi, Kundalini Yoga, and Belly Dancing in weekly classes, as well as Meditation from genuine and certified teachers. As my daily regimen, I practiced each individual practice consecutively for over 3 hours. I also spent as much time as I could with each teacher - in class as well as out - offering "seva," or personal service and chores such as cleaning, organizing, and raking. I asked the right questions, and got feedback on how to develop my own healing abilities.

I believe the way one leads one's daily life is as important as their artistic expression. Meaning, the lessons learned in class are supposed to be woven into one's daily interactions with others, and the environment. I observed this in my best teachers, and try to do the same in my own life.

After 2 years, I established strong fundamentals in the various healing practices, and began layering them together in my own unique understanding. For example, I added my meditation visualizations into the Belly Dance isolation movements, while breathing in the Pranayama style of the Yogic tradition - and observing my movements effects on the environment from the perspective of Moshe Feldenkrais' movement techniques. Consequently, my depth of understanding was amplified, resulting in an expedient learning of new dance moves, thus discovering a new simplicity and saving time and energy.

I was fortunate enough to learn and practice my belly dance moves during the formation of Chadir, which became the now-famous American-based Turkish band, Turku. With Chadir I found my love for live music, and I studied and peformed with them from 1997-1998, until I formed Eclectia. We played together all the time - in parks, coffee houses, and by the river - becoming a family as well as a band.

My first experience with Classically trained Turkish musicians was with Intizar, the contemporary Turkish band featured in my belly dance video. They accepted me as a dancer and sister interested in their culture, and practicing and performing with them added a whole new dimension to my dancing.

In 1999 I joined Makari, in Atlanta. Makari blended traditional Turkish, Greek, and Armenian songs, traveling like a family of Gypsies, to perform in festivals, universities, cultural events. During 2002-2004, I performed with Emrah Kotan and the Sultans, a group of talented young Turks led by Emrah Kotan, the famous Turkish percussionist. Our specialties included Ottoman-period songs, and heart-grabbing Gypsy Rom drum solos.

(1) Dancing for Chadir. (2) Chadir. (3) Intizar.
(4) Eclectia. (5) Makari.

After seeing my first Indian Folk Dance performance at USC, I knew I had found the missing link in my dance. I loved their bright costumes, wonderful hand movements, and especially the certain level of spiritual excitement that stirred my soul like no other dance ever had. I knew then and there I had to learn Indian Dance.

I began trading lessons with an Indian woman, teaching her the art of Belly Dance, and she taught me village dances she learned when she was a child. After some time, she suggested I live in India and study Classical Dance. Trusting her, I bought my ticket to India and found a teacher in North Carolina, commuting four hours to each lesson, to prepare for my journey. I made this decision about ever having seen an Indian Classical Dance performance; trusting my intuition as I did with Belly Dance.

During my first lesson of Indian Classical Dance, I was taught a prayer to the Mother Earth and Lord Shiva for blessings, that was to be performed before and after each practice and performance. I realized then the difference between dancing - and Sacred Dance.

After my first practice, I was so sore I couldn't get up or down for about two weeks, even though I was lifting weights, rollerblading, and rock-climbing on a regular basis. And I thought the physical aspect of the dance was the hard part! Little did I know, the night before I left for India, that my house would blow up from an unsuspected gas leak, and I would escape minutes before my death, and loose everything I ever owned - opening the door for the real spiritual journey of the dance which was about to begin.

Lord Shiva, in His dancing form known as Nataraja, is always depicted with a ring of fire surrounding His body - as was I when I ran through the flames burning away the memories and attachments to my old life. I never once cried for my lost treasures. But, I found a new place in my heart for the treasure of Human life.

(1) My first Indian Dance performance at the Festival of India, on Indian Inde-pendence Day, Columbia SC.

(2) The day after my house blew up - about to leave for India - holding my favorite practice belt I bought
from Eva Cernik

The central force animating ancient dance was the expression of love for the Divine. It is this expression which made dance an essential part of the great ancient cultures. Without this feeling in the heart of the dancer, the purpose of the dance is lost, and its healing and transformational energies cannot be conveyed.

Sacred Dance corresponds with Sacred Geometry, mimicking the arrangements of planets, stars, to the Earth. And if fingers, arms, legs, head positions are done incorrectly, the microcosmic energy is destroyed. One needs a teacher to correct angles, and timing - and it's critical to have a qualified guru - because the Baraka, "life-force energy from God" - can only be transmitted from teacher to student. Learning from books or videos or just watching people does not connect you to the Divine directly and the power of the dance is lost.

Dance is to remind us of how to live our daily life. With God in mind, and love for our neighbors, hardships can be minimized and a general wellbeing for all increased. For through the dancer, the love and blessings can be conveyed to the observers. It's the dancer's job to portray this upliftment and happiness to others, and help erase the collective karmas of the community.

Performing Turkish Gypsy dance with Emrah Kotan and the Sultans
The Guedra Dance, a blessing ritual of the nomadic tribes of the Algerian-Moroccan desert.

(1) In Bangalore, studying with Shubha Dhananjay. (2) In Rajasthani costume.
(3) Dancing by the Burial Grounds of the Sufi Saints, Aurangabad.
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©2004 by Asha. All rights reserved. is committed to supporting International Sacred Dance Traditions, such as Middle Eastern Belly Dancing, Gypsy and Folk Dances of Turkey, and Rajasthan; Indian Classical Dance, and Goddess-centered Spirituality and Art forms. We operate throughout the Atlanta, Georgia Metro Area, and perform and teach Internationally. Atlanta Bellydance: Asha!